Is Keeping a Bengal Cat Legal in California?

Bengals are a peculiar cat breed particularly due to their wild ancestry. This wild aspect of this wonderful cat also makes it a controversial one.

Is a Bengal cat legal in California? Yes, Bengals are legal in California. However, you better hold your horses before rushing towards a nearby breeder as there are certain laws that apply to these exotic cats that need to be considered.

What laws apply to the Bengal cats in California? Are there states in which keeping a Bengal cat is illegal? Why are Bengal cats illegal in certain states? All these questions and more will be answered in the following paragraphs.

Bengals and the California Constitution

Before knowing what the California State law says regarding the ownership of Bengals, it is essential to know a little about its generations.

Bengal Cat Generations

The first Bengal cat was born as a result of a cross between an Asian Leopard cat (a wild cat) and a domestic cat. Therefore, the Bengals that are the direct offspring of the Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat are categorized as the first generation or F1 Bengals.

When these first-generation Bengal cats are bred together or with another domestic cat, then their offspring are regarded as the second generation, and so on. Bengals belonging to the first four generations (F1-F4) fall under the wild cat category because of their close relation to the Asian Leopard cat.

It’s Legal

California state law does not impose any restriction on owning a Bengal cat­–whatever generation they may belong to. However, it clearly categorizes the F1 to F4 Bengals as wild cats.

So if you are buying a Bengal cat belonging to any of the first four generations of the Bengals, bear in mind that you will have to follow the California state law regarding wild cats i.e. the same laws being applied to a lion or a leopard.

The Legislation

So, what does the law state?

California state law clearly prohibits declawing the Bengals and other cat breeds unless it is medically recommended for their health. Declawing a cat means amputating part of its paws which causes various problems for the cat. Some of these problems include arthritis and aversion to the litter box. Moreover, many cats become aggressive as a result and may start fear-biting.

Bengals are an intelligent breed and can be trained without much effort. So, a better alternative to declawing is to properly socialize your Bengal and teach it not to bite or scratch other people. You can go a step further and buy a good-quality scratching post for your cat to use its claws on.

Note: No cat should be declawed as it will not only cause problems for the cat but also for the owner.

States That Have a Ban on Bengals

Following are some of the states that have a clear ban on the Bengals:

New York

If you’re living in the state of New York, then you better get the idea of owning a Bengal out of your head.

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New York became particularly strict regarding the ownership of exotic cats following an event in which an individual was found keeping a tiger in his apartment.

New York City is extremely strict when it comes to Bengal cats as it declares the ownership of all Bengal cats as illegal. You cannot even get a permit for a Bengal cat’s ownership as this door was also shut years ago.


The Georgia state law bans the ownership of all hybrid cats that have a non-domestic lineage.

You are not even allowed to have a permit for these cats. However, if the cat is from a generation higher than the fourth e.g. F5 or F6, then you are allowed to keep it.


Another state that prohibits the ownership of hybrids having a wild parentage is the state of Massachusetts. However, state law allows the ownership of cats that are recognized by any national or international breeding association to have a domestic parentage for at least three generations.

Meaning, the ownership of Bengal cats belonging to F4 or higher generations is allowed by Massachusetts state law.


Hawaii is particularly strict in the case of ownership of hybrid mammals having a wild parentage which also includes Bengal cats. So, the only Bengal cat you can keep in Hawaii is a cuddly toy Bengal.

Unlike other states, Hawaii has a second, rather interesting, reason for banning Bengals (and all other Asian cats) apart from it being a potentially “dangerous” breed.

The reason is that Hawaii is home to several endangered species which are protected by water barriers. Asian cats, including Bengals, are not afraid of water and can even swim. And even indoor cats are likely to run out and put the Hawaiian endangered species at risk. Hence, the ban!


The state of Alaska demands a permit from the Department for the Ownership of Bengal Cats. A Bengal cat or any other mammal that has no wild parentage for at least four generations can be legally kept.


The state of Indiana is a bit lenient on the matter and allows one to keep Bengals or other hybrids. Although Indiana state law does not impose anything for further generations, one must have a permit for keeping an F1 Bengal.

The Big Question?

How would you know if your cat is legal in your state?

There are several online sources that either provide you with the exact laws dictating the ownership/exchange of exotic cats, or at least set you on the right path i.e. tell you where you can get authentic information on such laws.

Following are two of these websites:

Is The Ban Just?

Many states and cities have banned or at least imposed regulations or permits for owning Bengal cats considering these cats to be “dangerous” and “wild”. Although the foundation stock of the Bengal cats had a wild parentage, the truth of the matter is that these cats are not wild anymore.

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A ban on the first four generations of Bengals is understandable as Bengals belonging to these generations portray wild characteristics. However, some of these legislations are poorly written and can be interpreted to be a ban on all Bengals.

Should You Own A Bengal Cat?

Bengals are not for everyone!

The Bengal cat is a rather peculiar breed of cat not only because of its leopard-like appearance but also because of other characteristics such as its affinity for water and hyperactive lifestyle. This means that keeping a Bengal at home is not like keeping other domestic cats.

Bengals are known to be quite energetic and a rather active breed of cats. The Bengal is not a lap cat. It is an excellent climber and a demanding breed in terms of attention and affection. Bengals are also known to be vocal which can be irritating for some people.

These cats can be a handful as they demand a good amount of playtime. They love water and can play with it for hours. Due to their wild ancestry, these cats are excellent hunters so keeping a bird with a Bengal can lead to unwanted consequences.

Although these cats are intelligent and quite amusing, another great thing about them is they are extremely loyal to their parent. If you are looking for some activity in life and have time to spare, then there is nothing better than having a Bengal at home.

So, before falling prey to their charm and charisma, you should do a thorough study of the breed. It will make you more prepared on what to expect and you will know if it’s the right breed for you.

If you still make the choice to adopt a Bengal cat, check out this list of products that will certainly help you take the best care of your pet.

Note: This article is intended for general information and should be regarded as such. It is in no manner considered to be free of all legal flaws. To be certain about the law, one should consult other sources that specialize in law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Bengal cats live with other cats?

Bengal cats are known to be social and to get along with other pets including other cats and dogs. These cats love to play and prove to be good companions for children that enjoy playing with them.

Do Bengals get lonely?

Bengals can get lonely when they are ignored and not given enough attention. These cats are extremely intelligent; some even argue that they are more intelligent than dogs.

Bengal owners should be aware that these cats are emotionally sensitive and pick up emotions prevalent in the household they live in. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your house is stress-free and to provide your cat with as much time as it needs.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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