Prices of exotic cats, typically wild cat hybrids such as the Bengal cat, have tumbled in the UK because there are more breeders and their cats can be bought online at the click of a mouse and no doubt many will be bought this Christmas but they should not be bought by people who are unaware of what they’re getting into because it may lead to surrendering the cat later, which is exactly what is happening judging by the response from cat rescue organisations and charities.
The Blue Cross which rehomes about 10,000 animals annually has received 49 Bengal cats this year which is up from 18 in 2012. The charity’s operations manager, Julie Stone, said:
“We are taking in more Bengal breed cats than ever before. It may be that people are drawn in by their beauty but potential owners need to know that they can be very demanding. The ever increasing demand for unusual pets and the huge growth in Internet sales has led to more people being able to buy exotic cats like Savannah and Ocicats without having experience or understanding of the specialist breeds.”
Note: It seems that Julie Stone has mistaken the Ocicat for one of the wild cat hybrids. This cat is not a wild cat hybrid although the cat does look like one and as a consequence the character is exactly the same as any non-wild cat hybrid.
David Amess, Tory MP for Southend West, who recently raised the problem in Parliament said:
“People take them on and think they have a baby leopard or tiger and then find they are high maintenance and they can’t cope. I think it is absolutely unacceptable that these exotic cats are available on the Internet.”
Cats Protection one of the country’s largest rescue organisations refuses to rehome wild cat hybrids and refers them to specialist zoos. To be honest, I find that a little bit strange because fifth-generation from the wild Bengal cats are very much like domestic cats and zoos are clearly the wrong places for domestic cats.
The Chausie is another wild cat hybrid which is gaining popularity in the UK. This is a relatively rare breed. It is a hybrid of the Jungle Cat and the Abyssinian. This is a highly active cat at first filial level. They will no doubt be too hard to deal with by the vast majority of people but people are attracted to wild cat hybrids because they are miniature wild cats in their household and with the ease of purchase on the Internet and without doing any real research on how to look after and live with a wild cat hybrid it can lead to an early surrender because of the inability of the owner to cope adequately.
Some breeders/sellers fail to tell buyers how a wild cat hybrid differs from ordinary domestic cats. I have to say, though, as mentioned above, the real difference between wild cat hybrids and domestic cats is only really noticeable at the first, second and third filial level. There are some misconceptions about wild cat hybrids; some people say they are highly active and difficult to live with. They are exaggerating sometimes whereas other people expect them to behave like typical domestic random bred cats and sometimes they don’t.
People who are beguiled by the exotic nature of a wild cat hybrids should do their research before adopting. There is a very useful page on this website about living with cats of this type. It may assist people.
It would seem that the UK is belatedly following the USA in having a liking of the exotic companion cat. There are legal issues in respect of wild cat hybrid ownership in the UK, by the way, which I have not discussed here. That is a potential pitfall.