Let’s learn all about Bengal cats and their lifespan! We will also discuss ways to help your friendly feline live a long, happy life. This is must-know information for anyone who wants a Bengal!
People all over the world love Bengal cats and welcome them into their homes. Created in the 1960s, Bengals are the result of crossing an Asian leopard cat to a domestic cat. Over many years of careful selective breeding, Bengal cats turned into the stunning purebred breed we see today. Jean Mill and Dr. Willard Centerwall were both responsible for creating and developing these incredible cats.
Easily identified by their spotted coats, Bengals look like small leopards. They also come in marble. This is a pattern of swirls, stripes, and spots. Lovers of the breed cherish the unique markings on their silky soft coats. They come in a huge variety of colors, as well. Brown, black, white, blue, and cinnamon are all found in Bengals. Some cat show rules do not recognize all of these colors.
Bengals also are famous for “talking” to their owners. They often meow and chirp or combine these sounds into an all-new voice unique to the specific cat. Many owners can tell their cat’s voice from others.
Bengal cats are one of the most popular cat breeds in the world! As of 2023, about 500,000 to 1,200,000 Bengals exist, along with 2,000 or more Bengal breeders. Before you run out to buy one, know that the average pet Bengal costs between $800-$4,000 USD. Cost often depends on quality, color, pattern, and/or location. The price increases with shipping/delivery service or the purchase of breeding rights.
That’s the basics of Bengal cats. Now, let’s talk about their lifespan.
How Long Do Bengal Cats Live?
The lifespan of a Bengal cat is anywhere from 12 to 20 years. The average Bengal lives to be about 15 years old. The oldest reported Bengal cat lived to be 34 years old. Unfortunately, there is not much proof to support this. The oldest cat to ever live was Creme Puff. She was a tortoiseshell-colored domestic cat born in 1967. She lived a long life and died just 3 days after her 38th birthday. The list of the longest-lived cats is filled with domestic cats. Bengals have these domestics all throughout their pedigrees (or family trees) which is one reason why they live longer than some other cats.
Some say that females live longer than males by about 2 years. This is because females are less often affected by common health issues in Bengals. It is hard to say how long a specific individual will live, but there are some key factors to pay attention to when selecting your Bengal cat. First, you may want to know more about their life cycle and what to expect as your Bengal kitten grows.
Average Life Cycle of a Bengal Cat
We already learned that Bengal cats can live up to 20 years on average, but what are they like while growing up? Let’s take a closer look at the life cycle of Bengal cats.
The kitten stage is a very small part of the Bengal cat’s lifespan, but it is one of the most important. They will grow the most in this stage, from a few grams to several pounds. They also learn some of the most essential things about their world during this time.
Birth to Four Weeks
Like all cats, Bengals are born blind and deaf. They live this way for 10-14 days before their ears and eyes open to the world. The average litter is three to four kittens, though some females have birthed nine or ten kittens in a single litter. Born in a quiet, dark place, they rely entirely on their mother for the first several weeks. The mother will keep a very close watch on them at this age. Sometimes mother Bengals will attack people or other animals that come near their babies.
Four to Six Weeks
Between four and six weeks, the kittens are learning a lot about their environment. They learn to play with each other and their mother. Their teeth begin to erupt around this time, and they will often try the mother’s food for the first time. Some Bengal kittens are very aggressive about their food at first and can be heard growling and seen swiping their paws at their siblings. Some say this may be a characteristic passed down from their Asian leopard cat ancestors.
Six to Twelve Weeks
Around six weeks, the Bengal kittens enter the “fuzzy stage.” The fuzzy stage is marked by the growth of long black guard hairs throughout the coat that breaks the kitten’s pattern up. This also makes them look larger than they are. The reason for this, some believe, is to help camouflage them from predators. This is also something that likely comes from their wild cat relatives.
From six to 12 weeks, the kittens continue learning from their mother. This time with their mom is especially important. She teaches them to eat solid foods, how to use the litter pan, and how to interact with other cats. A kitten taken from its mother too soon will likely develop behavior issues like inappropriate urination (peeing where they shouldn’t), milk-seeking (sucking on blankets or people), or even separation anxiety from their owners.
When the kittens reach 12 weeks, they enter adolescence. This is similar to humans becoming teenagers. This is a crucial part of the Bengal cat’s lifespan. During this time, the cat continues to learn and grow. Their fuzzy coat falls out, and their sleek, shiny pelt-like coat is revealed. This is also the time during which breeders send kittens to their new homes.
From this age to about 1 year, the Bengal cat continues to grow. They start to show their amazing athletic skills in these months. Some Bengals can jump 15 feet into the air! These cats do best with a buddy that can keep up with them, as they like to wrestle. Sometimes, they play very rough, which can be a concern for their human friends. It is very important to play with your Bengal and make sure they get lots of exercise during this stage. If not, they can become destructive.
A Bengal cat’s lifespan is in this stage for the rest of its years. They reach sexual maturity around six months old but continue growing until around their first birthday. Snow Bengals are born pure white, and their pattern begins to come in during the first few weeks of life. The pattern continues to get darker until two to three years old.
These cats remain very active well into their adult years. The owner must ensure they receive plenty of exercise and attention from humans. Some Bengals have even been trained to do agility!
Now that we know more about how a Bengal cat’s life cycle works let’s take a look at health concerns.
