What is a Hybrid Cat?

Please note that The Wildcat Sanctuary can no longer accommodate domestic Bengal cats into our program. We cannot keep up with the overwhelming number of calls we receive for surrender.   Our mission is to help wild cats in need and we will accommodate F1 hybrids only if there is room at our Sanctuary.

Domestic Bengal Cat Policy

Imagine receiving more than 20 calls every month from owners begging you to take in their little Bengal cat because it’s become too much to handle or it urinates throughout the house?  How would you feel when time and time again, you had to say “no” – you had to explain the reality of the situation?   This is what we deal with on a regular basis at The Wildcat Sanctuary.

The breeders don’t have to answer these calls, though they’ve caused the problem.  But we, and countless other shelters, have to.  It’s one of the main reasons we’ve launched our No More Wild Pets campaign, in order to educate those who might be considering a wild pet.

Our mission is to rescue wild cats; i.e. lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, etc.  We can barely keep up with the demand of big cats that need sanctuary.  Now, the calls for Bengal cat rescues have become overwhelming and therefore, we can no longer accept Bengal cats for placement at the Sanctuary.

bengal groupThere are millions and millions of perfectly wonderful domestic cats at shelters waiting to be adopted, so it’s frustrating to find people opting to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for exotic hybrids like Bengal cats.  Why do this??

These cats end up behaving just as they’re genetically programmed to – “wild!” Owners are led to believe they’ll bring these little wild ones home, give them a litter box and they’ll live peacefully with others in their homes.  That’s not the case at all, as you’ll see when you read all the information we have below about hybrid cat species.hybrid haven 2

So many of these desperate callers love the setups we have for our hybrids and Bengals here at the Sanctuary.  These are easy to duplicate in your backyard or attach to your garage for your Bengal cats.  Your cat doesn’t need to be given away.  And, more importantly, they don’t need to be euthanized for behavior that was easily predictable.  You spent so much money to acquire them.  Don’t they deserve a bit more so they can enjoy life?

Giving up your Bengal cat is traumatic for you, your family, and for your cat. By investing a bit more time and money, you can give them a suitable environment that meets their needs, just like we do here at The Wildcat Sanctuary.

As the pictures show, ourhybrid haven bungalow Bengal cats live in temperature controlled sheds that we have adapted for their enjoyment.  You’ll see perches, beds, washable walls, litter boxes, and food inside the buildings and a cat door that allows them access to an outdoor area.  These outdoor areas are securely fenced, with a roof.  Ramps, hanging toys, landscaping, water features, and hammocks allow the cats to fill their days with endless enjoyment.  Some of our volunteers’ favorite times are spent playing with the Bengals and hybrid cats.

The bottom line is that you made the decision to hybrid havenacquire something with a wild personality.  They’re active, vocal, mischievous, and they love water.  Why, then, give up your cat for the things that originally drew you to them? Please make the commitment to give them what they deserve – a safe, enjoyable home that meets their needs.

You won’t change their wildness, but you can learn to live with it and enjoy many years of happiness together.  You purchased a Bengal cat in hopes of a life-long companion.  Do the right thing now and provide them the life you promised, right in your own backyard.

 

What are Bengal cats and hybrid cats?

 

F1 Bengal brothers, Phoenix and BronxThe Bengal cat breed resulted from cross breeding an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC-Felis bengalensis) with the domestic cat (Felis catus). The first three filial generations (F1 – F3) of these hybrid animals are referred to as the “foundation” generations. A Bengal cat with an ALC parent is called an F1 Bengal, short for first filial. They eat raw meat and will almost never use a litter box once they reach maturity. These hybrids are often prohibited and regulated by state, city and township laws such as in MN, IA, etc. An F1 then bred with a domestic male produces an F2, or second filial. Kittens from an F2 female and another domestic cat are then termed F3. Kittens from a subsequent F3 mating with a domestic are F4s. The F4 and later generations are considered domestic cats but still have many behavioral and health issues due to the hybridization. Breeders market these cats as ‘lap leopards’ and say they have the look of the wild and personality of the domestic. However, genetics do not work this way. Breeders cannot choose which elements you get of the wild or domestic cat. The Wildcat Sanctuary receives more calls from owners wanting to surrender Bengal domestic cats than all other wildcats and hybrids combined. The most common reason is not using the litter box, especially when housed with other animals. We love the Bengals and hybrids we care for, but we accept the soiling and behavioral problems that most people deem inappropriate pet behavior.

