The Bengal cat is considered one of the most intelligent cat breeds. Personality-wise, the breed is often compared to dogs because of his affectionate nature. This combination makes the Bengal cat perfect for training. If you want to train a Bengal cat, here are a few important things that you need to keep in mind:
Training a Bengal cat
Many people believe that training cats is almost impossible because of their willful nature, unlike dogs that possess the combination of intelligence and the desire to please their humans. But if you are lucky to own a Bengal cat, you have the feline equivalent of a dog: an intelligent and highly-trainable cat. However, you need to learn how to train your pet for a couple of important reasons.
For starters, cats require both physical and mental stimulation. More so with Bengals that trace their roots to actual wild cats. Lack of mental stimulation, in particular, can lead to behavioral problems like destructiveness and aggression.
Second, training reinforces your bond with your Bengal. As you spend more time with your pet, he will grow closer to you and he will appreciate your time and focus.
Training a Bengal (or any cat for that matter) should consist of two components: basic or obedience training and tricks.
Bengal cat training essentials
Despite the Bengal’s cat reputation for intelligence and knack for training, it is critical to remember that each feline is unique. Your cat may be more difficult or easier to train than other Bengals. What is critical is for you to remain patient.
Second, remember that all cats, including Bengals, do not respond well to punishment. Instead of getting the response you want, your cat may run away and hide. And because cats have good memories, your pet may resent you.
Instead of punishing your cat for bad behavior, encourage positive behavior through rewards. Cats respond well to reward-based training. Offering treats and words of praise allow cats to associate their actions with a favorable outcome.
Aside from offering treats, cats also respond well to clicker training, which is a type of reward-based training. Every time your cat performs an action that you are training him for, you will press the clicker before giving him a treat. Initially, your cat may not understand how the clicker works. But because of the Bengal’s innate intelligence, it can take a few tries before he forms a positive association with the clicker.
As with dogs, cats should only be trained for short bouts, especially the Bengal. Bengals can become bored easily and focus their attention elsewhere.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to focus on one type of training at a time. Proceed to a different type of training only after your cat has mastered the skill you are trying to teach him.
Ideally, you should start training the moment you bring him home. Although it is still possible to train adult cats, kittens are more receptive to training.
And to make your pet more receptive during each session, schedule your training a few minutes before mealtime. A hungry cat has more motivation to participate compared to one that is already full.
Basic training for your Bengal cat
Before teaching your Bengal cat cool tricks that will wow houseguests, it is better to start with the basics like litter box and behavior training.
1. Litter box training
Training might be a misnomer as cats know instinctively how to use a litter box. Plus, if you get your Bengal from a reputable breeder, it is highly likely that he has been taught how to use a litter box. However, it is still a good idea to figure out if your new pet knows how to use the litter box. If your cat still does not know how to use one, here are the steps that you need to undertake.
Start by isolating your cat in a spare room. Make sure that the room has a feeding and drinking station as well as a clean litter box.
Leave your cat inside the room for a few days and observe if he uses the box. If he does not, pick up his poop and place it inside the litter box. The scent of his feces will attract him to use the box. If all goes well, it will take about a couple of days before your new cat learns how to use the litter box.
If your cat still does not use the litter box after a couple of days, try putting him inside it after eating. Once inside the litter box, scratch the litter using your fingers. Ideally, this should give your cat a clue on how to use his litter box.
If this fails, clean the litter box, especially if another cat has used it before. You can deodorize it with baking soda before refilling it with litter. It is also a good idea to try a different brand of the litter as some cats are picky.
2. Behavioral training
Like most cats, an untrained Bengal can exhibit a few unwanted behaviors. These include scratching, spraying, urinating, aggression, stress, overgrooming, and biting. Before addressing these concerns, it is critical to understand one key principle: you need to see these behaviors from your cat’s perspective.
When a cat scratches a piece of furniture, for example, there is no malice or bad intent. Instead, what you are seeing is your cat’s instinct at work. Cats scratch surfaces to limber up and to facilitate the release of sharper claws.
And when it comes to your cat’s instincts, there is not much that you can do to stop these. You can, however, redirect his attention. Going back to scratching, you can redirect this instinct to a scratching post instead of a piece of furniture.
As with other types of training, your pet will respond better through positive reinforcement. Punishing an erring cat will only make matters worse.
On the other hand, if your Bengal shows a tendency for rough play, like biting or scratching you, there is one trick that you can use to discourage your pet. Every time your Bengal starts to become aggressive, stop him in his tracks by startling him with a loud sound. Clapping or hissing is more than enough to get the desired effect. After making a loud noise, leave your cat alone.
Do this every time your cat becomes too aggressive in his interactions with you. Eventually, your pet will understand that being aggressive has consequences.
