What two Bengal cats are best together - two girls, two boys, or one of each?

Because Bengal cats are social animals who often don't do well as the only pet in a household, people often want to adopt two kittens at one time.  It seems everyone has an opinion on what genders make the best pair - including us.  We have always recommended two males or a male and a female, but not two females.  But this opinion was based on anecdotal evidence - our experience - not research. 

Upon looking into it a bit, it turns out that the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia did a study on sixty pairs of spayed and neutered household pets and published the results of this study in an article titled "Gender differences in the social behavior of the neutered indoor-only domestic cat" in the July 1999 Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.  Before this study, all of the information gathered about the interactions of domestic cats had been done on feral cat colonies with entire cats. In cat colonies, females form groups and males roam solitarily from group to group.  Males regulate their interaction with other males by avoiding them, and it was assumed that desexed cats would follow suit, but that didn't end up being the case. 

The study analyzed 60 pairs of desexed cats: 20 male/male pairs, 20 male/female pairs, and 20 female/female pairs. The results were measured in three different categories: affiliative behaviors, proximity, and aggression.  Affiliative behavior is cat body language that encourages harmony in the relationship.  This can be approaching one another amicably, grooming one another, rubbing their head on one another, sniffing socially or blinking slowly - basically, a cat's way of saying, "I love you."  Proximity is how much time the cats spend within the sight on the other cat. Aggression measured how often the cats had an aggressive encounter. 

The three different groups of cats had no measurable differences in the affiliative behaviors or aggression. So, no matter the genders of the pairs, they were equally kind and equally disgruntled with one another. The one place there was a sizeable difference is proximity. Male/male pairs spend significantly more time within sight of one another than male/female pairs and female/female pairs. While we do not quite understand what causes this difference, it may relate to the fact that males do not spend much time in the proximity of another male in feral cat colonies. Therefore, male cats have more body signals to indicate to one another that they are not a threat. It is theorized that because males have more ways in which to communicate a lack of desire for aggression, this may end up benefiting them in a household situation. 

So, if it isn't gender that affects these behaviors in spayed and neutered cats, what is it? It is mainly the amount of time spent together and the number of desirable territories that have the greatest impact on the harmony in a pair of cats' relationship. The number of aggressive interactions a pair of cats had with one another each day decreased with the amount of time they had lived together.  As cats grow old together, they engage in fewer aggressive behaviors.  When the cats did engage in aggressive interactions, it was largely based on territory.  If there was one preferred resting spot, the aggressive interactions tended to happen most frequently around it.  Bottom line, the more preferred resting spots you provide in your home and the longer your pair of cats is together, the more harmony there will be in the relationship.

What if you want to introduce a new cat into a home with pre-existing cats?

If you are getting both cats at the same time gender does not appear to affect the amount of harmony in the relationship, so you are free to choose whichever two kittens strike your fancy.  Just make sure that you have enough desirable sleeping stations placed around your house to keep the peace. 

If you already have an adult female cat at home, we do not recommend getting a new female.  Think of how it would work in nature. A female has a territory and protects it from others; whereas, a male wanders from territory to territory. Therefore, females are more territorial gender. It is not in their nature to share space.  It is in their nature to protect and claim space.

While there are exceptions, the male is more likely to allow the established female to remain in the power position. A female is more likely to challenge that upon adulthood.

We have several adult female cats co-existing in our home.  We make it work by having an established peaceful matriarch who keeps the peace in the house.  Without her, our peaceful community would crumble as the other female cats scrambled for the top position.  Over our years of breeding, we have made the mistake (twice) of retiring a peaceful matriarch.  We will not make that mistake again.  Our current matriarch is now spayed but she will live forever in our home as she has a very important role in our cattery.  If the female in the top position were not a peace-keeper, then there would be constant problems in our group.  Even so, it is harder for us to bring in a new female kitten than it is to keep our own female kittens and allow them to learn our hierarchical system from infancy.

In general, there is a lower chance of successfully integrating a second female into a home with a pre-existing female.  This does not mean it doesn't happen.  A lot will depend on the personality of the two cats.

Work Cited

Barry, Kimberly J, and Sharon L Crowell-Davis. “Gender Differences in the Social Behavior of the Neutered Indoor-Only Domestic Cat.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 64, no. 3, 1999, pp. 193–211.

10 comments

  • Karen
    Karen Ontario
    We have a 2.5 yr old male cat (Maine Coone who loves our 120 male Newfoundland dog) already in the home. Would a male bengal be a suitable companion for the other male cat? Our Newfie is 11 1/2 yrs old and we feel the cat will miss him when he passes. Our Maine cone is an active climber, fetches and loves to play.

    We have a 2.5 yr old male cat (Maine Coone who loves our 120 male Newfoundland dog) already in the home. Would a male bengal be a suitable companion for the other male cat? Our Newfie is 11 1/2 yrs old and we feel the cat will miss him when he passes. Our Maine cone is an active climber, fetches and loves to play.

