First-hand stories from hybrid cat owners

Bengal featured image

13 years ago we wanted to buy a cat to replace a moggie that’d been an energetic playmate to our farm-cat, Tiger, but who succumbed to mammarian cancer. We went through the cat magazines and decided a Bengal had the advertised personality, and so we brought Louis Scratchmo Armstrong into our household. He and Tiger have been great friends ever since.

It’s ironic that our farm-cat moggie is reaching 20, while the purebred Bengal may have oral cancer at 12 years old. We won’t really know until the histology report comes back.

I remember the breeder’s house when we picked Louis up. Nothing more spectacular than seeing a swarm of rosetted Bengals leaping around and playing. But, just because you CAN do something (breeding Bengals) means that you SHOULD do it.

At around six years of age, Louis had a bad experience with another cat, and started inappropriately urinating and acting out. It’s been a challenge, but we were able to accommodate him. Now he appears to have oral cancer and Louis appears to be preparing his exit. The one thing I reflect on is how many owners of Bengals would have surrendered Louis at six years. We didn’t, and had six more years of joy from this little guy, though it may now be coming to an end.

I do agree with The Wildcat Sanctuary that hybrids may be good kitties individually, but the whole practice of breeding them is not a good idea. Especially Bengals. I’m glad we’ve known Louis, but I doubt his litter-mates made out so well. I am so happy that you add disclaimers after every Facebook post about your hybrids to the effect of “there are also wonderful cats in shelters that you might look into, because hybrids are not always as advertised.” I wish there were some stronger statement that could be made to Cat Fancy or whatever its successor is called.

I know that those kitties in Hybrid Haven are all good kitties, that can’t be really called domesticated. Thanks for letting me vent…..Brian

hybrid magazine

Four years ago, I decided I would give my husband a kitten for Father’s Day.  I was talking with friends and mentioned how expensive it was at the Hennepin County Humane Society. All our rescued pets have come from there and it was my plan to go there again. One gal said kittens were everywhere and she’d find me one. She did, a darling little tabby from her neighbor whose cat got unexpectedly pregnant. They were going to take the kittens to a shelter because they were unwanted. When we got her, we got something we were not looking for. She was a terror. She’d race into a room, bite hard and be gone in an instant. When I took her into the vet, she’d pat me on the shoulder and say “Good luck with that one.” On our third visit, we saw the vet we’d been seeing for the past 20 years and my little kitten spit at him. He picked her up and looked her over. Then said what we’d adopted was a Bengal. He was very knowledgeable about them. He’d taken in several Bengals that people brought in to put down because they couldn’t manage them. We were stunned. After some research, I learned a breeder lived near the mother cat. I called the breeder and asked her to please keep her male cat indoors.

Ceci is now 4 years old. My husband and I are the only ones who can be near her. She is very territorial. Unprovoked, she will bite and scratch anyone who comes in our house. We must lock her in a room whenever anyone comes into our house. We have a truce with her that is broken several times a week with a bite that draws blood or a scratch that does. I try hard to read her to avoid being hurt, but I can’t all the time. Everyone we know thinks we’re crazy to keep such a cat. But we don’t toss life away. She’s ours. We have a cat box the size of North Dakota for her in the basement and she uses it. And she has moments she likes to lie next to me. She sleeps at the end of my bed. I make sure I have enough blankets on the bed so if I make a mistake and move where I’m unwanted, I won’t get hurt when she bites me. I love her but no one supports us having a dangerous cat like our Ceci.

Probably our biggest day to day challenge with her beyond the guest issues is food. She is ALWAYS hungry and eats anything. If we’re eating and we don’t share she will bite or scratch us. And she supervises me while I cook.
I sorely miss all my previous sweet cats. But we are committed to Ceci. She’s ours and we take that responsibility seriously. We love what we can and try to manage the rest but that’s not easy, not easy at all. Next time round, I will be very, very careful to rescue a 100%  domesticated cat. I didn’t knowingly adopt a hybrid but I won’t make that mistake twice. I have a Beware of Cat sign outside and that’s no joke….Amelia and Mark

Harpo is an F3 Bengal. While I loved him with all of my heart, he eventually became too much to handle. This sweet boy gave me problems from the first day I brought him home. He was sick. Very sick. While I’m not sure if it was neglect on the breeder’s side or if he just came down with something, he was in bad shape. I’ll never forget staying up with him all night laying with him on the bathroom floor, thinking for sure he was going die, all while only being 12 weeks old. I spoon fed him tiny amounts of food, which he immediately purged or pooped out, bottle fed him water, which he’d barely drink, and gently wiped away the crust and gunk from his infected eyes. Luckily, we made it through the night and he made a quick and full recovery and went on to be his rambunctious and loudmouth self.

Everything was going great until he got to be about 5 months old. He began peeing everywhere. Litter box is cleaned two times a day, so I knew that wasn’t the problem. I figured it was time to get him fixed to attempt to stop this. It didn’t work. Almost every single day, I would find more pee on my bed or my couch. I did so much research to try to figure out what was causing it, but he wouldn’t stop. He was the only cat in the house, so I knew it wasn’t territorial. I was distraught and heartbroken.

