Bling Bling Bengal: Why Your Kitty Needs Glitter
The Proof That Bengals Are Magical!
Scifi and fantasy are full of stories about otherworldly and metaphysical beings who are visible to people but once they are photographed, their image disappears from the photo!
Of course this is all in the realm of the fevered imaginations of the superstitious and the writers (which may be the same thing, but I digress). It is impossible to have something that is visible to the naked eye yet cannot be captured on any kind of photographic emulsion or CCD. If there were such a thing, it would definitely have to be termed outside the domain of science and belonging to the strictly magical!
Well, fellow Bengal lovers, there is only one thing in this world that fits that description and you don't have to look far to find it. Chances are it's on your lap or snoozing next to your monitor right now. Of course the Bengal cat can be photographed (and how cute they look!) However, one of their main and most attractive features cannot. Yes, the Bengal glitter cannot be accurately reproduced in any known photographic medium as the golden flecks just don't register. And that's why Bengals are magical!
It all began when the originator of "our" breed Jean Mill was busy in her "mad scientist kitten laboratory" concocting the basic genetic structures which provide the foundation for modern Bengals. It turns out that Jean had found a moggie cat running free around the rhinocerouses in a zoo in India. Typical Bengal behaviour! This kitty had very short hair and a distinctive rufoused color. Jean took the kitty home and named it "Millwood Tory of Delhi." This cat had a particular genetic variation which created a hollow air shaft encasing the hair shaft color which appeared as a glittery reflection when light travels through them. Or at least it is so believed... it turns out that no one definitively understands why glitter looks the way it does... like I said! Magic!
Jean used this "Millwood Tory of Delhi" as a foundation cat and it passed its genes along only to a certain selected portion of today's Bengals. Some people prefer to trace the genetics of glitter back to both the Asian Leopard Cats and the Margay which were used in foundation cats. Remember that one of the most important defining factors of magic is not being able to scientifically define it!
Not all Bengals are blessed with significant glitter but on the ones that are, it resembles golden or silvery flakes, and sometimes even copper. It's somewhat similar to sprinkling store-bought metallic sparkly glitter on your cat, except it's built right into the hair! It's especially striking on cats with a shorter, velvetier coat where the light can really get in there and do its stuff!
When glittery Bengals were first shown some judges tried to rub the glitter off with a cloth, as they were convinced that it was an artificial add-on that some savvy breeder had applied to the cat to make it stand out! Glitter flakes are regularly applied to their skin by young ladies on the way to a fun night the club and that's why Bengals are always ready to party! They come pre-equipped with party glitter!
On some snow Bengals the glitter effect appears as well, but on Snows it's more akin to a pearly dust! Very elegant!
There are basically two different types of glitters:
Mica (Gold-Tipped): This glitter affects the tips of the hairs only and produces its effect in reflective hair-tips. If you look at this under a microscope, you'll see that embedded right inside the very tip of each Bengal hair are what you would swear are tiny flecks of a reflective silicate crystal called mica.
Satin (Hollow-Air): It looks just like mica, but in this case it affects the whole hair shaft, refracting light and giving the coat a pearly effect which is also known as "oyster." Satin hair shafts contain many little pockets of air along their length which not only refract light all the way through but also give the coat a smooth, soft silkiness unlike any other cat fur you've ever touched. These air pockets can become elongated which makes the fur even softer and silkier.
Much like the Snow or Marble Bengal gene, glitter was at first concluded to be a recessive gene. More recent evidence seems to point to the possibility that glitter is actually an accumulative gene. An accumulative gene is a very precious asset to the breeder, since if you breed two kitties which are well-glittered, then the offspring will have even more glitter than Mom and Dad! Breeders can continue this process until we arrive at a Bengal cat which glitters so much we'll have to hand out sunglasses to everyone who passes by!
Glitter is a highly sought-after feature as the glitter gene can also help to produce the clearer coats with less ticking in new generations which breeders strive for. After all, any one of us would be honoured to be in the presence of the world's only truly undeniable effect of... Magic!