|The Bengal Cat
The Bengal began in the 1960’s as the first documented cross between a domestic cat and an Asiatic wild cat. It was an experiment to see if Feline Leukaemia could be eradicated. While there was no success with the FELV virus, the result was a stunning domestic cat with a wild look and temperament.
With the appearance of little leopards, the Bengal is a very striking pet, one that is growing in popularity. However, the wild look also includes a temperament that must be seriously considered when adopting one of these magnificent cats.
Bengals are the “ADHD” member of the cat world. They are active, naughty, food loving little hooligans with a huge amount of cat-titude! Often quite fond of water, this independent and busy little character needs an owner with a firm hand. They will try their luck at any point and quickly rule the roost if allowed to do so. They are generally not lap cats but will demand attention on their terms.
As family cats, Bengals are incredibly entertaining. They will play for hours with an owner prepared to wave the cat toy in the air for them. With all their energy they can sometimes be a little clumsy and valued ornaments are better off if they are put away or fixed to the furniture. They play rough and do use claws – owners need to be made aware that they are not always the gentlest of pets and will scratch without intending to do so. Food and treats are a huge motivation. Many Bengals willingly learn tricks because of this. They will also figure out how to open doors (especially the fridge and the lids on cooking pots) if the need arises. They often growl over something delicious and will fiercely defend it from any other family member.
Bengals do best in a home that is cat proof. They are energetic and not really suited to life as an indoor cat, but their independent nature can get them into trouble with the neighbours if they are able to get out of the garden. A secure garden or enclosure coming off a window is the ideal environment. They generally love water and a shallow water feature is a must with a Bengal. They also appreciate plenty of stimulation in the form of play areas, trees and scratching posts. Bengals are enthusiastic hunters – insects, rodents, birds, even nests and eggs are never safe. Neighbours with aviaries are definite targets!
Temperament is vital when choosing a kitten. Make sure that you see the kittens “in the fur” and that they are not aggressive or too scared. Meet at least one of the parent cats – they should also be reasonably approachable even if you are a stranger.
As kittens, Bengals need a lot of attention and interaction in the first year. This is critical to ensure that they continue to improve their social skills, and will set the basis for the kind of cat that they become. While it is important to get a sociable kitten in the first place, this needs to be worked on constantly and clear parameters need to be set.
Bengals don’t like changes in their routine. They are territorial and don’t always openly accept new cats/kittens into their home. If they have to be confined to a room or placed in a new home for any reason they can react quite aggressively. Free roaming Bengals can become a problem as they will wander and challenge neighbourhood cats.
Bengals come in a number of colours and patterns. The most popular of these is the brown spotted or rosetted. They also are registered in silver, snow and sepia colours and can have a marbled pattern. Their fur is incredibly soft and should show glitter (pearl in a snow Bengal). It is sometimes referred to as a pelt and the tips of each hair should shine in the sunlight as if it were tinted with gold
Health-wise Bengals can get all the typical cat diseases and it is important to work with a breeder that offers some form of health guarantee. If given a secure home they can be protected from many of the deadly cat viruses that come from interaction with other cats, as well as from cars, dogs and cruel people. This should go a long way towards a good life expectancy.
In South Africa Bengals are a popular breed and one of the breeds most targeted by scammers. Be very careful that you are dealing with a genuine breeder and don’t be tempted to make a rush purchase.