What States are Bengal Cats Illegal In?

Bengal cats are banned in some states, but enforcement varies across jurisdictions, with limited strictness in many places. However, Hawaii remains the only state consistently enforcing the ban on Bengal cats, without any exceptions or leniency.

Why are Bengal cats illegal in some states? Bengal cats are illegal in some states primarily due to concerns related to their hybrid nature. They’re a cross between the Asian Leopard cat and the domestic feline. The first to fourth (F1 to F4) generation of hybrid Bengals retain much of their untamed nature and can be difficult to live with, and can be very destructive to the native wildlife if allowed to roam unattended or escape.

Even though Bengal cats are illegal in some states, you won’t be arrested for their ownership. However, in some places, owning F1 to F4 Bengals may lead to fines and confiscation. Even then, the only state that has active enforcement is Hawaii due to its sensitive ecosystems. Read on to learn more about why Bengal cats are illegal, yet not illegal, in some states, and how you can own a Bengal cat while staying on the right side of the law.

Why are Bengal Cats Illegal in Some States

The illegality of owning a Bengal cat stems from the fact that it’s the offspring of a domesticated and undomesticated pair of cats. The first generation (F1) Bengal cats tend to exhibit more characteristics of their wild parent than their domesticated parent. These F1 Bengals are classified as hybrids under wildlife trade restriction laws in certain states.

The Netflix documentary “Tiger King” shed light on the varying regulations regarding the ownership of exotic animals across different states. Among these animals, Bengal cats of the F1 to F4 generation are considered exotic due to their unpredictable and unruly nature. As such, some states completely ban their ownership. However, Bengal cats that are F5 and beyond are regarded as domesticated cats and can be legally owned in all states, except for Hawaii.

The primary reason for making Bengal cats illegal in some states is their unpredictable nature, particularly in the first to fourth generations (F1 to F4). These early-generation Bengals often retain wild traits that make them challenging to handle as typical domestic pets. They might have difficulty using a litterbox, prefer raw meat as their diet, and require an environment that resembles the natural habitat of their non-domesticated parent.

Handling F1 to F4 Bengal cats is best left to people trained to handle exotic animals, as they have specific needs and behaviors that differ significantly from regular domestic cats. Facilities and expertise appropriate for the care of these early-generation Bengals are essential to ensure their well-being and the safety of both the animals and the owners.

Proponents of Bengal cats argue that the breed becomes more domesticated at the F3 generation, yet significant wild cat instincts still persist, making them challenging pets to own.

States Where Bengal Cats are Illegal as Pets

Laws regarding exotic animal ownership, including Bengal cats, can change at any time, making it difficult to maintain a constantly up-to-date list. Relying on official government sources or reputable organizations that monitor and report on exotic animal regulations in each state is a better approach to staying informed about current laws.

For individuals considering owning a Bengal cat or any exotic animal, consulting the relevant federal and state laws, as well as local ordinances, is essential to ensure compliance with the most recent regulations in their area. An updated list of state laws regarding exotic animals can serve as a helpful starting point, but always verify the information with official sources to ensure accuracy and legal compliance.

Check out this link to learn more.

Laws Related to Bengals in Various States

Let us take a look at the regulations laid out by different states with regards to keeping Bengal as a pet.

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New York City and State

All generations of Bengals are banned in New York City.

The regulation was imposed strictly after an incident of a person keeping a tiger as a pet in his apartment. Some years ago, a small opportunity was available for the owner of the Bengals.

They had the option of getting a permit for their cat. However, now that option has also been closed. You cannot own a Bengal cat under any circumstances in the state of New York.


In Georgia, the Department of Natural Resources requires a license for owning Bengal cats, indicating a stricter approach towards the ownership of these animals.

You will have to prove that the Bengal belongs to a lower generation that is beyond F5 or F6 to even be considered for a permit.


It is legal to own F4 and later-generation Bengals in Massachusetts. Ownership of Bengal cats is permissible, provided they do not have any wild parentage for at least three generations.

This requirement ensures that the Bengal cats being owned are of later-generation pedigrees, considered more domesticated and suitable for ownership as pets.


As of July 1, 2013, Iowa enacted a new law that exempts Bengal Cats and Savannahs from being classified as “dangerous wild animals” if they are four generations or more removed from an Asian Leopard Cat.

This exemption allows ownership of Bengal Cats and Savannahs that are considered more domesticated due to their extended lineage, offering a safer and legally permissible option for pet ownership in the state.


In Alaska, the ownership of Bengal cats is allowed, but with specific requirements. Bengal cats must be at least four generations removed from the Asian Leopard cat to be eligible for ownership.

To legally keep a Bengal cat, individuals must obtain a permit and possess a registered pedigree that provides documentation for the previous four generations of the cat’s lineage.


Why are Bengal cats illegal in Hawaii?

