Zephyr is my Bengal Cat. Bengals are a cross-breed - they are a mix between a Domestic Cat and the Asian Leopard Cat.
They are named for the Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) - and not for the Bengal Tiger.
The "F" designation represents the generational distance from the original mated pair which includes the full-blooded wild cat - in this case - the Asian Leopard Cat.
An F1 is first generation - the litter born from the original pairing. An F4 is fourth generation.
These cats have to be bred by experienced breeders. Unfortunately, many breeders have let go F2 and F3 cats, which are typically animals which still have too much wild cat in them and are not ideal for domestication. These animals are difficult to control and many are "let loose" or they escape, mating with any viable domestic cat in heat.
It is accepted that usually the first generation which has enough domestic cat bred into it to make it an "ideal" mix between exotic wild-cat and a house cat is the F4 - fourth generation.
Bengals, when purchased from a licensed breeder, can fetch upwards of $10,000 per kitten. It's been a bizarre and unfortunate trend in Los Angeles/Hollywood, that many famous actors/actresses, and other well-to-do types, have spent ridiculous amounts of money on F3 and F4 Bengals only to realize as they get older and much larger, that they are an unexpectedly destructive and willful animal, quite the handful to control.
Many 9-month to 1 year old Bengals find themselves turned into shelters or simply let loose into the wild.
I found Zephyr through a rescue agency which specializes in Bengal adoptions. You can't just walk in and ask for one. You have to take a test, do two interviews and agree to allow the adoption agency to inspect your home. The great thing is that if you pass these tests, you can take home your own beautiful Bengal for around $250 in adoption fees.
Although because he was a rescue we are assuming that he's an F4. Oddly, he's starting to take on the size, shape, and personality of an F3. The ONLY thing that makes me doubt he's an F3 is that he's not prone to spraying or urinating all over the place. The largest complain of Savannah Cat (domestic/African Serval) and Bengal owners of F2 and F3 cats is that they urinate everywhere. It's instinct. They mark their territory.
Zeph is amazingly litter-box friendly. Ironically my Siamese will get angry and urinate on a throw rug from time-to-time. But not Zeph.
Bengals take 2 full years to mature. Zeph is 13 months old. He's getting massive; he already weighs 16lbs. He's extremely long as well - from paw to paw - stretched out - he's over 33" long - I'm 6'2" and have a 33"inseam and he's as long as my legs.
I wear a US men's size 12 shoe. this means my foot is approximately 11.5 inches long. The first photo shows my foot next to his head... the second is him being held... the 3rd and 4th, him lounging around stretching.
ABOUT THE BENGAL PERSONALITY -
Bengals are exceptionally intelligent. They are what can honestly be considered the best attributes of a domestic tabby and the small but powerful Asian Leopard.
Like the Savannah Cat (a domestic/African Serval hybrid), they are often much larger and robust than a domestic cat.
The Maine Coon is usually accepted as the largest domestic pure breed. I've owned 3 Maine Coons, and they've all been VERY large cats. My two males have weighed in (when at a healthy weight) of 16-17lbs and are easily 1/3 larger than any non Maine Coon around them. My female - who was registered and lived to 4 months short of her 21st birthday, at her largest was 30lbs. But at her healthiest weight was 15. These are big cats.
My Bengal's best friend in the world is my solid black (a rear color) Maine Coon, Fafoutis. He's full-grown and weighs 16lbs. He's now a little smaller than Zephyr. And Zeph keeps growing.
Bengals are extremely affectionate. Not lap cats per-se, but they love to lay next to you, against you, or near you with one of their legs stretched out to touch you.
They do not "meow" like a domestic cat. They communicate with a rather complex variety of "chirps" and "whirs". They have incredibly deep and loud purrs. They love having their stomachs rubbed.
And they have fangs which are so thick and large that they rarely fit into their mouths. Zeph looks like a little vampire cat most of the time. You can see in many of my photos of him that his fangs are poking out a little from his top lips. In the 5th and 6th photos of this card you can see what I mean about his fangs.
They have very large paws and their claws are much thicker, longer, and sharper than a domestic cats.
They have a funny build. Their heads are almost small looking for their thick, powerful bodies. Their back legs are longer than their front, which allows them to run an a totally different position than a domestic. They are low to the ground and extremely powerful. They have very long tails for balancing, they are very efficient climbers.
They also have unique fur. It looks shiny - almost oily, but it's silky soft to the touch. These are water cats. Their wild Asian Leopard ancestors live in tropical jungles where it rains all the time.
Want to see something wild, take a ping-pong ball and put about 3 inches of warm (to the touch but not hot) water in your bath tub. You're going to have a very happy, very wet Bengal Cat.
These cats do not relate to you the way a domestic cat does. They are trouble-makers. They have to be kept stimulated. They get bored easily and that's when they get destructive. If you keep them engaged, they don't usually act out or tear things up. If they do, they know it.
They are sensitive. If you fuss at one (I never recommend corporal punishment with any cat, cats do not react well to being physically punished - it undermines the very important trust-bond you must have with them), they will sulk and act depressed. Usually within 30 minutes he seeks me out, head low, making little mewing noises, rubbing between my legs - asking for my forgiveness.
They are aggressive with other cats. Not bad, but they will be the dominant cat in your house, unless, oddly, you have a really weird individual who is not going to bend to any other cat's will. In my case, my 5 year-old female Siamese, "Nona", is literally 1/2 the size of Zephyr, she's a petite 7lbs, and she's completely dominated him. He gives her a wide birth when she enters the room. He's tried to play hard with her and she's taken it as a serious attempt to hurt her, so she's gone into "fight to death" mode with him, where she's chased him non-stop with the intent to end his life. Not a fun thing to watch, but does sometimes happen when you mix cats, and it has scared him straight. She tolerates him now. But if he gets too close she lets out a little low hiss and growl and he backs down.
Recently since the cold weather has started, she's been seen laying in front of the fireplace with him and Fafoutis. This is a big, positive development in my book.
Bottom-line on Bengals - they are the ultimate cat-lover's cat. But not for an inexperienced cat owner. They take a lot of work, near constant supervision until they are at least 1 year old - half way to maturity.
They are in many ways, more like a dog than a cat in personality. They lack the moodiness and "take it or leave it" cat personality. They crave attention. They love attention. And the more positive and nurturing it is, the more affectionate and calm they become.
I absolutely adore Zeph. And I am totally open to another Bengal some time down the road.