Leopard cats, found throughout Asia, are best known in the United States as ancestors of our Bengals. Breeders crossed the wild Asian cats with American shorthairs to create the exotic, friendly kitties that have charmed many people. Your Bengal’s quirky behavior just might hearken back to his wild ancestor.
While some early breeders of Bengals kept leopard cats, they usually retain their wild natures and don’t adapt well to domestic life. Today’s Bengals are generations removed from their Asian forebears, and breeders no longer seek leopard cats for the gene pool. In addition, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna has categorized the species as endangered, and ownership might be subject to local and state, as well as international, restrictions. You can enjoy the stunning looks of the leopard cat in your Bengal kitty, while cherishing his affectionate, people-friendly personality.
Habitat and Hunting Behavior
Asian leopard cats can survive and thrive in a variety of habitats and adapt their behavior to their environment. They’re most active at night and can hunt in trees, on the ground and even in water. If your Bengal shows an un-catlike fondness for your bathtub, it’s probably because his ancestors were so comfortable swimming. He might enjoy climbing to high perches around your home for similar reasons. Unlike many of their domestic relatives, though, leopard cats don’t play with or tease their prey. Except for mating season, they prefer to be alone, sticking to their own territory.
Interactions with People
Most leopard cats avoid contact with people, but they often live near farms and rural villages, where they can find plenty of prey. They help with pest control by hunting rats, mice and other rodents, endearing themselves to people who sometimes do try to tame them and provide them a home. Unfortunately, they’re also fond of chicken, which has led to many clashes with other human neighbors. If your Bengal is an excellent hunter with a taste for poultry, those leopard cat genes might be showing.
Territory, Mating and Parenting
Like most felines, leopard cats are territorial and mark their turf by urinating. (Sound familiar?) While the size of their range varies, the cats generally seek out a spot that has both trees and water. Males and females might share part of the same territory and mate with each other. Some research suggests that mother cats prefer to give birth and raise their kittens in forested areas, where they can easily find protected areas for dens. Males might serve as secondary caregivers for their litters. In their natural habitat, leopard cats have mated with domestic kitties, just as they did in Bengal breeding programs.
- Animal Diversity Web: Prionailurus bengalensis--Leopard Cat
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Prionailurus bengalensis
- Feline Conservation Organization: Leopard Cat
- Bengal Cats: Asian Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis)
- Mystre Bengals: Asian Leopard Cat
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna