The Bengal cat is a hybrid of a domestic cat and a wild Asian leopard. Given their wild-cat appearance, some people might question whether they have an affectionate side and whether they would make good family pets.
Interestingly, Bengals are very sweet and loving cats, despite their “miniature leopard” appearance. In fact, they generally form deep relationships with their human families. Sure, they can be mischievous at times, and highly demanding, but they are also fun-loving and athletic. But before getting a Bengal cat, you need to consider its specific traits to understand whether they would be a good match for you and your home.
Bengal cat personality
Cat kisses, chirps, clinginess, curling up with their owners in bed – these are just some of the gestures you would expect from an affectionate cat. However, some cats express their love in other, more subtle ways, which are often misinterpreted or overlooked. For active cat breeds like Bengals, their temperament can greatly influence how they show affection.
With this in mind, it is important to understand your cat’s personality so that you are not surprised as to why he behaves the way he does.
Bengals are extremely sociable and playful cats. They are intelligent, curious, and athletic, and the way these miniature leopards bond with their owners is a little different compared with an average cat. You cannot expect them to sit on your lap all day, but they will come to you for some cuddles on their own terms.
Instead of long cuddle sessions, Bengals prefer to indulge in fun activities that ignite their predatory instincts. They are excellent hunters, so you can satisfy this natural urge by providing them with lots of interactive toys. We highly recommend toys that produce sounds or movements and mimic their natural prey, such as the SmartyKat Chitter Critter.
Other things you need to keep in mind about Bengals:
- These hyperactive cats are trainable, so take the opportunity to bond with your Bengal while teaching him some cool tricks and good behavior.
- Unlike most cat breeds, Bengals love being in the water, so do not be surprised if you see your pet chilling in your shower room.
- They are jumpers. You can expect your Bengal to jump onto your kitchen countertop as he waits impatiently for his food.
- Keep your furry friend entertained by providing him with a cat tree or tower. These are fun places for your cat to nap, play, practice his jumping or climbing skills, or just spend some alone time as he views his domain from above.
- They are best kept inside the house. Otherwise, these active fur babies will venture out on hunting escapades and kill every bird or squirrel in your neighborhood.
- They are demanding cats. If you do not give them the attention they seek, they will start behaving mischievously just to get what they want.
Subtle signs of affection from your Bengal
Despite their mischievous and playful traits, Bengals make wonderful companions at home. Although they might have a wild appearance closer to their leopard ancestors, they are not a very aggressive breed as some might believe. Bengals, like other domesticated cat breeds, can also show subtle signs of affection such as:
- Following their owners around the house
- Staring and slow blinking
- Meowing and purring
Do Bengals like being held?
Understanding your feline’s predatory instincts is essential so that you know how much petting or holding is okay without offending your cat. Depending on how they are raised, not all Bengals enjoy being held or picked up by their owners. This is not because they hate their human’s warm cuddles; rather, it has to do with their survival instincts as both predator and prey in the wild.
Let us dive into the details of this:
1. Their whiskers are very sensitive
A cat’s whiskers are equivalent to human fingertips – they are packed with blood vessels and sensitive nerves to help the cat navigate and sense the world around him. Through his whiskers, he is able to approximate distance and space. Those little antennae help your cat jump, climb, or squeeze through a tight space. In the wild, cats also use their whiskers to judge whether their prey is dead or alive.
Given how sensitive these stiff hairs are, it is best to avoid touching whiskered areas such as the nose, above the eyes, and certain parts of the feet and legs.
2. Cats spread their scent through touch
Have you noticed how your cat rubs his head and cheeks against your skin? He is marking you through his scent. This is a way for your cat to tell other animals that you are his human. Sometimes, they also rub their bodies on furniture and other household items to mark their territory and mix their scent with yours. For a cat, having this familiar scent in his environment makes him feel safe and secure.
3. They enjoy scratches
Bengals, like most cats, love being petted, but only on specific areas of their body. They enjoy being scratched under the chin, behind the ears, at the base of the tail, or along their back. Learn these best spots when petting your furry friend and he will love you more. However, as mentioned before, avoid touching sensitive areas such as the whiskers, paws, and belly, or you risk being scratched and bitten.
