Don’t get a Bengal if what you’re looking for is a sweet, gentle lap cat or a living sculpture that requires little interaction. The intelligent, curious Bengal is highly active. Constantly on the move, he loves climbing to high places, enjoys playing fetch and going for walks on leash, and thrives best when he has access to a large outdoor enclosure where he can indulge in the favorite feline hobby of bird-watching.
People have always been attracted by the beauty and independence of wild cats and have even tried to keep wild cats such as ocelots, cheetahs and lions, usually with little success and a lot of heartbreak. The Bengal was developed to try to meet that desire for a wild look in a safe way by crossing small wild Asian Leopard Cats and domestic shorthairs. Jean S. Mill began the Bengal breeding program in 1963, and Bengals today descend from cats bred by her in the early 1980s.
Bengals are a lot of fun to live with, but they’re definitely not the cat for everyone, or for first-time cat owners. Extremely intelligent, curious and active, they demand a lot of interaction and woe betide the owner who doesn’t provide it. If you won’t be home during the day to entertain your Bengal, plan to have two of them or don’t get one. When a Bengal gets bored, he is capable of taking things apart to see how they work and opening drawers and cabinets to see what interesting toys or food might be available for him.
The Bengal loves his people and will do anything for attention from them. If he figures out that you don’t like something he does — jumping on the kitchen counter, for instance — he will start doing it all the time because it will get your attention and force you to interact with him. He also likes to take things and hide them. Put your jewelry away in a place where he can’t get it (you hope).
Every cat is an individual, but most Bengals get along with other pets, including dogs. They are best suited to homes with older children who will enjoy playing with them, but as long as they have an escape route from toddlers they should do well with them.
This is a cat who needs a lot of vertical territory. Bengals love to climb, the higher the better. Provide them with tall cat trees and window perches. They are also fond of playing water. Don’t be surprised if your Bengal wants to join you in the shower or bathtub. You may find yourself installing a motion-sensitive faucet in your bathroom or kitchen so he can turn the water on and off for himself. If that’s not on your agenda, he will appreciate having a pet fountain to drink from.
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