The glorious Bengal cat is one of those feline breeds that cat enthusiasts are always on the lookout for. This breed looks like a small leopard, often with a uniquely beautiful coat. One will not forget crossing paths with a Bengal, as they will instantly be drawn to such a gorgeous and rare cat.
Even among this rare breed, there are those varieties that are even harder to find. One of these varieties is the Silver Bengal. The Silver Bengal is not simply another gray cat. They are quite different, their unique look enthralling. Though they are domestic cats, these silvery felines look eerily similar to their wild relatives.
Silver Bengals cats may just be the most sought-after variety. After all, who wouldn’t want a miniature snow leopard walking about their house and grounds? There is much more to this magnificent kitty than meets the eye. Before bringing one of these fantastic animals home, prospective owners should learn as much as possible about this one-of-a-kind cat. In this breed overview, let’s get to know the elusive Silver Bengal cat.
Bengal cats are an intriguing breed with a history based on science and research. This feline breed is relatively unique in that it is an actual hybrid animal. Throughout history, there have been many attempts around the world to breed domestic cats with wild cat species like the Asian leopard. The first successful hybrids were created by Dr. William Centerwall, a leukemia researcher, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He developed the hybrid kittens in a lab, aiming to learn more about the wild Asian leopard cat’s partial immunity to feline leukemia.
After his research was complete, Dr. Centerwall passed the hybrid kittens to a breeder. That woman, Jean Sudgen Mill, continued the development of the line by breeding those kittens with several other domestic house cats, including the American Shorthair, Egyptian Mau, and Abyssinian, to name a few. The result is the exquisite-looking domestic kitty known today as the Bengal. Other breeders soon took an interest in this exotic breed and began breeding their own lines. Bengals were recognized as a breed by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1986 and were quite popular on the show cat circuit.
The Silver Bengal did not make an appearance until the 1990s. Judy Sudgen, daughter of Jean Sudgen Mill, is credited with creating the first Silver Bengal. This silver-hued designer cat was developed by breeding a purebred Bengal with an American shorthair mix, possibly an Egyptian Mau. (Sudgen is also credited with developing the Toyager cat, a tiger-striped Bengal mix.) Silver Bengals were accepted into the Bengal breed by TiCA in 2004. Bengal cats are also called pet or toy leopards because of their exotic appearance and similarity to tiny wild cats.
Controversy & Bans
Native to the United States, the Bengal breed is now popular all over the world. This is primarily due to their exotic look and energetic, intelligent personality. A common misconception about the breed is that they are all half-wild cats. This misconception has led to bans of the Bengal breed in different places throughout the United States and around the world. In truth, only the first-generation offspring of this mix is half wild. Almost every domestic Bengal cat kept as a pet today is at least a fifth generation and beyond. First through fourth generations of the hybrid feline retain more of their wild cat behavior and characteristics. This includes an extremely prevalent prey drive and incredible skill as a hunter.
Most states in the United states allow ownership of the fifth generation cats and beyond, but few allow ownership of the first through 4th generation. Hawaii bans ownership of Bengal cats of any generation. Certain cities around the country have bans, like Seattle and New York City. Denver allows 5th generation only. Other states with stringent bans on Bengal ownership F1 to F4 generation include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, and New York State. Bans do not differentiate on the color of Bengal, and they are more concerned with the generation of the cat.
Owners looking to bring a Bengal into their homes need to take some time for due diligence. They must check with local and state regulations to make sure where they live does not have a ban on ownership of Bengal cats. It is very rare that someone would come across an F1 to F4 generation of this hybrid for adoption. It is always a good idea to check with your breeder about what generation kitten you will be adopting, as well as if they know of any legal issues with ownership of the breed in your area.
Silver Bengal Genetics
The silver color of this breed’s glossy coats is controlled by genetics. Silver is not a color. That is a misconception. It is actually an absence of color. Bengal cats with a dominant inhibitor gene will have a silver-colored coat. The inhibitor gene is a dominant gene, and cats who receive this gene from one parent, and a brown gene from the other, will be silver. Silver Bengals can produce brown kittens only if both parents pass a dominant brown gene to their offspring. Two brown-colored parents cannot ever produce a Silver Bengal.
The inhibitor gene inhibits but does not get rid of the warm yellow and brown tones from a Bengal’s coat, leaving behind the black pigments. Kittens with one copy of the dominant gene will have less pigment that may show through as brassy or “tarnish.” Tarnish refers to the bit of color that may push through the inhibitor gene. Those kitties with two copies of the dominant gene will have very little if any of this tarnishing type of color.
