At Quality Bengal Kittens, we have seen an increase in people wanting a Bengal cat that can be harness-trained to join their family on outdoor adventures. This is awesome as long as the family understands and is fully prepared to meet the needs of a cat with a personality that lends itself to harness training.
When a potential pet parent says they want a harness-trainable cat, what does that mean to us?
While any cat can be trained to walk on a harness, when people tell us that is what they are looking for, we envision offering them a kitten that will naturally take to harness training. Our goal is to place the right cat in the right home, not to put any kitten in any home. Therefore, when someone requests a harness-trainable cat, we will recommend them to kittens with the following personality traits: confident, non-reactive, curious kittens who seek out human interaction. This personality type is going to make harness training easier.
That sounds great. What is the problem?
The personality that makes a cat suitable for harness training is also a personality type that is more likely to become depressed or destructive if it does not receive enough daily attention at home. High energy and intelligence are Bengal breed characteristics. We assume every Bengal has those two traits. When energy and intelligence are added to a confident kitten who is naturally drawn to people, it results in a cat who struggles to spend time alone.
Some people only see the benefit of having a cat who will join them on outdoor adventures without fully understanding the daily responsibility that comes with that type of cat.
How does one meet the needs of this type of cat?
The easiest way to meet the needs of this type of cat is to have a high-energy, intelligent companion. The companion does not have to be a Bengal, but getting another cat is the safest choice for a companion. The second cat must be cat-friendly and play-driven with an energy level to match your Bengal. In addition, a stimulating environment must be provided to keep the two entertained throughout the day. There is a lot of truth to the statement that two Bengals are easier than one. They keep each other entertained, so you do not have to be the sole source of entertainment.
A small dog who is cat-friendly and who can be left out inside the home when the family is away can also work as a companion to your Bengal. It needs to be a dog who will run around and rough and tumble with your Bengal for it to be a suitable companion. If you are searching for a dog who will do this, you should work with a breeder who raises their dogs with cats and will be honest with you about their puppies' personalities.
Having a companion takes the pressure off of you to be the companion.
How does one meet the needs of this type of cat without a companion pet?
If you do not want a second pet but still want a confident, non-reactive, curious kitten who seeks human interaction to join you on your adventures, you must be committed to being the companion - the constant sidekick. You must put the recommended scheduled play on super drive. When working with one of our cat parents on how to satisfy her cat, she ultimately landed on the following schedule:
5:30 - 6 AM: Play followed by breakfast
8:30 - 9 AM: Walk outside
10 AM: Treat puzzle toy
12 - 12:45 PM: Play followed by food on a lick mat
3 PM: Treat puzzle toy
6 - 7 PM: Outside time/play followed by dinner
Scattered play in between!
Before using this schedule, the Bengal, which is the only pet, was disconnected from its human, bored, and destructive. Following this schedule resolved the problem. A cat cannot turn on and off its desire to be active and to interact at the will of its human family. A highly interactive cat who will joins in on adventures needs an abundance of daily interaction. Intense mental and physical stimulation cannot be limited to a weekend outing.
Can I choose a kitten that is less needy for attention and still harness-train it?
Yes, you can. Picking a more independent kitten will alleviate some of the daily demands but requires more patience with harness training. It will take longer to achieve the ideal dream of walking our cat through the forest like one would walk a dog. More independent cats tend to be more cautious of their surroundings. These cats will move slower and want to assess their environment longer before becoming comfortable. Independent cats will require more patience on your part and regular trips in the great outdoors before they can relax. Plan to have a backpack, so the cat can be scooped up and placed in the backpack at any given time throughout the walk.
I still want a harness-trainable cat what do I do?
Weigh the pros and the cons and decide what is the best choice for you. Is it easier and more fun for you to get two cats and create a stimulating environment and a routine schedule to interact with your cat, or would it be easier to remove all expectations and accept the slower pace of the cat's training?
Your family should also be a factor in this choice. A family with young kids needs a cat with a dependent, people-centered personality, as it will put up with child antics as long as it is getting attention. However, a home with one or two adults often has the patience and desire for a more independent cat - which often bonds very deeply with one or two people.
What is really important is that you can determine which personality is best for you, so we can help you pick the right kitten. Getting a Bengal cat is a 15-20-year commitment; we want to send you home with the right kitten for you when you make such a big commitment.
When people are interested in harness training, we send The Zen of Cat Walking by Clifford Brooks home with your kitten. This gives you expert guidance on how to work with your cat - regardless of its personality.
Whatever you decide, we work to match you with the best fit. Let us know your preference on the dependency scale in your Bengal Kitten Application. Are you leaving towards dependent or independent? This will help us help you pick out the right kitten for your home.