One of the most common questions from people researching Bengals is whether they have enough space to make a Bengal happy. The answer is as simple - or rather complex - as the old cliche. It's not the size that matters; it's how you use it. A Bengal can be happy in any size space as long as the area has been adequately prepared and the person is genuinely committed to daily play.
The first step to making your home Bengal-ready is creating many places for a Bengal to leave its scent appropriately. Bengals like to feel secure in their territory. When cats feel territorially insecure, they are likely to leave their scent inappropriate ways, such as through urination. Therefore, the first step is to create places for Bengals to scratch their claws and rub their cheeks. One way to accomplish this is by having cat trees - which will also provide high spots - but if you don't have room for a bunch of cat trees around the house, scratching posts and scent soakers serve this purpose well. Scent soakers do not have to be significant in size. Having multiple smaller scent soakers for different places in your home is more beneficial than one large cat tree. Place these scent soakers in positions of importance to the cat by watching where your cat likes to be and placing scent soakers in those spots. Also, place scent soakers near entryways and pathways. Scent soakers that hang on doors are beneficial as they create a natural boundary. The more places you provide for your cat to scratch its claws and rub its cheeks, the more secure it will be.
The next step in making Bengal-approved space is to provide high spots for your cat to play on and rest in. Bengals descend from tree-dwelling ancestry, so their drive to be up high can be pretty strong. For some Bengals, if you don't make them high spots in your house, they will claim the existing ones. If you are open to using your pre-existing furniture and cabinetry, go for it. Make a pathway via cat trees and cat shelving that will allow your cat to get to those high spots. You must provide an alternative if you don't want your cat on pre-existing tall furniture or cabinetry. Put your cat shelving in an area where you want them to go. However, remember that your Bengal will want to be where you are. So if you put your cat shelving in an unused guest bedroom, the shelving is not likely to be used. It will need to be in the rooms of the house where you spend your time.
Make sure your cat has some cat real estate in sunny spots in your home. Cats love the sun, so as you place your cat tree and shelving, see how many hours of sun those places get. Having a window perch that doubles as a scent soaker, which is also placed up high, is a real winner in our house as it ticks all the boxes for a cat; it is full of their scent, up high, and in the sun. For more tips on preparing your home, read Ryan Castillo's article "Bringing Home a Kitty? 14 Expert Tips to Prepare Your Home."
Preparing the space is essential for your Benga, but so is your planned play routine. The less space you have and the less your Bengal can play on its own or with a friend (another cat or small dog) who shares the same energy level, the more planned playtime you must commit to. For most Bengals, having a cat wheel is a great energy outlet. Our multi-cat household has multiple cat wheels, which are used constantly throughout the night. Cats with high energy - a known Bengal breed characteristic - must have a way to expel this energy.
But you can't rely on a wheel alone. Anyone who brings a Bengal into their home needs to be committed to exercising it daily. Not every Bengal will need daily exercise from their human, but to bring a Bengal home, hoping that it won't need regular exercise, is to set the cat up for failure. The key to keeping a Bengal happy is consistency. One would not buy a high-energy breed puppy without having a daily exercise plan, and the same must be considered for a Bengal. One way to exercise your Bengal is through rigorous play. Rigorous play means you have your cat running and leaping in the air. Play the cat hard to the point of panting and beyond at least once a day, but possibly more - it really depends on the cat and the other ways it expels energy.
Another way to meet the cat's energy needs is a daily walk. The Bengal's natural energy and intelligence make it a great candidate for harness training. The book The Zen of Cat Walking, written by hybrid owner and friend Clifford Brooks walks people through the steps of harness training their cats. Taking a cat outside is a double benefit as it exercises the body and the brain. Feel free to interchange walks with rigorous play based on what suits your time frame and the weather conditions.
In summary, it is not the amount of space offered to a Bengal that determines its quality of life and happiness level. The key factors lie in completing three critical tasks. One, prepare the space appropriately for an intelligent cat by placing cat trees and scent soakers around their favorite spots and around doors and passageways. Two, create lots of high spots for cats with tree-dwelling heritage, so they can play and sleep up high. Three, consistently follow a daily physical exercise routine tailored to your cat's needs.
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