The Bengal cat breed is somewhat controversial in the cat fancier world because of its breed begins with The Asian Leopard Cat. The Asian Leopard Cat is a small wild cat, about the size of a domestic cat, but with longer legs. They are found with a variety of coat colors and patterns, one of which is a beautiful rosette pattern. Generally speaking, they are shy wild cats that don’t like to be bothered. In the 1960s, Asian Leopard cats were being studied because of their partial immunity to Feline Leukemia. As the study was completed, the cats were rehomed.
One of the recipients of a female Asian Leopard Cat was Jean S. Mill of California. It wasn’t Mill’s intention to create a new cat breed, she simply wanted the Asian Leopard Cat as a pet. Feeling that the cat might be lonely, she adopted a domestic cat that happened to be male. To her surprise, in 1963, the two cats had a litter of kittens of which only a female kitten named Kin-Kin survived.
At first, it was believed that Kin-Kin would be sterile due to genetic makeup. Then, Kin-Kin produced a litter of kittens with her domestic father. One of those kittens was very sweet, like the domestic father.
The Bengal cat breed began when Mill’s decided that she would use her cats to begin a domestic cat breed with a wild cat look. She believed that the Bengal cat breed could help solve some of the problems that the Asian Leopard Cats were facing by creating an alternative for pet owners. The Bengal cat breed name came from the Asian Leopard Cat’s scientific name, Prionailurus bengalensis.
TICA allowed the Bengal cat breed to gain championship status in 1991. Hybrid crosses are registered as “foundation cats” (F1, F2, F3) and they are not eligible for show. Only females of the foundation generations are used for breeding (males are often sterile). It takes four generations before cats of the Bengal cat breed are reliably domestic.