Bengal Cats Are Illegal Across the U.S. For One Major Reason

Kori Williams - Author

Oct. 2 2023, Published 10:58 a.m. ET

Bengal cat laying across a windowsill.
Source: iStock

The Gist:

  • Bengal cats are a beautiful and beloved cat breed.
  • Bengals are illegal in some states across the U.S. because of their genetic heritage.
  • Some states require Bengals to follow specific regulations before they can come home with you.
Article continues below advertisement

If you're looking to bring a new feline friend into your home, you might want to consider a Bengal cat. Not only do Bengals have beautiful coats, they are distinguishable by how much they resemble leopards and how active they are. Bengals are so beautiful and unique that people are desperate to adopt them, and the hashtag #Bengalcat has nearly 100 million views on social media platforms like TikTok.

Of course, different cats have varying needs, but these cats, in particular, could get you in trouble with the law. Why are Bengal cats illegal? It turns out that there is a certain aspect of these cats that almost makes them exist in a legal grey area.

Article continues below advertisement
A collared bengal cat laying on a grey carpet.
Source: iStock

Why are Bengal cats illegal?

Bengal cats aren't illegal worldwide, but in the U.S., there are some legal restrictions on where they can be house pets. Many states restrict cats that aren't a certain number of generations removed from their ancestor, the Asian Leopard Cat, according to The Spruce Pets.

Article continues below advertisement

To get a Bengal cat, you must breed an Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic cat. Although domestic cats are not an issue, Asian Leopard Cats are wild animals. Many state laws expressly forbid keeping wild animals, like Asian Leopard Cats, as pets, which can cause many issues for both the pet parents and the animals themselves.

Since Bengals are descendants of domestic and wild animals, the law must determine whether they are illegal wild animals or legal house cats.

A bengal cat walking across a window sill.
Source: iStock
Article continues below advertisement

Where are Bengal cats illegal?

According to some U.S. state laws, Bengals can be considered exotic pets if they are too closely related to the Asian Leopard Cat. In New York State, Bengals can only be housepets if they are at least five generations removed from this ancestor. They also need to be registered by either the American Cat Fanciers Association or the International Cat Association. However, Bengal cats are illegal in New York City.

In other states like Washington, it depends. Bengal cats are illegal in Seattle, but outside of that city, local laws vary. They are also completely banned in Hawai'i, but other states like Connecticut allow you to have them as pets as long as certain requirements are met. If you're considering adopting a Bengal cat (and you're certain the cat is a Bengal, not a scam!), it's best to check your local laws and regulations about Bengals first.

Article continues below advertisement
A bengal cat laying on a hardwood floor.
Source: iStock

Are Bengal cats illegal in Texas?

Like any other state, you should check the local laws for any specific restrictions or permits you need to have to legally have a Bengal cat as a pet. Overall, seems as though Bengal cats are legal in Texas.

Depending on the area, you might need to follow certain requirements. Some sources, like The Pet Zealot, say you need a permit to have one and that most counties in the state have some kind of restriction you must account for.

More from Green Matters

Latest Kindness to Animals News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Green Matters. Green Matters is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.