Other common hybrid cats that are being surrendered at an alarming rate are:Hilo the F1 Savannah

 

 

Hybrids whether early generation or domestic often have the following common health issues which can be expensive and leave the owner feeling helpless:

  • Painful irritable bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic diarrhea
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Tri-Trichamonas Foetus
  • Luxating patella
  • Often high corona titers and the only known test for FIP – Feline Infectious Peritonitis (but not always reliable)
  • Gingivitis and mouth lesions (most common in Chausie’s)

Our Bengals and hybrids at the Sanctuary accumulate our highest veterinary costs because of these common health issues. They also take the most time for our keepers due to the clean-up of their indoor areas due to spraying and soiling.

The Wildcat Sanctuary is against hybridization but we understand that Bengal domestic cats are legal in most states and many are displaced and in need of a home. We recommend any prospective owner adopt from a rescue group as well as research breed information from sanctuaries and many other resources versus just breeder sites. Adopting a Bengal from a rescue group will be valuable since the social and litter box behaviors have already been assessed. If you choose to bring a Bengal cat into your family, you must be committed to the breed and the behavior of the breed. Even the small handful of Bengals that don’t have litter box issues are active, vocal, love to play in water and mischievous. They take a unique owner that is willing to provide a lifetime of care to an animal that will run the household. TWS does not agree with any purchase or adoption of hybrid generations (F1-F3s) given the wild nature, behavior and health issues associated with these cats.

Chausie - Kashmir
Domestication happens over 4,000 years versus a few generations with hybrids. Wildcats are solitary by nature except for the African lion. At maturity, they lose all alliance to their wild parents in order to survive. They will even challenge parents and siblings for territory and dominance. This also happens in captivity where once the wild or hybrid cat reaches maturity it will ‘turn’ on its owner or other animals it lives with. It will want to mark territory by spraying and urinating, even if it is neutered or spayed.

Requests we’ve received from hybrid cat owners:

I just discovered your site after it was listed by Dr. Michael Fox in the Star Tribune. I got a bengal kitten at 10 weeks old. She was the MOST LOVING cat and I adored her. She had alot of “quirks” like the water thing, having to be around us all the time, and some load vocals. Nothing that seemed too out of the ordinary. And she did use the litter box religiously. We did adopt a stray cat and they enjoyed each others company and played together alot. When our bengal was almost 6 years old, she attacked me for no reason at all. A couple of weeks earlier she smelled dog on me and had an aggresive reaction, but nothing like this time. (She has been around dogs before, so this made no sense at all) She was like she was out for the kill and latched on to my leg with her claws. Not once, but twice. I had a hard time getting away from her. Luckily I had jeans on but my leg was “shredded”. I had to lock myself in a room to get away from her while my husband put her in a separate room.It was a tough decision but we had to put her down. I couldn’t believe that I was so afraid of the very cat that I loved so much and loved me. I also couldn’t take the chance of her attacking someone else or killing our other cat. Something triggered the wild in her and she went bisserk. I know she didn’t mean to do it, poor thing.I wish there had been more information about these hybrid cats before I went thru this terrible heartbreak. The more research I do, the more I know that this breeding needs to stop. Somehow the word needs to get out about this insane practice, just to make a bunch of money. It’s not fair to the cats and not fair to the owners who have to go thru the sorrow that I did. I still miss her so very much.

KathieMinnesota

We just had a beautiful Bengal, Jasmine 3 years old, surrendered because of trouble with the cat urinating on counter tops and on the owner’s bed. This was the second house she’d been in a fairly short amount of time. Because of the urination problem, she’s not going to be adoptable through us.

Kristin

My sister sent me the article about hybrid cats from the Star Trib. Very interesting. I adopted a cat Nala from Bengal rescue/pet finder 1 year ago. She has not adjusted to our family. She is consistently peeing on my brand new couch. We are not allowed to touch, pet or go near her. I have contacted several vets regarding the peeing and the advice has not helped. I did buy another Bengal cat thinking this might help her. Well she did come out of her shell and is acting/playing like a cat, but the peeing continues. It has taken me a year and to realize I don’t think her actions will change. Having a house smell like pee is not what I want.

Mary

I am desperately searching for a way to send a cat out to a Bengal or Big Cat rescue. He is an 8 yr old Bengal (I have pedigree papers if necessary) and hasn’t had the best of luck in his life. Vinney had some issues house soiling in their new home, he seems to pace the same room and urinate around the perimeter, and he has also defecated occasionally outside of the box. Unfortunately, due to Vinney’s behavior he is not deemed “adoptable” at our shelter and a rescue is my last option. His family had the best of intentions and he is a great cat, he just needs a little extra work, and some people who “get him”.

