If you spend enough time on any internet Bengal Board, you will hear owners complaining about their cats improperly eliminating, stalking a family member, playing too rough, or destroying the prize couch and curtains. None of these are desirable behaviors, so automatically, this must make the Bengal an undesirable breed, right? Not so fast. Let's take a look at why these things happen before we blame the cat.
Two of the precious gifts given to the Bengal breed from the Leopard cat were the gifts of high intelligence and energy level. The Bengal is known for having a higher energy level and higher intelligence than the average cat; they could be considered the Border Collie of the cat world. It tends to be common knowledge that families cannot bring a Border Collie puppy home, leave it for 40 hours a week while the humans go to work and school, and expect it to be satisfied by weekend walks alone. So why would one think that could happen with a Bengal - because it's a cat?
Bengals are often referred to as the dog-like cat because they defy two cat stereotypes; they don't like to sleep 20 out of 24 hours, and they don't like to be alone. If you take any animal with higher intellectual and physical demands and limit its interaction with other living creatures to an hour or so a day, it is bound to become bored. Without physical, social, and mental stimulation, your Bengal is likely to begin to exhibit undesirable, destructive, or depressive behavior.
So what should be done about this? First, future Bengal owners need to make sure they educate themselves on meeting the physical and mental demands of a Bengal cat. The easiest way to meet a Bengal's needs is to have a second house pet that can keep up with the demands of a Bengal. This companion pet doesn't have to be another Bengal, and, in fact, sometimes the best companions for a Bengal are small dogs that have similar mental and physical demands as the Bengal. Occasionally, some Bengals do not fit the "Bengal" mold and therefore don't make the best companion for a typical Bengal. What is important in finding a companion for a Bengal is the intelligence and the energy level of the companion pet.
But just the existence of another pet may not be enough. Routine playtime with an interactive toy, such as a Laser Pointer, Da Bird, or Dragonfly toy, works well for keeping your Bengal happy. The more the game mimics hunting - where the cat has to use both its brain and its body - the better it is for a Bengal. Please read our article on how to play with your Bengal cat properly. Many people have success in harness training their Bengal and taking their cats out for a walk - a perfect hunting-style game for the cat. Establishing a routine with your cat helps bring structure and security into its life. While you may be at work now, your cat knows that every day when you come home, it gets a half-hour of Da Bird time or a jaunt around the neighborhood on a leash.
Leaving mentally and physically stimulating toys at home is helpful if your cat will voluntarily use them. Cat wheels are fantastic for cats who use them. Puzzle toys that reveal a treat are amazing for the cat who likes a challenge. But there isn't a guarantee that any given animal will use the toys you buy when they aren't interactive. You have to engage the cat with the toy to be certain it will work.
A final, or rather first, factor in limiting the opportunities for a Bengal to become destructive is the introductory period when you first bring your kitten home. It is basic human nature to skip the safe room step in the transition period and throw your adventurous kitten into the mix of the new family. Your new Bengal kitten needs the confines of the safe room more than you may realize. The overstimulation of all the unfamiliar smells, sounds, and actions of your home may cause your kitten to withdraw. If it withdraws at the start instead of bonding with you, it isn't going to get the same satisfaction from the activities discussed above - and then, you are setting yourself up for potential problems.
If you're thinking about getting a Bengal, you should consider what you are willing to do if you end up with a super-smart, super energetic cat. Are you willing to go through the transition process with a safe room as your breeder, or a reliable source such as Jackson Galaxy, directs you to? Are you willing to have routine playtime involving mentally and physically interactive games? Are you committed to having a pet that will need more than just food and water from you?
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Photos of cats in the snow by James Faulstich