HOW ARE BENGAL CATS BRED?
Are bengal cats hybrids?
Bengals are a hybrid breed of cat, kind of..... meaning the first mating between the Asian Leopard Cat and the domestic cat produces a "hybrid." Thereafter that generation they are constantly mistakenly referred to as hybrid cats. And there are lots of misconceptions about bengals on the internet because of this.
To get a Bengal cat you must initially breed a domestic cat (such as an Egyptian Mau, Ocicat, etc) to an Asian Leopard Cat. This is NOT an easy job. Asian Leopards are expensive, not very tame, not easy to care for, and require special housing and food. Plus you must have special permits to even own one.
After that you must breed the F1 Bengal to another SBT Bengal and so on to produce the F2 F3 F4 and F5 bengals. F4 and F5 bengals take on a completely domestic temperament and are classified as a "domestic cat." We only produce F5 bengals which would be 5 generations away from the Asian Leopard.
What generation is my bengal cat?
The quick answer to this is that almost all bengal breeders are breeding and selling F5 generation SBT (stud book tradition) bengal cats. These cats are considered completely domesticated and are not considered "wild" or "hybrid" cats. If a breeder is selling early generation cats F1 - F3 they will absolutely tell you that's what the kittens are.
Prices for these kittens may be higher due to the difficulty in raising them and they are not recommend as pets for most people for various reasons. If you are considering getting an early generation Bengal as a pet please do lots of research first. There also may be restrictions on them depending on where you live.
What are foundation bengals?
"Foundation bengals" and "early generation" bengals
Bengal cats from the first three filial generations of breeding (F1–F3) are considered "Foundation Cats" or "Early Generation" Bengals. The origin of the Bengal breed began with the cross between The Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and the domestic cat. Some of the earliest felines used in these matings include Egyptian and Indian Maus, Burmese and non-pedigreed domestic cats. As the breed progressed, SBT Bengals were taken back to the Asian Leopard Cat instead of the miscellaneous other breeds. The first three generations resulting from the ALC x Bengal are considered "Foundation Bengals". The terminology regarding the early generation Foundation Cats can become somewhat confusing for even the most experienced Bengal enthusiast.
Breeding these early generations is no easy task as the mothers can sometimes abandon or kill the kittens if they feel threatened. Almost all F1- F3 Bengal males are infertile and about half of the F4 males are infertile as well.
Currently the domestic cat breeds that Asian leopards are originally bred with to create bengals are mainly Abyssinian cats, Bombay cats, British Shorthair cats, Egyptian Mau cats, and Ocicats.
What does bengal Filial, F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, and SBT mean?
The term "filial" comes from the Latin word filius or "son". The genetic meaning of the word filial is "of or relating to" a generation or the sequence of generations following the parental generation. Bengal breeders refer to F-1 as the first generation cross between the ALC and the domestic Bengal. The F-2 is the second generation cross (the offspring of the F-1 and the domestic Bengal). The F-3 is the third generation (the offspring of the F-2 and a Bengal). The International Cat Association (TICA) considers the fourth generation (F-4) to be a "SBT" (studbook tradition) Bengal, eligible for competition in the show ring and a fully accepted domestic cat.
Why are no male Foundation Bengals used in breeding?
The first three Foundation generations generally produce infertile male offspring. There are a few exceptions to this rule but for the most part, only female Foundation Bengals have proven to be fertile and thus the Foundation males are adopted into qualified pet homes.
What is an F1 bengal cat?
An F1 bengal cat is a bengal that has one Asian Leopard Cat parent and one parent that’s a domestic cat.
F1 bengals are not considered to be domestic since they are directly bred from Asian leopard cats.
An F1 bengal is not easy and F1 bengals are usually not possible to tame.
While laws regarding bengal cats are rarely enforced, F1 bengal cats are not suitable for indoor pets and can cause problems by spraying, not using a litter box, and being overly aggressive.
An F1 kitten will have with 50% wild blood.
What is an F2 bengal cat?
An F2 bengal cat is a bengal that has been bred from an F1 bengal and a domestic cat. (has an ALC grandparent)
F2 bengals are also considered to be too wild to tame and own as domestic cats.
An F2 kitten will have with 25% wild blood.
What is an F3 bengal cat?
An F3 bengal cat is a bengal that’s been bred from an F2 bengal and a domestic cat. (has an ALC great-grandparent)
F1, F2, and F3 bengals are all considered to be foundation bengal cats and can pose problems for owners who try to keep them as pets.
F3 bengal cats are typically the cutoff before bengals are considered to be domestic.
An F3 kitten will have 15% - 18% wild blood.
What is an F4 bengal cat?
An F4 bengal cat is also called and SBT (stud book tradition) bengal. (has an ALC great-great-grandparent)
An F4 bengal cat is a bengal that’s been bred from an F3 bengal and a domestic cat.
Ownership of F4 bengal cats is standard and F4 bengal cats are seen as fully domestic cats.
F4 and F5 bengal cats are called domestic generation bengal cats.
An F4 kitten will have 10% - 12% wild blood.
What is an F5 bengal cat?
An F5 bengal cat is a bengal bred from an F4 bengal cat and a domestic cat.
F5 bengals are completely domestic and are not regulated anywhere except Hawaii and New York.
