The beautiful, wild-looking Bengal cat captures the eye with its exotic spotted coat. The Bengal may capture your heart and also break it if your cat suffers from genetic diseases common to the breed. Before purchasing a Bengal, make sure the breeder offers a health guarantee on the kittens.
A heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, is common in Bengals. This disease of the heart muscle usually occurs in the older cat. The heart muscle thickens, so the organ must work much harder, causing a number of problems. These may include blood clots, or thrombosis, rendering the back legs immobile. The disease also leads to congestive heart failure, resulting in death. Early signs of cardiomyopathy include panting and lethargy.
One disease that breeders can't screen for is progressive retinal atrophy, as no test exists for the carrier gene. This condition causes the deterioration of the retina's rods and cones, eventually causing blindness. Even young Bengals are susceptible to the disease. Because carriers of the gene may be asymptomatic, never experiencing vision problems, weeding this disease out of the gene pool by observation is not currently possible. That means even if the breeder gives you a health guarantee, it will not cover this eye disease. The Bengal may also suffer from cataracts, but your vet can perform surgery to remove them.
If your Bengal is going in for any type of surgery, including spaying and neutering, your vet must be careful regarding the use of anesthetics. Bengals, extremely sensitive to anesthetics, may experience allergic reactions that cause cardiac arrest. Always discuss the type of anesthetic with your vet before any surgery. While vets should be aware of the possibility of an anesthetic allergy reaction, the vet may not have many Bengal cats among her clientele and might not be that well-versed in a Bengal's specific health issues.
More often found in small dogs, Bengal cats may experience luxating patellas, when the kneecap goes out of joint. Remedying this painful condition requires surgery, which runs the risk of an anesthetic allergic reaction. To lower the odds of your cat throwing out his kneecap, make sure he stays at a good weight and doesn't get fat. Added weight puts more strain on the joints.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.