J

I am writing in hopes of finding a solution to an improper urination problem I have been having with a two year old male Bengal. We have had him since he was 3 months old. His name is Ace. For the past 7+ months, he has been peeing on our carpet in our downstairs. I have tried confinement, cleaning and covering the areas, and putting out more litter boxes (which I clean daily and completely replace the litter once a week). I have 5 litter boxes for 3 cats. Ace does not pee in any of them. He does not have a medical problem. He is not spraying. He pees twice a day in large amounts. He poops in the litter box, but then pees on the carpet. He appears to have no remorse or concern that he is doing something wrong–he actually has purred and rubbed up against me when I am cleaning up his mess! I have twin boys, and Ace does not engage in play with them. He follows me around purring and rubs up against me, but hates being held or snuggled. He generally sleeps at the end of someone’s bed at night. He is pretty laid back as long as we do not try to pick him up.I read the article about The Wildcat Sanctuary in the paper a couple of weeks ago. I have attempted to find a home for Ace, but no one wants to take the chance with urination problems. I need to find a home for him. I have spent countless hours-not to mention hundreds of dollars cleaning up after him. This is not a small pee problem. Our carpet needs to be replaced because he keeps peeing on it and I cannot get all the way down to the pad and cement to remove all the uric acid crystals.It breaks my heart to write to you. Ace is part of our family but I cannot continue with his behavior. I know you hear this type of thing all the time. I have tried to make things work and modify his behavior, but he reverts back to the carpet. This morning my husband caught him peeing on the carpet in another area that he previously had not peed-that we knew of…

Cindy

Savannahs

This is a gorgeous F2 Savannah and she is about 1.5 years old. Her original owners decided that they no longer wanted her, and a friend of theirs took her in and contacted me. Asia has an issue with using a litter box – she does not like to use a litter box if another cat had used it, and she likes big litter boxes only. She was initially very hissy and growly at the new place, but 6 weeks later was allowing pets and belly rubs. She loves being outdoors and would love to have access to an outdoor enclosure.

Hello, I know of an F1 female, she’s gorgeous but she was NEVER socialized and spent most of her life (I think she’s 7 or 8 years old) in a pen having kittens. She’s been spayed and someone was trying to make her a pet but she is not working out from what I hear and pretty much needs to live in a pen. So she may be coming into rescue. Crappy how that happens to a cat that really has done nothing but produce lovely kittens for someone.

I need some advice about an F1 and an F2 Savannah. I got both yesterday from someone who had these two and wanted to get rid of them because they spray in the house. This owner told me that both are really sweet cats, even lap cats and very socialized. I took them in and now we face some challenges with these boys.

The F1 is 14 months old, neutered and front paws declawed. He is very, very aggressive and I cannot approach him in any way. He is in a kennel and he attacks the wire, the wood just every thing he can get his teeth in. He smacks really hard the wire also with his front legs and when I open the door from that kennel he jumps right at me to attack me. I use a shield (cardboard) to protect myself when I want to give him new food or water. Everything flies around in his kennel when I just enter the room.

Is this a normal behavior for an F1 when they are re-homed? What is best way to approach him? His kennel is a mess already and I really want to clean it up or change bowls in there what is almost impossible with this guy. I am pretty sure when I don’t shield myself his big fangs will go right into my hand, what I want to prevent for sure.

The F2 is 3 years, neutered and front paw declawed. He is a bit calmer but hisses at me really bad also and he loves to show his big fangs. I can take his bowls out of the kennel without being attacked. He hears the F1 hissing and growling at me and he starts really bad then also. I separated them in different kennels but the kennels are on top of each other. Right now I will not have another room available for them because I have kittens in different rooms. Also I don’t know if this is the best way to keep them separated. I am just afraid when I would put them together they will feel much stronger towards me with all consequences of that.

Any help, advice on how I can approach these boys will be really appreciated. I truly hope that these two will snap out of it and believe strong that they feel abandoned now and homeless, very confused and lonely, lost without their family they know. I want to do anything in my power to help these boys.

 

 What if I need to surrender a Bengal or hybrid cat?

 

The WBulletildcat Sanctuary is a sanctuary for wild and hybrid cats. Due to the overwhelming number of calls we receive, we can no longer accommodate domestic Bengals. Only F1 foundation cats will be considered for permanent sanctuary. This is because domestic shelters will not accept hybrids into their programs and most wildcat sanctuaries do not accept hybrids either. This leaves little alternative for the cat. If you plan on contacting TWS regarding surrendering a cat, please review the following information. All requests will be considered on a case by case basis.

  • Owner will pay for transport costs to TWS
  • Health certificate within 10 days of transport is needed
  • The cat must be spayed/neutered at the cost of the owner
  • Blood profile including a corona titer must be performed
  • Surrender form must be completed and signed
  • Annual sponsorship or intake fee may be requested

What other options do I have?

