Before you even think about trying to get an F1 Bengal Cat, you need to understand that doing so is extremely unlikely. The reason? Aside from the fact that hybrid cats aren’t even allowed in some states, most breeders don’t have F1 Bengal Cats in their breeding programs themselves.
You see, because Bengal cats originated from breeding with an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) the United States Government Fish & Wildlife Service originally put heavy restrictions on the breed.
Bengal Breeders have been fighting for years to get the Bengal Cat off of the restricted list and the way that they have successfully done this is to breed many generations beyond the first generation (or the “F1”) Bengal. If you’re in the market to get a domestic Bengal Cat it’s likely that you’ll get something that’s over 5 generations away from the wild ALC.
This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the reality of owning a Bengal Cat. You’ll still get a cat that looks exotic and has a unique personality, but having a cat this many generations away from the ALC will allow you to avoid many restrictions placed on the cat in various states.
What exactly is an F1 Bengal Cat? How were they developed and how close are they to cats in the wild?
To understand what F1 means, we need to start with what an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) is. ALC’s are small and non-aggressive felines with coats covered in small “rosettes” or black/dark brown swirls. They usually weigh between 13 and 15 pounds and are found in the wild in South and East Asia.
They are notoriously shy but love water. People became fascinated with breeding these felines with domestic cats to produce a household pet because of their size, shy temperament, and the patterns of their coats.
There is evidence of uncredited ALC and domestic breeding reaching back to the 1800s but the Bengal breeding as it is today didn’t start until the 1970s. Originally breed for their distinct coat and unique temperament, they were also used in laboratories at this time for cancer research. This use however never moved past F1, a distinct and scientifically important piece of history for this Bengal filial.
When an ALC is bred with a domestic cat, an F1 Bengal is produced. The name “Bengal” derives from the ALC’s scientific name, Prionailurus Bengalensis. The breed of domestic cat used doesn’t matter, it will always produce a Bengal. The Bengal produced will just have half of the characteristics of the ALC and half of the domestic breed used.
The “1” in F1 means that the cat is the first generation under the ALC. The “F” is short for “Filial”, a word that means “befitting a good son or daughter.” To further the Bengal line, the F1 females are bred with a male domestic cat to produce F2 Bengals. The family line continues down from there such as this:
ALC + domestic mother = F1 Bengal
Domestic father + F1 mother = F2 Bengal
Domestic father + F2 mother = F3 Bengal
Domestic father + F3 mother = F4 Bengal
Fun fact, only the female cats produced from an ALC and domestic cat crossing are fertile. The males are infertile but still act as though they are capable of reproducing. Despite not being able to reproduce, male F1s will still spray and mount females in heat until they are neutered.
This male infertility occurs because of the cross breeding of two different species that are genetically similar. It produces 98% of F1, F2, and F3 male offspring as infertile. This can be traced to the length of the Y-chromosomes in domestic cats versus in ALCs. This is theorized by experts to be the cause but no positive reason is known.
An F1 Bengal kitten will easily cost $2000 at least. They can range from that beginning position of $2000 up to $5000 depending on the breeder, their methods of raising the kittens for the first few weeks, their accreditations, the certifications of the kittens, their coat pattern, their coat color, temperament, and various other factors. The price usually drops as the filial number rises so with an F1, the price is the highest.
The higher price can specifically be attributed to the amount of ALC in the cat. That doesn’t mean though that an F2 will cost half as much as an F1, just less.
The most important thing to remember is that when buying a Bengal, especially an F1, the buyer gets what they paid for. They get a unique, fun, and rambunctious feline friend to keep them company. An F1 is the closest thing to owning a wild cat without the intensity of the feline or the legal ramifications.
Since the Asian Leopard Cat usually weighs between 13 and 15 pounds, a Bengal will end up being right around the size of a large domestic cat. The more ALC in a Bengal, the closer the Bengal will be to the weight and height of an ALC.
This is more evident depending on the domestic breed used as the parent of the Bengal. If it is a notoriously small breed of domestic cat, it will show better that the kittens, when fully grown, are larger than that parent and closer to the size of an ALC. If the non-ALC parent is closer to the size of an ALC, the kittens produced will grow to be a similar size to both parents.
An F1 Bengal will act less domestic than an F2 or higher just because of the higher amount of ALC within it. An F1 is half ALC and shows it. An F2, on the other hand, is one quarter ALC, half that of the F1. It shows half as much of the ALC temperament than the F1.
That doesn’t mean that an F1 is too wild to be a pet. Even ALC’s can be kept as pets if trained well and with slight life modifications. An F1 shows the strongest ALC attributes compared to the higher filial numbers.