4. Keep it short and sweet
Despite their loyalty and love for their owners, Bengals are not lap cats, unless you have trained yours otherwise. They prefer short, frequent interactions, and are not the type to be content sitting beside you and cuddling throughout the day.
The mistake made by most cat owners is trying to prolong the cuddles and stroking, which might be beyond the cat’s comfort level. Although some breeds are an exception, the Bengal is definitely not one of them. So, if you want to increase your cuddles and petting sessions with your cat, do so gradually with rewards. Use tasty treats as bribery to encourage him toward longer sessions.
5. They do not like being held
Being held or picked up gives your Bengal the sense of being restrained. Think of how wild cats survive as potential prey. Although they live as predators, they can also be targeted as ideal prey for larger animals. And, when they are held, it gives them the feeling that they have been caught.
Although your furry friend is now domesticated and lives comfortably in a safe home, these natural instincts are deeply ingrained in his genes. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing you can do to eliminate this behavior. If you want your Bengal to be comfortable being picked up or held, he must be trained to tolerate these gestures from a young age.
It is also likely that he might associate being held or restrained with negative experiences such as vaccinations, medicine administration, and grooming sessions, among other things. As much as possible, look for ways to increase your cat’s positive experiences while being held or restrained. Use a rewards-based method to help convince him that being held or picked up is not a threat.
6. Avoid touching your cat during hunt-like play
During a play session that simulates hunting, your cat’s mind goes into predator mode. He is thrilled at chasing and pouncing on the moving object he considers to be prey. At the same time, he is also in survival mode – this means it is also possible for him to be attacked or caught by a larger predator. Hence, touching your furry friend while he is engaged in this hunting mode will trigger a fight-or-flight reaction. This negative experience will not help him come around to the idea of extended petting sessions.
7. Follow the cat’s lead
To increase your bonding time with a Bengal cat, you must let him come to you on his own terms. Do not force him to cuddle, be petted, or sit on your lap if he does not want to. Doing so will only hurt his trust in you (and in other people who will initiate contact in the future).
Are Bengal cats affectionate toward everyone?
While Bengals tend to be affectionate and loving toward their owners, they are usually shy and not so friendly with unfamiliar guests and other pets. This leopard look-alike is highly territorial and dislikes being disrupted by newcomers.
However, this does not mean that Bengal cats can never be affectionate with other people and pets. You do need to put in some time and work to make your companion comfortable with other people and animals. The key is socialization – that is, helping your cat get used to an environment that includes other people and animals. This way, when he grows up, he will not feel threatened or anxious in a new environment.
But what if you adopted an adult Bengal? Then it might be a bit challenging to socialize with the cat, especially if he comes from an abusive background. Cats who are deprived of love could show aggression and feel defensive when a perceived invader comes into their well-established territory. Despite their age, however, adult Bengals can still be trained and successfully socialized; it just takes more time, patience, and effort on your side to help them get used to everyone.
Here are a few additional tips if you plan on pairing your Bengal cat with other pets:
- Slowly introduce a new pet into the household. Consider putting the Bengal cat and the newcomer in separate rooms until they are used to each other’s scents.
- As much as possible, neuter all your male cats to prevent unwanted behavior.
- Male cats are more likely to get along with female cats.
- Use positive reinforcement when introducing your Bengal to a new pet. Never punish the cats if they do not get along at first – this will only hurt the relationship between you and your pet.
- Some pets can get along quickly while others might take months to become friends. Be patient – never force your pets to get along right away. Let them like each other on their own terms.
- It is best not to have another smaller pet at homes, such as a bird, fish, or hamster. Bengal cats are known for their high predatory drive and it is likely for these small pets to suffer under the cat’s sharp claws.
Wrapping it up
Despite their wild looks, Bengal cats are surprisingly affectionate toward their humans. Due to their intelligence, playfulness, and loyalty, these hyperactive cats make fantastic pets at home. However, they might not be the perfect breed if you are looking for a cuddly lap cat.
Bengals can also be very territorial and do not appreciate being picked up or held for too long due to their fight-or-flight instincts. If you do want your Bengal to be more accepting of cuddles and petting, then you need to learn the levels of touch and holding that feels comfortable for them. Training, rewards, and showering your cat with love are all it takes to gradually reduce his territorial behavior and make him more accepting of human affection.
Image: istockphoto.com / BackyardProduction