Quite a few cat breeds boast a wild feline look: Norwegian Forest cats resemble huge arctic feline predators; Pixie Bob cats look a lot like American Bobcats; Abyssinian cats wear the wild agouti coat pattern with pride. In fact, one of the reasons we love cats so much is the distinct uncultivated touch in their appearance and character.

However, not many breeds possess a documented wild heritage like the Bengal does. Bengal cats are indeed direct descendents of Asian Leopard cats (Felis bengalensis), bred along with domestic cats in carefully thought out breeding plans. As such, it is a relatively new breed, not as yet recognized by some major cat breed associations such as the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA).

However, it is by no means an obscure or little known breed. As a matter of fact, Bengal cats have fast become one of the most popular breeds around, with Bengal breeders and breeding programs outnumbering those of most other breeds. What made the Bengal such an instant hit in the cat fanciers’ world? Here are three things that stand out about this cat breed, which may make you consider turning into a true Bengal cat’s aficionado:

Rich Coat – Little Grooming

The Bengal has a smooth rich coat that does not require any out of the ordinary grooming rituals. Some brushing is always recommended, for bonding purposes if nothing else, but the coat remains bright and beautiful even without that additional care. The coat has a distinct “undomesticated” appearance, curtsey of the Bengal’s wild heritage, and some cats are said to have an actual golden glitter over their coat.

Variety of Coat Patterns and Colors

Bengals always display the tabby markings pattern, but that does not mean a uniform look. Bengal cats come in various shades of brown, with various yellowish and reddish tinges. There are even white “snow” Bengals that support a light silvery tabby pattern (some of them even have blue eyes). With their tabby patterns ranging between blotched (marble) and spots, the most spectacular Bengal cats present the viewer with a display of leopard-like rosettes. The rosettes, the joy and pride of many a breeder, can be anything from a largish bi-color spot, to a fully developed and clearly marked rosette.

Bengal Purrrsonality

Ultimately, cat lovers seek out the companionship of a feline, and not just good looks. And this is where the Bengal cat truly stands out, creating a huge appeal to ailurophiles everywhere. They are anything but ferocious or feral: Bengal cats today, adopted into loving homes, have to be at least four generations removed from their wild ancestors. These kitties are sweet and loving, yet incredibly agile, intelligent and active. These curious felines tend to explore their surroundings and seek out human interaction at all times.

This unique combination of dazzling looks, idiosyncratic heritage and above all brilliant personality all contribute towards making the Bengal cat one of the most popular cat breeds in North America today.