These felines do not have the traditional brown or black base coat color. Instead, they have a silver to light gray-looking base coat with black, blue, and deep gray markings. There are four main groups of Silver Bengal.
This group includes the seal lynx, seal mink, and seal sepia variants. These cats are carriers of the color inhibitor gene. As they grow older, their background coat becomes a more vibrant silver color. Seal lynx always have blue eyes.
A Silver Charcoal Bengal is a particularly hard kitten to find. Charcoal Bengals have a darker face, extended markings, and a thick dorsal stripe. The Charcoal Silver variant has a darker base coat than other Silvers, and very dark markings, with a marbling-like pattern. This variant has what is called “Zorro markings.” This means they have a dark, almost mask-like face and an equally dark thick cape-like stripe running down their backs.
A Silver Smoke Bengal looks very similar to a Silver Charcoal. It takes some close inspection and bright light to really make out the differences. These kitties are often called melanistic, meaning they have darker black coloring. A Silver Smoke pet leopard will have darker bodies, thick markings, deep black hair, and silvery hair with dark markings.
The Silver Blue Bengal is a gorgeous kitty with blue and silver-hued base coats, peach undertones, and dark blue to gray markings. It can be hard to tell exactly what color these kitties are until they are mature, as kittens tend not to have silver hair just yet.
Silver Bengals are no different in size than any other member of the breed. They are quite muscular, full-bodied animals who can weigh between 8 and 20 pounds when fully grown. On average, they reach about 12 to 15 pounds. Males are always larger than females. They have long bodies and can reach about 22 inches long, excluding the tail. They are also fairly tall animals, reaching between 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder. Silver Bengals have the same build as the rest of this breed, with back legs noticeably longer than front legs. These big felines can grow until about two years old, some even longer.
Bengals are quite playful, highly intelligent, and very energetic. Even the domestic lines retain a very high prey drive and a keen sense of curiosity. This is not a breed that will sit and lie around all day. They want to be around people and need plenty of opportunities to expend all their energy. Thie pet leopard loves a good chase, so it is a reasonable precaution to keep smaller pets, especially rodents, birds, and fish, carefully secured when one of these kitties is on the loose.
They may enjoy spending time outside but should be kept on a leash or in an enclosed space they cannot escape from. Because of this kitty’s high prey drive, they can be detrimental if left outside to their own devices. They will hunt local wildlife, as well as other small neighborhood pets. This is not good for the environment, the kitty, or the owner’s relationship with the neighbors.
Expect these kitties to be vocal. They have a reputation for being quite chatty, and some can be incredibly loud. Pet leopards are known for making a chattering noise. They particularly do this when observing the world around them through the window. Though they are highly affectionate and want nothing more than their owner’s approval, the pet leopard has no problem interrupting and making their presence known. They like to be the center of attention, regardless of what is happening around them.
Bengals can get along with other household pets, including other felines and canines. However, they must be socialized very young, and owners must set firm boundaries. Sometimes, because of their high prey drive, extreme amounts of energy, and tendency to chase things, Bengals may need to be the only pet in the house. This is not true for all members of this breed but is something that some owners have experienced.
Pet leopards can be known to be very needy. Along with having a lot of energy and constantly seeking attention, they can suffer from separation anxiety. This can cause significant behavior issues and cause a Bengal to get aggressive and destructive. This behavior can also happen if this exotic kitty gets bored. As with many other highly intelligent feline breeds, these fur babies need more to do than the average house kitty. They need a variety of entertainment and multiple one-on-one play sessions a day with their owners. Additionally, owners should know that this breed is known for being skilled cat burglars. They love to steal things and will swipe everything from jewelry and food from the table to unusual items that owners may not find until years later.
Exercise & Care
Bengals are a breed that requires a lot of care. Some would refer to them as high maintenance. They can be very needy when it comes to attention and want their needs met immediately. These powerful personalities need an owner that is caring yet able to set and stick to firm boundaries. This breed does very well with clicker training because of their high need for stimulation. Any home with a pet leopard needs lots of room for them to move around comfortably. They like to explore, as well as need different places to hide. Cat tunnels, towers, and climbing structures are good investments for a pet leopard.
Exercise is of particular importance for the pet leopard. As mentioned earlier, they can be trained to walk on leashes. Once leash trained, a walk or two a day is a wonderful way for this kitty to get rid of some energy as well as stay entertained with different sights and sounds. They also need a comfortable home where they feel safe and can fully express themselves.
