Troubleshooting Your Bengal

An insider's look at feline quirks to help you decipher what your crazy cat is doing, Bengal or otherwise!

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Behavioral Issues

Bengals are high-energy, demanding creatures that just want to be with you. They bond with their new human parent for life. You are now Mommy, Daddy, brother, and sister. You are their world!

To put it simply: with any cat, whether it is a Bengal or not, you get back what you put in. You spend good, solid quality time with your cat (undivided attention - no phones, no iPads), and he will respond in a happy and positive way! On the other hand; garbage in, garbage out. You only give him the time of day when he's in trouble, and he will make sure he repeats that one undesirable action that gets your ATTENTION. Cats are highly intelligent, but they are not malicious. We as humans project our own emotions and thoughts onto these creatures, which is not only incorrect, it is grossly unfair to the cat/kitten. There is ALWAYS a reason for what is going on. ALWAYS. Examples follow.

"Going" outside the litter box

Powerful products to help you with litter box issues (click the pictures to visit their website in a separate window):

Zero Odor Pet Stain Remover
Zero Odor Pet Stain Remover
Dr. Elsey's Litter Attractant
Dr. Elsey's Litter Attractant
Comfort Zone Diffusers with Feliway
Feliway Comfort Zone Diffusers

Litter box problems can have a lot of reasons behind it, and I'll list some of them below.

The Litter box is full. How often do you flush your own toilet? That's how often you should be scooping your cat's litter box for best results, not only odor-wise, but it is much more hygienic!

Territorial marking (a.k.a. spraying). If your kitty has come of age and is beginning to urinate in unusual places (near doors and windows, as an example), it is likely that there is an aggravant or stimulant present in the environment. This can be another intact cat in the home of the opposite sex, or even an outside cat that is either calling for a mate, secreting pheromones to attract a mate, or competing for territory. Intact females can spray, too! Getting your fur baby spayed or neutered just before they reach maturity (6-8 months of age) will help a lot. There is a small chance that they might still spray after being altered, at which point the best thing to do is try your best to narrow down and remove the aggravants as much as possible. Zero Odor and Comfort Zone have been life-savers for me. No, I'm not getting a kickback for mentioning them. (Though it would be nice, haha!)

The Ghosts of Poopies Past. If you are living in a home or apartment that had previous tenants, there is a possibility your kitty may be using that powerful little nose to detect places where other animals have relieved themselves, and may figure that this spot is a good place to go for them, too. Whether they decide to do it because they want to cover up the old smell with their own and claim their new territory, or whether they are just confused, pooping or peeing outside the litter box can still happen even if you've cleaned the area with a disinfectant. This is because traces of the old smell still remain for them, especially if you're dealing with carpet. I highly recommend using Zero Odor for this. It eliminates smells completely, helping prevent a recurrence in going in that same spot again. Also, sprinkle some Litter Attract by Dr. Elsey into the litter box, and it will be difficult for your cat to ignore the signs pointing in the right direction. Punishing a cat doesn't work, so try to understand their thought process and work with them on positive terms - it will work out much better.

Switching from one brand of Kitty Litter to another? So you found an awesome new kitty litter that is a great value, and will work well. Unfortunately, your cat seems confused by it, and is going everywhere BUT his new litter. The main reason for this is likely that the change may have been too abrupt. Switching from one litter to another is best done gradually, especially if the change is drastic, such as going from standard litter to pine. Start by pouring only a tiny bit of the new litter into your cat's current box. Every time the level goes down and the box needs more Litter, add a little bit more of the new. The kitty won't mind that kind of a subtle change. Keep doing this until your cat is comfortable using only the new litter. Don't rush it! If you want, you can then empty out and scrub the box if you need to, but don't do it until your kitty has fully transitioned and has been using it at least 2-3 weeks. Cats don't always do well with sudden major changes - this also goes for switching food brands, as well as a new home environment. Making it a gradual, stress-free, and positive experience should always be your goal while transitioning a kitty to anything new.

Did you buy a weird litter box? Or, is the litter box in a weird place? If your kitty can't find his bathroom, he's very likely to have an accident. Pick one spot (or several, depending on the size of your home), and establish them as permanent areas for litter boxes. Make sure your kitty knows where they all are, and can access them easily from anywhere in the house. A good rule of thumb is to put one litter box in each human bathroom. Also, if your kitty is accustomed to a classic scoopable litter box, don't suddenly change it to a modern-looking box with a confusing top entry, or one with an electronic motor that will make noise and scare the day lights out of the poor thing. Keep it simple, trust me.

