Should Bengals Go Outdoors?

Whether cats should be allowed to go outdoors is a tough topic which has many proponents on both sides.  It’s a decision that everyone has to make, not just Bengal owners; however, there are a few additional factors for Bengal owners that don’t apply to a rescue cat.  So let’s start with the Cons and then talk Pros.

Why you shouldn’t let your Bengal outdoors:

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy of an outdoor cat is significantly shorter than an indoor only cat – by over 10 years.  In an urban/suburban area, you are reducing their expected life by over 50%!

Here are some quick things that can happen to a Bengal who roams outdoors:

  • Getting Hit by Car
  • Eating something poisonous
  • Fighting with other cats or animals
  • Catching a significant disease – while we vaccinate for rabies or other common diseases, things like FELV and FIV do not have a good vaccine.
  • Catching a parasite
  • Killing wildlife – cats are amazing hunters and watching them bring down a bird is a sight to behold – except for the bird.
  • Bringing back “gifts” – once they caught it, they aren’t hungry – so it’s a present for you to clean up off your steps!
  • Stolen / Hurt deliberately – especially bad for Bengals, they are expensive cats and can be easily resold by someone malicious.
  • Picked up by rescuers/animal control – with the overpopulation of strays a lot of shelters do not keep strays alive for long

Reasons to let your Bengal outdoors:

  • They seem to like it – Bengals like to explore and are generally curious. This works well for them and gives them an opportunity to see more surroundings.
  • Feeds into their “wild” side – they get a chance to hunt and be “one” with their mojo cat.
  • Fitter – Outdoor cats generally get significantly more exercise and are fitter.  It’s very rare to see a “fat” Bengal though; so this usually doesn’t apply to Bengals.
  • Cleaner Litter Box – If they are outside; they have to go somewhere! Outdoor cat owners can sometimes get away with no litter box (isn’t that nice!)

Outdoor Solutions

So what do you do if you want to let your cat go outdoors but don’t want to stress over all the cons?

  • Leash / Harness – Bengals can definitely be trained to walk on a leash/harness.  The downside is that they don’t associate the outdoors with a leash/harness so if they go out frequently they can start demanding to go out more and even try to escape out.
  • Catios – This is a great solution if you can afford it.  There are some great Catios out there and some great ideas.  Basically, this is a “patio” in your backyard that has a mesh fencing completely around it (including the roof) so the cat can’t get out or have major interactions outdoors.  They can be expensive though!

Playing with your cat is a responsibility not a choice

It’s not uncommon to hear that cats are less work than dogs.  Cats take care of themselves, they clean themselves, they don’t need to be walked, they are low maintenance pets.

It’s also not uncommon to hear people complain that their cats ignore them, are lazy or their cat won’t play.

Here’s the problem – just like dog owners have to walk their dog on a regular basis, cat owners have to play with their cat on a regular basis.  As a cat owner, it is your responsibility to play with your cat at least once a day.  Yes, I said at least once a day – ideally more.

Not only does it build a bond between you and your cat, it helps them adjust to living in a house (something they are not really used to), it helps them gain confidence in their environment and improve their overall behaviour.  You’d be amazed at how many issues with litter boxes, hiding under couches (caving) and cats who are “afraid” of their own shadow can be resolved with regular play time.

Bengal cats need play more than most – it’s basically built into their DNA; but, all cats need to play.  As they are younger they will play more vibrantly and more enthusiastically.  Older cats will play more mentally and it will take more effort from you to get them up and moving.

Stalking

Play doesn’t mean running around continuously.  The act of engaging mentally with stalking, eyes hunting, ears focussed, tail twitching – is an important part of it.  That alone is part of their confidence and building into the environment.  A session of play should involve stalking time – it’s important!

Killing

Catching and Killing is an important part of play too.  Make sure they are playing with something they can wrap their paws around and dig their teeth into!

Duration

20 – 30 minutes is usually enough time for a good play session.  Remember it’s not all running around.

Toys

Find a good toy that’s mouse-like or bird-like.  Get them into the action.  If you find they don’t like it; find another one.

Laser pointers are great for stalking but horrible for killing.  Make sure if you start with a laser pointer you move to something tactic for the kill part.

Your cat is your companion – make sure you take care of their needs.  Play with them regularly!