3. Teaching your cat to walk on a leash
All cats need physical exercise. And one of the best yet simplest forms of exercise is walking. But to do that with your Bengal, there are a few things that you need to do.
First, you need to purchase the essentials: a harness and a leash.
Harnesses come in two basic types: the strap and the jacket-type. Each of these has its own advantages but in terms of ease of putting the harness on a cat, the jacket-type is the better of the two. Whatever type of harness you choose, make sure that you buy one that fits your cat snugly. Otherwise, your pet can wriggle out of his harness.
As for the leash, you can buy a fixed or retractable one. Either can work for walking your Bengal. However, some Bengal owners prefer retractable leashes because this type of leash allows them to vary the length.
Begin leash training by putting on the harness on your cat. During these initial attempts to get your pet accustomed to wearing a harness, provide your Bengal with treats. Do not keep the harness on your cat for a long time. For the first few times, keep the harness on him for a few minutes.
After a few tries, he will get used to the idea of wearing a harness. Once that happens, you can attach the leash to the harness. Just like in harness training, attach the leash to the harness for a few minutes. Repeat until your cat becomes comfortable with both the harness and leash.
Next, take your Bengal out to your yard and allow him to explore your property. Once he becomes more confident and comfortable, you can take him out for a short walk.
Initially, your Bengal may just sit down and avoid walking completely. Just be patient. During these initial attempts, allow your Bengal to dictate the pace. When he becomes comfortable, he will take a walk with you.
Again, do not punish your Bengal. Neither should you pull on the leash to coax your pet to take a walk. Instead, soothe your pet with a calm and reassuring voice.
Teaching your Bengal cat tricks
Once your Bengal has mastered the basics, it is now time to teach him a few simple but cool tricks. Teaching a cat to perform tricks is a great way to engage your cat’s mind and reinforce the bond between you. Plus, a cat that performs tricks is a rare sight that can amaze friends and loved ones.
1. Start with clicker training
Clicker training is the foundation of all further training. When a cat understands how the clicker works, it becomes easier for him to learn tricks. Initially, your goal is to teach your pet to associate the clicker with a food reward. Start by sitting with your pet and clicking on the clicker. After each click, give your cat a treat. Perform this about 10 times. Eventually, your cat will associate the sound of the clicker with a reward.
Do this two to three times. This is enough to reinforce your initial training. Then, you can move to target stick training. A target stick serves as a guide for your Bengal when you are teaching him cool tricks.
Before starting the session, put a small piece of smelly food like tuna or wet cat food at the end of the stick. Then, allow your cat to walk to the end of the stick where his treat is placed. When your Bengal smells the food, click the clicker. This will signal your cat to eat his treat. Do this several times.
Next, move the stick farther from your cat, forcing him to stand up and walk closer to it. Again, click the clicker to signal your cat to eat the treat. Do this two to three times.
For the following sessions, there is no need to put a treat on the end of the target stick. Your cat will follow the stick because he has learned that he receives a treat after each click. Each time you move the stick around and your cat follows its end, click the clicker and give your pet a treat.
After a couple of sessions, your Bengal should have mastered clicker training and you are now ready to move to more complex tricks.
One of the easiest tricks that you can teach your Bengal is commanding him to sit. Start the training session by getting your cat to stand up. The easiest way to do that is to make him come to you by using the target stick.
Next, move the target stick close to your cat’s nose. However, do not give your cat a treat, not yet. Instead, coax your cat to sit down by moving the stick above his head. As your cat tracks the stick, he will inevitably have to sit down. Once he sits down, click the clicker and give him his treat.
3. Standing up
After your Bengal has mastered sitting, you can move to training him to stand up on command. Start by commanding your cat to sit. After that, move the stick above him to a height that he will need to reach up with his paws. Once he reaches for the stick, click the clicker and then give him his treat.
4. Shake hands
Teaching your Bengal how to shake hands can be tricky as some cats are not accustomed to getting their paws touched. If your Bengal allows you to touch his paws, you can proceed.
Start the training by picking up one of his paws. Afterward, click the clicker and give him a treat. Do this a few times until he learns that he will be rewarded when his paw is in your hands.
Next, put out your hand in front of your cat. Command him to shake your hand. Your Bengal should extend his paw and put it into your hand. After that, give him a treat.
5. Spinning around
Begin the training session by hovering the target stick above your Bengal’s head. Then move it in a circular motion. Your cat should follow the end of the stick while moving in a circle. Initially, you will need to move the stick slowly until your cat gets the hang of it. After a few tries, you can teach your Bengal to move in two directions circularly.
Training is essential for Bengals
Most cat owners stop training their pets after they learn how to use the litter box. They think that a cat’s independent and willful nature makes it practically impossible to train them. But all cats can be trained, especially your Bengal. Training is a good way to stimulate your cat’s mind and body and prevent unwanted behavior.
Image: istockphoto.com / kazanlena