Common Misconceptions

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Bengals are muscular cats as this 9 month old males shows

There are many misconceptions surrounding Bengal so lets have a look at a few of them.

Is it actually a Bengal?

I see ads every week (dozens of ads some weeks) listing Bengals for sale that are not Bengals. The Bengal has become a favorite of the BYB’s (Back Yard Breeder’s) and kitten/puppy mills as well as the fly by nighters looking for a fast buck. They buy one Bengal and cross it with anything and everything they can find and if the litter has spots they will sell them as a Bengal.

The one thing they all have in common is an excuse or reason why the cat is not registered. It is such a simple and inexpensive process that no reputable breeder would knock off 100’s of dollars from the price of the pet to save the small effort and price it takes to register them.

The fundamentals to produce quality kittens are items that simply can not be cut. Breeder quality Bengals are very expensive and they have small litters and to insure solid results means a high end diet and lots of veterinary visits.

Another thing that has become common is crossing Bengal’s with Siamese and other breeds and claiming that the result is a recognized breed such as a Serengetti even though the kittens bear no resemblance to a Serengetti (which is a cross between an Oriental Shorthair and a Bengal.)

In some places, like Ontario, it is actually illegal to use the term purebred when selling a non-registered animal. In New Brunswick it is illegal to sell a cat or dog unless the breeder is registered and displays their registration number on their ads.  As a buyer you need to educate yourself so you can spot the scam artists. There is a Bengal breeder in Toronto who preys on people’s weaknesses by bringing them to a industrial unit where he shows kittens in cages. Every year 100’s of people “rescue” kittens from this person at $850 to $1000 a kitten and every time they rescue a kitten from him they are directly supporting a kitten mill.

Behavioral Problems

Of the misconceptions, due to the wild blood of their ancestors and their exotic looks, this is probably the one that comes up the most. A behavioral problem is generally considered to be a social issue. A problem of some sort that makes the animal in question unpleasant to be around for some non-physiological reason.

Rather then me trying to convince you, since I’m admittedly biased, I think this would be a good spot to quote an expert. I’d also like to suggest you compare the qualifications of the expert I’m quoting to the qualifications of a certain big cat rescue facility that insists that Bengal’s. are one step from devil spawn. It should quickly become apparent who is trying to manipulate the truth for their own gain.

Solveig Pflueger, PHD, MD, Director of Laboratory Genetics at Bay State Medical Center, Western Campus of Tufts University of Medicine and Chair of The International Cat Association (TICA) Genetics Committee
has this to say on the subject.”SBT Bengal’s are not more prone to having behavioral problems then other breeds of cats.” ( an SBT Bengal is a Bengal’s whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents are registered Bengal’s. with no non domestic cats or cats of other breeds )She goes on to say, “I’m a cat judge for TICA and TICA rules states that you can not call a cat a Bengal until the third generation. The Bengal cat being shown and registered has at least three generations of pedigree and is a very nice domesticated pet. The credit should go to responsible breeders who have worked hard to get a good personality in the Bengal breed.”She then points out that Bengal’s. are being bred to have nice dispositions because judges in TICA cat shows are told to disqualify any Bengal cat who demonstrates any difficult behaviors such as paw swatting or looking in a combative way towards a show judge. “The show standard is unique in TICA toward Bengal’s.” says Dr. Pfleuger. “Any inappropriate display of behavior results in that Bengal being disqualified. Bengal breeders are motivated to breed cats and to bring cats to the show ring who are nice cats.

Showing the pattern on a BengalDr. Pflueger points out that this breed has been held to a higher standard then most and that it has paid off. It is her personal and professional opinion that Bengal’s. are no more aggressive, no harder to litter train, or any harder to live with then any common domestic cat. That’s a pretty nice quote from a pretty impressively qualified expert. That quote is from the Sept 2007 issue of Catnip, a monthly trade magazine targeted at veterinarians and published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tuft’s University.