Preparing for a new Kitten

Safety

Look for places a kitten can get into (holes in walls, fireplaces, etc.) and put barriers in front.
Look for personal items that they might hurt themselves with – pens, needles, scissors, knives, all dangerous!  Protect your cords too – especially electronic ones – they love to play with them.
Secure breakables (glasses, vases, etc.) on places they can easily reach.
Look for toxic plants (http://www.petmd.com/cat/emergency/poisoning-toxicity/e_ct_poisonous_plants) and get them out of reach (or ideally gone!)

Litter boxes

 You will need at least 1 per floor that that kitten will be on.  If you already have a cat; you should have one more litter box than cats.

Litter

Unscented, no clay litter is important for kittens.  They can easily eat it or breath it and that’s horrible for them.  For kittens, we recommend: World’s Best or Swheat Scoop

Food

 We will provide either wet food or raw food on your choice. We’ll let you know the wet food brand your kitten prefers and you can start with some of that.  If you want to transition to a new food; please do it slowly to avoid upsetting their stomach.

Toys!

Toys are ridiculously important for Kittens and Bengals in particular.  Get a variety and see what they (and you) like!  We’ve started making our own, but there are lots of cool things out there.

Treats

 Treats aren’t that important at this stage, but they can be fun.

Food / Water Dishes

You need at least one of each.  If you are feeding wet/raw food than they won’t drink a lot of water – this is completely normal! Cats who are fed dry food drink a lot and that’s not normal.

Bed

Buy a soft bed to lie in – usually, they want a much larger bed than you think!  Heated beds are a plus.

Brush

You will want to have a brush (a soft brush; their soft fur doesn’t need to be brushed so it’s more for enjoyment).

Nail Clippers

You want this style: https://www.amazon.ca/Ecloud-Shop-Clipper-Grooming-Trimmer/dp/B00N4RAYB6/  You can get them in all pet stores.

Feliway

it’s a calming spray which is a good way to help them adjust.  There is a diffuser or just a spray.  Amazon sells it, so do most vets.

Scratching posts

You need to get at least one scratching post.  We have 6 in our house; however, 3 of them are also cat trees.

Cat Trees

We highly recommend cat trees – specifically Armarkat Trees – they are more expensive, but they last much longer.  Even the kittens love spending time in the tree as young as they are.  Here is our current favourite tree.  Don’t get a knockoff (Go Pet or something similar) – the quality is so much worse.

Bonding with a Bengal

What’s the best way to bond with your Bengal?

Playing

Bengals are play-oriented. They are active, energetic cats who love to play. The fastest way to a Bengal’s heart is by playing with them!

Here are some quick suggestions:

  • Get a straw and wiggle it back and forth on the ground by their paws.
  • Make a ball out of tinfoil, wrap a string around it and then drag the ball around the room.
  • Get a long feather (or on a stick) and get them to jump in the air (ribbons are good too).

    Be Gentle and Non-Threatening

    Our daughter is constantly asking us why Xena is afraid of her, the simple answer is that she is loud and not so gentle. Cats learn and remember threatening situations. They pick up on your body language and queues (even when you don’t intend to – why do you think they “know” when it’s time for the vet?).

Constantly trying to get near them, trying to pet them (when they aren’t ready for it) can be considered threatening / aggressive; especially when they don’t know you!

Don’t Punish!

Punishment for bad behaviour is not the way to go and usually only teaches a cat not to do something when you are around to punish!  The other thing that it teaches them is that you are the cause of negative things! Not a good way to bond!

Don’t make the first move

Which leads us to not making the first move. When you go to them; try to pick them up and push yourself upon them – it can be scary! Big hands, big clumsy body and feet! Once they are used to you and your presence it’s different; however until then, let them come to you.

Let them come to you

Shinobi, our big boy, will never let you pick him up.  If you pick him up and put him on your lap – he’s gone as soon as you let him go. However, if you find a nice spot; encourage him to come join you and he’s happy to lie on top for hours.

Be Around

If you want them to be comfortable around you – let them get to know you, your scent and your behaviours – i.e. be there! The more they are used to you and what you are going to do and how you are going to behave, the more comfortable they will be with you.

Bribe em

Most cats are willing to be bought with treats (and yes, playing is a treat!); but in this case we mean food.  Find a treat they really like (Shinobi goes nuts for Temptations treats – we know they aren’t great for him; so they are very limited;  but, in small amounts, it’s a great treat for him!) and use the treats to interact and bring them close to you.  You can even build an E.T. type trail to lead them to you!

Introducing a Kitten

Introducing a kitten to household of existing cats can be a stressful time for you, the kitten and the cats.  Doing it careful and slowly is the key to reducing stress for everyone.

