For many breeds of felines it is standard to allow them to cycle in and out of heat a few times before pairing them with a male to mate. This strategy allows for long breaks in between litters. But female Bengals are very different. The Bengal must be treated differently than most other breeds of cats because their heat cycles are more intense and last much longer. A female Bengal in heat will replete her energy stores simply by being in heat. Additionally, when female Bengals are in heat their cervix will dilate in order for the male sperm to reach the female's eggs. This dilation leaves the uterus exposed to harmful bacteria that could cause a uterine infection. But female Bengals are more susceptible to these uterine infections known as Pyometra because of the nature of their heat cycles. Successful matings will decrease this susceptibility and allow our females to live long, healthy lives as Queens.
And so because of these differences between Bengals and other feline breeds the best policy is to breed a Bengal when they come into each heat and not miss a cycle unless it is unsafe. This means that Bengals require higher nutrition and the use of supplements in order to maintain optimal health through pregnancy, lactation, and recovery. We also retire our female Bengals much sooner than other feline breeds. Becoming pregnant during every heat is one of the main reasons that Bengal litters are very small, with the standard being 2-5 kittens per litter. Simply put, Bengals require a different level of care and maintenance and also a different breeding culture.
So how often do we Breed our Bengals?Our Queens prefer to be pregnant or nursing, not both at the same time. Pregnancy and lactation require a lot of energy from our female Bengals so we make sure that they are never both pregnant and nursing at the same time. Most times our Queens will not go into heat again until their litters have been weaned at 6 weeks or they have been rehomed by 8 weeks. At this point our female Bengals are free to focus on regaining their health and weight to start on their next litter of kittens. We are very busy here at the Birchwood Cottage. Our goals with our Bengals are easy heat cycles, stress-free pregnancies, large litters, and healthy kittens. We achieve this by using the best supplements through every stage of life. We use prenatal vitamins, stud vitamins, daily multivitamins, salmon oil, vitamin B supplements to support metabolism, probiotics, immunity support supplements, and raw goat milk for calcium. Using this system our Queens have the potential to whelp 2-3 litters per year. They always retain their good health and weights and consistently produce larger than average litters and lower than average stillborn kittens. These facts confirm that our system works and it makes a difference in the lives of our Queens.
Queens who mate during their heat cycle and who do not become pregnant could have underlying health issues. There are many reasons why a mating can turn out to be unsuccessful such as malnutrition, low weight, inadequate amount of matings, sexual immaturity, miscarriage, or low sperm count. Queens usually go back into heat 4-6 weeks later if they ovulated or 2-3 weeks if ovulation did not occur. Bengals will keep going back into heat until they have achieved pregnancy.
When do you retire a Breeding Bengal?
Generally, Bengals should be retired by 4-6 years old, depending on the individual female Bengal. When deciding whether to retire your Queen or not, look for signs of decreased fertility and exhaustion. For example, consistently smaller than average litters of maybe 1-2 kittens, higher than average kitten mortality rates, difficulty getting pregnant, and difficulty whelping. Once a Bengal is retired they are surgically altered and rehomed at a significantly lower rate than their kittens. Breeding Bengals should not have been kept in cages their entire lives or excluded from human interaction or else they will not be properly socialized to live in a family setting.