That article went on to gather information from cat rescue organizations following the logic that if a breed had more behavioral problems then more of that breed would end up in rescue facilities. They contacted four specialized rescue groups and asked them the following

  • How many cats were brought into rescue in 2006?
  • How many of those were brought in for behavioral problems?
  • Of those with behavioral issues how many were rehabilitated and re homed?
  • Of those with behavioral issues how many were unable to be rehabilitated and re homed?
Bengal Behavior Survey
Cats are most commonly brought to these facilities because the owners situation has changed or someone turned in a stray.
Great Lakes Bengal Cat Rescue
  • Total cats in rescue – 50
  • In rescue due to behavioral problems – 1
  • Bengal’s. with behavioral problem rehabilitated and re homed – 1
Main Coon Adoptions in California
  • Total cats in rescue – 152
  • Main Coons in rescue due to behavioral problems – 10
  • Main Coons with behavioral problems rehabilitated and re homed – 8
  • Number unable to be rehabilitated and re homed – 2
Pennsylvania Manx Rescue
  • Total cats in rescue – 30
  • Manx’s in rescue due to behavioral problems – 10
  • Manx’s with behavioral problems rehabilitated and re homed – 8
  • Number unable to be rehabilitated and re homed – 2
Southern California Abyssinian Rescue
  • Total cats in rescue – 52
  • Abyssinians in rescue due to behavioral problems – 2
  • Abyssinians with behavioral problem rehabilitated and re homed – 2
Some statistics that help give some sense of proportion to the numbers above is that as of June 2007 more Bengal’s. were registered with the TICA then any other breed of cat. The four most registered breeds with TICA are:

  • Bengal – 60,570
  • Ragdolls – 40,423
  • Main Coons – 35,814
  • Persians – 27,103

Looking at the numbers above it is quickly apparent that the Bengal does not suffer from any inherent behavioral issues or problems. The type of problems that owners experience generally have to do with unintentional neglect or poor socialization by either the breeder or owner.

Hypoallergenic

It is not uncommon hear that the Bengal is hypoallergenic. The suggestion is that people with cat allergies don’t react to the Bengal.

By definition all the term hypoallergenic means is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. We do not advertise our cats as hypoallergenic even though they are.

While there are four primary proteins at fault the most common is the glycoprotein Fel d 1. It is found in the sweat, urine and saliva of all cats and scientists have no idea what it’s purpose is. It is the saliva that is the main cause of the reaction in humans. When a cat grooms itself the saliva containing the protein is deposited on the fur and dries out. Once dried it breaks into a powder and is shed into the air where it can take months to break down completely.

I have placed a number of cats with people that were allergic to conventional domestic cats.

For example, I have a client who dreamed of owning a cat since childhood. She was born with a defective heart and had her first open heart surgery while still an infant with several more to follow. Among her various health issues is an allergy to cats.

Unlike some the of the others who came searching us out for that reason she just happened to come into the store looking for fish and after being there for 20 minutes was shocked when the store cat walked by. When I told her the cat lived in the store she was quite taken aback. It has now been several years and she owns two of our Bengals.

The explanation likely lies in the Bengals fur. Bengals do not have the same type of fur as any other breed of domestic cat. They have a single layer true pelt.

While they are a very clean cat they do not groom nearly as much as many domestic breeds and they do not shed in the same manner. So while the protein is present in them, like it is in all cats, It is likely that these two things in combination resulting in less of it being released into the air. The lower levels are more tolerable and continued exposure to the lower levels seems to, for many people, allow them become more tolerant of the protein.

Just for the record there are several other breeds of cats that are also accepted as hypoallergenic by cat people and all of them have unique fur as a defining trait of their breed. The most notable being the Sphinx. There has also been a recent study that seemed to show that Siberian cats, especially females, have lower levels of Fel d 1. There is apparently a small follow up study being done that focuses specifically on testing the breed.

I get calls and emails on a regular basis asking about their hypoallergenic nature and my response is that although true it certainly is not effective for everyone. While we have had many success stories more then half of the people who come searching for the mythical cure still react in the presence of a Bengal, or at least the lines of Bengals we breed. Because we have a Bengal that lives in the store it is very easy for people to stop in for a visit and put it to the test.

The problem to date is that there have been no significant studies done beyond those funded to attempt to find a medicinal cure. Their data has suggested no significant difference in reaction but it was incidental data as it was not the focus of the studies. Bengals were never used in any of those studies to my knowledge.

No party seems interested in funding a focused study as there is little profit or fame in proving it one way or another. The profit is in finding a medicinal cure and they don’t need to study cats to find that as they already know the cause.

That said seeing as the term hypoallergenic simply means less likely to cause a reaction common sense should suggest that some breeds will be for some people.

Bengal Kitten in the Tub

Bengal Kitten in the Tub

Bengals love water 

Well some love it, some like it, some are mildly interested and some will wait till the middle of the night and pee on your bed if you get them wet… I’m joking 🙂 Bengals on the whole definitely are more likely to show an interest in water and some do indeed love it.

Bengal’s are extremely active.

