The Bengal Cat is one of the most intriguing cats available in the domestic world today. It is a medium to large domestic cat that originated from crossing the Asian Leopard Cat to the domestic cat in an attempt to create a companion with the “exotic” look of the wild with a domestic cat temperament.
ASIAN LEOPARD CAT
The first cross of an Asian Leopard Cat to a Bengal is called an F1, the second cross an F2, and third cross’s a F3. These first three out-crosses are called Foundation cats, Filial or early generation cats.
Male foundation cats are often infertile so we determine the generation from the cats mother.
Once a Bengal reaches the 4th cross it can be registered with TICA (The International Cat Association) as a SBT domestic Bengal cat, and is recognized for champion competition.
The Asian Leopard Cat ( Felis Bengalensis) is widespread over Southern Asia and is the same size as a domestic cat, has stunning leopard markings, puffy whisker pads and large nocturnal eyes, looking just like a miniature Leopard.
The Bengal’s spotting comes in several different forms from arrow-heads to paw-print rosettes with a lighter colour surrounded by a darker outline.
The Bengal is the only domestic cat that can have rosettes like the markings in Leopards, Ocelots and Jaguars.
The other recognized Bengal pattern is the clouded leopard look of the Marble Bengal. The marble pattern was created from a combination of the classic tabby pattern in the domestic cats used in the make up of the breed and the Asian Leopard genes. A quality Marble has a combination of swirls, rosettes and dots flowing in a horizontal fashion, or stain glass window effect, that is unlike any pattern ever seen on a domestic cat before.
There are many colour variations in the Bengal but the three breed accepted colours are brown, silver and snow.
THE SILVER BENGAL
The stunning silver colour of our Silverstorm Bengal’s can come in varying shades, but the most desirable is a white/silver background with markings in ink black. Silver was introduced into the breed by out crossing to the Silver Spotted American Short Hair and mimics the beautiful Snow Leopard. The strikingly beautiful Snow Leopard remains one of the most beautiful cats in the world.
We talk of the silver ‘colour’ but actually silver is not a colour at all; it is a lack of colour. It is created by ‘I’—an inhibitor gene.
A regular silver Bengal is actually a brown cat.
The ‘I’ gene inhibits the yellow/red pigment from showing through, creating a silver cat.
If a ‘snow’ Bengal, (the seal-lynx, mink or sepia), has this ‘I’ inhibitor gene, the cat will be silver-snow (silver seal-lynx, silver-mink or silver-sepia). The icy silvery tones and crisp white body of a good silver snow are magical.
Winter has a cool glacial white colour, with a lack of warm tones.
A stunning example of a silver seal-lynx – SILVERSTORM WINTER WONDERLAND
THE SNOW BENGAL
The three variations of the ‘Snow’ Bengal: the seal-lynx, Seal-mink and Sepia, tend to have warmer tones if there is no inhibitor gene present. The background colour is ivory to cream with markings in varying shades of brown.
The beautiful seal-lynx always has blue eyes…
SILVERSTORM ESKIMO KISSES
Its colour came from out-cross’s to Siamese which were made in the in the beginnings of the breed.
Lynx kittens are usually born completely white and their pattern emerges with age.
The Seal-mink is born with a visible pattern. The pattern colour is usually darker than a Seal-lynx, a mink-brown. Eye colour is aqua or sometimes gold. The Seal Mink colouring occurs when the kitten has one Seal Lynx gene and one Seal Sepia gene (from either parent).
The Seal Sepia colour comes from out-cross’s made to Burmese in the beginnings of the breed. Seal Sepia kittens are born with a visible pattern, their pattern colour is Sepia-brown and their eyes can range from green to gold.
THE BROWN BENGAL
The brown Bengal, the colour of its wild Asian Leopard ancestor, comes in many different shades varying from cool brown, through to the beautiful golden and on to hot ‘rufus’ with its red/orange hue’s.
Markings can be varying shades of brown to black but vivid contrast, which gives the Bengal its wild looking coat, is of course desirable.
