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Bengal cat Origins

Bengal cats
Bengal Cats - photograph copyright Helmi Flick.

The Bengal Cat origins are worth studying and thinking about as it tells us a lot about us and what we are doing and why we are doing it. The lives of domestic cats are in our hands. The way we think and behave dictates the wellbeing of the lives of all domestic cats. All the reviews on the beginning of the Bengal breed are very benign (lack proper discussion, are uncritical). Here is a different angle. But please don't misinterpret what I say.

Most know that a women called Jean Mill started the Bengal cat breed. She retired from breeding Bengal cats in 2007, I understand. She is acclaimed and thought of fondly. Dare one be critical of her?

Bengal cat origins began when she first bred a wild/domestic cat hybrid in 1963. She says that she "bought" an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) from a pet shop (couldn't do that now). I suppose times have changed in attitudes about cats. I hope so. But I don't think one "buys" cats. Do we "own" cats. Or do we keep cats and adopt and care for cats (and they care for us too to a certain and sometimes large extent). I am surprised she used the word "bought". I don't know, but it would seem even at that time that it was not a good idea to have a wild cat caged up in a pet shop for sale.

Moving on. The ALC she bought mated with a domestic cat she put in the cage with the ALC. This first step in wildcat/domestic cat hybridization was aborted as Jean Mill had to move from her home to an apartment (no space).

Moving on to the breeding programme proper. After Jean remarried she was able to recommence. She says that she "installed.....many zoo-like cages". Was this good for the cats or good for her? Sorry to be a bit critical but a lot of people don't think zoos are a good idea.

Bengal kittens cats
Photograph of Bengal Kittens copyright Helmi Flick

Jean Mill acquired F1 hybrid Bengal cats from a medical research scientist who was doing research into leukemia. The ALC has partial immunity to feline leukemia. I presume that the research was for the benefit of humans. Some people don't like the idea of other animals being used for medical research for the benefit of humans.

Cats are not infrequently used in medical research as they have conditions similar to ours. Sometimes the cats are sacrificed (killed) as a result.

It seems that Jean Mill was the first cat breeder to think about producing a "tame toy leopard". Is it wise to try and produce an animal that we refer to as a "toy"? Does this demonstrate a respect for animals generally. Or does it demonstrate the idea that we are better and different to other animals and have the right to play God with them?

Jean Mill then went to India and imported back from that country a feral or street cat with markings that she felt would produce the right offspring when mated with an ALC. I am guessing but an Indian street cat might not, through no fault of her/his own, be that healthy. I presume that she had the Indian cat checked out for inherited diseases such as HCM. The trouble is that HCM is due to a genetic mutation and there are many mutations that could be responsible. The science is only now being developed to isolate the genes for screening.

The Indian cat mated with the female hybrids (presumed F1 hybrids adopted from the scientist mentioned above). One of the offspring was Millwood Tory of Delhi. She says that the genes from this cat are found in "virtually all Bengal pedigrees". Playing devils advocate for a minute, what if the Indian cat had a predisposition to HCM? I don't know what tests were carried out. In any case at that time the science of screening for a genetic predisposition to heart disease was probably unheard of, or its infancy. Does someone know. If so please leave a comment.

The breeding of Bengal cats has been a worldwide success for us. Has it been the same success for the Bengal cats?

From Bengal cat Origins to Bengal cats

Comments

Anonymous said…
your guess is right. the technology for screening for HCM didn't exist when ms. mill started the bengal breed. she couldn't have had the original bengals tested before she began the breed. but, she might have had them tested later. i don't know because i don't think she has ever posted testing results to any of the public websites. i hope that she's testing now.
Anonymous said…
since you're talking about animal research and bengal HCM, can you please tell your readers about The Lightning Fund? TIBCS, which is the bengal breed club, is collecting money for research about bengals' HCM. you can find details at www.bengalcat.com no cats will be harmed in this research! cats that participate in the research need to supply a DNA sample, just a cheek swab or blood test. it doesn't hurt them. thank you.
Michael Broad said…
Thanks for the comments. Regarding the Lightning Fund, I'll do as you ask asap. I think it the most important thing that can be done in the whole of the breeding programme.