I had heard that over and over and in my mind I had created this image of a hyper active animal screaming around the room for 12 hours a day. Well although it is true that Bengal’s. are extremely active it is nothing like that. They are simply up and about for a longer period of the day then most domestics.

They are into everything and if there is any noise in the house POOF! a Bengal appears… or a herd of Bengal’s. depending on your situation. The key is in supplying a means for them to burn off that energy. If this is something you can not do then you should look at another breed as you are just asking for behavioral problems. This can be said of a number of other breeds as well.

Bengals are not suitable for apartment living

Well this is not a clear yes or no answer but if pushed I’d have to say that its true. In most instances I would not suggest a Bengal for apartment living although if you are willing to make sure it is well entertained then it may work for you. When you are making this decision think of the cat.

They may not be legal where I live

Well that might be true as there are apparently some states that have some odd laws on the books. They are legal throughout Canada as they are classified as domestic cats.

Spraying or marking territory

Spraying as a behavioral problem does not occur with in the Bengal breed any more frequently then it does in any breed of cat. Cats mark their territory by scent marking and they do this in several different ways. Urine marking is the method that bothers people the most and it is not a training problem, it is a core level instinct.

Because it a strong instinctual reaction you can not train your pet to stop so the most common approach to solving this problem is to get the cat fixed. If your cats are not spayed or neutered and you are not breeding then you should get it done immediately. Sexual excitement often triggers marking behavior and a stray cat walking by a window outside is enough to start it. Generally speaking altering by six months of age stops the habit from developing.

Spayed or neutered cats (that’s right, both sexes) can still spray, although they typically do not. Sometimes changes in your cat’s environment can trigger a bout of spraying as it expresses its frustration or stress. Some situations that can cause a cat to begin spraying:

  • A new home
  • A change in diet
  • A new pet
  • A new family member
  • New furniture or rearranging
  • A new location for the litter box
  • A dirty litter box
  • A new brand of litter

There is no standard set of circumstances as it varies from cat to cat. Some are very sensitive while others are not but in all cases they have a pretty limited ways of telling you that something is wrong. Breeds like Main Coon’s and Manx’s are known to be some what more problematic but the fact is any cat can spray and Bengal’s. are certainly no more prone to it then any any breed.

Female Bengal with huge eyes

The large eyes help set them apart from other cats

Bengals are very vocal

The breed is not naturally any more vocal then most breeds but if you, as the owner, encourage the behavior they are definitely capable of becoming a very vocal cat. Not only can they be very vocal, they can make some of the darndest noises you have ever heard. Here are some videos

Spaying – She’s not strong enough to be spayed

If the cat isn’t strong enough to be spayed then she certainly isn’t strong enough to have kittens.

Spaying – Having a litter will settle her down

That is completely false. There is absolutely no physical or psychological benefit to a cat having a litter prior to spaying.

Declawing, my vet says it is ok

Declawing is the equivalent of 10 separate amputations. Vets do it for the money and people often choose to believe that the amputations angle is just a line given by cat lovers. Please take a minute and click here to read our page on the subject.

Cats should be let out at night

Personally I don’t believe cats should be allowed out to roam under any circumstances. When they are turned lose on the neighborhood they go from a pet to being an invasive species. It is not good for the cat or the local fauna. Please take a minute and click here to read our page on the subject.

Cats can live on dog food or can be vegetarian or they need milk

Cats, unlike dogs, are obligate carnivores which means they are a pure carnivore. As a result they never evolved the ability to digest carbohydrates in a nutritionally significant way.

Dog food doesn’t contain the required vitamins for a cat. If this is their primary food they will suffer poor health, failing eye sight and an early death.

Although there are commercially prepared vegetarian diets for cats it is extremely unhealthy for them. It is foolish and cruel to impose human morals on cats. If you are morally opposed to eating meat get a rabbit as a pet. Do not torture a cat.

It is not at all uncommon for cats to become lactose intolerant after weaning. A cat has no way of knowing it has developed an intolerance but it knows that it brings back all kinds of pleasant memories of time spent as a kitten. The cat will not make the connection to the milk and the diarrhea This would not be a problem for a wild cat as it has no sources of milk but then we intervene. While the intent might be good its just another case of applying our preferences inappropriately. Please take a minute and click here to read our page on the subject.

In Conclusion

In our experience they are a wonderful companion to share your house with. Although they are different from any other breed we have experienced that are certainly no more difficult to live with. If you are a true cat lover it is unlikely that you will experience anything but joy from inviting a Bengal to live with you.