Categories: Bengal cat

Why are Bengal cats so naughty?

Without wishing to lecture, I have to take issue with the language used in the question. Bengal cats are not naughty from the cat’s perspective. The word “naughty” in this instance means that the person living with the cat considers that the cat’s behaviour is naughty by human standards. In other words it doesn’t fit in with what the person considers to be acceptable. And the behaviour that they are referring to is active behaviour; behaviour born out of energy which needs to be burnt off through activity. And that activity has to be based on hunting.

Bengal cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

Burning energy

As Jackson Galaxy says, after sleeping domestic cats are prepared to hunt. They have collected energy during sleep and, in essence, he says they are “Energetic Balloons”; cats filled with energy. This applies to all domestic cats. However, Bengal cats normally have more energy than your typical domestic cat.

This is because they are wildcat hybrids. They tend to be more motivated to hunt because of their wild cat connection. The degree of wild in them depends upon which generation they are from the wild cat element in their parentage which is the leopard cat. This is a small, fierce, wild cat species. The DNA of this species is in the Bengal cat and the percentage of DNA in the Bengal cat depends upon their filial i.e. whether they are first or for example 5th generation from the wild.

Bengal cat. Super hugh contrast on a silver background. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

Behaviors

All this adds up to one thing namely that the person who lives with a Bengal cat has to be aware of this difference and accommodate it. This normally means more input from them. It means providing an environment in which their cat can express as near as possible their full range of natural behaviours and desires.

Bengal cats particularly like to climb. All domestic cats do but this needs to be stressed with respect to this breed. They tend to like water so they may join you in the shower, for example. They are said to be more intelligent and more energetic. You need to provide what you would normally provide for a domestic cat plus a bit more. What about cat toys that can be destroyed to better mimic killing real prey? And the biggest plus in this instance is that the person living with a cat has to give more time to their Bengal cat than they would to a random bred cat.

The rules as provided by Jackson Galaxy in his book Total Cat Mojo are there for anybody to read but you have to add a little bit extra with this cat breed. You have to allow the cat to be confident in their territory and follow his or her daily routine of hunt, catch, kill, eat, followed by grooming and sleeping as Jackson Galaxy says. Confidence comes from being allowed to behave normally. Don’t forget this is a cat not a little human and there is more raw cat (wild behavior) in a typical Bengal than your standard random bred cats.

Bengal cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

Indoor cats

The ironic thing about the Bengal cat is that you cannot let them wander outside as a typical cat owner in the UK might want to do. Being outside in the countryside would allow a Bengal to behave normally but this is impractical. They really can’t be indoor/outdoor cats because they are too glamorous and are likely to be stolen in my view. But if you keep them indoors you have to make the indoor environment as acceptable as possible to a wild cat hybrid which can be quite a challenge. A good catio would definitely help to make the place more natural. Plenty of cat TV is applies.

Bengal cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

Research

And there is no point in griping about it because a person who adopts a Bengal cat needs to do some research beforehand to find out what sort of demands the cat will place upon them. These are the responsibilities of a good cat guardian and caregiver.

Naughtiness = natural behavior in human environment

I suspect that the naughtiness referred to in the question comes from the fact that a Bengal cat is trying to dispel the energy inside with activities such as scratching, biting, playing or nosing around and jumping onto high surfaces. In short being a bundle of energy without the chance or the channel through which that energy can be dispelled and used. It’s up to the owner to find ways to allow their Bengal cat to burn their energy.

Living with wild cat hybrids

I have a page on wildcat hybrids and living with them which may be useful. It is generally about the first filial hybrids which are a whole different kettle of fish compared to 5th filial but the same principles apply. Cat breeders will say that fifth filial Bengal cats are pretty much like standard domestic cats or random bred cats and they are but they still have a slightly sharper edge to them. I also have a page from a visitor to this site who lived with a F1 Bengal cat. She struggled and it is enlightening. Also Helmi Flick, the cat photographer and her husband lived with a first fillial Chausie (Jungle cat x domestic cat hybrid). Helmi’s husband said it was like living with a cat on crack.

Ferox Kiara. A female Bengal cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

Expectations

I think the real issue here is about expectations. If you use Google to search for information about Bengal cat you can see that a lot of people are searching for answers as to why their Bengal cat is unmanageable, or naughty, or aggressive, or excitable or difficult to live with et cetera. They are all part of the same issue which is a failure provide the cat with an outlet for their energy and their energy is based upon the natural function in the wild which is to hunt.

And that failure to provide the proper environment starts with a lack of preparation and research on the Bengal cat character which results in expectation problems.

Picture of three desirable Bengal kittens

Great cats

All this is not to say that the Bengal cat is not a fantastic companion. People who understand Bengal cats are incredibly happy with their cat companion. They have no complaints and they don’t see an un-manageability about them. They deal with it properly. They are great cats.

Asian leopard cat showing arrowhead marking. Photo: PoC.

Leopard cat

But it has to be said that the wildcat ancestor of the Bengal cat, the leopard cat, is known as a highly independent wild cat species which cannot be domesticated. Some of the small wildcat species can be domesticated. They are predisposed towards it because of their character. The leopard cat is not one of those species and you wonder whether Jean Mill who founded the breed was wise in selecting that wild cat species as the founding cat of the Bengal cat.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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