This went on and on for a little over a year and a half before I finally threw in the towel. I looked around and interviewed many people before packing his things and handing him over to a lovely couple who would love him as much as I do. I’m hoping they have had better luck.

I miss him all the time, but I know now that I will never own a Bengal again, nor support hybrid breeding. Thank you for listening to my (long-winded) story and thank you for all that you do for these wonderful cats!   Nicole S.

My name is Jenni and my husband, Dan, and I adopted our Bengal-Tabby mixed cat about 5 years ago from a local no-kill rescue organization. At the time that we fell in love with him and decided to adopt him, we just thought that his marbled markings and the spots on the belly were the only thing that were exotic.  We were told that he gives “love bites” and that he’d been placed with the shelter when his orginal owners had to move from their house into an apartment.  Then, he’d been adopted out with his littermate but kept attacking this other cat so much, that the owner brought him back to the shelter. Once we got him home, we quickly learned that he was not like any other cat we’d ever had before.  He instantly became the alpha in our house and even though we loved him very much, became wary of his hair-trigger biting the second that we petted him too long or if we moved to quickly by his head.  It wasn’t until he attacked me one day and bit me through my jeans leaving deep puncture wounds that we knew we needed to get a little more guidance. Another time, he’d been getting restless when my husband was home with him and attacked my husband’s lower leg sending him to the emergency clinic. Our vet gave us some tips on how to deal with his aggression and we tried to go back to normal life.

A few years after we had him, he’d just been let out of the house when we heard our female neighbor scream. We ran out of the house thinking that he’d been attacked by a coyote.  Instead, we came out to find her bleeding from her leg (she’d been wearing shorts) yelling that our cat had attacked her. He had been stalking a rabbit when she’d startled him, he leapt up at her and left puncture wounds on her thigh causing her to bleed freely. At that point, after making sure that she was OK and advising her to seek medical advice, we decided that we would need to keep him from being free-roaming from then on.

That same day, we built an outdoor enclosure and decided to come up with a plan to train him to walk on a leash.  It wasn’t until I discovered your website and read your page on hybrid breeds that I realized that a lot of his behavior could most likely be traced back to his wild genes.  In a way, that helped us manage his behavior better, knowing that he wasn’t bad, he just had some primal instincts that were affecting his reactions to stimuli in his environment.  To make a long story short, we love him very much and he’s taught us to love someone even though they challenge us every day.  We hired an animal behaviorist to prevent more aggression and have found out from our vet that he has very bad teeth and we’re about to have his teeth professionally cleaned for the second time.  We kept our commitment to protect others from his reactive behavior and we take him on a walk every day on his leash for up to an hour and he and his buddy, Nori, enjoy “enrichment time” out in their Catio every morning and evening.  I am sure that if he had ended up in another home, maybe with a family with kids and busy lifetyles that he probably would have been put down by now.  Not many households would give a cat as many chances as we have but we’re so glad that we have.  I just really want to spread the word that wild hybrid cats should not be marketed as domestic household cats, they are definitely wild and need special handling to help them be successful and safe for others.

Thanks so much for debunking the harmful myths that Bengal breeders are spreading about how harmless and domesticated they are. More people could be hurt if they don’t know how to handle the potential aggression of this breed…..Jenni and Dan

Our lovely girl was found wandering the streets of our trailer court. She was very friendly to me but you could tell she belonged to someone. My son wanted to keep her, but she had to have a worried human that was looking for her right?? Unfortunately, that was a big nope. No one claimed her. She was taken to the vet to see if she had a microchip and that was a no. She had her tests done for feline leukemia and feline aids. She was negative for both, but treated for fleas and parasites. She was then scheduled for to be spayed. It was then I learned she was more than just a domestic house kitty. She apparently did not like being there and was very nasty. It was put in her file that she will bite if she does not like you. It took several days for Kenny to realize that I had 2 other kitties in the house, because she had never seen toys, let alone had so many to play with.

It took Kenny a while to calm down around the other 2 kitties. At times, she would have to be separated or she was going to hurt the one who would play with her. She eventually learned to play “nice” and eventually became part of the home. She absolutely adores my son and will sleep in his room at night or if he shuts her out of his room she will sit at his door and cry. She loves it when I cook chicken or any meat for that matter. She will sit and beg for pieces of meat. Kenny also plays fetch as well. She is the reason why we have 2 kitty towers and plenty of toys. She loves to play with the other cats but if there is the occasional cat fight, she steps in and it’s not good. I have to stop it before it gets too far out of hand or it’s not good.

Having a Bengal is not for the faint of heart. They can be very unpredictable, need space, and stuff to climb. I made this girl a promise of forever with me or someone that could do better by her if we couldn’t be the home she needed. Luckily, we are and she loves home.

Would I rescue another Bengal?? Probably not, but then again I probably will. They need a home and love too but it may not be in a family setting. It takes a lot of research and patience with them. I’m very thankful this worked out with us, but there are a lot of hybrids that get dumped into shelters or rescues without those places knowing. They are sometimes bought as a pet for someone who is completely inadequate to take care of such a fine animal. This girl was promised forever and forever is what she got. It needs to be shared that this fine feline was dumped. Whether they are hybrids or not this cannot go on. Their lives matter…..Jennifer P.

