Bengal cats are typically between 6 and 15lb (3.6-6.8 kg) – the same size as the average house cat. If you feel that your Bengal cat might be too small, continue to read to learn about 5 possible reasons for that.
1. It’s Genetic
All purebred Bengal cats are descended from a cross between an unknown domesticated cat and a wild Asian Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).
The Asian Leopard cat is a small wild cat that is native to continental South, Southeast and East Asia.
Unlike its large wildcat cousin, the Leopard, Asian Leopard cats are only about the size of a domestic cat, but have slender, longer legs and a small head. Bengal cats are also the only breed to successfully pair a wild and tame cat together.
The size of the Asian Leopard cat that was originally crossed with the domestic cat determined, partially, the size of today’s Bengal cats. However, since then, other breeds have been used in the
Bengal breeding program, including larger cats such as Ocicats (with an average weight of around 13lb), and British Shorthairs (with an average weight of around 15lb).
Likewise, other, smaller cats have been included, such as Egyptian Maus (with an average weight of around 12lb), Abyssinians and Bombays (both with an average weight of around 10lb).
Today’s Bengal cats are being made up of a combination of the original crossbreed mixed with one or more of these other breeds.
When you also factor in the genetic traits of the parents (think of your own parents and their height/size), it can mean that the size of a Bengal cat can vary quite a lot. However, they do not stray too far from the typical 6-15lb range.
Their voices, however, are not small – you know when you have a Bengal in the house!
2. Let’s Get Physical!
One of the reasons your cat may seem small, especially if you have other non-Bengal cats, is that they’re extremely active, so they burn a lot of calories. They are curious, intelligent and very playful.
They require regular attention and stimulation to keep them interested and out of trouble. They even love water, and are known to hop on in with their owners when having a shower or bath!
All of this running and playing means that your athletic Bengal cat may simply be able to keep more svelte than your tabby or domestic short hair.
As long as they’re getting enough food, a proper diet suitable to their needs, and regular veterinary care (like all pets should), it’s ok if your Bengal cat is a little on the lean side.
Keeping your cat at an ideal weight also helps protect its overall health and avoid problems caused by obesity.
One terrific way to interact with your Bengal cat and provide it with adequate stimulation at the same time is by teaching it simple tricks.
Yes, you can teach a cat to do tricks! Bengal cats are actually quite good at learning a variety of behaviors, including sit, shaking a paw, and turning in a circle.
They are highly trainable, and, with some patience and the proper motivation, you can get great results! Some people even walk their Bengal cats on a leash, just like the family dog.
Even better, if you use the clicker training method, you can use the same clicker to break bad habits your cat may be forming. It’s a win all around!
3. It's All About Body Image
Bengal cats may be physically the same size as a typical house cat, but because their bodies are leaner and more muscular, they often have the impression of being smaller. What is more, their heads are smaller in relation to their bodies, and they have medium to small ears.
As such, Bengals can look smaller than a regular domesticated cat, even if they’re actually around the same weight.
Also, because of their genetic makeup, Bengal cats will not typically be too fat or bulky. Their bones may be larger than other domesticated cats, but their bodies are leaner and more muscular.
This slim build can sometimes give the impression – especially to someone who is unfamiliar with Bengal cats – that they are underfed or unhealthy.
Moreover, because Bengal cats are descended from a wild cat, which would have had a diet high in protein like birds, insects, and lizards, they need a similarly high protein diet. And just like with people, a high protein diet encourages a lean build.
It’s important to ensure that your cat is receiving the right amount of food each day.
Some cats are “free feeders” which means that they’ll eat whenever they want; you just put food out, and they'll pick at it throughout the day, eating as much as they need.
Others, however, need to have set meal times to ensure they don’t eat too much and become overweight.
On average, because of their high activity levels, Bengal cats require more food – about a can per day – than most house cats, which eat about half a can per day.
However, it is important to remember that if a cat is fully grown (around 2 years old), and is eating normally but has a low activity level or is lethargic, it might have an undiagnosed health issue that would be checked out.
4. She Might be a Late Bloomer
Bengal cats typically reach maturity around 2 years of age, and they may not “fill out” until that point.
How fast a kitten grows depends entirely on the breed and other genetic traits. Bengals happen to be, on average, fairly slow growing cats so your Bengal may appear to be smaller than another kitten of the same age.
A cat’s size at each stage of life (kitten, junior, prime, senior, geriatric), can be influenced by a number of factors, including sex, birth order, whether your cat is “fixed” or not, how many other kittens were in the litter, and the parents’ overall health.
But there’s no real concrete way to know exactly when a cat will reach its full height and weight.
Until then, it’s best to monitor your kitten and make sure it is getting enough food its activity level, plenty of fresh water and proper general care.
If you’re not sure, talk to your veterinarian, or even the breeder from whom you bought your Bengal cat. If the kitten’s parents were small, chances are it will be small too, and vice versa.
5. The Not So Good Reasons
Interestingly, the history of Bengal cats has to do with research into feline leukemia. Dr. Willard Centerwall researched Asian Leopards with respect to their suspected immunity to the disease.
For his study, he crossbred Asian Leopards to domestic cats and then sought homes for his subjects once his study had concluded (it was unfortunately not successful).
Jean Sudgen Mill took Centrewall’s hybrid kittens and, with further crossbreeding, the Bengal Cat as we know it today was created.
While Bengal cats are generally speaking a healthy and vigorous breed (they live around 15 years or more, on average), they are, unfortunately, and not entirely unusually for purebred animals, prone to a few hereditary diseases that may affect their size and, of course, overall health.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This is an inherited form of heart disease sometimes called the “silent killer.” While inherited, it can be recessive in both parents, so can sometimes pop up unexpectedly after generations of breeding. The illness results in a thickening of the muscles of the heart wall, blood clots, and congestive heart failure.
- PK Deficiency (or Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency). This is a form of hemolytic anemia. It can cause cats to be weak, have low appetites, and be lethargic, therefore affecting growth and development.
Bengals may also be susceptible to other infectious diseases that could affect their growth and development, including trichomonas foetus, which is an infection that causes diarrhea. (Also read: 5 reasons why your Bengal cat is throwing up.)
They are also believed to be prone to feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which causes loss of appetite and weight loss, among other symptoms.
There is no preventative treatment for FIP or cure, so it’s very important to ensure that the breeder from which you are purchasing or have already purchased your cat does not have a history of any kittens with FIP.
Check with a reputable breeder before purchasing your new Bengal kitten to ensure that your kitten will have the best start in life.
Any breeder worth his or her salt will have no problem discussing the medical histories of both parents and will provide you with a written health guarantee for your kitten.
If the breeder is hesitant to discuss the health of the parents or does not let you meet the parents, do not purchase a cat from that breeder.
All good breeders are committed to health testing and want only the best for the breed.