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Bengals as Pets

written by Debbie Connolly, Behaviour Consultant, Bengal Cat Rescue

We rescue a lot of Bengals and there is a common theme amongst those we take.  We want to make sure that anyone wanting a cat understands the Bengal temperament before adopting.  Whilst there will always be a range of personality traits, these are the commonest behaviours seen, read this carefully before considering a Bengal Cat as a pet.

Often described as dog like this is a highly interactive breed that thrives on company.  Younger ones often do not do well with working owners and can become aggressive and destructive through boredom.  Older cats can and do cope with alone time well but all age groups need stimulation and games.

This breed has a strong and sometimes dominant personality and although affectionate, lots are not simple lap cats.  They can respond aggressively to discipline and to being handled and this is a common reason why we are asked to take them into rescue.

Their commonest problems are aggression and spraying.  Don't adopt a Bengal if these things would mean you wouldn't bother to get help and simply dump the cat.  Also hardly a week goes by when someone doesn't contact me about having bought or adopted a pair that are trying to kill each other.  Some breeders seem to sell lots of pairs and the number of these that go seriously wrong is significant.

They do respond well to behaviour therapy, but often not to traditional methods used by most behaviourists. As the owner of several Bengals, all of which originally had significant issues, I  have first hand experience of ownership and of problem solving.  My Bengals are nothing like my moggies or my Siamese.

Bengals enjoy climbing and this includes your clothes and curtains.  They like exploring and are no respecter of ornaments or photographs. Often cat aggressive, many will terrorise not just their own household but can actively seek out neighbours cats and enter their homes to hurt them.  They are not playing, they mean it. This means a lot of Bengals are only cats and some have had to be rehomed in very rural areas without neighbouring cats.

They do though seem to like dogs.  Lots live happily with dogs and in households with both, often play with and prefer the company of the dogs over the cats.  Because they have a high prey drive and show a lot of hunting behaviour, you have to be careful if you have small furries or poultry around.  Many of course live happily with these animals, but it is something to check out very carefully.

This is not an easy breed of cat that will sit around on your lap all day doing nothing and they are very strong minded and will take over if they have no boundaries, you cannot just love them, you need to be the Boss too.  In most cases where people have given up an aggressive cat, they have not researched properly, been fooled by breeders or have not been the right home.  Sometimes they have had behaviour help which hasn't worked, but they need a specialist as common treatment generally has no effect.

Their aggression must not be underestimated, if not trained well, they can be difficult. If you couldn't cope with a cat who bites you or even jumps at you to mock attack, then think carefully about taking on an adolescent Bengal.  Ours are all assessed before leaving, but younger ones can offer challenges in a new home whilst they test you out.  I have had clients whose Bengals have almost or actually killed other cats in the area, so take seriously anyone at your door claiming your cat hurt theirs.  Two recent clients had even had the Police at their door because of their cats behaviour.

They can dig holes in the garden, shout non stop and do like the sound of their own voice.  Curiosity gets the better of them and they can be found in furniture, cupboards and your car.  Shopping coming in is a source of great amusement as they try to eat it before it goes into the cupboards.  They love affection and being involved to the point of being a nuisance but this should not be indulged.  They are great fun, strong personalities and amazing pets.  They are also noisy, demanding dominant cats who need a lot of attention. 

If you want a cat who has a strong personality, a sense of humour and likes to be involved in your life, this is the breed for you.  They respond well to training, so act quickly if you have a problem so you end up with a funny, interesting cat who is very much part of the family.

If you are not sure if this breed suits you, please contact us first.

NEW basic behaviour advice pack: Aggression with cats, aggression with humans, toiletting, games,straying        4.99 to buy or free to behaviour clients, see the SafePets Website, click on logo