Important Bengal Cat Information
Genetic Health Concerns in Bengal Cats
Any animal is likely to have genetic health concerns. The popularity of the Bengal has significantly increased which, often, leads to the the prevalence of health concerns. Domestic cats whether pedigreed or not can have many health issues.
Here are some of the major health problems we deal with in Bengals. This information should help you know what questions to ask breeders. You may even want to ask for copies of health screens breeders have conducted on their cats. It may help you decide if you would want to only want to purchase a kitten from breeders who can physically prove genetic screenings on the parents of each litter.
HCM or Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
This heart disease is known to exist in ALL cats. Bengals are at high risk for HCM because a high incidence of HCM has been identified in the breed. Thus, it is imperative that breeding cats be screened, at least, annually, by a Board Certified Cardiologist in person.
HCM is a disease of the left ventricle of the heart. HCM can range from undetectable and very mild, so that a cat will live for years with no detectable health problems, , to severe, in which cases the first symptom can be sudden death as young as less than one year of age. HCM can have early and aggressive onset which means some cats will die very young. Some others can go for years without any issues as they are mildly affected. This is what is called ‘variable expression or penetrance’. A cat with mild HCM can also produce a severe case of HCM.
HCM is an autosomal dominant genetic disease, which means one parent of an HCM-positive cat has the affected gene. There are times when a cat is asymptomatic and an affected cat may not have echocardiographic evidence of the disease but it is there, this is not the norm but does happen occasionally. Often it is because the cat was misdiagnosed, poor quality equipment, inexperience on the part of the ultrasonagrapher, or status was based on one or two ultrasounds early in life.
Very rarely do spontaneous mutations occur that would cause HCM and this would be more probable in randomly bred cats. Therefore we must always consider HCM a genetic disease and treat all results as such. Some cats may be asymptomatic, and an affected cat may not have echocardiographic evidence of the disease but can pass it on to offspring and may develop disease later in life. This means breeders are also watching for HCM screening results of offspring because they can be as informative as the parents’ screenings.
Echocardiograms are the best tool we have to screen for this disease. They are not perfect, but it will be many years, if ever, before we have a DNA test that will replace the need to screen with the current protocol.
To not screen would be most irresponsible to the future of the Bengal breed and the kittens they produce. It is possible to detect most of the HCM-positive cats and remove them from breeding programs. We have even chosen not to use cats in our program that are negative on an echocardiogram but that we feel uncomfortable with the whole picture of their heart health based upon clinical evidence and pedigree analysis.
Here at Bahiya Bengals we screen our males and females every year, based upon the recommendation of our cardiologist. We will never breed a cat that has a heart problem or defect of any kind. No cat is that beautiful to risk the lives of their kittens and future generations.
Here are some very valuable links on HCM:
www.cavalierhealth.org/Cardiologists.htm for a list of Board Ceritified Cardiologists
www.acvim.org The organization that certifies Cardiologists
www.uvsonline.com Our cardiologist, Dr. Aaron Wey, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology)
Other Genetic Issues in Bengals
There are other genetic issues in Bengals just not as prevalent as HCM. Which include FIP , PK Defiency, PKD (different from PK Defiency), Cataracts, PRA, Allergies, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Lymphoma, Hip Dysplasia, Luxating Patellas and some neurologic disorders. It is imperative that breeders do not disregard any of these issues or use cats in their breeding programs that may have such diseases or problems.
Feline Infectious Peritonitus in Bengal cats has a strong genetic base. It is a mutation of the Feline Enteric Coronavirus in which 80-90% of cats have but only a small percentage will not be able to amount an appropriate immune response to the FECV and will mutate into FIP. There are no tests that can be done for this disease in live cats. Breeders who are trying to work away from FIP issues should spay and neuter cats that have produced more than 1 FIP kitten and should be very careful if using siblings to kittens that have died of FIP. As of now, we have only experienced one case of FIP from a few years ago. Dr. Neils Pedersen at UC Davis has the most up to date information on the disease.
Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
This is a new genetic issue we are seeing in Bengal cats. We do have a DNA test for this disease and are now able to prevent kittens from being affected by it Deficiency. It causes anemia in cats and can present mild to severe and at different ages. All of our breeding cats are either normal or carriers, however, we will not breed a carrier to a carrier. We also will not use an affected cat in our program.
