Adopting Your First Bengal Cat?
Adopting your first Bengal cat is a big decision. Adopters are always asking us “What should we expect?” Our answer is usually “How much time do you have?”
With Bengal cats – you really do have to prepare for the unexpected. While they are considered Domestic Cats, and are recognized by The International Cat Society (TICA in 1986 through today) and the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA), they are still Hybrid Domestic cats.
“What does that mean, anyways?” you might be asking? It means Bengal cats are closer to their wild ancestors, than a typical Domestic cat. Domestic cats are descendants of their wilder counterparts, but their lines go back thousands of years. Bengal cats are descendants of the Asian Leopard Cat, which was only first outcrossed with a domestic cat in 1963 by the legendary Godmother of the Bengal Breed Jean Mill.
The Bengal breed, in itself, is considered a “new breed” of cat (Bengals have not existed for thousands of years), so they present unique traits, preferences, and needs over what a Domestic cat requires. Initially, the Bengal breed was created by taking an Asian Leopard Cat and crossing it with a Domestic cat. Today, this practice is no longer necessary, or desired. The Asian Leopard Cat should stay in his / her natural habitat. Today’s domestic Bengal cat comes only from breeding Bengals to other Bengals. For more about the history of the Bengal Breed visit TICA.
We use that expression a lot around here. “Bengal Brain” explains why Bengal cats are so different from their other Domestic cat counterparts. The Bengal Brain acts differently. It thinks differently. The Bengal Brain is easily stressed by things that your other cat, perhaps a DSH Tabby cat, does not react to. The Bengals we have today are SBT (SBT – Stud Book Traditional) which denotes that they are 5 generations or more away from the Asian Leopard Cat. If you really think about that, it means that their DNA is closer to an Asian Leopard cat (their wild ancestor), than your DSH cat is to their wild ancestors.
The Asian Leopard Cat is shy by nature. This is not a gregarious cat, but rather a more solitary, nervous cat. When the Asian Leopard was bred with a domestic tomcat, this new breed was born. Next the Egyptian Mau was brought in to be part of the breeding program. As decades went by, the domestic cat personality began to take over the more “wild” Asian Leopard cat personality. And while it is true, that the personality of the domestic cats began to infiltrate the Bengal breed, the Bengal Brain still remains within their primordial brain. So whether you have had Bengal cats before, or you are adopting your first Bengal cat, Always remember to respect the Bengal Brain; it will serve you well.
So You Want to Adopt your First Bengal Cat?
We wouldn’t be here encouraging you and supporting this breed, if we didn’t fully love and understand them. Every Bengal cat is unique, yet they do share many common traits.
Let’s start with the good stuff
- Bengals are playful, intelligent cats.
- Bengals are athletic, curious, devoted and loving.
- Bengals love water, however some Bengals don’t. Most Bengals definitely love water fountains.
- They love catios, exercise wheels, tall climbing towers and toys.
- They want to be wherever YOU are. Literally – and for some, that even includes the shower!
- Bengals are low-shed / low-dander; they are easy on folks who are sensitive to allergies.
- They eat a species-appropriate diet, and should be fed a wet food or raw food diet.
And now – the bad…
- Most of our Rescue Bengals do not do well in families with small children. This is why our rule of thumb is that unless we know for a fact that the Bengal you’re interested in loves children, we generally only adopt to families with children who are aged 12 years old – or older.
- Bengals cats absolutely HATE to be picked up. Like seriously, they hate it! Please don’t!
- They are NOT lap cats. If you sit on the couch with a blanket on your lap for TV time, they are likely to come and settle in. If you try to put them on your lap – they will flee like it is the most serious violation you could bring upon them.
- They love to counter-surf.
- They love to open doors, drawers and closets. Hide & Go Seek is usually quite a project, when you have a Bengal.
- Some Bengals are SO LOUD that you can’t hear yourself think straight!
- They are NOT hypo-allergenic. They ARE low-dander however not everyone with allergies to cat dander, can tolerate Bengal dander.
- They should never be fed dry food.
Before You Bring Your New Cat Home
These articles will help you prepare for adopting your first Bengal cat:
Rescue Bengals – Explained
In Rescue, this playful, loving, intelligent cat has just lost his / her home. Your cat is now living with unfamiliar people, in unfamiliar surroundings. This will only compound his stress, at first. Right now, he doesn’t know how lucky he is; he’s just confused. We know that you are excited about adopting your first Bengal cat, however we advise you to let him decompress to get his bearings. Give him time.
We can only imagine how stressful your cat’s prior home was – yet it was all he ever knew. You would be wise to know that your new Bengal doesn’t know how much you want him, or how badly you are hoping for him to love you back. Although you are likely very excited about adopting your first Bengal cat, we hope that you realize that your new Bengal cat isn’t yet feeling confident. The only thing your cat knows for sure, is that his world has been turned upside-down.
During the first few weeks, your new Bengal cat is likely to be shy, however if you give him time, space, and patience – after that, he should get comfortable and blend in with your family in a month or two.
Here’s a helpful Infographic:
Upon Arriving Home
Your new Bengal cat should spend the first few weeks in a private room, which will allow them to acclimate to the new surroundings. All of the smells, sounds, and routines will be unfamiliar to him, and it will be sensory overload.
Give him a nice soft bed to sleep in, and a tall cat tree and a nice windows to gaze from. Give him good food, a water fountain, and come spend time with him, which will allow you to get to know him – on his terms.
Watch a TV show with him; read a book with him. Turn on a radio or TV set to a talk channel, set at low volume; it can be quite calming. A good sound buffer really helps to minimize the disruption of unfamiliar sounds on the other side of the door.
If you have other pets that you are hoping to introduce successfully in the future – please read the Tips for Introducing Cats or a Cat to a Dog, below.
Your cat will need a few weeks to acclimate; after that, he should be relaxed and ready to explore. Now is the time to take the next step and let your cat familiarize himself with your home. Please ensure that your home is quiet. Secure any other pets in the home in a safe room. By giving your new cat one-on-one attention, without rushing pet introductions, you will set up your new cat for success.
If after a few weeks, if your new cat is feeling confident enough to take the next step, here are some great articles that will help you introduce your cat to your other furry family members:
Your Bengal’s Future
As always, we will be here for you to help you with any questions you might have about your Bengal. No question is a bad one! Please always remember:
- Bengals don’t like surprises or change. They want a stable home environment, where they know what to expect. They love consistency, dependability, and routine.
- Bengals need time and patience for any changes in routine, changes in family members, new additions.
- Bengals don’t urinate outside of the litter-box because “they are mad at you” – should your Bengal stop using the litter box, please review our Litter Box Issues article.
- Bengals require regular Veterinary care.
Other Articles About Bengals – for Newbies
If you are adopting your first Bengal cat, we highly recommend that you read these articles:
Bengal Cat Communities on Facebook
There are many online communities that are helpful for Bengal owners. These communities are helpful for seeing what new and longtime owners ask or comment about (with many “Pros” commenting). In these groups, many Bengal owners post about issues they are having with their Bengal, and you will see the many reasons why Bengals are surrendered. We recommend that you join these informative Facebook groups, whether you’re adopting your first Bengal cat, or are an experienced Bengal cats owner.