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Are Bengals ‘Fierce’?

Some people have assumed that ‘wild animals are fierce’, so any pet with wild blood must be more likely to be ‘fierce’. It is true that one of the differences between a domesticated animal and a wild one is its ability to interact happily with humans, though more often than not small wild cats are more likely to be scared of humans than to attack them.

However, a Bengal is not a wild animal. It is most definitely a domestic animal which has been selectively bred over several generations for character as well as appearance, and Bengals today should be no more aggressive (or defensive) than any other cat. There are reports of some difficulties with temperament very early in the Bengal’s development but for many years breeders have been working very hard on Bengal character, and these reports are no longer heard. You should, of course, always get to meet kittens and their parents to evaluate their character before making a purchase, as you would any other cat.

In summary, Bengals have very engaging, energetic, loving characters and this is one of the main reasons they are wonderful pets. Their character would not make them ideal pets for someone who wants a quiet, low key companion, but makes them amazing pets for people who want a more ‘dog-like’ member of the family, along the same lines as oriental cats, but with many special features that make them unique and rewarding pets.

Is a Bengal right for you?

The first question you must ask yourself is - why do you want a Bengal? Are you looking for a family pet, a show cat, a "wild animal in the home", a companion for an invalid, an apartment cat, or are you thinking of breeding Bengals? You need to examine your reasons for buying a Bengal carefully before spending hundreds of pounds or much more on an animal with very specific needs. Not all Bengals are alike and you must find one which matches your needs or this experience could be a stressful one for you and the cat.

A Bengal cat is one which is at least four generations removed from the original cross. These cats and any following generations make great pets and are incidentally, the only type of Bengal which is recognised by the GCCF for show status. The F1, F2, and F3 cats (first, second and third generation removed from the wild) are more independent and best left to the experts, who use these for specific breeding purposes such as establishing bloodlines.

Visiting Breeders

Once you have contacted one of the breed clubs and been given a list of reputable breeders, it is important to visit more than one of these. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, it will give you more idea of what Bengal kittens and adults look like, and what are the differences between different breeders’ cats. For instance, some breeders’ cats may have a golden glitter over their coat, and others may have a wilder look to the face, or bigger spots, or rosettes, or a combination of several factors. All breeders are aiming for different things at different times in their breeding programmes in order to produce cats which meet the show standard and also improve it in some aspect. So you may well prefer one particular breeder’s cats.

Secondly, it is important that you buy from a breeder that you feel comfortable with and whose advice you value. Your breeder should act as your mentor whilst your new Bengal is settling in and will be able to help with any problems that might arise. Genuine breeders will be dedicated to their cats and will be keen to know what happens to them after they leave their care. Some breeders keep their cats in the home, others in catteries or in a combination of these. However they are kept, the Bengals should be friendly, well socialised and healthy, with shiny fur, clean bottoms and bright eyes. Do not buy from a breeder whose cats have runny eyes, or who has so many litters of kittens in one room that it is difficult to tell which kitten belongs to which parent.

Which Cat?

When you have seen two or three breeders and played with their Bengals, you will be able to decide if you really want one of these active, attention seeking cats. If you are looking for a show cat or a breeding queen, you must buy the best you can afford. If you are after a family pet, this will cost less, as breeders will often have near perfect cats which are unsuitable for showing and breeding in some respect. For instance the cat may be more lightly built than the breed standard requires, or it may have a white spot on its chest. It will make a marvellous pet with all the Bengal attributes.

As a pet, it does not matter whether you choose a female or a male, provided that you have it neutered/spayed. Neutered male cats seem to be overwhelmingly loving in my experience, and spayed females a little more independent, but both make excellent companions. You may have decided on a breeding female (queen) or a female show queen for Championship classes. This will not be spayed and you should be prepared for some "calling" and flirtatious behaviour during your cat’s breeding seasons. The breeder will advise you. I do not recommend that you keep an unneutered male cat. Stud cats, as they are called, are best left to the experts as they have some antisocial habits, such as spraying in the house, fighting, roaming and siring unwanted kittens. A neutered cat will be a much cleaner, happier pet and can be shown in Premiership classes if you wish to have a male Bengal for showing.

The "Fuzzies"

While you are looking for your kitten and visiting breeders, you will see many different kittens of different ages, and you may notice that the older kittens appear to be fuzzy with less clear markings than the very young kittens. Like many baby wild animals, all Bengals go through an ugly duckling stage called the "fuzzies", where they lose the clarity of their markings before later regaining them with their adult coat. Unfortunately, the "fuzzies" are at their worst at about ten weeks old, when kittens are first ready to go their new homes. This is quite normal. It is best to see the kittens first (or a photograph of the kittens) at an earlier age, between two to six weeks old. This way you can see what the adult markings will be like, and that the kitten does not have a ticked coat or long hair, which are both faults. Alternatively, some breeders do not let their kittens go to their new homes until they are past the fuzzy stage, at around twelve weeks old.

Kitten or Cat?

When you choose your cat, you will have seen plenty of Bengal cats and kittens. Obviously kittens are quite adorable, and many people choose these because kittens fit in more quickly with other established cats and dogs at home. Young Bengals are quite hyperactive and excitable and take a few months to learn their manners. They have energy to spare, and seem to have two modes; the on mode, when they tear round the house, leaping, and climbing, and the off mode, when they flop into an exhausted heap.

Two Bengal kittens will exercise each other far more effectively than you can, and will love having a constant playmate should you not be in the house all day. If you have toddlers and find this prospect daunting, it may be worth considering a slightly older cat, who has sobered and matured a little. Many breeders "run on" promising kittens for possible show or breeding purposes and these cats may not always fulfil their early potential. So sometimes breeders will have lovely cats available at 6 months to a year old which will make great pets for the right home. Whatever cat you choose, make sure that the breeder gives you vaccination certificates, worming certificates, GCCF or TICA registration papers and insurance certificates. Keep in touch with your breeder, you may well decide you want another Bengal once you’ve lived with one!

How much will it cost me?

Prices vary somewhat from breeder to breeder, and often depend on the individual merits of specific cats. However, as an approximate guide, 'pet quality' Bengals typically sell for around £550 to £750 in the UK these days. For more advanced owners, top quality showing and breeding cats can cost from £1000 to a few thousand pounds, depending on the quality of the individual cat.

Buying a Bengal kitten - Checklist

  1. Contact a Bengal breed Club.
  2. Show Bengal or pet?
  3. Kitten or cat?
  4. Male or female?
  5. Visit several breeders.
  6. Look for shiny fur, bright eyes and clean bottoms. There should be no runny eyes or noses, or pot bellies.
  7. Look for friendly, outgoing cats/kittens which are busy and active but do not mind being picked up or stroked. Some cats/kittens will be asleep!
  8. Ensure that you are given a GCCF or TICA pedigree, vaccination certificates and insurance certificates.

Protecting your Bengal from loss

  1. Keep your Bengal indoors. This keeps it safe from traffic and getting lost.
  2. Keep an identity tag on the collar, with your phone number and post code. The post code is very important, as animal rescue centres will only try the number you have written on the tag. Don't put your name or the cat's name on the tag.
  3. Microchip your pet. This is painless, and very effective. Ask your vet for details.
  4. Keep open windows netted. Bengals, like any cats, are great escape artists.
  5. Keep your Bengal in a travelling cage when travelling. Keep him faced away from onlookers; no cat likes to be stared at.
  6. Teach your Bengal to come to its name.
  7. Insure your Bengal cat. This won't bring back a lost pet, but it will really help with vet bills, should your Bengal have an accident.