  • Quality Bengal Kittens
    Quality Bengal Kittens
    Hi Karen - Yes, two males cats of the same energy level often make the transition to living together quite well. If you Maine Coon has the energy level to keep up with a Bengal, then a second boy would be a good fit. If adding a Bengal adult, I would not recommend getting a dominant male. If adding a kitten, the hierarchy will develop naturally.

    Hi Karen -
    Yes, two males cats of the same energy level often make the transition to living together quite well. If you Maine Coon has the energy level to keep up with a Bengal, then a second boy would be a good fit. If adding a Bengal adult, I would not recommend getting a dominant male. If adding a kitten, the hierarchy will develop naturally.

  • Tania
    Tania Christchurch
    Hi, I have two male cats both desexed. One is 9 and the other two and both get on great. We are going to get a Bengal would another male be ok ? Or either me or female. Thanks

    Hi, I have two male cats both desexed. One is 9 and the other two and both get on great. We are going to get a Bengal would another male be ok ? Or either me or female. Thanks

  • Quality Bengal Kittens
    Quality Bengal Kittens
    Hi Tania In your situation, personality is going to be more important than gender. You want to get a kitten who does not demonstrate the desire to be the alpha. At the same time, you want to avoid a cat who will play victim too. Your best bet is to find a breeder who is more interested in helping you pick the right kitten than in making a sale.

    Hi Tania
    In your situation, personality is going to be more important than gender. You want to get a kitten who does not demonstrate the desire to be the alpha. At the same time, you want to avoid a cat who will play victim too. Your best bet is to find a breeder who is more interested in helping you pick the right kitten than in making a sale.

  • Lucy
    Lucy London
    Hi, I have a female cat of indeterminate breed (but seems to be at least part Bengal). She must have been the runt of the litter as she is smaller than an average cat. We would like to get her a friend and have seen 2 Bengal boys about 8 years old. Are they likely to be good big brothers for her or would they bully my little cat?

    Hi, I have a female cat of indeterminate breed (but seems to be at least part Bengal). She must have been the runt of the litter as she is smaller than an average cat. We would like to get her a friend and have seen 2 Bengal boys about 8 years old. Are they likely to be good big brothers for her or would they bully my little cat?

  • Quality Bengal Kittens
    Quality Bengal Kittens
    Lucy Size does not matter as much as personality. If your girl is confident, she will have the two boys at her command in no time. Our experience has been that the female cat in most groupings of cat is in charge. You need to consider her personality and the personality of the boys. Next, you need to have realistic expectations. They aren't going to be best friends in a week. And finally, only adopt the boys if the people will help you through the process and be open to taking the boys back if you do not make forward progress after the first month.

    Lucy
    Size does not matter as much as personality. If your girl is confident, she will have the two boys at her command in no time. Our experience has been that the female cat in most groupings of cat is in charge.

    You need to consider her personality and the personality of the boys. Next, you need to have realistic expectations. They aren't going to be best friends in a week. And finally, only adopt the boys if the people will help you through the process and be open to taking the boys back if you do not make forward progress after the first month.

  • Whitney
    Whitney USA
    Hi there! I have a 2 yr old male Bengal mix, and we are wanting to get him a companion. Would bringing another male cat into the home be best? Does breed matter in this circumstance? Thanks!

    Hi there! I have a 2 yr old male Bengal mix, and we are wanting to get him a companion. Would bringing another male cat into the home be best? Does breed matter in this circumstance? Thanks!

  • Quality Bengal Kittens
    Quality Bengal Kittens
    Hi Whitney With a neutered male, the most important trait you need to match is energy level. Males are often adaptable to becoming buddies with either a neutered male or a female. The breed does not matter; energy-level does. You do not want to try to mix a high energy cat with a low energy cat.

    Hi Whitney
    With a neutered male, the most important trait you need to match is energy level. Males are often adaptable to becoming buddies with either a neutered male or a female. The breed does not matter; energy-level does. You do not want to try to mix a high energy cat with a low energy cat.

  • Rochella Campbell
    Rochella Campbell Dorset, England
    I was just wondering if u think a 5 month old Bengal kitten could have a british short haired kitten as a companion if they grow up together. Would they be good company when we are out? Many Thanks

    I was just wondering if u think a 5 month old Bengal kitten could have a british short haired kitten as a companion if they grow up together. Would they be good company when we are out? Many Thanks

  • Quality Bengal Kittens
    Quality Bengal Kittens
    Hi Rochella Most short-haired breeds tend to have higher than average energy level. Ask the breeder about the energy level of the parents of the British Shorthair. Matching energy level and personality is important to finding good feline companions.

    Hi Rochella
    Most short-haired breeds tend to have higher than average energy level. Ask the breeder about the energy level of the parents of the British Shorthair. Matching energy level and personality is important to finding good feline companions.

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