Health Concerns That Affect the Bengal Cat Lifespan
Like most breeds, Bengals have specific health concerns that you should be aware of before considering adopting one. These issues affect the heart, knees, eyes, and more. Some conditions are deadly.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
HCM is a disease that impacts the heart. It is defined as a thickening of the walls of the heart. Eventually, it causes the heart to be unable to continue pumping blood correctly. It is still unknown as of 2023 exactly how HCM passes, but we know it comes from the parents. This means it is a genetic disorder. There are treatments for this condition, but no cure. Bengal breeders should have their breeding cats scanned every year by a veterinary cardiologist to ensure they are not affected by this horrible disease. Treatment for this condition is limited to medication to help the heart stay strong, but the cat will eventually die from it.
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (Pk Def)
Pk Def is a disorder that causes anemia. Anemia is a lack of red blood cells. This condition causes the red blood cells to die off early before the cat has time to make more. This disease is thought to come from the Abyssinian cats used to help create the breed. Thankfully, there is an easy genetic test that determines if a breeding cat carries it. Both parents must carry and pass the disease for kittens to be affected. Treatment for this condition includes blood transfusions or bone marrow transplants. These are very costly therapies that rarely go well with cats. They also do not cure the disease, only slow it down. PK Def significantly reduces a Bengal cat’s lifespan.
Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)
FIC is a condition that affects males more often and severely than females. Symptoms of FIC include dribbling urine (pee), inability to urinate, painful urination, and bladder/urethral spasms. Because males have a more narrow urethra, they are more likely to become blocked (unable to pee), which is an emergency situation. If the cat cannot pee, it will die without medical help. There are treatments for FIC that include reducing stress and special veterinary prescription diets. There is no cure.
Sometimes, Bengals are incorrectly diagnosed with this disease. Idiopathic means that we cannot find a reason why a condition happens. In some cats with similar symptoms, it is caused by crystal formation in the urine. This condition is called crystalluria which can lead to bladder stones. Crystalluria is also a common disease in Bengals but can easily be discovered by checking the urine with a urinalysis.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
PRA is a disease of the eyes. The process slowly breaks down the retina within the eye. The retina is the membrane at the back of the eye that captures images. Then, it translates those images into electrical signals to send along the optic nerve to the brain for interpretation. Without the retina, a cat cannot see. Sometimes, the retina becomes detached from its place in the back of the eye. This can cause glaucoma (or increased pressure within the eye). Glaucoma is often painful and is only cured through enucleation (or surgical removal of the eye). Many owners have no idea their cat is blind because they are so good at adapting and learning their environment. There is no cure for this disease, but there is a test for it that breeders can use to avoid breeding cats with PRA.
Luxating Patella – this is a musculoskeletal problem that affects the knees. Essentially, the groove in which the patella, or knee cap, normally sits is too shallow to hold it properly in place. This problem can be corrected with surgery. Breeding cats should be checked by a veterinarian for this condition before breeding them, as it can be passed from parent to kitten. This condition is most commonly seen in small dogs. Luxating patella is concerning because it can cause pain and difficulty walking. The surgery to correct the issue is expensive, though most patients recover well.
How to Extend Your Bengal Cat’s Lifespan
We’ve learned all about the conditions that affect Bengal cats, but how do you avoid these? Also, how can you give your Bengal a long, healthy life? There are several things you can do.
Choose the Right Breeder
It may seem like a simple task to pick a quality breeder, but in reality, it isn’t. You should always begin your search by looking at breeders registered with an official national or international pedigree registry. These organizations are responsible for maintaining records of pedigrees. Registries like The International Cat Association (TICA) help breeders ensure they are not breeding their cats too closely with related cats. A good breeder will be able to show you pedigrees and show proof of health testing for the parents. A breeder who is unable to provide you with this information or who refuses to give you registration papers is likely breeding cats they shouldn’t.
A good breeder will also help you choose a kitten that has a personality that will fit your lifestyle. If you have lots of friends over often, you should have a kitten that is more outgoing. If you live alone and want a friend to sit on your lap, you should have a kitten that focuses on people.
Quality breeders have only a few litters per year. This is so they can dedicate time to raising and socializing them. They also show their cats in cat shows sanctioned by official registries. They do this to ensure that they are breeding cats that resemble the breed standard. A standard is a group of rules that describe a cat breed and what it should look like. Breeders that show their cats proudly tell you how well they did in shows and how many ribbons they won!
Another Option to Get A Bengal Cat
You can also explore adopting a Bengal cat from a responsible rescue like Bengal Rescue Network.
Regular Visits to the Veterinarian
Making sure to take your Bengal cat in for regular exams, blood work, and urinalysis is a great way to catch problems early. Your vet knows what signs to look for and how to treat potential concerns. Early detection may be life-saving for your Bengal.
Feed High-Quality Food
Choosing the right food for your Bengal is very important. Most breeders recommend a diet high in protein for the active Bengal cat. Recent research states that grain-free diets may be dangerous. Food is not a one-size-fits-all choice. Cats with certain conditions may require different amounts of nutrients than others. Or if your cat is rather lazy, it may need food with fewer calories to keep its weight healthy. Food requirements change from kitten to adult to senior, as well. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian about what food is best for your cat.
Exercise Your Cat Often
Exercise comes in many forms for a Bengal cat. You can play with them with toys, get a cat wheel, or even get them a friend to play with. Some people take their Bengals on long walks with a harness and leash. Others teach them to play fetch! Having fun playing with your Bengal will stimulate their body and mind. It will also keep them in shape and improve their lifespan.
Give Them Lots of Attention
One of the major draws to Bengal cats is that they love human attention. Make sure to spend time with them and allow them to be where you are if you are able. The bond you create with your Bengal cat will last its whole lifespan.
If you show them love and attention, they will be much happier. You will be much happier, too, with a wonderful pet and friend to share your life with!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Seregraff/Shutterstock.com
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