First of all, it’s really rare for the kitten to be upset about the new living situation; it’s really much more about the other cats – this is their territory and their environment that this kitten just invaded.  “That’s my spot! Mine!”.  So most of the effort needs to be concentrated on the current cats.

Isolation

You need to start by isolating the kitten from the rest of the house.  First you aren’t going to overwhelm them with too much to see / explore at once; but also to prevent the other cats from seeing them too soon.  The longer they go without seeing each other; the easier it will be between them when the time comes.  Overtime, increase that space.  Initially you could start them in an en suite bathroom and then allow them access to the bed and bathroom (or something similar).

What’s That Smell?

Cats are very smell oriented and smell driven.  As soon as they notice a new scent they will try to figure it out; especially from another animal.  It’s really important that the cats do not see the kitten for as long as possible.  The longer they don’t know it’s a new kitten, the more they will accept the new smell as just a part of the environment.

Spread the smell around!  If the kitten came with a blanket – get the cats with the blanket.  As the kitten puts their smell on various new things (blankets, etc) – spread those around.  A good thing to do is to swap spaces between the kitten and the cats.  Put the cats in the isolated space and the kitten in the rest of the house.  Try to avoid having them see each other!  Let the smells permeate so that they are swapping scents.

See No Evil

The next stage is to introduce them through a door.  Play with the kitten under the door so their paw comes through and make sure that the other cats notice.  This is their opportunity to link smell with something else; but to not see it.

Untouchable

The next stage is to introduce them face to face but in a controlled way.  Ideally through a screen or mesh.  We like to use a show cage or a screen between them to do the initial introduction.

Don’t worry if they hiss; it’s completely normal.  The senior cats will almost always use hissing and paw swipes to express dominance over the new kitten. By introducing it this way you are avoiding physical attacks and getting them use to each other.

The Big Moment

This is the final stage – the face-to-face, all out rumble between the kitten and the cats!  Winner take all!  Or more likely some hissing, paw swiping, the kitten submits and the cat walks away victorious.  This is totally normal and expected.  Cats must establish their own hierarchy – so let them interact and fight a little; however, there is, obviously, a point where you need to step in and protect the kitten (just don’t do it right away).

Trimming your cats nails

Cats nails grow quickly, as quickly as your fingernails.  They should be trimmed as frequently as yours do (at least once a month).

Some cats can properly maintain their nails (though they will be very sharp) and it won’t cause them any problems; however, a lot of cats can have problems if you don’t trim them (additionally they won’t scratch you as much).

You want to trim both the front and back nails (including the dewclaw (thumb)). You can start as young as 8 weeks old.  Talk to your breeder as to how they trim nails and how they can transition to you.

Select a quiet room with no distractions and calmly sit with your cat.  The basic process is as follows:

  • Gently press a paw to extend the nails:
  • Look at the nail from the slide and determine where the nail ends and the quick begins.
  • You need to avoid the quick as if you cut the quick you will cause pain and bleeding.  As well, it will make it harder to cut it in the future (your cat will struggle more).
  • Clip the nails quickly as it’s going to be hard to keep them still for long.
  • Give lots of praise / treats / scratches when finished, to create a positive experience and association with nail clipping.

Some tricks

  • Grab them by the scruff to show dominance if they try to run away.
  • Talk to your cat while clipping.  Give praise for being still (Good Girl/Boy!) or say NO if they try to escape, bite or growl.
  • Cover their head so they can’t see what you are doing.
  • Have a partner distract their attention while you clip the nails.
  • Lift them by the scruff and clip them while scuffed (this will usually work until they are 8 months or so).
  • Wrap them in a towel (only use as a last resort — your cats will hate this!)
  • If all else fails: bring them to your vet to get them clipped.

Cat scratching

Every cat has a need to scratch and if you don’t supply them with sufficient items that they can use for scratching then you will find your table, chair, couch, bed or rug scratched.  So what do they need?

Every cat needs

Both a horizontal and vertical scratching item.  Some cats like to stretch out high or long and some flip between them.  

Cardboard makes excellent material to be scratched.  Avoid carpet as it can confuse the cat into scratching things they shouldn’t (like your favorite rug). You can buy lots of great scratching items on Amazon or your neighborhood pet store.  Here is one of our favorites:

Pet Fusion Cat Scratcher

To encourage scratching you can use cat nip or play with them on /around the scratching post.  A laser pointer can work really well to direct them into the scratching post.

