If you’re after a touch of the exotic around the house, there’s none quite so suited as the Bengal. This is one cat that will be sure to make an impression.

Originating in America, the Bengal (felis catus) has only been around since the 1960s and was originally known as the Leopardette (which kind of gives you the picture!). It is the hybrid result of a domestic cat with a small wild cat known as an Asian Leopard Cat. Unlike its wild namesake, the Bengal is known for its friendly and gentle temperament.

The Bengal cat is a robust and muscular cat. It has a long body, large, oval feet, and its front legs are shorter than the hind. The Bengal has black-rimmed, almond-shaped eyes, and a lovely, thick tail which tapers to a black tip. The Bengal cat can be either spotted or marble in pattern. Some have rosette shaped spots, and others have solid, arrow shaped ones. Marbled Bengals have contrasting horizontal swirls along their side. The three different coat colours are the Traditional Tabby (Brown Spotted & Brown Marbled), the Sepia Tabby (Seal Sepia Spotted Tabby & Seal Sepia Marbled Tabby) and the Mink (Seal Mink Spotted Tabby & Seal Mink Marbled Tabby).

Bengals are medium sized cats. Males weight up to 9 kg, and females weigh between 4 and 6 kg. Bengal cats usually live until their early teens.

Caring for a Bengal is relatively easy. They have a short coat which sheds moderately. They don’t require a lot of grooming but wouldn’t say no to a brush, just for the attention. As with most cats, brushing at least once a week will keep them happy. As Bengals tend to need around 80 Kcals of food per kg of body weight per day, it is a good idea to keep an eye on their dietary intake, as they may be prone to obesity.

Bengals have quite a complex breeding system. They are a hybrid that has been developed over many generations through a program of rigorous crossbreeding between domestic cats and African Leopard Cats. A cat with one wild ancestor is called an F1, which stands for first filial. An F1 bred with a domestic cat or other Bengal filial produces an F2, or second filial. Two F2’s bred together will result in an F3. Two F3s will produce an F4. Generally any Bengal cat you see for sale will be F4 or higher. This doesn’t matter a lot to general cat owners, except to note that the cat’s wildness has diminished remarkably over these generations – which is quite a good thing around the home!

Bengals are intelligent, energetic and agile cats so will benefit from scratching posts and plenty of games and activities. They love climbing so will also enjoy exploring the yard, and maybe even the neighbourhood. One of their more distinct traits is their love of water, which definitely makes them one of the more unusual cats. This might take the form of a fascination with running water. Or they may even jump in the bathtub or the shower. They’re not a noisy cat, but they do vocalise, and they have a distinctive low voice.

Bengal cats get along well with other pets and people, but aren’t particularly suited to children. They are very curious creatures who are likely to follow their owners around and jump in the middle of whatever is going on. They may also feel jealous if another animal is getting more attention than they are. They are however, also very affectionate, playful and even protective of their owners. Give a Bengal cat a lot of love, and they will almost certainly return it.