Mark

When TWS takes in rescues, the animal’s behavior and habits do not change. If the cat urinated in your house, he/she will continue to do so at TWS. The difference is we are committed to providing life time care for the animal and adjust the environment around them. If you have purchased a Bengal or hybrid cat and own it legally, you should do the same. The best thing is for you to provide a fully-enclosed, outdoor area with access to a heated den like a garage or insulated shed. Yes, this may cost a few thousand dollars, but it is amazing that owners pay upwards of $4,000-$8,000 for these cats but won’t put that into the cost of caring for the animal nor provide the same amount of funding for a sanctuary to care for the cat. Euthanasia should not be an option for a behavior that is common to the breed and easily researched. For example take the Siberian husky, when a person adopts a Siberian husky they shouldn’t be surprised that the dog barks, jumps fences, digs and runs away off leash when this is typical breed behavior. There are exceptions to the rule, but anyone adopting this breed should expect and be prepared for the typical behavior. Other hybrid owners have tried to resell the cat to recoup costs. Buyers should beware that if someone is trying to sell a cat, it is probably not wanted due to soiling or behavioral problems that they are not disclosing. This only means the problems will get worse with you.

Remember, that there are millions of wonderful domestic dogs and cats in shelters that are waiting to become a life long companion to you. You can save a life by adopting one of these. You will be much happier that you kept the wild in your heart not your home because the idea of owning a wildcat or hybrid is much more glamorous than the reality.

 

Breeding hybrids – the negative side

 

If you’re familiar with all the controversy surrounding puppy/kitten mills, you won’t be surprised to learn those same issues are linked with the breeding of hybrids, too.  The following is a snapshot of the dark side of hybrid breeding:

Breeding issues

During the breeding process, domestic cats forced to breed with wild cats can often be killed.  Many pregnancies are aborted or absorbed by the mother cat’s body when nature determines there is something wrong.  Kittens are often born prematurely due to the variance of gestation periods between the wild cats and domestic cats that have been interbred.  Many of the first generation are sterile, especially the males.  In some cases, breeders may kill kittens born with an undesirable appearance, or just drop them off at a shelter.

Breeding Conditions

Quite like the controversial issues faced with puppy mills, hybrid cats used for breeding can face the same poor quality of life.  Forced to live in a cage the majority of their lives, they are not socialized.  The cats can suffer from illnesses and live in filthy conditions that are rarely detected since they’re not the subject of inspections.

Breeding for Profit

There is no doubt that breeding a hybrid cat that will bring in thousands of dollars tends to naturally attract many whose sole motive is profit.  Why breed a “normal” domestic purebred cat that may fetch only $200 when you can breed a hybrid cat that can bring in as much as $22,000?  This quest for high profits leads many breeders to house too many cats under poor conditions and leads to poor genetics as more and more are interbred.

Permits or Bans

Thankfully, many municipalities have been educated about the danger of having hybrid cats in their communities. When complete bans aren’t in place, many towns are requiring special permits in order to own these exotic cats.

Servals, for instance, are extremely efficient hunters and killers in Africa.  Raising them in captivity in the US and cross breeding them doesn’t change this innate characteristic.  This is why many areas see them as a threat or concern for the community and why they want to know where they live and who owns them.

The Wild Side

You can not breed the “wild” behaviors out of servals, Asian leopard cats, jungle cats, or Geoffrey’s cats by interbreeding them with domestic cats for a couple of generations. When a buyer spends thousands of dollars for a wild looking cat, they get exactly what they’re paying for – a cat with wild tendencies.

Hybrid cats are known for being extremely destructive.  Common complaints are of ruined furniture, clothing, and personal items.  Marking is instinctive, whether it’s a male or female hybrid, and most owners are unprepared for the reality of living with the smell of the wild constantly surrounding them.  Hybrids don’t always get along with other pets and have been known to hunt them down, even causing injury to neighborhood cats and dogs.  The elderly and small children are seen as weak and vulnerable to attack, just as any prey in the wild would be to these cats.

When frustration overcomes the owners, all too often, they look for an easy way out.  They’ll have the cats euthanized when they can’t find a rescue or shelter to take them in.  Some have been known to simply set them loose, forcing them to survive on their own.  It’s a sad, cruel fate for these cats – through no fault of their own.

Health Concerns  

Finding a veterinarian to care for an exotic animal is not easy and, when you do, it’s expensive!  Hybrid cats have health concerns that aren’t normal to domestic cats, including respiratory issues, irritable bowel disorder, and other digestive issues. Vaccinations have not been approved for hybrid animals since it’s not known if regular vaccines will protect them.  Many medications don’t work on these wild cats either.

Pet Overpopulation

With estimates of over 4 million pets being killed each year in shelters, there is no need to breed hybrid cats.  These cats rarely work out as pets.  It simply adds to the overpopulation issue in all shelters.  If there is a home available for a pet, it should be for an appropriate domestic pet – not a wild animal.

 

 

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