Bengals attract a lot of people looking for a purebred cat because they are beautiful. Their wild coats, large expressive eyes, and athletic bodies all make them attractive animals. But before determining whether or not a Bengal is the right cat for you, you have to look at what is on the inside - intelligence, energy, and a need for attention.
While intelligence, energy, and affection all sound like positives, they have their downsides too. If the Bengal's needs aren't met, they can express their needs in a destructive way or become depressed. Let's look at some Bengal quirks that you need to understand before adding one of these guys to your family. I call these Bengal quirks, but the reality is they are quirks that can exist in any cat. They tend to appear more frequently in cats with higher intelligence or a stronger instinctive drive, which is why they can be attributed to Bengals. But if you've read any of Jackson Galaxy's books, you'll know these are not Bengal specific issues - they are intelligent, instinctive cat issues.
Do you have the desire and patience to follow your breeder's directions through a transition period in a safe room?
The start that your new Bengal has is paramount to its long-term quality of life. You may get a kitten that you can plop down on the living room floor with dogs, and kids, and other cats, and it walks out of the carrier as if it were born there. If you do, fantastic, but you need to be prepared for it if you don't. If you don't have the willpower to follow your breeder's directions through a transition period using a safe room, then getting a Bengal kitten isn't the right choice for you. Can your breeder tell how your cat will react in your home - not likely? We have sent pairs of kittens home and made predictions on who would walk out of the carrier and own the place and who would be more reserved; our predictions are often wrong. The confidence the kittens display in our home doesn't factor in their ability to adapt to change. So while a confident kitten is likely to end up confident, it may take a longer time to get there if it is a kitten that doesn't deal with change well. On the flip side, a kitten that may have been overshadowed in our house full of cats may completely come out of its shell once it is in a home with fewer cats. Bengals are sensitive, and often sensitive animals don't handle change well. Your first big test as a new Bengal owner is how you handle the sensitively during the first big change in their life. Please don't force them into an overstimulating environment before they are ready. You have to embrace the idea of a safe room and the possibility of a two-week transition. Will this be every cat? No. Will this be most cats? No. But if it ends up being your cat that needs that much time to adjust, can you handle it?
Is your stuff more important than the cat?
For these intelligent cats, your home is their playground, and your stuff is their toys. To begin with, you cannot leave expensive family heirlooms out in the open and expect the cat to leave them alone. Items that are important to you need to be inside display cabinets. If that isn't an option you'd consider, a Bengal isn't the right cat for your home. Furthermore, Bengals love to get into cabinets and pull everything that is on the inside out. Problem? Yes, that is understandable. But the solution isn't to fix the cat; the cat isn't broken. The solution is to cat-proof your cabinets—Bengals like shiny things, keys, money, jewelry. Once again, these things need to be put away if your cat develops a desire for them - or they will be lost in your Bengal's secret stash. If a Bengal is not getting the stimulation it needs, it will stimulate itself in ways that may be funny and annoying. If you find this to be the case, you have to be willing to solve problems by putting stuff away, adding child-locks to cabinets and doors, and finding alternative ways to stimulate your cat's mind.
Are you willing to meet the cat's needs if it potties outside the litter box?
The pottying out of the box issue has its roots in intelligence and a high level of instinct. Cats don't speak our language, so for any cat trying to express something, inappropriate toileting is the easiest way for them to do so. Multicat households are more likely to have toileting issues if the litterboxes are not set up in ways that work for cats. If you aren't willing to work the litterboxes around your Bengal's needs, then you likely shouldn't get a Bengal. Different Bengals are going to have different levels of needs. Will you get a Bengal that uses the boxes you have exactly as you wish to set them up? Possibly, and then life is easy. But what if you don't? Are you willing to have large open litterboxes in the highly trafficked areas of your home? Are you willing to use unscented litter? Are you willing to use a litter that is similar to the texture of sand? If your perspective on litterboxes is that the cat needs to adjust to what you want, then you shouldn't get a cat of any kind. You may end up needing to place boxes based on the specific needs of the cat. If this will cause a problem for you or your family members, don't get a Bengal. Please read "Set up Litterboxes your Bengal Will Love" to get an idea of what cats like best.
Also, are you willing to pick up after yourself to keep the Bengal from pottying on it? If you leave piles of clutter around, Bengals will often remind you to keep the house clutter-free by peeing on the stuff. Plastic wrappers, piles of paper, piles of clothing, piles of toys are all examples of clutter that Bengals tend to mark. If your house is full of clutter, it isn't the right house for a Bengal.
Finally, if you discover that certain materials trigger your Bengal, are you willing to determine how your environment may be causing stress for your cat, remove the trigger item, or keep the cat out of the room with the trigger item? Many natural, animal-derived items can be triggers for cats to place their scent on. A cat who is comfortable in its environment is most likely to rub its cheeks on these items to "mark" them. However, if the cat is under any stress, it may choose to mark these items with urine. So you have to have the mindset that if your Bengal needs to cover another scent with its own, you need to be prepared to move the stuff or keep your cat from getting into the room until you can figure out the source of the stress and address it. Natural trigger items can include wool, leather, goose/duck down, animal fur or hide, cat or dog beds that smell like other cats or dogs, the soil in potted plants, etc.
Are you prepared to meet your cat's social, emotional, and physical needs?
Some Bengals demand your attention. So, if you are gone at work all day, they will want to see you when you come home. If your routine involves coming home and focusing your attention on a certain activity - the tv, the computer, a run - you may have to consider how to set you in this routine. A Bengal cat will need you to spend time with it when you get home from work. If this sounds exhausting or too demanding, then a Bengal may not be the right cat for you. You can do things to alleviate this need - get a second high energy pet, provide lots of vertical space for Bengals to explore while you are home, get a cat wheel, and leave out mind-challenging toys while you are gone.
Your cat needs to be able to exert energy. Wildcats reserve their energy because they know they need it for hunting, but domestic cats, who get fed from their human staff day in and day out, exert their energy because they don't need it for hunting. If your cat doesn't self-initiate enough energy output, you may need to help it achieve this through interactive play or walks. If your cat shows signs of depressive or destructive behavior, it most likely needs a routine energy outlet.
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