Much like human children, this breed will want attention all the time and will immediately change behavior if they feel slighted or like they are not being kept as a top priority. They should have at least three 20-minute one-on-one play sessions with their owners daily and plenty of other toys to chase, tunnels to crawl through, and places to climb throughout the day. This kitty enjoys looking out the window, so ensuring they have access to see the outside world will help keep them very happy.
This breed does not like being left home alone. Owners who need to spend a lot of time away will need to figure out a way to keep these cats contained or invest in a cat sitter or daycare. While this might seem like a luxury, a bored Bengal left home alone, that feels unsafe and scared, will not be a very pleasant animal to deal with. Rather than allowing a cat to become this stressed out and upset, owners should approach this situation with care and understanding. A pet leopard is not your average housecat. Owners need to fully understand this when considering bringing one of these kitties home.
Litter box cleanliness is of great importance with the pet leopard breed. Owners will want to make sure the litter box is as clean as possible all the time. It is recommended to clean it out at least twice a day and change the litter quite regularly. Especially for the pet leopard, it is a good idea to have more than one litter box, even if it is a one-cat home.
Pet leopards, on average, live between 9 and 16 years. They can live long, healthy lives with proper nutrition, care, and regular exercise. Because this is such a well-controlled breed of cats, they are highly screened for congenital disabilities and hereditary diseases. Though they are known as a healthy breed, there are some common feline health issues that Bengals can be prone to. These conditions include:
- Heart disease, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition can be costly to treat and can result in congestive heart failure and blood clots, among other very serious cardiac concerns.
- Progressive retinal atrophy and other eye diseases often plague this breed.
- Feline lower urinary tract disease is something these furry friends are prone to. Urinary tract conditions including bladder stones, idiopathic cystitis, and urinary tract infections are common. These conditions are quite painful and can lead to more severe conditions. Kidney disease, including chronic renal failure, is a concern. Many of these urinary tract conditions are caused by stress and anxiety, something this breed is prone to.
- Overeating can lead to diabetes, joint issues, and other long-term medical conditions.
- Hypothyroidism is a condition that felines often develop in their older years. Sometimes this condition indicates there are tumors affecting the thyroid.
- Bengals are known to have sensitive stomachs and may suffer from gastrointestinal distress, pain, pancreatitis, and some cancers like lymphosarcoma.
- Due to their large size, pet leopards are often at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis, and other joint problems.
- Bengal cats are also very sensitive to the chemicals used in feline anesthesia. In extreme cases, they can have an allergic reaction that can cause cardiac arrest.
Owners may want to look into pet insurance for these kitties. Insurance coverage can vary by plan, but it can be very helpful in offsetting emergency costs, as well as big costs like surgeries, etc.
All felines are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a diet that consists of animal proteins to develop fully and survive. Pet leopards need a meat-based diet, but they do not have any dietary needs that differ from the average housecat. This breed does very well on high-quality foods that use real meats like chicken, fish, beef, lamb, and turkey. A large breed or high protein formula is best for this highly active breed. Kittens will need a kitten-specific formula and will need to switch to adult food around one year. Diets should consist of high-quality kibble and occasional meals of wet food every few days.
Some owners and breeders prefer a raw diet for their Bengal cats. Raw diets can be very beneficial for felines. While this is a good choice for some, owners must always work closely with their veterinarians to ensure they provide all the nutrients, minerals, and essential vitamins these big cats need. A raw food diet must consist of more than just raw meat. Adding raw meat to their regular cat food as a treat once or twice a week can be an excellent supplement.
Steer clear of low-budget cat foods and those that use meat substitutes. While this is true for all breeds, a high-energy, exotic cat like the pet leopard will not do well on the budget variety of food. They need cat foods that list real meat products as their first ingredients and do not use a lot of excess carbohydrates, meat substitutes, and fillers. This breed is known for having stomach issues, digestive trouble, and urinary tract infections. Nutrition can be very beneficial in treating and preventing these conditions. High-quality, well-balanced cat foods that use natural ingredients are the best choice.
These exotic kitties are quite skilled at self-grooming. They are considered hypoallergenic felines. However, they will still need regular brushing and grooming sessions with their owners. This is not a breed that will need daily or even every other day brushing. Once or twice a week is best. It keeps their coats soft and clean and gives owners special one-on-one time with their pets. Pet leopards do very well with soft bristle brushes and slicker brushes. Deshedding tools can also be helpful in removing excess hair and dead skin. These kitties do shed, so owners need to stay on top of regular grooming and cleaning to keep them healthy and keep homes allergen-free.