F5 bengal cats are deemed to be fully domestic and usually don’t have any behavioral problems that foundation bengals do.
Generations of bengals after F5 bengal cats are all seen to be domestic as well and aren’t restricted.
How much wild blood do bengal cats have?
For competition in cat shows, hybrid cats cannot have a parent from a non-domestic species within four generations (TICA 2013), suggesting <6.125% average genomic contribution from any wild felid species. However, because early generation male hybrids are infertile, females are backcrossed to either domestic cats or, more commonly, male hybrids of later generations. The hybrid to hybrid crosses, combined with no mandatory parentage verification in cat breeding, makes the prediction of wild felid ‘blood’ in these hybrids difficult. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4211939/
The following would be true IF the early generations were backcrossed to domestic cats. But this isn't the case. They are backcrossed to bengals.
F1–1st generation babies with 50% wild blood
F2–2nd generation 25% wild blood
F3-3rd generation 12.5 wild blood
F4-1st generation SBT 6.25% wild blood
Our best guess is that it's something more like this:
F1–1st generation babies with 50% wild blood
F2–2nd generation 25-32% wild blood
F3-3rd generation 15-18% wild blood
F4-1st generation SBT 10-12% wild blood.
This means that while modern Bengal cats may have anywhere from 7 - 12% wild blood..... we think?!
How does the temperament differ between an Asian Leopard Cat, a Foundation Bengal Cat, and an SBT Bengal Cat?
Asian Leopard Cat temperament
This question is best answered by first describing the innate nature of the Asian Leopard Cat. This small, elusive wildcat is found from Siberia, Pakistan, Tibet and India, Burma, Thailand, and part mainland China then south to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Philippines. They can thrive in a variety of habitats... dense tropical forests, scrub, semi-desert and agricultural areas. The species Latin name (bengalensis) is derived from the first Leopard Cat that was discovered swimming in the Bay of Bengal.
The temperament of the Asian Leopard Cat tends to be elusive and intelligent. In their natural environment they typically hunt by night, since they are almost exclusively nocturnal animals. They are agile felines, going from treetops to marsh in one continual motion. They are found within the vicinity of water and are accomplished swimmers. Many wild Leopard Cats will dispose of the excretions in water, to cover their scent from large predators. It is with this extreme intelligence that the ALC has survived many generations in a world where their habitat is dwindling and where they are a very small predator in the huge circle of life.
Typically, any progeny off of the Leopard Cat will inherit at least some parental traits. As each generation moves away from the Leopard Cat heritage, some of those traits may be removed or lessoned to some degree.
Foundation Bengal Cat temperment
The Foundation Bengal is often leery of new situations because nature has instilled a cautious intelligence in their ancestors. They need a stable and secure environment and typically do not adapt to variations within their everyday life. The commitment to a Foundation Bengal must be considered to be life-long because while they may not bond to all people, if they do, it is usually passionately intense and breaking this bond can destroy the spirit of the cat. They are not your traditional pet cat and there needs to be a clear understanding of the environment and lifestyle one needs to achieve in order to form the trusting relationship that may be possible with them. The Foundation Bengal is not predisposed to being aggressive but when faced with an uncomfortable situation (often involving loud noises, quick movements, or strange people or situations), they typically show a shyness and look for a safe and quiet place. This may be any area of their home where they have chosen as a safe and secure environment, perhaps a separate room or a remote cat tree where they can be "alone", until they feel safe and secure. Every Foundation Bengal is different, with individual personalities and different reactions to every situation.
The Foundation Bengal is an intense feline with many aspects of the Asian Leopard Cat behavior that can make a fascinating addition to the appropriate home. However, those same idiosynchrocies can make life very uncomfortable for both owner and cat if the household is unprepared or unable to accept them on the Foundation Bengal’s terms. The closer the Foundation Bengal is to the Asian Leopard Cat, the stronger the instinctive behaviors and the less likely that they can be modified to fit the owner's expectations. A true Foundation Cat enthusiast does not expect the cat to change to fit the owner's lifestyle, but rather is willing to change their lifestyle to accept the behavior of the cat. In general, while SBT's adapt readily to new situations, new people and new places, Foundation Cats find it more difficult to do so and are much more easily stressed by those changes.
Some of the above information is from TIBCS's (The International Bengal Cat Society) website.
SBT Bengal Cat temperment
The common bengal cat that most people own is fun loving, inquisitive, out going, goofy, very smart, trainable, playful, loyal with a dog like personality, likes to be the center of attention and I could go on and on about how great they are!
Progression of the bengal cat
Many F5 Bengals have patterns actually look better than the Asian Leopard Cats! It's a wonderful thing but it didn't happen overnight. This is because of excellent breeding practices. It takes a long time to perfect a breed of cat to the degree that the Bengal has been perfected. So much more information can be written here but we have two pages dedicated to this topic, history of bengal cats and gogees contribution to the bengal breed will provide all the details.
Asian Leopard Cat info
The Asian Leopard Cat (or ALC for short) is indigenous to the jungles and forests of India, China, and other parts of Asia. It is now known that there are about 10 different sub-species, that vary somewhat in size, length of coat, and coloring depending on the climate. Most of the Asian Leopards that we breed with domestics to get Bengals come from the Malaysia and Thailand area.