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Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Melanistic (Black) Bengal cat

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Bengal cats are a highly sought-after breed of cat. They have a unique look that sets them apart from other felines and they are often considered to be some of the most beautiful cats around. While most people picture a tabby, striped, or spotted look when they think of Bengals, this breed can also be born with a black or melanistic coloring.

Due to the fact that Black Bengals are not approved by breed governing bodies, cats with this coloration are rare and less popular among breeders, so they may be difficult to find. Overall, whatever their color, this is a breed that should be handled with love and respect.

If you’re interested in owning a Black Bengal cat, be sure to do your research first and make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility.


The Earliest Records of Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat in History

Bengal-like cats are first described in “Our Cats and All About Them” published by Harrison Weir in 1889. In this book, Weir was the first to describe an Asian leopard cat and domestic cross. During the early days of breeding, efforts were always stopped after just one or two generations. It was breeder Jean Mill who decided to create a domestic cat with the coat of a wild cat, and in doing so established the modern Bengal breed.

During her graduate studies at UC Davis, Mill had taken several classes in genetics. Hers was the first deliberate cross between an Asian leopard cat and a black domestic tomcat. It is not known whether there were Black Bengals within this first litter, but it is quite likely given the coloration of the male parent.

How Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat Gained Popularity

Bengals as a breed didn’t really take off until much later, following Mill’s breeding efforts in the 1970s, after she received a group of Bengal cats that had been bred by Willard Centerwall for use in genetic testing at Loma Linda University in 1975. A number of other breeders began breeding Bengals around this time as well. The melanistic variation of the Bengal cat is becoming slightly more popular, partly because it is considered by some to be a more “exotic” looking animal than traditional cats.

The black fur of these felines can make them quite striking and they often draw a lot of attention from people who are interested in owning a unique pet. Additionally, the fact that Melanistic Bengals are relatively rare (compared to traditional Bengals) makes them even more appealing to some individuals.

Formal Recognition of Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat

Melanistic Bengal cats are not recognized by the major cat fancier associations or other authorities. TICA describes the unrecognized colors as being solid charcoal, blue, and melanistic (or solid black). This means that although Bengal cats in these colorways are purebred, they are not eligible to compete in cat shows, and they are not generally not prioritized for breeding the next generation of Bengals. As a result, there are relatively fewer Black Bengals available for sale.

Top 5 Unique Facts About Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cats

1.Color Is Determined by Genetics

Melanistic Bengals are cats that carry a gene for black fur, as opposed to the more common gene for lighter white or golden fur. Their coloring is due to a gene that causes them to produce more melanin, which makes their fur black.

2. Kitties That Love the Water!

Bengal cats love water, unlike most domestic cats. Their ancestor, the Asian Leopard Cat, fishes in the wild for its food. Bengals enjoy playing in the water today because they have retained this trait. Attempts to enter the shower or bath with you, playing under a running faucet, or stalking and pouncing on their own water dishes are all examples of this. Make your Bengal’s water source fun by creating a fountain that mimics their ancestors’ experience in the wild. Don’t forget to secure your fish tanks!

3. Bengal Cats Are Not Immune to Feline Leukemia

The Bengal cat was thought to be partially resistant to feline leukemia, but this is not true at all. The Asian Leopard Cat was thought to be partially immune to feline leukemia, however, Bengals do not retain any part of the resistance to this disease nor any other since they are descended from this cat.

People falsely believe that since Bengals are descended from this cat, it is not necessary to take precautions against it. If your cat is going to spend any time outdoors or in the company of other cats with whom they do not share a home, it is especially important that they are vaccinated for all diseases, including feline leukemia.

4. Bengals Come In Many Colors and Patterns

A variety of colors and patterns can be found, but the basic breed-recognized colors are brown, silver, and snow, with both marbling and spots, or combinations of both. There is a beautiful contrast between the spots and marbling that is not present in any other domestic cat breed.

5. Several states prohibit or restrict Bengal cat ownership

The ownership of Bengal cats is legal in much of the United States as long as they are at least five generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cat. However, there are still some restrictions on Bengal ownership, and they are completely banned in some parts of the country. Hawaii, Connecticut, Seattle, and New York City do not allow Bengal ownership. California, Colorado, Indiana, Delaware, Alaska, Iowa, and Georgia require special permits or licenses to own Bengals. Check the laws in your area before adding this cat to your home.

Does a Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat Make a Good Pet?

Melanistic Bengal cat VS a regular Black Cat
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There are a few differences between Bengal cats and average housecats. Bengal cats are intelligent and energetic animals. Some people may not be able to care for one. They don’t sleep on the couch all day and if you don’t give them attention, playtime, and interaction, they may yell loudly. Even though these cats are mischievous and demanding, they are also affectionate, sweet, and full of personality. Keeping one of these cats is an interesting and unique experience due to their social and outgoing nature.

Bengal cats make great family pets when they are well-socialized from kittenhood. Bengals like activity and lots of time with people. They like to play and will entertain the family with their antics, and are good with children, even babies. These cats may have a favorite person in the family and tend to stick close to them, but they are happy to be with everyone else.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Black (Melanistic) Bengals are beautiful and unique cats that deserve to be loved and appreciated. They are playful, loving, and make great pets. If you are looking for a new addition to your family, consider adopting a black Bengal.

Remember, these cats cannot be shown at cat shows, so they are not preferred by breeders and may be difficult to find. But if you get the opportunity to bring home your own mini-panther, you will have a unique and wonderful companion for many years to come.

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