Bengals: Are these "wild" cats suitable pets?
An overview of research surrounding common health problems and behavioral traits Bengals exhibit that may play a factor in owners keeping these felines as pets.
Bengal cats have wild origins and are even illegal to own in some states. Breeders created Bengals by crossbreeding an Asian leopard cat and a domestic house cat. They are known for their wildcat appearance, love of water, intelligence, and playfulness. These coveted pets are identified by their filial generation or the subsequent sets of offspring from a genetically controlled mating.1
The offspring of the Asian leopard cat and a domestic cat is designated the first filial generation or F1 generation. Early generations (F1-F4) are thought to display more predatory and aggressive behavior than the later generations (F5 and beyond). In the September 2021 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, researchers from Belgium examined the differences in behavior between earlier and later generations and Bengals with and without outdoor access. From the perspective of the owners, researchers also sought to assess Bengals’ suitability as pets to determine how likely the owners would be to surrender their cat.1
Researchers provided participants from Belgium and The Netherlands with a 28-question online survey. The questionnaire asked about the cat’s demographics, living environment, behavior, and health problems. Behaviors that owners found troublesome were aggression towards people and animals, urination outside the litter tray, urine spraying, and pica (eating things that are not considered food). Some health problems reported include fertility issues, overweight, and blindness.1
In this study1, the results did not show a significant difference between Bengals from earlier or later generations nor between Bengals with or without outdoor access. Although Bengals prefer the outdoors, keeping them inside may decrease unwanted pregnancies and aggression towards other animals, but also increase the likelihood of inappropriate elimination or pica.1
Most respondents reported that they researched this breed preacquisition and this may explain a lower incidence of Bengal relinquishment due to the owners being aware of common behaviors and health issues. Preacquisition knowledge was gained primarily through the Internet and breeders.1
Respondents did not mention veterinarians were not mentioned, therefore veterinarians should make a greater effort to showcase themselves as a trusted source of medical and behavioral information.1
The results of this study did not show that Bengals’ common health problems and behaviors affected its suitability as a pet from owners’ perspectives. Although some behaviors were not considered to be problematic, they may be indicative of welfare issues with the cat. More research is required to determine the suitability of keeping Bengals as pets, from the cats' perspective.1
Isabella L. Bean is a 2022 PharmD Candidate at the University of Connecticut.
Martos Martinez-Caja A, Rosseau J, Vervaecke H, Moons CPH. Behavior and health issues in Bengal cats as perceived by their owners: A descriptive study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2021;41:12-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2020.10.007.