Destructive  Scratching

If you find your cat is destroying your favorite chair or table here are some tips:

  • Move a scratching post directly beside what they are scratching.
  • Gently lift and transfer the cat to the nearest scratching post any time you catch them in the act.  
  • Place tape or aluminum foil on the item being scratched.
  • Spray the spot with Felaway.
  • Clip your cat’s nails more frequently.

Spraying your cat with water usually won’t help as they only learn to not scratch when you are around.

Litter Boxes

How to choose an appropriate litter box

Cats prefer unscented, fine textured litter.  People prefer scented but cats do not, if you switch to a scented litter you may find the don’t use it as much or at all.

Cats like clean litter boxes.  If you don’t clean it regularly that can easily avoid it until it’s clean.

A good depth is 2-3 inches of litter.  Too much and they will spray it all over the place.  Too little and they can avoid it or make a big mess.

Make sure you get a box big enough for your cat.  Bigger cats need bigger litter boxes.  Overweight and large cats will like litter boxes with larger sides. This is an excellent choice as well for stand up pee-ers and those who like to play and dig deep.

Electronic litter boxes

Open Air Litter Robot

We’ve had both success and failure with these litter boxes.  We currently use an Open Air Litter Robot; however, these are expensive and only work for full grown cats. Additionally you need to user only certain types of litter. Quick clumping and fine litter is necessary.

Other electronic litter boxes we used still need to be cleaned really regularly and basically don’t twice the burden very much.  Just not worth the cost.

Flushable litter

Flushable litter is great and we use it for our kittens.  We’ve used a few different kinds and they all seem to work similarly.  The key thing is the cats liking them and the smell to you.

Location

Like in real estate it’s all about location location location.  Find a quiet private location away from their food.

It needs to be easily accessible

You need multiple litter boxes (one per cat minimum and usually one more extra).  This is especially important with multiple cats to avoid litter box guarding.

Maintenance

Daily cleaning is important or they will stop using it.

You can use a covered litter box but not all cats will like it.  If it’s covered you need to clean it very regularly.

Change all the litter at least once a month and you should clean the entire box at that time.

If the litter smells or the bottom of the box is wet then replace the litter.

Replace the box when it’s cracked or smells and can’t be cleaned.

Finding a Cat Breeder

Do they belong to a respectable association or society?

There is no reason any reputable Cat Breeder wouldn’t be a member of a respectable association or society.  They don’t cost a lot of money and they make sure that you are getting the pure bred cat that you are paying for. There’s no reason they (or you) shouldn’t be able to register a kitten.  It costs very little (under $20) to do so.

In Canada they should be associated with TICA (The International Cat Association) or CCA (Canadian Cat Association).

Do they provide a pedigree with your cat?

You should be able to get a 5 generation pedigree with any Bengal Cat.

There are 2 large problems without a pedigree:

  1. Frequent medical issues.  Frequently “kitty mills” or “backyard breeders” are producing cats that don’t have clean, pure bloodlines.
  2. Are you sure you are getting a purebred cat?  The whole point of these registry is to guarantee that they are purebreds and to monitor the breed.  It costs a very minimal fee to be a member of these associations and registering a cat / kitten is a fraction of the cost of the cat itself.  You have to wonder why anyone would pay a large sum of money for a purebred cat which isn’t actually a purebred.

Do they provide a health guarantee?

There are lots of congenital defects for various breeds.  Bengals are prone to: PRA (blindness), HCM (heart disease), PKD (kidney disease) among other congenital diseases.  There are tests for all of these conditions and a responsible breeder will test for and ensure that they are not breeding cats with these conditions.

All cats can have FeLV, FIV, Coccidia, Giardia, etc., which are easily tested for and can be avoided.

It’s absolutely horrible when someone brings home a new family member and then has to watch them die from one of these conditions.

How old are the kittens when they leave their mother?

Everyone wants a kitten as young as possible.  Ideally as soon as it’s weaned!  While it seems like it would be awesome and cute to have a young kitten, understand that it’s very vulnerable – the immune system of a kitten doesn’t kick in until 8-10 weeks, before that it’s entirely from its mother; it’s not socialized – kittens learn behavour from their mothers and their littermates.  The most important age for this is between 6-11 weeks old. Separating kittens too early will make them socially maladjusted and can easily lead to behavioural issues.

What do the breeders feed their cats?

There is so much information now on cat nutrition that anyone who breeds cats has a responsibility to know about it.  Cats are obligate carnivores (meaning that they do not have the ability to make certain amino acids and vitamins that are found in meat.  A simple well-known example is the amino acid Taurine.  Cats must get this in their diet and without it they will suffer from blindness, bone decay and eventually heart failure.  This is why you can’t feed dog food to a cat – it doesn’t contain Taurine).  A good breeder will know something about cat nutrition and be feeding a high quality diet to their cats and kittens.

