Is it a good idea to leave a Bengal alone all day?
Cats can develop unappreciated behaviors when they are left alone for hours every day while their human companions go off to work. Cat behaviorists and other cat-savvy folks understand that cats are social creatures, and do need to interact with other cats or with their human companions. With Bengals this is doubly true.
Bengals are incredibly intelligent and love to interact with their human companions and other special animal friends. Leaving a Bengal alone with no one to talk to and nothing to do can result in a very unhappy and bored Bengal acting out. Some of the unappreciated behaviors they can develop can be anything from redecorating the house while their companions are at work to avoiding the litter box. Bengals are creative, and can concoct a diverse variety of activities and behaviors that aren’t appreciated by their human friends.
The best possible solution is to stay home all day and interact with your Bengal, or provide another playmate for him. Realistically, most people cannot stay home with their Bengal, and there are Bengals that hate any and all other living beings except their human companions. Don’t despair! There are lots of activities and environmental enrichment activities that can keep your Bengal happy in your absence.
When you are home, there are a couple of activities that will help your Bengal through the times when they are alone. The first one is correct play. Be consistent when you play with your Bengal. Try to have play sessions every day at the same time. A couple of the most exciting toys to use are fishing pole toys, such as Da Bird or the Cat Dancer toy. It is not a good idea to either use your hands or use a glove when playing with a cat. Using your hands to play with any cat will encourage a cat to bite your hands or feet at other inappropriate times.
play can mimic hunting, your cat can get the most out of its play sessions
Another activity that helps a Bengal’s attitude is clicker training. Clicker training will give him a job, and all cats need jobs. This is especially important for a highly intelligent Bengal that is easily bored. Clicker training will also give him something to look forward to every day, other then his regular meals. This is also a fun way to teach different behaviors and tasks, including agility, shaking hands, jumping poles, etc. It is based on positive reinforcement and operant conditioning. What that means is that the behaviors are shaped by rewards, and never by punishment. Clicker training starts with helping the cat associate a treat with a consistent sound. The most common tool (bridge) used for training cats and dogs is a rectangular box that clicks, called a clicker. The clicker is depressed and a small treat is given. This is repeated until the cat associates the clicking sound with a treat. After “charging the clicker” desired behaviors can be shaped, one step at a time, through clicking and treating. A very good book is by Karen Pryor, called Clicker training for cats. There is also a good yahoo group called Cat-clicker that can be subscribed to for more information and instruction on how to clicker train your cat. Similar to correct play, clicker training needs to be done every day at a consistent time. The cat will start to expect his clicker training session and will look forward to it.
Provide environmental enrichment for your Bengal while you are away at work. Since Bengals are geniuses, some of the interactive toys commercially available become boring to a Bengal in a matter of minutes. Sharing your life with a Bengal means thinking creatively. If your Bengal is food motivated, make him a treat ball. It’s easy to convert whiffle balls or ping-pong balls into Bengal-centric treat balls. Whiffle balls are hollow, hard plastic balls about the size of baseballs with small round holes on the surface. Fill the whiffle ball with your Bengal’s favorite treat, or punch holes in ping pong balls and fill them with treats. He’ll spend hours trying to remove the treats from the balls. Additionally, he’ll get exercise chasing the balls in his endeavors to remove the treats. Bird feeders are very effective entertainment centers as well. Put a bird feeder outside of a window for your Bengal’s viewing pleasure. Make sure that all windows and screens are secure so that he won’t escape. Bengals are very good at removing screens and opening windows. Vertical territory is also very important to a Bengal. Provide tall cat trees with plenty of shelves for him to climb. The trees should be about 6 feet tall and have very solid bases so that they aren’t tipped over in play. Make your Bengal happy by positioning the cat tree next to the window so that he can have a good view of the bird feeder. Additionally, some Bengals enjoy watching the television. Play cat sitting videos that feature birds, fish, insects and small animals. Two that come to mind are “The Cat Sitter” and “Video Catnip”. Leave the TV on The Animal Planet only when someone is around to supervise. Some cats don’t respond well to seeing other cats on TV, especially when a cat is vocalizing from fear, stress or pain. Your Bengal will also appreciate if you leave a little of yourself with him. Before going to work, leave the clothes you slept in the night before for him to sleep on and smell. Be creative! There are many toys and activities that can occupy a busy Bengal while you are away from your home.
Providing your Bengal with quality interaction time when you are home and by enriching his environment when you aren’t home will help keep your Bengal companion happy. A happy Bengal is less likely to redecorate your home or develop other unwanted behavior challenges.
December 2006 by Marilyn Krieger.
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