How to Determine a pet, breed, or show quality kitten

As you cruise the internet looking for the perfect Bengal cat, you come across many websites that label a Bengal kitten as pet, show, or breed quality.  These terms often correlate to different prices of the Bengal kitten for sale.  Unfortunately for the purchaser, there are no clear definitions of these categories of kittens, so what each breeder calls pet, breed, and show quality is completely defined by that individual breeder.  Most breeders will tell you that the rating is based on how well the Bengal meets the Bengal Breed Standard, the standard itself is open to interpretation.  Since the Bengal is still a developing breed, the standard does not specifically describe the perfect Bengal, but rather where the Bengal cat currently is in its progression towards perfection.

Pet Quality Kittens

While pet quality Bengals are considered the lowest ranking,  there are many different reasons a breeder could rank a kitten as being for sale as a pet. First and foremost, the breeder may enjoy selling pets more than he or she enjoys selling breeders.  It feels good to get pictures of your babies enjoying their new families and off on new adventures.  Breeder sales are typically complex; pet sales are typically simple and really fulfilling.  For this reason, you'll find breeders who sell most of their kittens as pets.

There may be visible reasons that are easy to determine why a kitten is pet quality.  For example, several vertical markings - also know as rib bars - would make a kitten pet quality because our breed standard wants breeders to strive for horizontal flow.  Large ears, small eyes, and skinny tails are all other traits that may make a kitten pet quality, but really have no adverse effect on the cat.

In addition, a kitten could have faults that would disqualify it in the show hall such as a kink in the tail, a locket, or a non-breed-accepted color such as blue or cinnamon.  Since these traits are genetic and are not allowed by the standard, kittens that exhibit them should be labeled as pet quality, but they have no impact on the kitten's health.

Finally, one must consider the generation of the male Bengal kittens.  Due to the hybridization, the first three generations of males are infertile and the fourth generation is thought to have a 50% fertility rate.  Because of this most breeders sell all male kittens through the first four generations as pets.

Solana Ranch Daenerys Photo taken by James Faulstich

Solana Ranch Gannicus Photo taken by James Faulstich

Solana Ranch Luau (AKA Little Lu) doesn't have show quality contrast or pattern. However, she produces the best ear shape on SBT Bengals, and since ear shape is the hardest aspect of the ear to nail down, that makes her an extremely valuable breeding cat even though she'd never succeed in the show hall.

Breed Quality Kittens

The difference between pet to breed quality kittens will vary from breeder to breeder.  A person looking to purchase a Bengal for breeding purposes needs to know exactly what he is looking for in the Bengal cat. 

Determining whether or not a kitten is, indeed, breed quality lays in the hands of the buyer.  For this reason, it is critical to buy breed quality Bengal kittens from a breeder that you trust.  One would think that a breed quality kitten would be free of faults, but there are some breeders who don't believe that some faults are genetic; therefore, the faulted kitten may still be sold as breed quality by some breeders. 

While one may assume a breed quality kitten would meet the standard in every way, that is not always the case.  There are a couple different approaches to breeding Bengals.  One is to slightly improve the overall cat; the other is to concentrate on perfecting certain traits before moving on to others.  So if a kitten is really spectacular in one area - the head, for example - a buyer may still want it for a breeding program despite its weakness in another area - the tail, for example. 

If you are new to breeding Bengals, it is best to have a mentor as that mentor can help you select cats; thus, saving you a lot of money that you may otherwise spend on pet quality kittens that are mislabeled as breed quality kittens.  Ultimately, it is going to be up to the purchaser to determine whether or not the kitten he is buying is worth the asking price. 

Show Quality Kittens

Show quality kittens are supposed to be the upper echelon of Bengal kittens, but once again, one should know what one is looking for when purchasing a show quality kitten.  When buying a Bengal kitten with the specific intent to show and win titles, it is best to buy from a cattery that shows regularly.  Different catteries should have different specialties, and there are plenty that specialize in showing.  A show cat not only needs to meet the standard in every category, it also must have the personality to show, and on top of that, there are typically show trends, and one must know the current trend.  If looking for a show cat, go multiple shows and watch who is winning.

Just because a cat is labeled a show cat, it doesn't mean it is the very best.  The best Bengal is largely dependent upon what the purchaser wants in a Bengal.  The Bengal Breed Standard is open to interpretation by both breeders and cat show judges.  It doesn't describe the perfect Bengal of the future; it describes the perfect Bengal that is attainable by breeders at this point in time.  Therefore, you may find Bengals that far exceed the current standard in specific areas and are lacking in others.  These cats may not do as well in the show hall, but they are still exceptional examples of the Bengal breed. 

Finally, the first three generations from the ALC are early generation cats and are not allowed to compete in the show hall.  They should never be labeled or sold as show cats, but they are, undeniably, beautiful.

In the end, most of the labels you come across as pet, breed, and show quality are not transferable from one website to the next as there are no set guidelines that breeders must follow regarding the use of these terms.  I strongly recommend that before you buy a kitten, you look at a lot of websites and get an idea of what look you like in a Bengal.  Once you can define with some clarity what you want in a Bengal, contact the breeders who have those attributes.  After communicating with several different breeders, your instincts will tell you whose labels of pet, breed, show best align with your own definitions of those terms.  

Judge Lindajean Grillo showing the audience what makes Solana Ranch Patience special. We tend to show cats who represent our goals the best - which isn't necessarily the current trend in the show hall. For this reason, we discourage people from buying from us if their top priority is show wins.

Read More about Buying from Quality Bengal Kittens
Why Buy from Quality Bengal Kittens?
Purchasing from Quality Bengal Kittens
Preparing for a Quality Bengal Kitten
The Difference between Pet, Breed, and Show

We've also started a blog about Bengal cat health, nutrition, behavior, and care.  You may find helpful information on our BLOG.

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