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The main types of Bengal cat:

At the very simplest level, Bengal cats come in two different patterns and two different background colours. The pattern is either spotted or marbled, and the background colour is either brown or white. White Bengals are referred to as 'snow's. Simply put there are therefore, four main types of Bengal:

In general, spotted Bengals are more common than marbled ones, and brown Bengals are more common than snows; so most Bengals are brown and spotty and good snow marbles are quite rare. Within these four main appearances there are various other possible other differences, one of which is formally written into the GCCF Bengal breed standard for the UK, that being the difference between snows with blue eyes and snows with any other coloured eyes. In the UK there are therefore officially 6 types of Bengal - The Brown (Black) Spotted , the Brown (Black) Marbled, the Blue-Eyed Snow Spotted, the Blue-Eyed Snow Marbled, the AOC-Eyed Snow Spotted and finally the AOC-Eyed Snow Marbled!

As with most cat breeds, the classifications and names are slightly different in the USA, though overall the cats are not fundamentally different to those in the UK. This is why you will see reference to classifications such as 'mink' and 'sepia' on USA-based web sites.

However, the breed standard allows for pleasant amount of variety between individual cats, and some of those variations are detailed below…

Types of Patterning:

Bengal spots come in a variety of shapes, sizes and patterns. Some have many small spots, whilst others have fewer large spots, which is considered quite desirable, though there is nothing wrong with a Bengal with lots of spots! The 'basic' Bengal spot is solid colour and roughly circular. However, many breeders aim for producing more 'wild-looking' arrow-head shaped spots, or 'rosettes' which vary from simply two-tone spots to 'full' rosettes with a part circle of spots around a distinctly lighter centre..

The spotting on a Bengal should be random or horizontal in alignment, avoiding lining up or joining up in obvious stripes. 'Rib stripes' in particular are considered undesirable. The spots should always be very clear and stand out distinctly from the background colour. It can be particularly hard to find snow Bengals where the markings are as clear as might be liked, and purchasing a snow is not helped by the fact that, as with Siamese, they are born white and only develop their markings over the first few months!

Background Colour and Glitter:

Though most Bengals are simply classed as 'brown' there is actually a modest amount of colour variation between different cats, which reflects the variation found in the wild between different Asian Leopard Cats. 'Browns' can come in shades of brown which are sandy, grey, golden, deep red and so on, all of which are allowed, though highly rufous golden browns are often considered desirable. Some breeders have found that there can be a pay-off between either getting a good background colour or getting good clear markings, and therefore sometimes aim to produce the best cats by mating cats which carry good colour to those with good markings.

An additional unique characteristic of the Bengal colour is that some cats have a distinct "glitter" effect over their fur, as if each hair were tipped with gold dust. This remarkable characteristic is considered highly desirable. It is also desirable that the underside of the cat should be lighter coloured, like the 'white tummies' of Asian Leopard Cats. A Bengal cat's 'whited tummy' should always be spotted, unlike the bright white paws and chest bib found in domestic tabby cats.

The Character of the Bengal:

At the simplest level, most Bengals, have a lot of personality! In a manner similar to the oriental cat breeds, they are intelligent, lively, interactive cats, with whom you have a very genuine two-way relationship. They are typically neither an ‘aloof’ cat who ignores you haughtily, nor a dull quiet cat. They are very much a dynamic and active part of the family group. Bengals however are not the same as Orientals, nor any other breed, but have various key characteristics which make very special and different. 

Bengals are astounding athletes. They can rush around with great glee, climb doors and cupboards, and leap to huge heights. My Bengal will land on my shoulder in a single leap from a couple of metres away, in order to assist me in any interesting activity such as answering the door, or looking in a cupboard. They will bounce about, roll around, switch lights on and off (!) and even do full somersaults whilst in high spirits. Kittens in particular can be all over the place, in a veritable stampede of spotty fluff. When excited, they often tremble and twitch their tails, or fluff them up into a massive ‘racoon-tail’. They are inquisitive, hyper-active, over-the-top, but very loveable with a heart of gold.

Fortunately, the flip side of Bengal behaviour is that for much of the time, Bengals go to the other extreme, and become total softies. They flop over and roll on their backs in ecstasy, come up to you and nuzzle your face, purring wildly, then finally curl up into happy little balls and fall fast asleep. They genuinely crave affection and will spend many happy hours resting piled up on top of you purring. They will wake you in the night, rubbing their head against you and paddling happily on the covers with their paws, then sleep silently with you till morning. They have ridiculous stretchy moods when they roll and writhe around on their backs in a most uninhibited manner. This makes a lovely complement to the Bengal’s energetic moments.

Bengals and water:

One of the most popular pieces of Bengal ‘folklore’ involves their liking for water. Bengals are definitely fond of water, they have a ‘swishing’ action they can use across their drinking water with paws before drinking, which appeared to be a development of the action used by the Asian Leopard Cats in nature to clear the surface of ponds before drinking, and they love drinking from running taps.