ASK THE CAT COACH – Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant
Dear Cat Coach,
went to a cat show a couple of weekends ago and fell in love with Bengal
Cats. They are so exotic looking. I really would love to have one because
I just love the way they look. One of the breeders at the show let me
hold one of hers, and he was so soft and sweet. The breeder also told
me that Bengals are very friendly, sweet cats and make great companions.
A friend of mine has since told me that Bengals are wild cats, they aren’t
domestic cats and will never sit on your lap. They also said that they
can be mean. Who do I believe? Why is there so much conflicting information
about them? What do I need to do in order to provide a good home for a
Dear Nevada Sue,
Bengals are wonderful cats. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation and bad press about them. The myth about Bengals can be traced to a few sources including a couple of web sites and a TV show. Sadly, both the TV show and the web site incorrectly portray them as being wild and aggressive. Additionally, since Leopard Cats are used to develop the breed there is a misconception that Bengals are wild and unmanageable. These accusations are not based in fact. Bengals are domestic cats and make wonderful companions. Like any breed of cat, if they are not properly socialized as kittens, or if they are mistreated, they can develop behavior issues. Unfortunately when a Bengal does develop behavior issues, some people mistakenly attribute it to the breed, saying that Bengals are wild, instead of acknowledging that all breeds can develop the same problems for the same reasons. Most cats that act wild and/or feral usually have not been socialized properly or have been neglected and/or mistreated.
Bengals are not for everyone though. Bengals are super intelligent and high energy cats that need to interact with the people they share their lives with. If you are looking for a cat that will sit around quietly looking beautiful, a Bengal is not for you. Bengals are active and demanding cats, forming tight bonds with the people they share their lives with.
It is important to examine your lifestyle before bringing a Bengal home. In some ways Bengals are like two year old children, they do not do well when they are ignored. If you work long hours away from home each day, a Bengal is not the right cat for you. They are very smart and can get bored. Some will redecorate your home in your absence. TPing the home, knocking things off the shelves and opening cabinets are a few of the common redecorating themes. Other Bengals, when left alone day after day, may develop other behavior issues. Adopting the right buddy for your Bengal sometimes helps resolve the problems. Additionally, some Bengals, are very vocal. If you live in an apartment, the neighbors might not appreciate loud howls or meows early in the morning.
Bengals are very creative. The vocal repertoire of Bengals can be very charming. Most Bengals like to hold conversations with the people they live with. The majority of Bengals are very affectionate, wanting to spend every minute with their human friends, following them around like little puppy dogs. Many are not lap cats since they usually have other things on their agenda that are more pressing. Playing fetch for hours with their special human companion is a favorite activity for most Bengals. They will also help with the dishes, play in the sink, drink from the faucets, steal pens and silverware, and help with the laundry. Generally speaking, they are very athletic and love to hang out in high places. Having a Bengal for a companion is very rewarding and entertaining, but it does take commitment and lots of interaction. You can not ignore a Bengal.
Bengals should not be allowed outside. It’s too dangerous. Added to the regular list of dangers for an outside cat is the threat of being stolen. Bengals are the chat d’jour and they are frequently stolen.
Bengals are special cats. They are not wild and aggressive cats with lots of behavior challenges. They are intelligent, hyperactive cats that need affection and interaction from the people they share their lives with. Before deciding to commit to a Bengal please make sure you have the time and commitment that is necessary when opening your home up to a Bengal.
November 2006 by Marilyn Krieger. (Used with Permission)
Marilyn is certified through The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
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