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Are Bengal Cats Really Immune to Feline Leukemia?

A Look at the Origin of the Myth of Feline Leukemia Resistance in Bengals

               Dr. Schmidt recently shared with me that he has had a few clients who have adopted or are interested in adopting Bengal cats.  These beautiful, intelligent cats make great pets for the right owner—they can be naughty!  However, there seems to be a persistent myth that Bengal cats have some natural immunity to the feline leukemia virus.  Is it true?  We were curious, so we did a little research.  How did this myth get started?  Turns out, it all goes back to the origins of this beautiful breed.

               The Bengal breed was originally a cross between domestic cats and a small exotic wild cat known as the Asian Leopard Cat in the 1970’s in order to study the feline leukemia virus.  The Asian Leopard Cat seems to have a natural resistance to the feline leukemia virus, but sadly the resulting crosses and the modern Bengal breed did not retain this trait.  Bengal cats today have the beautiful spotted coat of the Asian Leopard Cat, but they are susceptible to the feline leukemia virus if exposed just like any other breed of cat.  Bengals who spend time outdoors or who are exposed to other cats should be vaccinated against feline leukemia for protection.  By the way, the Asian Leopard Cat’s scientific name is Prionailurus bengalensis.  The Bengal breed gets its name from the species name bengalensis and not from the Bengal tiger as some people have thought. 

So, while a good cat breeder should be testing his or her breeding cats for leukemia and keeping cats in a safe, indoor environment to ensure that they do not carry feline leukemia, Bengals have no special immunity to feline leukemia or any other disease.  And while it is possible that an individual family line may have certain drug or vaccine sensivities, in general, purebred cats, including Bengals, have no more sensitivity to drugs, vaccines or anesthetics than any other cat.  More information can be found at .

This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding areas.