Bengal cats are known to be vocal cats, but this is not necessarily a consistent breed trait, nor is it something that comes from their hybrid ancestry. In over 20 years of breeding Bengal cats, we have had some vocal Bengal cats and many not-so-vocal Bengals cats. Regardless of whether you want a vocal Bengal, you are likely to find one that suits your wishes - talk to the breeder about the parents' vocal tendencies. As long as you do your part in keeping the cat mentally and physically stimulated, your Bengal should be quiet if you sought one from a quiet lineage. For clarification, this article focuses on spayed and neutered pet Bengal cats. Unfixed cats of both genders are vocal without a doubt as they need to make their presence known to both potential mates and rivals.
First of all, let's dispel the myth that Bengals are vocal because they come from wild ancestry. That isn't true. Think about it, are wild cats vocal when they are not searching for a mate? No. Noise attracts predators, and Leopard cats are a potential prey species to many larger predators. Small cat species fall into the category of being both a predator and a prey species, and due to this, it is not in their nature to make any unnecessary noise. When they call during mating season, they put their life at risk by revealing their location. We own a couple of first-generation Bengal hybrids; these cats rarely vocalize unless they are in heat. In addition, most of their infant baby kittens do not vocalize. Kitten vocalization can be one of the most confusing experiences for an early generation mother. Her instinct knows that silence is necessary for survival. Sometimes a second generation mother can become distressed and confused if her third-generation offspring make more noise than she is comfortable with. Our experience has been that the earlier the generation of the kitten, the quieter they are. This makes sense when you consider the importance of silence for survival in the wild. The quieter the babies are, the less likely their nest location will be revealed; this increases their chance of survival.
However, we do believe that excessive vocalization is hereditary, but it is coming from the domestic side of a Bengal cat's heritage, not the Leopard cat side. Through observation, we know that our cats down from the cattery Rosettea tend to be a bit more talkative than our cats that do not have Rosettea lineage in them. We've worked with two different Rosettea-line stud cats over the years. Our direct offspring of those Rosettea sires tended to be more chatty than their quieter mother. That extra level of talkativeness can be bred back out by selecting a non-talkative partner for them, but it can also continue to pass down to the next generation as well. I can see how if one were to breed two talkative cats together, the result would likely be more consistency in the verbose nature of the offspring.
The majority of our cats, however, are not excessively talkative. Most of our cats, not all, will talk back when we talk to them and engage in a brief conversation. The cats will certainly talk when food is being prepared or when they think food should be prepared. Some will give a meow if they want to greet you when you return home or get up in the morning, but typically this is paired with physical contact. So the cat will stand up to greet us and say hello while doing so. Sometimes they chatter while watching the birds outside.
How can you stop your Bengal Cat from talking so much?
Even if you have a Bengal that is genetically prone to talking more than average, you can control their talking. The first thing you may want to do is rule out any medical reasons for a talkative cat. Assuming that there is no medical condition causing the talking and considering that the Bengal is a high energy, highly intelligent breed of cat, it is likely the cause of its excessive and inappropriately timed taking has its roots in boredom. Cries out of boredom or loneliness are the "constant cat meowing or crying [that] usually starts after you go to bed and continues until you respond or she gets tired of calling out for attention" (Kelley). This means you can modify this behavior and adjust it to your liking, but it will take some effort. Because Bengal cats are highly intelligent and high energy cats, they are more likely to become bored, which increases their chances of meowing too much out of boredom.
How Feeding affects Meowing
If you free-feed your cat, the first thing you must do is stop. Secondly, if you feed your cat first thing every morning, you must stop doing this. Free feeding or feeding-first-thing are two everyday habits of humans that can contribute to excessive talking. When you free feed, the cat controls his energy spikes, and that likely means he will want to play when you do not want to play - such as at night when you are trying to sleep (Galaxy). When you feed first thing in the morning, your cat associates your getting up with him getting food, so he figures that all he needs to do to get his food is wake you up. Make your cat's morning feeding take place after you have had your breakfast.
If your cat's meowing is bothering you, one of the first steps you may try is to control your cat's energy spikes. You can do this through a play-then-feed routine. Follow the steps in our article on play to get your cat into a routine. Play, then feed your cat 2-5 times a day based on the cat's needs. We suggest that the most extended play session and the most substantial feeding portion be as late into the evening as your routine schedule allows. We also recommend that your first play-then-feed session be as late into the morning as your routine allows. Mornings are often busy and short on time, but if your cat's meowing is problematic, then you need to make it a priority to play for at least ten minutes before you run out of the house to start your day.
Reducing Meowing through Training
Training a cat to do anything and actively engaging the cat in that training is an excellent way to decrease the meowing resulting from boredom and or loneliness. You can decide what type of training you want to do with your cat. However, your first task will be to find a treat your cat likes enough to work for. Once you have a treat, what is it that you'd like to train your cat to do? Would you like to clicker train it? Harness train it? Or teach it a few noise-reducing tricks? By working your cat's brain, it will be more tired at night and rest easier. If you have a busy day and don't have time for a training session, you can leave out a puzzle for your cat to solve, but the more persistent the meowing is, the more work you will need to put into tiring your cat out both mentally and physically.
Reduce Meowing by offering a Cat Wheel
Nighttime would be your cat's most active time if it were living out in the wild. While you can influence their energy spike by establishing a play-then-feed routine throughout the day, you may also want to offer your cat a Cat Wheel. Feral cats would naturally walk a territory of five acres throughout the night, but it is not safe to let your cat go out roaming. We have multiple cat wheels in our house, and the wheels are often reasonably quiet during the night but going nonstop throughout the night. For more information on our experience with different brands, please read our article on Cat Wheels.
Stop Responding to your Meowing Cat
If you have done your work at creating a routine body rhythm for your cat using the play-then-feed method and exercising its mind through training or puzzles, then the last step is to ignore the cat's meowing. While this may be the hardest of all steps, it must be done (Galaxy). Once you've worn your cat out to the point of panting, then feed him his last meal of the day and go to bed - with earplugs if necessary and do not respond to any meowing. When you get up in the morning, go through your routine, remembering to feed the cat toward the end of your morning routine.
While it may take a few weeks to eliminate meowing caused by loneliness and boredom, it will happen. The work you put into it will pay off. You will be happier; your cat will be happier, and everyone will sleep better.
Galaxy, Jackson. “Train Your Cat to Let You Sleep.” Jackson Galaxy. 2019, www.jacksongalaxy.com
Kelley, Jane A. “Cat, Won't Stop Meowing? 7 Reasons For All That Cat Meowing.” Catster. 8 Oct. 2019. www.catster.com