That said, if you have any intention of getting a F1 Bengal cat then it’s a good idea to get some supplies prior to adopting. Below is a list of some of the things you’ll need:
The F1’s are very important to breeding further Bengals that make great pets. If the F1’s temperament is good and it is trained and socialized well, it will produce F2s and F3s that are easily trained, fitted with a great temperament, and are otherwise excellent pets.
Because F1s could be inheriting the traits of their domestic cat parent, their ALC parent, or from both, their temperament can be rather varied, difficult to predict, and could change as they age.
If the F1 inherits and sticks to the traits of their ALC parent the most, they will present as living off their wild instincts. They will be more likely to react without thinking and hold to the “fight or flight” response rather than think a reaction through and taking into account the involvement of their human, siblings, parents, or other factors. This kind of reaction happens quickly and without clue.
An F1 is also more likely to present the ALC’s behavior of using running water as a toilet to prevent a lingering scent near its home. They have been known to use a tub or sink as a toilet as well as standing water such as large water bowls or pools.
They may be more difficult to socialize as an adult if they didn’t start socializing young. If they aren’t very social, they may hide or avoid guests or other new humans. This isn’t unique to the F1 bengal cat though, this is similar across all breeds and generations.
The F1 Bengal in the video below shows a Bengal that was likely socialized well as a kitten because it is welcoming people into the home and not shying away.
In addition, F1 Bengal cats are notoriously known for being a very vocal breed. If they don’t like something, or you change something and they’re unhappy, they’ll let you know it.
They may still inherit more of the domestic parent’s traits than the ALC’s, giving the F1 a more basic house cat sort of attitude with little to no of the ALC traits showing through.
They, of course, can also inherit a little of both parent’s traits. In this case, the F1 will show some domestic cat traits and some wild traits. This can vary from sibling to sibling and from litter to litter depending on what traits are being passed by the parents to that cat and to that litter.
Bengals as a whole need to eat a high quality diet consisting of a higher amount of meat than most cats. Because of this, some Bengal owners choose to feed their cat a raw meat diet. They may choose this for the betterment of the cat’s health in general or because of the ALC ancestry.
Since F1s are so close to their ALC ancestry, owners are more inclined to choose this diet for their cat than an owner of a high filial number Bengal. The raw meat is prepared in the moment or a short time before feeding. It is mixed with calcium and other vitamins to ensure a fully nutritious diet.
An F1 is more inclined to be fed this diet by the owner’s choice significantly because of the proximity their F1 has to its wild ancestor. The F1’s parent would, by nature, catch its own prey and eat the meat raw.
Just because they are so close to their wild ancestry doesn’t mean that a raw diet is the only possibility for them. A high quality cat food will suffice for the F1 as long as it contains all of the nutrients that the cat needs.
An F1 Bengal’s life expectancy is pretty much in between that of its ALC parent and its domestic parent. If the domestic cat’s life expectancy is longer than that of the ALC, the F1’s life expectancy will be likely in the middle of the ALC’s lowest age range and the domestic’s highest age range. If the domestic cat’s life expectancy is lower than the ALC’s, the F1’s life expectancy will be in the middle of the domestic’s lowest age range and the ALC’s highest range.
In Bengals of a higher filial number, the life expectancy will be closer to that of the domestic cats used but since an F1 is half ALC and half domestic, the F1 will likely end up with a life expectancy in the middle of those of its parents with a possibility of being as short as the lowest age or as long as the highest age.
In general, it’s safe to assume that an F1 Bengal cat will live right around 16-20 years. Of course, it could be longer or shorter depending on genetic mutations and/or environmental factors, but this is a good estimate.
Because an F1 is so close in ancestry to the ALC, they take on far more of the coat attributes of the ALC than Bengals of a higher filial number. The ALC’s coat is more like a pelt which sheds very little to nothing at all. The fact that the F1 has their ALC ancestry as their parent rather than their grandparent or great-grandparent effects how much of the ALC coat characteristics effect the F1s coat itself.
The F1 will have a coat similar to their ALC parent, it feels like a pelt and sheds almost nothing, if even anything at all. They need even less of the minimal grooming that higher filial number Bengals do, even to the extent that the F1 will probably be able to take care of its coat itself.
This makes the F1 Bengal cat a great option for those with allergies. If you do see an F1 begin to shed, it might be time to use a brush on them.
Getting an F1 Bengal isn’t like going to the nearest breeder and picking out a kitten. It isn’t even like buying other Bengal filials. Many breeders won’t work with F1 litters because of being so closely involved with an ALC and often have many restrictions put on them.
