Why Are Bengal Cats Illegal In Some States? [7 States To Know About]

There are many laws in the United States that people may not be aware of. One such law is the ban on Bengals in certain states. This law is relatively unknown, and it is often a surprise to people when they learn about it. If you’re considering getting a Bengal cat, it’s something you need to be aware of, especially if you live in one of the states. 

Bengal Cats are illegal because they are a hybrid breed of domestic and wild cats. While breeders have worked to remove these cats’ “wild” traits, some remain, making them dangerous to humans or other animals.

Continue reading to discover the reasons behind the banning of these beautiful creatures. In addition, learn which states allow ownership and what permits you will need to own one of these beautiful creatures.

Why Are Bengals Illegal?

Bengals are illegal because they are less domesticated than the average pet cat. In addition, these animals contain wild traits, and an array of jurisdictions from the country, state, or city levels impose restrictions on hybrid animal ownership.

In addition, Bengal cats can threaten the environment through biosecurity risks. For example, they can harbor diseases that pose a threat to local livestock and habitats.

One of the main concerns with Bengal cats is their unpredictable nature. They crave the natural environment of their non-domesticated parent, prefer their meat rare, and are unlikely to use a litterbox. For this reason, exotic pet handlers are the best carers for F1 – F4 generations and own the appropriate facilities for these animals.

Where Are Bengal Cats Not Allowed?

Laws in Hawaii, New York City, and Seattle prohibit keeping Bengal cats as pets because these three states carry specific legal restrictions for domestic and wild cat hybrid species.

In addition, the rules around owning a Bengal cat are limited in states such as Denver, Georgia, and Colorado. Bengals from F1 – F4 generations carry more significant restrictions, and many states ban them, including:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Denver
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts

Aside from New York and Hawaii, Bengal cats that are an F5 generation or higher are legal in most places. 

In general, the only time you will require a permit to own a Bengal is if your cat is of the F1 to F4 generations. In these cases, you may need to take training in order to become a qualified wild animal handler.

New York

After an individual kept a pet tiger in their apartment, New York city banned wildcats, including all Bengal generations.

In New York City, you cannot keep a Bengal cat as a pet under any circumstances.

In New York State, your Bengal must be removed by at least five generations and registered with the International Cat Association or American Cat Fanciers Association.


Seattle bans all generations of Bengal cats from being kept as pets.


Alaska bans all Bengals that are F1 – F3 generations, and owners are required to have a permit if they wish to keep this cat as a pet. To prove your cat’s ancestry, you will need to register a pedigree that shows that your pet is removed from the Asian Leopard cat by at least four generations.


California does not ban the Bengal cat; however, owners must follow strict regulations and may not keep an F1 or F2 generation cat.


If you want to keep a Bengal as a pet in Colorado, you must prove that its ancestral history is separate from wild cats for a minimum of five generations.


Connecticut bans all Bengal cats – violation of this rule could see an owner pay a fine of up to $1000.


In 2010, Delaware banned hybrid breeds, including Bengal cats. If you wish to keep one as a pet, you must apply for an exotic animal license, which is a long and strenuous process.


To keep a Bengal pet in Denver, you must prove that it has at least five generations of separation from wild cats through its ancestral history. 


To be considered for a permit to keep a Bengal cat as a pet in Georgia, you will need to prove that it is an F5 or F6 generation.


You can keep a Bengal cat in Indiana, but you are required to obtain a permit for any F1 generation cats and must follow exotic cat guidelines for all other generations.


You can apply for a permit to own a Bengal cat in Iowa, but you must first follow a rigorous process and comply with strict rules and regulations. Your pet must also be a fourth-generation or higher.


To gain a permit in Massachusetts, an owner must prove that their pet is first or second generation through ancestral history and that they do not hold wild parentage for a minimum of three generations.

Which States Enforce The Bengal Cat Ban?

Hawaii is the only state to enforce a Bengal cat ban in its entirety. Though Bengal cats are illegal in other states, it’s unlikely you’ll be arrested for owning one. However, if your cat is an F1 – F4 breed, you will likely have it confiscated.

Bengals are a mix of Asian Leopard Cat and domestic feline, with the F1 – F4 generations retaining many of the wildcat qualities. For this reason, they pose the most significant risk to their surrounding environments and are most likely to experience ban enforcement.

Any Bengal classified as an F1 – F4 generation is considered an exotic creature and must adhere to the local laws of exotic animal ownership. F5 generations, on the other hand, are primarily considered to be domestic pets and can be legally owned in the majority of states.

Why Are Bengal Cats Illegal In Hawaii?

The reason why Hawaii is the most authoritarian state on the ownership of Bengals is due to the threat they pose to the environment.

Bengals threaten the native birds of Hawaii and also carry a parasite that can kill Hawaiian monk seals.

Why Can’t Bengal Cats Go Outside?

You may have heard that Bengal cats are “indoor-only pets,” but this is not true. While these felines can make excellent indoor pets, no rule restricts you from letting your cat roam outside.

If your Bengal is going outside, there are vital factors to consider, such as your proximity to roads and high traffic areas. You can help mitigate the risk of your cat being injured by a car if you establish clear boundaries and encourage them to stay in certain regions.

However, Bengals are curious creatures by nature, and there is no way to be sure that they will not wander into dangerous places.

In addition, Bengals are natural hunters and can pose a risk to the local environment. It all depends on your location. If you are remote and have a surrounding environment full of pest creatures such as mice, your Bengal is OK to play outside.

On the other hand, if you live near a dense traffic area with endangered species or a lack of pests, you may want to think twice before letting your Bengal roam outside unaccompanied.

Bengals are cats who love to explore the great outdoors. If your area is not suitable for outdoor roaming, try taking them for accompanied walks. Alternatively, read about keeping your Bengal as an indoor-only pet to ensure that you can meet all of their needs.

Final Word

Bengal cats of the F1 – F4 generations are wilder than regular domesticated cats. This is why they have restrictions placed on them in many states across the US. 

While an F5 + can make the perfect pet with its loving and inquisitive nature. The earlier generations require specialist care from exotic animal handlers.

The average person will not possess the necessary skills to handle an exotic cat. Which can be traumatic for both the cat and the owner. So, if you’re looking for a domesticated feline companion. Make sure your cat is F5 generation or above – and as long as you don’t live in Hawaii, New York City, or Seattle, you’ll likely be good to go.

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