The Bengal is one of the most desirable cat breeds, adored for its leopard-style marbled coat and athletic figure.
Still, as Bengals descend from the wild Asian leopard cat, some people are concerned about bringing a Bengal into a domestic environment.
Having originated in the United States, there were nearly 2,000 Bengal breeders worldwide as of 2019.
So we searched the web to hear from Bengal owners and see what living with these wild-looking kitties is really like? Are they just as cuddly as a standard moggie, or are they too much of a handful?
If you’re considering getting a Bengal, you’ll surely want to know what to expect before making a decision about whether this is the right cat for you.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of bringing a Bengal into your home.
Bengal Cat Pros
Gorgeous, unique coats
Of course, the Bengal’s distinctive yet beautiful coat is one of this breed’s most famous traits. They are blessed with this coat because they descend from domestic cats bred with Asian Leopards, resulting in stunning leopard-like spots.
Another feature that makes their coats distinctive is the shimmering effect it has. Many Bengal’s fur appears glittery under sunlight. This is due to a specific gene passed down to them, known as the “glitter gene.” The shimmer usually has a golden tone but can also be copper or platinum.
Loyal and affectionate
Bengals have several dog-like traits, one of which is following their owners around. This is a Bengal’s way of showing their owner affection, as they are too active to sit on your lap and snuggle.
It is also related to their high curiosity. As social cats, they like to be involved in everything you do. So while it may get annoying sometimes, remember that your Bengal is following you because they desire to stay close to you.
What’s more, if you’re working from home, you might be tempted to shut your kitty out of the room during a video call. However, this will likely just result in them meowing by the door, so it’s best to include them in your life as much as they want!
Bengals are more intelligent than many other cat breeds and can solve complex problems and puzzles. They also possess an excellent memory, so when they do something once, they never forget it.
This makes Bengals an easy feline to teach tricks to. Many Bengal owners successfully teach their spotted kitties basic commands like ‘sit,’ ‘lay,’ and ‘high five’ and train them to walk on a leash. They are also excellent candidates for fetch. John Shannon on Quora agrees and says his Bengal “plays fetch better than any dog.”
Being able to teach a cat cool tricks is awesome. However, note that the Bengal’s high intelligence can sometimes result in them working out things you would rather they didn’t, such as opening the kitchen cupboards. Elaine Griffing Pate shares the following advice:
Be prepared to put child locks on your cabinets… And expect they might figure out how to penetrate the cabinet anyway.
Can sense their owner’s emotions
The Bengal’s high intelligence also means they can differentiate between their owner’s moods and notice changes in their emotional state. For example, they can pick up subtle cues from the tone and gestures you use when speaking to them and alter their behavior based on what they are sensing.
Because of this, Bengals can get distressed when their owner is sick or in pain. K.Bennett shared her story online:
Bengals are amazing, curious, but also very loyal and loving. I had a pretty bad car accident several years ago and had a long hospital stay. They allowed my parents to bring him up there because he was getting very depressed and acting out. When I got home, he didn’t/wouldn’t leave my side. My parents had to move his litter box and food on a table near the bed!
Bengals love to play and have some very quirky and impressive traits that make you laugh. For example, they can jump super high, and unlike most other cats, they love rather than hate water.
When talking about his female Bengal’s unusual love for water, John Shannon says:
She drinks water off her paw and is right-handed, so she will only use her right paw. She loves water and likes a bath; once the water is out, she will jump in and wet herself all over.
Discussing the funny quirks of her male Bengal, Nicole Selvaggio shares:
He likes sleeping on the beanbag in the bathtub when left to his own devices and does partial backflips while attacking the feather wand.
Bengal Cat Cons
High energy levels
As descendants of the Asian Leopard, Bengal cats have a lot of energy! Therefore, they require more playtime and stimulation than your average Moggie.
You might think that letting them outside is enough to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. However, this is not the case as Bengals are like dogs in the sense that they need interactive play with their owners.
Bengals stay active their entire life, unlike some cat breeds that grow mellow with age. Elaine Griffing Pate on Quora says:
They are very active until they reach about 5–6 years old. Our Bengal girl is going on 12 years old and still acts like a kitten.
So what happens if a Bengal gets bored? Tina Fox gives insight into what it’s like to deal with a bored Bengal:
Unlike a regular house cat, if a Bengal doesn’t have something to do, they will create their own amusement such as opening a cupboard, dragging out a pack of lentils, and stringing them through every room in the house.
So, unless you don’t mind vacuuming multiple times a day, it’s best to buy a wide range of cat toys and games, including complex puzzle toys. In addition, be sure to dedicate time daily for interactive play sessions with your kitty.
Can suffer separation anxiety
Bengals don’t do well when left alone for too long because of their need for human interaction. This is not to say you shouldn’t get one if you work full time. It’s OK to leave your Bengal alone for eight hours or so, providing they have plenty of toys and activities to occupy themselves with.
Still, the level of neediness a Bengal has varies from cat to cat, so David Wilson on Quora shared the effective solution he found:
“We got 2 Bengals; that sorted out the attention problem. They are always together, prowling around looking for what they can get into next, but they’re also very loving. If I say “hello,” I will always get an answer. I wouldn’t change them for anything.”
It’s also important to note that Bengals (even two together) should not be left alone for longer than 24 hours. If this happens on more than a few occasions, your Bengal could develop behavioral problems like inappropriate urination.
Bengals are a loud breed that enjoys “chatting” with their owners. They use a wide range of tones and sounds, which many Bengal owners learn to differentiate between.
For example, your Bengal may greet you with a happy chirp just to say hello. However, suppose they are making a loud, consistent, and whining meow. In that case, they are likely letting you know they are not getting enough attention.
Either way, Bengals are one of the most vocal breeds and are not afraid to use their voice to demand your attention. Elaine Griffing Pate shares the following advice for anyone considering this breed:
They meow a lot. Sometimes they want something. Sometimes they just want to talk. If random loud meowing bothers you, don’t get one.
When discussing the disadvantages of owning a Bengal cat on Quora, Emily Testa explains how their wild cat lineage can make them pretty mischievous felines:
They are more connected to their wild ancestor, the Asian Leopard Cat. This is what makes them look so beautiful. But it also gives them a less domesticated, more feral edge to their attitude.
They are smart enough to learn that if you don’t like something they are doing, they’d better wait til you head off to work or go to sleep before doing it. They will seem perfectly behaved till you turn your back. Bengals are unique amazing cats, but trust me when I say they will do whatever they want.
Of course, cats are not dogs, and training them to behave in a particular way is always tricky, no matter the breed. Still, many Bengal owners believe that because of their wild roots and high energy levels, Bengals have more of a tendency to misbehave.
David Wilson shared his experience with living with two Bengal cats:
They are real nut cases, so much energy and so inquisitive and mischievous. We have found that nowhere is safe from them; they can open drawers, take lids off boxes, and even top cupboards cannot be left open.
Still, the extent of their “wild antics” typically depends on their generation. As Tina Fox explains:
Unless you are a very experienced cat owner, ensure that your Bengal is 10 generations domestic through their pedigree. The further down they are bred, the fewer wild behavior issues you are likely to have.
While some may see the Bengal’s high energy, mischievous personality, and frequent meowing as bad, one thing is for sure; life with a Bengal is never dull!