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Abyssinian to Egyptian Mau: The Recipe For A Bengal Cat
Mix Asian Leopard Cat With Lots Of Kitties & Get: Bengal!
Bengals began in the fertile imagination of Jean Mill when she crossed an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) with a domestic cat. Today's Bengal is a mix of several domestic breeds:
Some lines may even have Ocicat, Margay, Bristol or outright alley cat genes. By the way, I may be a lifelong Bengal fan, but I think that the Aby has the nicest face of anything in catdom! I'd love to duplicate the Aby face precisely on a Bengal. I know that the breed standard lynch mob might be mobilized against me, but I think it would be really a beautiful cat!
F1: ALC parent and domestic Bengal parent
F2: F1 parent and domestic Bengal parent (has an ALC grandparent)
F3: F2 parent and domestic Bengal parent (has an ALC great-grandparent)
F4: F3 parent and domestic Bengal parent (has an ALC great-great-grandparent)
It is generally acknowledged that in order to be a StudBook Tradition (SBT) cat a Bengal needs to be an F4 or more. That is because F1 through F3 generally have sterile males. Therefore F1 through F3 are traditionally called Foundation cats.
ALC was given its species' Latin name of Bengalensis since the first European to spot a wild ALC saw the kitty swimming in the Bay of Bengal! Any Bengal owner who has enjoyed a bath with their cat will know that this is not just a common myth, but a characteristic that remains to this very day.
Interesting to note that the ALC will dispose of its excretions in water to keep the scent from attracting larger predators. If only we could train our Bengals to use the toilet! Think of the savings in kitty litter!
Foundation Bengals retain a goodly amount of the ALC's intelligence and caution. After all, the ALC thrives in habitats where it is hardly the top predator so it has to be careful and wary in order to survive. Those particular personality characteristics is what makes owning a Foundation cat such a particular challenge. Foundation Bengals are not really known to be excellent pets since they cannot handle much change or turmoil in their lives. They often resort to hiding when anything outside the expected happens, even if it's a loud noise or someone coming over to visit.
I once went to visit a Bengal breeder who lived in a small townhouse. The place was alive with Bengals, running up and down the stairs, and chasing each other up the velvet wallpaper (or the shreds that were left). She told me that she wanted to show me something very special and went to open a drawer from an old chest. An ALC sprang out and flashed across the room to another hiding place, hissing as he went.
They may also bond to one particular person, and if that bond is broken the cat will never recover. Foundation Bengals, like ALCs, consider any form of change traumatic. They are hardly the perfect cat for the month-to-month renter who will soon be moving across the country!
Fortunately SBTs are much closer to regular cats in tolerating change. I once had several SBTs that I moved by air (trauma!) on four separate occasions. In each case, the kitties got to their new digs, spent a couple of hours sniffing around and then just made themselves at home.
Anyone considering a Bengal for a pet should be sure to choose at the very least an F4 or better yet, F6 or more. Your life and your cat's will be much happier.