We are very careful in our selection of who we breed to make sure that the Bengals we are breeding do not produce or display issues that we are unable to test for. If a concern arises we are very serious about addressing an issue to prevent any further problems.
What is the Typical Bengal Personality?
Bengals are very active, intelligent and unique cats. They do not parallel any other breed or mix of cat. They are extremely playful, active, social, interactive and intelligent. This can make them a rather demanding pet for attention and your time. A Bengal will not care if you have had a long tiring day at work as they are all rested for your arrival home.
This is one of the reasons why they really do require a suitable playmate and do not do as well as an only pet. The most suitable is another Bengal. Most of our kittens leave in pairs or within a few months of each other. It also wards off unwanted behaviors of people being played with, roughly, like another Bengal.
Their intelligence makes them easy to train as well as more emotionally sensitive. They will stress easier to an emotional household than many other pets which could lead to unwanted stress behaviors. This will also make good litter box habits essential to reinforce. Including the human side of making sure they are happy with the number, placement type of box and type of litter. Cleanliness of their litter boxes are a must for a Bengal. It is important to note that we have had a few kittens returned for inappropriate elimination issues, each one self corrected with being placed in a new home. All related to stressful environments created by their new owners. One other had a litterbox placement issue which the owner resolved with the help of a behaviorist.
They have very strong reasoning abilities in which they can figure out how to get in or out of about anything they want.
A Bengal is not for a home where the decor and furniture mean more than them. They love high places and are very athletic but not always very accurate. At least the first year of owning a Bengal would be putting away your valuables. A Bengal will be interested in every square inch of your household including bookshelves, lamps and many other things you have never seen a cat show interest in.
Many Bengals love water and will get involved in any way they can, it may not always be safe for them so making sure you have knobs rather than handles on your plumbing fixtures is highly suggested. Bengals also can have an insatiable appetite for their food and yours.
Many Bengals will sleep with you in your bed at night and sit with you to watch a bit of TV but they should definitely not be purchased as a lap cat or a couch potato. Some of our Bengals do sit on our laps but not all. They are very active and and will keep busy for many hours of the day.
Bengals, generally, do well with children and other pets but, again, are very demanding for your time and attention. Yes, most Bengals will follow you around the house which many consider to be doglike. They are much smarter than a dog however.
Almost everyday I get a story or a video clip of the latest antics from one of our Bengal owners. There are times I think of running a story or picture contest for our Bengal owners. Many say they can never imagine their life without their Bengals.
To love and live with a Bengal means to accept them for who they are not what you want them to be. You really have to have a good sense of humor to have a Bengal or they are not the breed you are looking for.
Are Bengals fine to be an only pet?
Bengal kittens are not best suited as an only pet. Like most kittens, they do better with another kitten or energetic cat. They will also do well with a very cat friendly and cat safe dog. This is because no human can imitate nor have the energy to substitute Bengal play. They do get lonely even when people are home as they are very social creatures. The need to kitty wrestle, run and chase are quite essential to the mental well being of the Bengal cat. They also have the need to groom one another, only as cats can do. I have learned how important a compatible feline companion is, especially to kittens, that I really do not like to place our kittens as only pets.
Very occasionally they can do well as an only pet but generally they thrive best with another Bengal. Other energetic cats can also make suitable playmates for them as well. A laid back cat will find the Bengal a nuisance and that is when we get a call looking for another Bengal.
Even responsible shelters/rescues do not place kittens as only pets as they are often more destructive and more likely have less inhibition when it comes to scratching and biting. Having a BFF, Best Feline Friend, is an outlet to curb that behavior. It is a big reason that kittens are returned.
Retired breeding cats may do better as an only pet, but not always.
If you are planning on owning a Bengal you should keep an open mind for acquiring another Bengal or a suitable companion for them. This is so important to us that we do offer discounts for pairs and previous clients
If you want what is best for your new kitten PLEASE read up on Single Kitten and Single Cat Syndrome. We have provided a couple of links below. Please read the following link from top feline behaviorist and Bengal Rescue co-ordinator, Marilyn Krieger