March 18, 2023
by Robyn Paterson
The cause of most Bengal cat behavior problems is rooted in the cat's routine, food, and environment. People often dismiss this as the cause because they play with the cat, but if it exhibits undesirable behaviors, the cat has a need that is not being met. Because Bengals are high-energy and intelligent, they require more attention than the average cat. Their needs are not different from other high-energy, intelligent cats, but not every cat in the world is a high-energy, intelligent cat. With the Bengal, these are breed-specific traits.
Domestic cats have not been domesticated long enough for their bodies to evolve to the luxury lifestyle. The same is true for humans. Humans are still designed for a hunter, gatherer lifestyle. The less our lifestyle emulates one of a hunter/gatherer, the more stress, anxiety, and depression humans experience. A cat's body is built to hunt several hours a day over a relatively large territory. When we bring them inside and provide for them, we reduce the size of the territory; therefore, we must enrich that territory to make it mentally and physically stimulating for a cat.
There are many different elements that create a cat's environment and impact the cat's physical and emotional well-being. The location and number of resources play a significant role in the willingness to use them. Having these resources is not enough; they must be positioned in a location that a cat would choose. Resource scarcity leads to competition in multi-cat households and creates territorial stress. Even in single-cat households, similar issues can arise; therefore, the environment must be rich in resources.
Does your home have enough vertical space for a Bengal?
Because Bengal cats descend from a tree-dwelling cat, their need for vertical space may be higher than the average cat. A few short cat trees will not do. They need tall cat trees - to the ceiling or up to ten feet tall if you have the ceiling space. In addition, there should be shelving that helps them move around vertically. Pre-existing cupboards, bookcases, and other tall furniture can help you create a pathway in the sky for your cat. Window perches also make for great vertical space.
The vertical space must be located in the rooms where the family spends the most time. Vertical space back in a laundry room where people go in for ten minutes to load or unload the laundry does not work—Bengals like to be where the action is.
There will be an increased need for vertical space if there are children or dogs in the house that the cat needs a break from.
Do you have enough scratching posts for your Bengals?
When it comes to scratching posts, the more, the better. Experimenting with a few different types is important to see what your cat likes best.
Some cats like vertical scratching posts. They should be 2.5 to 3 feet tall, so the cat can stretch up and scratch. The base must be solid so the post does not move around much when the cat scratches. Cat trees can double as scratching posts, but having some stand-alone posts around the house is also good. Mobile scratching posts are necessary if your cat is scratching somewhere you do not want it to. You can place the scratching post near the object you do not wish to be scratched to give the cat an acceptable option.
Other cats prefer horizontal scratching surfaces. Many horizontal scratching posts are made from different materials, such as cardboard, carpet, and sisal. It is essential the cat can stretch fully out while scratching.
Do you have toys for your Bengal cat to play with on its own?
Toys are a must-have, but finding out what toys engage your cat is important. You want to keep interactive toys locked up tight so your Bengal cat does not get them out and destroy them when you are not around to play. With other cat toys, you must experiment to see what your cat likes. Many Bengal cats like toys made of natural fibers such as rabbit fur, deer hide, wool, and leather. Others want to chase a ball or a spring. Get an eclectic mix of toys and see which one are used the most. Then rotate the toys, so your Bengal does not becomes bored with them.
In addition to the standard cat toys, you should consider the following to enrich your environment.
Cat Wheel - Cat wheels allow your cat to walk or run as much as they want within a confined space.
Puzzles - Puzzles provide a way to exercise a cat's mind. When the mind is worked, the cat is content. Remember, rotating the puzzles, so your cat doesn't become bored with them is important.
Cat Grass - Cat grass is a mental stimulant for your cat. Cats are attracted to the texture of grass and enjoy chewing on it.
Aquarium or Outdoor Bird feeder - Aquariums and bird feeders also exercise the mind. Watching birds or fish safely separated from the cat stimulates the cat's mind while keeping the birds or fish safe.
Are your cat's resources plentiful and in suitable locations?
Every cat needs a clean place to eat, drink, and deposit waste. The locations for all of these things are very important to a cat.
First, all three locations must be separate from one another. Sometimes you'll see an under-stairs closet transformed into a cat lounge with food, water, and a litterbox. While this looks cool, it is horrifying for the cat. Cats want all three of these items to be separated from one another.
Most people know the basic litterbox location rules, but food and water locations are less universally understood. The layers of large cat trees make great food locations because they keep the food out of reach of children and dogs. Because cats are naturally individual feeders, use the different tiers of a cat tree to separate your food dishes for your cats, giving them the individualized space they prefer when eating. Keep the food away from any direct light or heat and air vent. This is also the case for water. Water is best located on the floor on waterproof flooring or with a waterproof mat underneath it.
Water needs to be kept separate from food because cats instinctively do not drink water that is near a food source to avoid potential contamination. While they will often tolerate the water bowl near the food bowl, it is just tolerance. This is not ideal.
Bengal cats create a few challenges with water bowls because some like to play in them, and others want to pee in the water. We have successfully prevented playing and peeing with the Orsada water fountain. The players don't seem to be drawn to it because it is shallow, and the pee-ers aren't attracted to it because they would get their privates wet in the process.
Use food and water dishes that do not touch the cat's whiskers as they eat or drink. Shallow dishes are better; any deep dish will force the cat's whiskers to make contact. Some cats experience whisker fatigue, a sensory overload when their whiskers feel surfaces too often.
In conclusion, creating a stimulating home environment for your high-energy, intelligent Bengal cat is important. This, however, is only one of the three most influential factors in Bengal cat behavior. You will also want to consider how and what you feed and establish a daily routine to eliminate unwanted behaviors. This article links to several other articles in our BLOG. If you are trying to resolve behavioral issues, you must read all the linked articles and follow all the advice to expect a behavior change.
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