This breed is known for liking to splash about and play in the water. They can benefit from occasional bathing once every couple of months. Along with regular brushing, bathing, and inspection for debris, cuts, and disease, Pet leopards need to have their teeth cleaned and nails clipped. These are two areas that owners often forget about or avoid because they can be very intimidating. Ignoring these areas of pet care can be very detrimental to a feline’s health. Dental care, in particular, is critical to preventing serious dental disease and trouble later in life.
Nail trimming may be intimidating, but owners need to start when their cats are young and continue trimming their nails at least once a month throughout their lives. Cats whose nails are too long are at risk of damaging furniture and other household items and injuring themselves, their owners, or other pets in the home.
Kitten Prices & Breeders
A high-quality pet leopard bloodline will start at around $1,500 and range to over $3,000 from reputable breeders. Companion cats will cost less than cats intended for breeding or show purposes. Those cats can have a price tag of $3,500 to over $5,000.
Several factors will impact the price. Prospective owners who want a specific color of silver, a particular gender, or a champion bloodline can expect to pay much, much more than those looking for a pet leopard as a companion. Breeder reputation, kitten care, health screenings, and bloodline affect the price. The generation of kitty also has an impact on the price. The first four generations, especially F2 and F3, will have an almost unbelievable price tag. The kitten’s age also plays a role. The younger the kitty, the higher the price.
Always look for a reputable breeder. Ask a lot of questions, as well as see previous litters. Stay away from breeders who refuse to show medical and health information. The least expensive option is often not the healthiest when it comes to designer cats like the glorious and rare silver pet leopard. Look for a breeder that specializes in designer breeds like the Silver Bengal. Owners can reference the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) to find breeders.
Shelters & Rescues
It is doubtful that a Silver Bengal will end up in a shelter or at a rescue, but not impossible. Cats that have aged out of breeding, retired show cats, and cats that are too much for owners to handle can end up in a shelter or rescue. These cats are usually older and have a lower adoption fee. Sometimes these cats can have health conditions and will need a little extra TLC. Rescues and shelters can be an excellent option for people who do not want a kitten but still want a new kitty in their lives. Check with local rescues, animal humane societies, and the National Animal Humane Society to find reputable shelters. Looking for a Bengal-specific rescue group may increase the chances of finding a Silver Bengal.
Should I Get A Silver Bengal
A lot of work goes into adopting and raising a kitty like the Silver Bengal. These kitties make amazing pets but are a handful. They need a lot of attention and are always on the move. Prospective owners will want to ensure they have plenty of time to give to a pet leopard and expect some extra costs. While this breed does not need special food or supplies, they are more expensive right from the start. They will need larger items, which can cost more, and owners can expect to purchase new toys and entertainment for them every few weeks. Additionally, because they do not like to be alone, an investment in a cat sitter or daycare may be needed.
These cats may also need special training. Due to their strong personalities, high intelligence, and very active prey drive, they can be a handle. Professional training can be beneficial. This is not a good breed for inexperienced cat owners, those that do not have a lot of extra time or those who have a hard time setting and sticking to boundaries. This breed can quickly get the upper hand, and once that happens, it is tough for owners to get it back.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Silver Bengal cats a different breed?
These sweet kitties are Bengal cats. The silver coloring is due to genetics and does not indicate that these cats are an entirely different breed. All colors of Bengal cats are part of the same breed.
My Silver Bengal has some brown tones. Does this mean they are not purebred?
A Silver Bengal cat with some brown tones does not mean that this cat is not purebred. The gene that inhibits brown tones in these cats does not remove the color. It inhibits it. In some Silver Bengal cats, some brown tones will show through, particularly in the base coat.
Do Silver Bengals always have blue eyes?
Silver Bengal cats can have blue eyes, but they do not always. Their eyes can also be green, blue-green, and shades of amber.
The Silver Bengal cat is a glorious, exquisite-looking feline with an exotic history. These cats are spry, intelligent, and very affectionate, just like the larger Bengal breed. Silver Bengals are not a separate breed. They are cats who inherited an inhibitor gene. This gene leads to the silver coloration of coats. There are varying shades and intensities of silver, and some silver cats will still have a bit of brown or amber tones to them.
These cats are more than just beautiful to look at. They are highly intelligent, very active, and make for wonderful family pets. This breed is known to be a handful and will need owners who are affectionate yet can set and stick to solid boundaries. Owners will not ever be bored or feel ignored by one of these beauties. The Silver Bengal is one of the most amazing cat breeds out there, and those of us lucky enough to meet one will never forget it.