Here’s some basic information on what to look for in Cat Food and what to avoid:

  • Avoid dry foods as much as possible.
    • Cats get most of their water from food (despite having a water dish they are usually under hydrated if they eat only dry food).
    • Carbohydrate content in most dry foods are too high.
    • Many Dry foods contain high plant-based protein instead of animal protein.

Try Raw Food

Wait, did you say Raw?  As in uncooked?  That – Is – Disgusting!  Perhaps, but what do you think cats are eating in the wild? Do they have a little campfire and cook their mouse, fish, bird? They do just fine on raw food. Their digestive track is very different from ours and they simply don’t have the same problems we would.  For more information, see our  information on feeding Raw Food.

Do they monitor who breeds their kittens?

Any ethical breeder will not let just anyone breed more cats.  As you can see from these points, it’s not just as simple as have a boy and a girl and letting them make kittens.  If the breeder will let you buy a breeding cat without any questions and ensuring that you will be a responsible breeder, then you should probably stay away from that breeder.

Good Homes for Bengal Cats

Are you aware of and up to the responsibilities of being a cat owner?

  • This cat will be part of your family for 10-20 years.  There is a lot of work and commitment involved.  Are you ready for it?
  • Litter boxes, trimming nails, vomit, hair balls and diarrhea, visits to the veterinarian.  It’s not all fun and games.

Cost

  • The price of purchasing a Pure Bred Cat is just the beginning.  Food, litter, toys, treats, veterinarian visits, and insurance are just some of the things you have to be prepared to pay for.

Outdoor or Indoor Cat?

  • An indoor cat can live 17-20 years while an outdoor cat live on average 2-5 years.
  • Outdoor cats catch many more diseases (FeLV and FIV being common).
  • Outdoor cats can get into fights, hit by cars or killed when they drink poison like antifreeze.
  • Pure bred cats can easily be stolen – Your expensive exotic cat could easily end up as someone else’s exotic cat.
  • If you really want your cat to go outdoors, we recommend you build a secure outdoor enclosure or walk them on a harness and leash.

What will you feed your cat?

  • Dry food has been long suspected to cause urinary tract issues and diabetes.  This poor diet leads to dehydrated cats. More Info Here
  • We want to see our cats live long, happy and healthy lives and diet is a big part of this.

Does the Bengal breed fit your lifestyle?

  • Purebred cats tend to have personality traits that are inherent in the breed.
  • Bengals are active, human loving cats.  Their way of bonding is through play.
  • They want attention and are energetic.
  • They are not lap cats and don’t sit quietly on the sofa arm all evening.  If you want a placid cat, a Bengal is not for you.  That isn’t to say a Bengal won’t sit in your lap; just don’t expect them to sit all night!
  • If you plan to leave a single Bengal alone for long periods it’s going to make for a sad, problematic cat.

Bengal Cat Personality

Bengals have a lot of personality and are lively, intelligent and interactive cats.  They, typically, don’t ignore you nor are they dull cats.  They will be an active part of your family.  They are outstanding athletes: running, climbing and jumping to huge heights.  They’ve been known to play fetch and can be trained.  They love attention too and will frequently nuzzle your face, flip on their backs and crave affection.  Don’t be surprised to see your Bengal jump on the bed and kneed the covers with their paws and sleep with you until morning.

Bengals are NOT wild animals.  Unless you specifically buy an early generation Bengal, then your Bengal will be many generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cat and they have been domesticated with lots of skill and work from dedicated Bengal breeders.  They will be no more aggressive or wild than any other domestic cat.

How are Bengals With:

Kids: Great!  Bengals love kids and enjoy their high levels of energy.  All of our Bengals have been socialized with some very energetic, grabby and loud children so they will be familiar with most behaviours that children do. Just remember that children need to be coached on how to approach a kitten and how to be gentle.

Dogs: Great!  With all other pets make sure that they are gradually introduced and have an opportunity to get familiar with each other’s scents before they physically meet.  Bengals can actually bond with dogs and become great friends.

Water: You wouldn’t believe that a cat would like water so much.  Most Bengals love to splash and play with water.  Running water from a sink or a fountain is a blast to play with.  Watch your toilet (especially if you use cleaning agents like bleach) and running hot water.  It’s rare, but some Bengals have also been known to swim or to shower with their owners!