What do Bengal cats eat, and does it differ from other cat breeds?
Bengal cats need a meat or fish based diet that is high in protein and fat, and low in carbohydrates.
Despite having wild ancestry, their nutritional needs are the same as other cat breeds.
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What Do Bengal Cats Eat?
Bengal cats, like all felines, are obligate carnivores.
That means they have adapted to only eat other animals, and they are unable to digest or gain any nutritional benefit from plant matter.
But unlike most other pet cat breeds, Bengals have a very recent wild ancestor.
Bengals were first established as a breed by crossing domestic cats with wild leopard cats in the 1970s.
So, how does a wild leopard cat’s appetite compare to a pet cat? And do Bengal owners have to make special allowances for it too?
Wild leopard cat diet
Wild leopard cats live on a diet of
- small mammals such as rats and mice
- birds and eggs
- lizards, frogs and newts
- and even insects.
This is pretty much exactly what domestic cats’ most direct wild ancestors also eat, and also what feral cat colonies eat too.
So in other words, the nutritional needs of the leopard cat are no different from nutritional needs of domestic cats.
And that means the Bengal cat’s dietary requirements are the same as any other pet cat’s. Their wild ancestry doesn’t mean you have to feed them any differently.
Let’s look more closely at exactly what they need.
The Ideal Bengal Cat Diet
Wild cats eat a diet that is roughly half protein and half fat.
Cats need protein for energy, and also to build or repair tissues in their body.
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. Cats can synthesize some amino acids themselves, but there are 11 essential amino acids they cannot make, which must be available ‘ready made’ in their diet. These essential amino acids are found in the tissues of other animals.
Cats also need fat for energy, and to help them absorb other vital nutrients, like the vitamins A & D.
A perfect Bengal diet resembles their wild ancestors’ diet as closely as possible. As we have seen, their basic nutritional demands haven’t changed since domestication.
But, some allowances can be made for their difference in lifestyle, and also the practical issues of preserving and storing pet foods.
Since pet cats don’t need to hunt or sleep outside, they typically have a lower daily calorie requirement than wild cats.
And since fats are higher in calories than protein, the simple way most pet food manufacturers achieve this is by using a higher proportion of protein than fats in their recipes. And also adding carbohydrate ‘fillers’.
Getting It Right
There are lots of ways of providing a Bengal cat with the animal-based diet they need.
Some people like to buy pre-prepared raw meals, for a more authentically ‘wild’ experience.
And some people are prepared to invest in cooking home cooked meals.
Both of these options should be undertaken under the close supervision of a vet, so that the cat doesn’t miss out on vital nutrients and amino acids.
The most reliable way to produce a nutritionally complete bowl of food at every meal is to use a commercial wet or dry cat food.
Look for wet foods which are at least 9% crude protein, and dry foods which are around 40% crude protein.
Note – The proportion of protein in wet foods is less because the proportion of water is higher. The actual amount of protein (in ounces) that they will get from a correctly measured meal is the same. The ratio of protein to fat should also be the same, about 2:1.
Wet foods are frequently more popular with cats because they are soft, moist and smelly – like eating an actual animal!
Kibble diets are more likely to be left in the bowl, and they inevitably contain more plant material to hold them together and restore the volume lost by extracting all the water from animal tissues.
But, they are also usually cheaper, easier to store, and have the helpful advantage of cleaning cats’ teeth as they chew.
How Much Do Bengal Cats Need To Eat?
The average Bengal cat weighs 8 to 15 pounds. Depending on their exact weight, they need 230 to 450 calories day (around 30 calories per pound) to maintain a healthy weight.
But they may need more than this if they are very active, nursing kittens, or the weather is very hot or cold.
Conversely, they will need fewer daily calories as they get older, or if they lead a very sedentary indoor lifestyle.
Care should be taken not to let a Bengal become overweight.
Overweight Bengals are more likely to develop:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Joint disease
- Liver disease
- Breathing problems
- Feline lower urinary tract disease
And since they already have a breed-specific increased risk of heart disease and joint disease, so keeping them at a healthy weight is especially important to protect them.
Bengal Cat Diet
So, we know that Bengal cats need a protein rich diet, and as much of it as possible should be animal-based.
Here are three dry foods and three wet foods, which all meet a Bengal cat’s nutritional needs.
Royal Canin Bengal Breed Adult Dry Cat Food
At the time of writing, Royal Canin are the only brand who make a cat food specifically formulated for Bengals*.
It contains 38% crude protein, 16% crude fat, and just 5% carbohydrate. Plus, it is fortified with vitamins, and essential amino and fatty acids.
The kibbles are even intentionally shaped for large breeds, to promote chewing rather than gulping, and help keep their teeth clean.
Blue Buffalo Cat Food
Firm favorite Blue Buffalo adult cat food* comes in two flavors – chicken and salmon.
It is 40% crude protein, 18% crude fat, just 4% carbohydrate, and bolstered with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids.
We like that the number one ingredient is high quality deboned chicken, rather than chicken meal.
Crave Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
Crave* is another brand, like Blue Buffalo, which develops its recipes to closely mimic the natural diet of wild cats.
The nutritional profile of this kibble is pretty much the same as the one above.
But this food comes in chicken, chicken and salmon, and salmon and ocean fish flavors.
Rachel Ray Nutrish Wet Cat Food
The Nutrish wet food range* comes in 8 different flavors, which are a great way of bringing variety to meal times.
All the recipes are all roughly 9% crude protein, and 5% crude fat.
And you can see, the ratio of protein to fat is actually about the same as in the dried foods – about two parts protein, to 1 part fat.
But each tray is nearly 80% water too – great for making the food more appetizing, and keeping kitty hydrated.
Hill’s Science Diet Wet Cat Food Pouches
Hill’s is a well established pet food brand which lots of cat owners will already recognize.
This wet food* comes in three tasty flavors.
Each pouch is about 75 calories, so bear in mind a large adult Bengal may need as many as 6 pouches in a day!
This is true of all wet food brands – they tend to be measured out with an average cat in mind, but the Bengal is usually bigger than that!
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Wet Cat Food
Just like their dry food above, Blue Buffalo specialize in tasty wet food recipes* with high quality ingredients.
Such as ‘turkey, chicken, quail and duck’ or ‘turkey, salmon, venison and halibut’, as well as single protein source cans.
With just 100 calories per can, it’s an expensive way to feed a Bengal, but you could experiment with mixing part of a can into kibble, to make the kibble more palatable and get the best of both worlds!
What Do Bengal Cats Eat – Summary
Like all pet cats, and their wild relatives the leopard cat, Bengals need to eat a diet which is high in protein and fat.
They have no need for carbohydrates, and can’t digest them.
But, carbs are an inevitable part of some feeding choices – such as dry kibble – and it is still possible for these to meet all of a Bengal’s nutritional needs if they have enough of the right kinds of proteins and fats too.
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
Baldwin et al. AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. 2010.
Plantinga et al. Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats. British Journal of Nutrition. 2011.
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