Bengal cats were considered illegal in Hawaii due to the state’s strict laws and regulations regarding the ownership of exotic animals. The ban on Bengals is likely to protect Hawaii’s unique and delicate ecosystems from potential disruption caused by early-generation hybrids (F1 to F4).


In Delaware, owning Bengal cats requires obtaining a permit. This measure is in place to regulate the ownership of exotic animals and ensure that individuals who wish to keep Bengal cats as pets do so responsibly and in accordance with the state’s guidelines.


Bengals are banned in this state.

Violation results in liability to pay a hefty fine.

Seattle, Washington

Every generation of Bengal is banned within the state.

Denver, Colorado

Bengals from early generations are banned in the state.

The cat needs to be separated from its wild ancestry for at least five generations.


While the Bengal cat is not outrightly banned in the state, the F1 and F2 generations are strictly regulated.

The law of California prohibits declawing the Bengals unless it is necessary for their health.


The state of Indiana regulates exotic cats and requires a permit for an F1 generation Bengal cat.

Bengal Cats 101

Understanding the Difference Between Hybrid and Domestic Bengal Cats

Understanding the distinction between hybrid and domestic Bengal cats is crucial when considering owning one. Bengal cats in the F1 to F4 generations, classified as hybrids, often exhibit wild traits and are not well-suited as house pets. On the other hand, Bengal cats from F5 and lower generations (F6, F7, etc.) possess mostly domestic traits typical of house cats, making them more suitable and manageable as pets. Being aware of these differences is essential when choosing to bring a Bengal cat into your home.

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When purchasing a Bengal cat from a reputable breeder, you can expect to get a cat that is at least an F5 generation or lower. These later-generation Bengals are more domesticated and typically make agreeable companions, albeit with a high energy level. Here’s a comparison of the behaviors between hybrid and domestic Bengal cats:

Hybrid Bengals (F1 to F4 generations)

  • Exhibit more wild traits due to their closer genetic relation to the Asian Leopard Cat.
  • Tend to be less predictable and may have more challenging behaviors.
  • Require experienced handling and specialized care, similar to managing exotic animals.
  • Not ideal as typical house pets and may not adapt well to standard domestic settings.

Domestic Bengals (F5 and lower generations)

  • Possess predominantly domestic traits and behaviors.
  • Display more typical cat characteristics associated with companion animals.
  • Generally more adaptable to standard household environments and routines.
  • Make affectionate and interactive pets, though they can be highly energetic and require mental and physical stimulation.

When considering bringing a Bengal cat into your home, choosing one from later generations through a reputable breeder increases the likelihood of having a well-socialized and suitable pet. Reputable breeders prioritize breeding for temperament and domestic traits, ensuring you can enjoy the companionship of an agreeable and energetic Bengal cat.

Do I Need to Get a Permit or License to Own a Bengal Cat?

Permits or licenses for owning Bengal cats are only required for the first to fourth generations in specific states that mandate them. Reputable breeders typically offer Bengal kittens of the F5 or lower generations, which don’t require permits.

Hawaii is the only state with an outright ban on Bengal cats. F5 and lower generations are considered domesticated and can be owned without special permission in all other states. Purchasing or adopting a Bengal kitten is safe and doesn’t necessitate obtaining permits in most cases.

What Happens if I’m Caught Owning a Bengal in a State Where They’re Illegal?

If you are found with a Bengal cat in a state or city that bans ownership of higher generations and your Bengal is F5 or lower, you are not in violation of the law. However, owning higher generations in such places can lead to various consequences.

Penalties range from citations and fines to requiring permits or licenses, or even surrendering the cats to a qualified sanctuary. The specific outcomes depend on the laws of the state or city and the enforcement policies in place. It is essential to understand and abide by the local regulations to ensure responsible and legal ownership of Bengal cats.

Got yourself an aggressive Bengal cat? This video might help!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the “F” stand for when referring to generations of Bengal cats?

In the context of Bengal cats, the letter “F” indeed stands for Filial, which originates from the French word for “son.” The filial number indicates the generation of Bengal cats based on their parentage. An F1 Bengal is the first generation resulting from the cross of a domestic cat and an Asian Leopard Cat.

Subsequent generations, such as F2 and F3 Bengals, are the product of breeding Bengals from previous generations, with each generation being further removed from the original parentage. This generational system helps to describe the lineage and genetic background of Bengal cats accurately.

How big do Bengal cats get?

Bengal cats average 8 to 15 pounds and 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder, but size can vary. Some are taller and heavier, while others are like regular house cats.

Are Bengal cats aggressive?

F5 and lower generation Bengals have a friendly temperament like house cats. They play more vigorously and have greater strength but get along well with people and other pets.

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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!

2 thoughts on “What States are Bengal Cats Illegal In?”

  1. are: Bengals being illegal in New York.
    They must not punish those with Bengals in New York because there are so many Bengal Catteries in New York. They are listed online and on Facebook. I bought my Male Bengal from a Cattery in New York.


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