Are they trying to get your attention? If your kitty only gets attention when he's in trouble, he may continue to do that which he knows will get your attention. If that means peeing on your bed, he'll do it. Please realize: it's not malicious, and he doesn't understand the concept of "being in trouble." Cats, though highly intelligent, are not going to "prank" or "spite" you. They have basic instincts and emotions that are nowhere near as complex as a human's thought process. We as humans unfairly project our own complex emotions and thoughts onto them. Whether they are getting good attention or bad, it is simply attention that they are craving from you because they love you. Good steps to resolving this is setting up a consistent and vigorous play session every day, and giving them extra love and attention when they are being GOOD for positive reinforcement. This is especially true of Bengals. Don't expect them to blend in with the furniture, as so many people say. Don't wait until they get upset before paying them attention, or it will result in heartache for you both.

If it is none of these, then consult your vet. Your feline friend may be experiencing urinary tract problems, likely due to not getting enough water, combined with a diet exclusively comprised of dry food. Install a pet water fountain if you don't have one, and if you are not feeding at least one meal of wet food every day on a consistent schedule, start immediately. If it looks like they just can't help it and the waste is coming out all over place, go to the vet immediately.

Cat Teaser Toy

Computer Cables

Other Unusual Behaviors

Chewing on cables

See any notable differences between a kitty stick toy and a cable? Neither does the cat. Don't mess with it in front of them, and if they do, use a toy to lure them out of the room and shut the door. Once you are alone with the cables, hide them or move them around as necessary, and then let the cat back in, playing with him some more to divert his attention.

Knocking things off your dresser

The most likely reason is simply to get your attention. Ask yourself these questions:

Is it playtime?

Is it dinnertime?

Is there a bug on your dresser, or something new or unusual?

Bengals are very energetic, and highly curious. That's just part of who they are. They can also get into things as a way of getting our attention. As I mentioned before, cats do not have any malice, so they don't know the difference between good attention and bad attention. They just know "attention." If someone cut off our tongues and we lost the ability to speak, how would we try to get someone's attention? Making noise. Waving our arms around. Getting up in their face. This is what Bengals do. To get it, they treat you like an ATM machine. How? By guessing which "code" to press that gets your attention. Imagine them thinking, "Meowing doesn't work? Ok. Let's try batting at the curtains. Still nothing? Let's try knocking over pill bottles. Hmmm. That kind of worked, but not quite."

One way to keep this at bay is to have at least 1-2 vigorous play sessions a day. Work them around your schedule so that it can be consistent and he can learn to expect it. Play with him until he is completely worn out using a laser, stick toy, or anything else he likes. After a good 15-30 minutes of intense and focused play, he'll flop over on his side and try to catch his breath. This will help him stop getting into things. You'll still need to kitty-proof, but it'll help things drastically and help reduce the tension. At the end of the day, your Bengal just loves you and want to be with you.

When you walk into the room, your Kitten or Cat starts to eat or use the scratching post:

He or she is just happy to see you! =^..^=

The Dangers of a Stressful Environment

Stress is a killer in every way. Calm your spirit. If you are at peace, they will be, too. Not pretending to be calm. Not having one eye on the cat and another on the phone or TV. (I tell you this because I'm the first one that deals with breaking both of these bad habits.) If you're experiencing behavioral issues with your cat, Bengal or not, there is a reason for it, guaranteed, and that reason is very often a stressor. (Something out of the ordinary that is causing your cat to feel defensive, afraid, or threatened.) Whatever it is, the stressor must be identified and removed in order for everyone to live comfortably and peaceably.

Attacking you or other pets OR he is just not acting like himself

If your cat is exhibiting aggression in any way, it behooves you to try and pinpoint WHY. There is always a reason for what animals do, and negative behaviors can almost always be traced back to a stressor. Honestly, folks, it can't be emphasized enough, and it is worth the effort to try to find out what it is and correct the problem for the sake of your beloved cat or kitten.

Here is a suggested checklist to use when trying to figure out what the problem is:

1 - Stop and think for a minute. What has changed?