They also need a plentitude of vitamins and a different adult habitat and kitten habitat than higher filial Bengals do.
Someone looking to adopt an F1 also needs to check if that high of a Bengal filial number is even legal in that state. Some states only allow the ownership of Bengals that are a certain filial number or higher. Other states don’t have any mandate of a Bengals filial number. This website does a good job explaining the laws around owning Hybrid animals.
Certain states may necessitate certain paperwork or bloodwork be completed to prove Bengals lineage and how much ALC is included in their genes. If you’d like to get help from a breeder in your state to help you understand the likelihood of you getting an F1 Bengal Cat, you should check this page.
As mentioned in the beginning of this guide, getting a F5 or above Bengal Cat/Kitten isn’t a bad thing. F1 Bengal Cats have a lot of personality traits close to the ALC as well as special dietary restrictions and a different temperment than most domestic cats. After all, they are only one generation away from a wild Asian Leopard Cat, so this can be expected. Unless you’re a trained breeder, it’s in your best interest to get a Bengal Cat with a higher filial number anyway.
Training an F1 Bengal cat is a very important part of rearing this nearly wild feline. Even more than other Bengal filials, if they aren’t trained as fully as they need to be, they will walk all over their owner and the home. F1 training can help to dictate the cat as a wonderful pet to love for many years.
If not, it can be like living with a small, meowing, chirping, destructive, roommate that pees and poops around the house.
The F1s temperament goes a long way to dictating how significant training will be for a specific F1 and how difficult or strenuous it may be. Even with the most domestic of F1s, training is still extremely important for an F1 and its owner to go through together so that they have the bond produced from the interaction as well as getting an established F1/owner relationship should the F1’s temperament change with age.
An F1 Bengal is only as dangerous as their temperament allows. If they connect very highly with the temperament of their ALC parent and they didn’t undergo training or it didn’t go over well, they may run the home, talk a lot, and pee and poop wherever they want.
If the F1 isn’t socialized very well, or at all, at a young age, they won’t bond well with other animals or people. They won’t attack guests or other pets, but they will shy away and hide or avoid interactions in these situations.
When looking into or getting a Bengal, especially an F1, knowing whether it will get along with the other entities in the home. Other cats, dogs, and people need to be considered when bringing a half wild feline into the home.
Socialization is key for this and if the F1 is socialized at a young age, they will adjust well to other animals and people in the home. An F1 can get along with other animals in a home well if they become acquainted when the F1 is young. F1s also notoriously interact better with other animals over humans.
F1s will likely bond more closely with one human and tolerate others. But as long as it is comfortable and won’t shy away when other humans come around, then the F1 has adjusted well to having other humans in its life.
Then, of course, is having children in the home with this F1. Whether they are visiting, live there, or a new baby is expected, making sure that a child or children coming into the home with be safe with this nearly wild cat.
If the F1 knows from an early age what a human child is, they are more likely to adjust to having them around. Socializing an F1 with children of varying ages is also important in ensuring that the F1 will accept kids of all ages in its life and home.
Educating the child(ren) on how to act around this cat and how to go about touching it or items, like a food bowl, that the F1 deems as its own is also important. Telling the child how to go about touching the cat’s items can keep a child from being seen by an F1 as stealing its food. And showing a child how to interact with the F1 can go far in not just ensuring that the child is safe when interacting with the cat but can also ensure a potential friend and loving pet for this to grow with.
Watching the temperament of the kittens can be very important in figuring out what kind of adult an F1 Bengal kitten can become. But their temperament may still change when they reach adulthood and/or when they reach the age of sexual maturity.
Watching the kitten’s parent’s temperament is also very important in figuring out what kind of kitten temperament will be produced. If an ALC is bred with a wildly acting domestic female, the kittens are highly likely to exhibit a wild temperament. If the mother isn’t wild acting, she will likely produce kittens that exhibit temperament traits from both the non-wild domestic cat mother and the regular ALC temperament of the father.
Socializing the kittens is very important for F1 Bengals for multiple reasons. It can ensure an F1 that isn’t shy around guests or new humans. An F1 Bengal that was socialized as a kitten will be more likely to accept humans into its life and even to become attached to a human in its life.
Socializing F1 kittens also ensures that if these kittens grow and are used for breeding, the F2 kittens are more likely to be more easily socialized as well and more likely to bond with a human as well.
F1 kittens that are held, kissed, and cuddled by humans from a very young age, even from birth, are going to be well socialized and willing to bond with humans and accept them into the F1’s life and home.