The Bengal cat's welfare and health must be the highest priority.
Anonymous said…
thank you!! hcm can affect all cats. it's not just a purebred cat problem. actually it can appear in all mammals. because it's a genetic disorder, scientists are studying pedigreed cats. that way they can see how the gene passes along generations.
what's important for the world of animal lovers to understand is that the studies being done today on specific cat breeds (maine coons, ragdolls, sphynxes, bengals, etc...) are all striving for the same goal: to find the genetic marker for HCM. once genetic markers are found, a blood test can be developed for all cats, not just certain breeds. once this exists, all kittens can be screened for hcm. those kittens who have the gene can be closely monitored by a vet for hcm symptoms. usually when you find the disease early, the treatment can prolong the cat's life and prevent an early, painful death.
we're years away from this happening. but the groundwork needs to be done with several different breeds first. that's where we are today.
Anonymous said…
One thing is for sure -- if it weren't for the efforts of the dedicated purebred cat breeders, feline HCM studies would be few and far between.

A number of studies would likely be underfunded and perhaps even non-existant.

It is through the donations to funds, such as the Lightning Fund, that came to fruition through the efforts of The International Bengal Cat Society and its members.

It is because many purebred cat breeders are testing their cats for HCM, that light is now being shed on this disease.

Additionally, breeders who are testing are able to voluntarily submit blood samples of HCM positive cats to HCM studies.

So, without the many efforts of dedicated pedigreed cat breeders, the understanding of diseases such as HCM would be vastly limited.

Multiple studies would not be funded and underway.

Far fewer cats would be HCM screened, and the disease, which affects all cats, would continue to run rampant.
Michael Broad said…
Hi, thanks for this comment. It is appreciated.
Anonymous said…
Cats have always been and always will be attached to a monetary value when being exchanged into the possession of another. Therefore, you "buy" a cat in order to own a cat. Or, you "buy" a cat in order to adopt a cat. The term "bought" is irrelevant towards identifying the various attitudes that one may have regarding the subject. Implicating a relationship is general logical fallacy.

Side note: ALCs are still widely available in pet stores, at the very least in Thailand and the surrounding region.

Cages. Cages are widely used today for safety and containment of animals and the safety of humans. Having an outdoor enclosure/cage is a recognized standard when in possession of a wildlife creature that can cause significant damage (ask people who own ALCS or Servals indoor), and/or that can be threatened in today's society (cars, abusers, man made hazards).

I do not understand the connection you are making here about zoos. Zoos are used for educational purposes. Vast amounts of zoos displaying magnificent wildlife creatures have inspired many of yesterday's and today's professionals working with animals. It will continue to do so. If you are implying the "animals belong in the wild" case then I must reply with: Wildlife was once thriving all across our once environmentally thriving planet; yet we can see today, wildlife has been dramatically reduced to what we know as Africa. Perhaps you meant to talk about a circus? But then again, Jean Mill did not say "circus-like," did she?

Research of ALCs partial immunity to feline leukemia. Feline Leukemia was suddenly a common occurrence in that period among domestic cats. How in the world one makes a connection between human medical research and the study of feline leukemia is beyond me. Feline Leukemia is not leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer and Feline Leukemia is a virus. How does the study of a viral disease, not to mention one rampant in a completely different specie, help the study of cancer in the human species? Feline Leukemia has always been known to be a virus since 1964. If you were fooled by term of the disease by assuming it meant feline cancer, then did you stop to think why feline leukemia is treated by using a vaccine(live or dead)?

"Cats are not infrequently used in medical research as they have conditions similar to ours."

This is false. The statement that cats have conditions similar to ours is vague because you do not define the condition. Did you substitute the word "condition" for "genes"? Or perhaps "behavior" and any other attribute or characteristic defining the specie? At any rate, there is not one that would benefit the study of human medicine. As a result, the statement "not infrequently" is preposterous. It is irrelevant whether it may have happened in the past when the age of enlightenment did not find its way.

