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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Alan Robinson, Animal Photography
If you love a cat with an exotic look but without the size and danger of a wild cat, the Bengal was developed with you in mind. Created by crossing small Asian Leopard Cats with domestic cats, this large-boned, shorthaired cat stands out for his spotted or marbled coat of many colors.
Bengals with seal sepia, seal lynx and seal mink color patterns, which have a pale white or cream background, are known as “snow” Bengals.
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.
Some Bengals are fond of playing in water, and you may find yours fishing out of the aquarium if you’re not careful. This is a happy, entertaining cat who wants lots of attention. He does best with a person who spends a lot of time at home and will enjoy playing and interacting with him.
The short coat is easy to groom with weekly brushing. Trim the nails as needed.
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.
The International Cat Association recognized Bengals in 1991. The breed is not recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association.
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.
They are also highly intelligent and enjoy the attention that comes with being clicker-trained. Challenge their brain and keep them interested in life by teaching them tricks and games and providing them with interactive toys or puzzle toys that will reward them with kibble or treats when they learn how to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in the home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Bengals have hereditary health issues that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about who you buy from. One possible condition is polycystic kidney disease, but DNA tests are now available to help remove affected cats from the breeding pool. Bengals may also be more prone to some infectious diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis and trichimonas foetus, a protozoal infection that causes diarrhea. Responsible breeders take steps to identify or avoid these problems.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Bengal at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
Bengals have a short, luxurious, soft coat that is easy to care for with weekly brushing. He will love the attention, and if you brush him more often you will find fewer dust bunnies and hairballs around the house.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually weekly. Check the ears every week for redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush his teeth frequently at home with a vet-approved pet toothpaste and schedule veterinary cleanings as needed. Start brushing, nail trimming and teeth brushing early so your kitten becomes accepting of this activity.
You want your Bengal to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality and looks of the Bengal, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Fanciers Breeder Referral List and The International Cat Association.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to be available. Many breeders won't release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Bengal might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
Sometimes pedigreed cats end up at the shelter after losing their home to an owner’s death, divorce or change in economic situation. Check the listings on Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet.com or the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and ask breeders if they know of a Bengal who is in need of a new home.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter:
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Bengal in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Bengals available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Bengal. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Bengals love all Bengals. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. A Bengal rescue network can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for Bengal rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Bengal, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a cat from a shelter. In states with “pet lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Bengal to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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