Monday, 27 April 2015

Living with a Bengal; An Owners Review

I have a handsome Bengal named Teddy. He is about to turn 1 and you're damn fucking straight I'll be throwing him a kitty birthday party.

I make it quite clear that I absolutely adore Ted and he has definitely changed the way our home feels, but raising a Bengal certainly comes with a few caveats that should be considered before you decide to take the plunge into cat-hood.

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Bengal cats were developed by the selective breeding of domestic cats and Asian Leopards. They are primarily jungle cats with some being much more 'wildcat' than others. Breeders use the term "F Generations" to outline how far removed a particular cat is from its leopard heritage. Ted is an F6, a direct domestic/Asian Leopard cross would be an F1. The F Generation system is a great guide when it comes to the temperament of the cat you are looking at, with the F1 & F2 cats typically needing an owner to be 'licensed to care' in most countries around the Western hemisphere because of their large size, aggressiveness and profitable breeding potential.

Before you adopt, consider the below points:

  • Bengals are wild by nature: Teddy is by far the most curious and naughty cat I know. He has no issue jumping up onto windowsills if he hears a noise outside. He can scale my wardrobe and sit on the top of it in hiding. He can rip a teatowel or a magazine into shreds in minutes. Bengals are hugely explorative and this may come across as bad behaviour, especially if you haven't provided enough entertainment (toys, balls, scratching posts) for them. Ted has a ridiculous amount of energy and will eagerly play fetch with me for hours (yup, he loves fetch!). Bengals are puppycats and can actually be very canine in the way they wrestle and play.

  • Bengals are large: Ted is nearly 1 so he hasn't finished growing yet, but he already stands at the same height as a fully grown Westie dog or a Jack Russell. He weighs an absolute tonne which means when he throws his weight on something it can be hard to get it free from his grip.

  • Bengals need a raw food diet: This is a very controversial topic amongst owners right now but it is largely agreed that F Generation Bengals thrive best on a raw meat diet. Ted loves raw turkey, chicken, beef, fish and lamb. He wolfs down livers and he is impossible when the tin opener comes out for the tuna. Some people do find this a bit squeamish and so maybe a Bengal wouldn't be ideal in that situation. Ted does like pouches of cat food but they tend to make his tummy quite upset and he is noticeably hungry after about an hour.

  • Bengals have sharp claws & the brevity to use them: Ted's favourite thing in the evening is to chase your feet around under a blanket or to climb onto your lap to wrestle. His claws are incredibly sharp (despite him using his scratching post every day) and quite often his playfulness can be painful. Teddy in particular responds well to my fiancĂ© who is a bit less delicate and will happily throw the cat around the living room floor despite the scratches but I do sometimes have to put Ted in time out to calm down. It wouldn't be ideal if you had young children.

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  • Bengals are possessive: Teddy spends 99% of his sociable time with myself and my fiancĂ© and he is very attached. He is wary of visitors until he has had a chance to suss them out a bit. He will sit on my lap for hours but doesn't enjoy being picked up or stroked by others as much. I wouldn't call him a lap cat necessarily as he is only really happy on my lap.

  • Bengals are loving: I love the fact that I am woken up by cat snuggles every morning. When Ted wants his breakfast he will curl up on my chest or my pillow and wait for me to wake up. When I get home from work he jumps up onto the microwave so that he is at eye-level and can get my full attention. He loves kisses and cuddles and he is visibly sad/distressed when we leave for work in the morning. I work from home a few days a week and spend the weekend with Ted but if you were going to be absent a lot of the time I'm not sure a Bengal would be the perfect cat for you.

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Bengals are fantastic companions. They are completely adorable, kind, fun, gorgeous and hugely intelligent. They can also be hard work. There is a bit of an issue where people are adopting Bengals and underestimating their 'ease of ownership' and subsequently putting them up for adoption. This is unfair and the onus should be on you as a potential cat owner to do the appropriate amount of research before you commit to living with your kitty. If you have questions do get in touch via Twitter or the comments section below.

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