When breeders or pet lovers use the word "toy." They do not use it as a noun for an object that many children eagerly play with. In this case, it is an adjective describing a small breed. Thus, "tame toy leopard" is nothing more than a domestic cat with an exotic appearance. The adjective "toy" is widely used in such way.

Anonymous said...

your guess is right. the technology for screening for HCM didn't exist when ms. mill started the bengal breed. she couldn't have had the original bengals tested before she began the breed. but, she might have had them tested later. i don't know because i don't think she has ever posted testing results to any of the public websites. i hope that she's testing now.

04 March 2008 00:10


Jean Mill went to India in 1982. HCM screening did exist in 1982. The study of myocardium is not something brand new as diagnostic testing was widely available in 1982. A veterinarian performing a physical examination in 1982 would absolutely identify symptoms and characteristics signaling possible defection of the myocardium. I believe Jean Mill is not so much as careless to disregard a standard physical examination by a veterinarian.

To be honest, I have no idea what the purpose of this particular blog is. When one claims to play the devil's advocate, then one is making a certain charge against another one's justification. Nowhere in this blog can a vague or specific claim can be found. So in this case, I will assume the particular charge is the illegitimacy of the origin of the bengal breed. Even then, or if that is the case, the blogger has committed the fallacious crime of ad hominem. If you want to speculate the intention or motive behind the origin of the bengal breed, maybe you should attack this particular statement by Jean Mill as well: "..I deliberately crossed leopard cats with domestic cats for several important reasons. At that time, wild cats were being exploited for the fur market. Nursing female leopard cats defending their nests were shot for their pelts, and the cubs were shipped off to pet stores worldwide. Unsuspecting cat lovers bought them, unaware of the danger, their unpleasant elimination habits and the unsuitability of keeping wild cats as pets. Most of the wild kittens from this era ended up in zoos or escaped onto city streets. I hoped that by putting a leopard coat on a domestic cat, the pet trade could be safely satisfied. If fashionable women could be dissuaded from wearing furs that look like friends' pets, the diminished demand would result in less poaching of wild species."

Playing the devil's advocate is always nice and in my opinion always necessary. However, I humbly request it to be done with a bit of more research and a bit of less invalid&unrelated inductions, in order to become ever more effective in our quest for justification.

Thank you, and have a nice day.
bengalcats said…
Great site, nice pictures
visits www.bengalcatsforsale.co.uk to see more
Lovely Bengal Cats
Schrodinger's Cat said…
7 November 2008 20:05 said, "Leukemia is a cancer and Feline Leukemia is a virus. How does the study of a viral disease, not to mention one rampant in a completely different specie, help the study of cancer in the human species? Feline Leukemia has always been known to be a virus since 1964. If you were fooled by term of the disease by assuming it meant feline cancer, then did you stop to think why feline leukemia is treated by using a vaccine(live or dead)?"

Feline Leukemia is a virus that can and often does LEAD to cancer, especially feline lymphoma. It was studied, and was the first virus that could be linked to cancer. Since then, we have learned of other viruses that can cause cancer-- the Human Papillomavirus or HPV being one of those, and it has been positively linked to cervical cancer in humans. There is strong evidence that the Epstein-Barr virus is linked to some lymphomas in humans. The feline leukemia virus HAS been linked to feline lymphomas and leukemia-like illnesses (typified by increased numbers of abnormal lymphocytes) in cats. This virus also provided the first time that we have been able to develop a vaccine against a cancer-causing virus.

"How does the study of a viral disease, not to mention one rampant in a completely different specie, help the study of cancer in the human species?"

Had we not had the opportunity to study the viral link to cancers in cats with FeLV, we would not have been able to proceed with such projects as the HPV vaccine and other vaccines that will certainly come in the future, that definitely benefit humans.
Anonymous said…
fabulous response
Cheers

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