If you live in an apartment complex - have new neighbors moved in with pets? This can definitely cause a reaction in your kitty, depending on his or her personality.

1a. Has your cat been fixed? If not, has he or she reached maturity?

If you cat is intact (has not been spayed or neutered), there may be a new intact cat out there that may be stimulating them to want to breed. Behaviors can include but are not limited to: spraying/marking territory (males and females alike), restlessness, trying to escape, seeming to want to attack other cats they see through the window, etc.

1b. Have you brought in any new pets?

Your cat may feel like he is being replaced, and that his territory is being invaded. Suggested course of action in this case is to immediately put the new pet in a quarantined area such as a bathroom with plenty of food, water, a comfortable place to sleep, and the ability use the bathroom. Use positive reinforcement with your original cat to remind him that he is still "number one" to you, and that this is still his house. Jackson Galaxy often talks about how a cat needs to feel like he owns something, so if you find you've accidentally taken away his territory, be sure to give it back! Use lots of treats, praise, love, and patience on both sides. Blankets are a great way to gradually integrate the two animals' scents, and once they start getting curious and wanting to meet each other through the door, gauge it carefully and see how they respond to one another. The important thing is not to rush things. They will eventually come around, even if it takes 1 day or 3 months. Don't give up!

2 - Check his or her butt.

Sounds weird, but believe me, just look if they'll let you. They may have a hair stuck in there! I have long hair, and they do sometimes accidentally ingest one despite my constant vacuuming and cleaning up. Hair apparently does not digest, so it just comes right out the other side! If you need help, have someone else hold the kitty (if needed, gently but firmly scruff the back of his or her neck) and just calmly take care of the issue. If it is a hair, just grasp the end of the hair and carefully pull it out. Your cat will not like this, but if you're calm, it will help things SO much. Make sure to wash your hands throughly afterward.

3 - Is your kitty in pain?

You never know if a kitty demonstrating aggression may be acting defensively out of pain or discomfort. If they'll let you, feel their bodies, paws, stomach, tail. Do they seem to be wincing at all? Look in their ears. Check their stool for any irregularities, which includes but is not limited to: worms (you can sometimes see them moving around in the stool), blood, watery diarrhea, foreign objects they may have swallowed, etc.)

4 - If you're still not sure why he/she's behaving this way, take your kitty to the Vet.

Take as much information as you possibly can to your Vet. Don't stress the cat any further.

The Difference Between a Love Bite and a Real Bite

Love Bite

A love bite is very gentle and is not intended to break the skin. It is usually seen in males, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a female do it. When you are petting and loving on your kitty and they're just totally loving it, they may get a little overexcited and nip you. They may also try to bunny kick you. They do the same thing to catnip toys they love, and to their siblings when they are babies. This shouldn't be mistaken for an attack. When you've got a full grown cat with talon-sized claws acting like an overgrown kitten, it does look funny. Just pay attention to their body language - their ears, their tail, their eyes. An anxious or stressed cat will usually have very dilated pupils, their ears will start to lean backward, and you'll see their tail whipping about. If your cat is not doing any of these, don't worry about it too much, as he's most likely just playing with you.

Real Bite

A real bite means business, and they often do break the skin. This can also apply to scratches when you're carrying a cat that prefers to be put down on the floor. If you know you're getting on your cat's nerves on purpose and get bitten or scratched, that's on you. You know what you're doing, and the cat will generally bite you gently at first to set a boundary with you. If you continuously disrespect that boundary, he may bite you harder, figuring you're not understanding. Or you are just genuinely making him angry. You wouldn't want someone purposely getting on your nerves, so be nice to your cat. Watch his or her tail. An anxious cat has that tail twitching and lashing back and forth pretty hard. If you see your cat's tail doing this, combined with the ears laid back, just give him some space to settle down. Come back some time later and have a vigorous play session with him or her to help get rid of that excess energy that's been built up. If you've got a Mommy with babies, avoid stepping on one by mistake - this is a very quick way to experience a very real bite if you have not established a strong bond of trust with her.

To summarize: Let your cat know he's loved by respecting his space. If he or she asks not to be carried, just put them down! Do it gently and slowly, allowing them to walk out of your arms. They will feel like they have a degree of control over the situation, and won't get as anxious.

For the BEST resource on learning about cat behavior and psychology, watch Jackson Galaxy's My Cat From Hell.