It is also desirable for brown Bengal’s to have a white chest, belly and inner legs, but this whited trait, which is from the Asian Leopard cat, is hard for breeders to achieve especially coupled with black contrasted markings.
SILVERSTORM A LITTLE BIT OF SUNSHINE ‘Nala’ has a beautiful clear golden coat
THE CHARCOAL BENGAL
Charcoal is both a colour and a pattern, we can have Silver-Charcoal, Brown-Charcoal and Snow- Charcoal.
CRESTWOOD MIDNIGHT MIRAGE OF SILVERSTORM ‘Mira’
is a F6 Silver Charcoal
The stunning charcoal Bengal has a darker coat colour and what are known as ‘Zorro markings’. These consist of a dark face mask and cape.
The face mask is a dark colour which runs down the nose bridge to the nose and connected from the outer tip of the eye to the nose bridge, and enclosing white goggles around the eyes.
Asian Leopard cats also have face masks, the Charcoal has a black version.
Mira’s striking face mask accentuates her wild expression.
The Charcoal Bengal is very special as it is a result of the Asian Leopard cat Agouti gene (Apb) combining with the domestic cat non-agouti gene. This explains why we most often see Charcoal’s in the earlier generation Bengal’s.
The Bengal does come in a few more colours; however, they do not meet the breed standard, which means they cannot be shown as a standard Bengal. Of course they are still Bengal’s and have the ability to produce standard colours in a breeding programme. Many breeders and pet owners alike find these non-standard colours very beautiful and they are sought after.
THE MELANISTIC BENGAL
SILVERSTORM BAGHERA BLACK PANTHER
Just like the black panther, which is actually a melanistic leopard, you can find melanistic Bengal’s. Their gleaming black coats with shadow markings and rosettes are a sight to behold. Combined with wild looking type and a muscular body a Melanistic Bengal is truly a mini panther in your living room!
Spot the difference!
Black panther cub and Silverstorm cub ‘Baghera’
THE SILVER-SMOKE BENGAL
A melanistic Bengal with an ‘I’ inhibitor gene, which we talked about earlier, is a Silver-melanistic, but its correct name is a Silver-smoke.
Like the silver Bengal the silver-smoke has a white undercoat. This combined with the black topcoat can give the overall colour a smoky look. The pattern is more visible than a Melanistic Bengal’s pattern.
BLACK PANTHER SILVERSTORM INDIAN SUMMER
You can see the shadow rosettes showing on the Black panther and Indian summer who is a silver-smoke.
Most Bengal kittens go through a stage we Bengal breeders call the ‘Fuzzy ugly’ stage. Just like a wild-cat’s cub, Bengal kittens typically develop a coat that camouflages or mutes their markings, rather like the grey fuzzy fur on these baby cheetahs:
At about three weeks old nature hides a Bengal kittens pattern with white tipped guard hairs that we call the fuzzy’s. Usually between the ages of four months and nine months the sleek adult coat re-emerges.
Silverstorm First Lady at 6 week. Her coat is very fuzzy hiding her markings.
Silverstorm First Lady at 4 months. Her coat is clearing beautifully. What a transformation!
The effect glitter gives to brown coat is that of gold sparkles. The effect on the coat of the silver or snow Bengal is that of crystals. Like ice on a tree limb, glitter refracts the light and enhances the colour, and giving it a wonderful luminous quality.
Under the microscope, glitter appears as “hollow air space” surrounding the colour of the hair. It is sometimes described as bubbles of air, almost crystal like.
Glitter does not come from the Asian Leopard cat, it is thought to have come from a domestic spotted cat used in the beginnings of the breed, called ‘ Millwood Tori of Delhi’.
Apart from the Toyger, who no doubt inherited the recessive gene from the Bengal when the Bengal was used in the formation of the breed, the Bengal is the only domestic breed of cat to actually be noted for its glitter.
Glitter like gold sparkles on a brown Bengal. Silver Bengal Rajah with glitter like crystals and the pearlescent sheen of glitter on a snow…….