I got two kittens from a breeder in northern Ohio a couple years ago. Both kittens were immediately sickly as soon as we got them home. The conditions of the breeder’s home were absolutely disgusting, and she refused to show us the actual cattery which was in the basement. After spending a small fortune on vet bills trying to figure out what was wrong (considering I paid a lot just for the kittens with this “health guarantee ” that she refused to honor) one of the kittens was eventually diagnosed and passed away from FIP.  To say I was devastated is an understatement. I did everything I could within my power to save her.  I found the best vet in the state, spent thousands of dollars on treatment, medication etc. only to lose this poor baby at 6 months old. When I told the breeder, she said it was my fault. I had my vet write her an explanation that FIP is passed down from the mother and that mother should not be bred anymore, and she basically told me to f* off. Only when I told her I was hiring an attorney did she offer to replace the kitten (which she was refusing to do, but obligated to do per the purchase contract ) as if they are just items and not amazing living creatures. She acted like she sold me a lemon vehicle and 110% could not care less about the welfare of her animals. Anyway, I tried to warn the local bengal community and file a complaint with the international bengal society but because she was a longtime member and popular breeder, no one would give me the time of day. I tried everything to warn people so no one would have to go through the absolutely heart wrenching experience of desperately trying to save a tiny life to no avail. I made Facebook pages for my kittens, and my baby I lost to FIP gained so much support from the community, it helped me heal from her loss. However, the pain from the entire experience has scarred me emotionally.

On the brighter side, I still have one of the kittens and she is absolutely amazing. I truly would be lost without her. She is my best friend, and without a doubt the best companion I’ve ever had. Thanks for listening …..Mareen B.

I had an F3 Savannah that died at the age of 13 months from an oral cancer. He bonded to me, but no one else could get near him. He was from a well promoted breeder of hundreds of hybrid cats.  Not quite a puppy mill, but not far from it either. Very scary and sad for the cats. Never again. His name was Keifer. He was sick when I got him as a kitten and just never put two and two together. No one could fully examine him without sedating him or putting him under. Then we met a surgeon who was going to perform a $3,000 jaw surgery only to find out it was a tumor wrapped around his tongue. We never woke him up from anesthesia. Just wish these hybrid cats weren’t promoted as wonderful exotic, unique house pets. They are making a lot of money when kittens are sold between $1800 and $5,000 and they claim F2’s and F3’s  are suitable for some homes….Monique P.

17 years ago, I moved  to a new community in the country. One of my cats went missing and I saw a found cat ad. It turned out not to be my Sassy and I soon realized a predator probably got her. The lady however told me she bred Bengals, which I knew nothing about. The lady admitted she was moving and had a female she had bred for 4 years that she needed to find a home for.  I went over to meet her and, aside from some unusual markings, I thought she looked like a regular cat. I agreed to take her after seeing that she was raised and bred in a small cage for 4 years. After I got her home, I realized she had no socialization at all. The first year, she spent hiding in the house. She would come out to eat, but reacted violently if I tried to hold her or touch her.  One day, she saw an opportunity to escape out an open door. I worried so much, I would sit for hours in the woods where I had seen her. I would take cans of tuna and food to try to coax her to me. Finally, I had to get a trap but got her back in the house.  She was more traumatized than ever.  One day, she escaped again and this time I just let her go. “Go be free sweet Ruby.”  I continued to feed her on my back porch and she showed no interest in coming in or socializing. The day I feared arrived and I noticed Ruby was pregnant.   She was huge and spending more time on the porch and I was finally able to pick her up and she relented. I fixed her a place in the basement and waited the birth of her 6 babies!   She was thin and struggled to keep up with feedings but I stuck by her and nourished her. At first, she hissed at me when I came close to the babies, but within a week she and I had finally bonded!  I found the kitties homes, but we kept one.  I got Ruby spayed and from then on my relationship with Ruby was precious.  Slowly, she started coming up on my bed, inching her way closer to my hand.   Ruby has to be 20 today.  She still cannot get enough of me and prefers to lay on or next to my head. She has an unusual purr.  Her baby we kept who is yellow is one tough cookie. He prefers the outdoors; is an excellent hunter; and wanders these crazy woods constantly.  But also a lover. He’s the king and Chases dogs away!   Sadly, Ruby is winding down.  She stays in her bed unless she eats. She’s still such a lover.  She’s taught me so much about love. I know she is grateful for the life I gave her. I know I saved her from a despicable life in a cage. Is she truly a bengal?   I don’t know.  But I know that lady passed her babies off as such.  She’s a blessing. I love her so! Terri L.

Our Bengal is a rescue, and I do my best to explain to people that a hybrid cat is a huge commitment. Many of them have severe dietary issues and need extra veterinary care, like Mugen. He came to us severely overweight, has irritable bowel syndrome, skeletal issues, and he bites sometimes because the people who bought him had him declawed. That has meant an added burden for Mugen, and it really makes me angry. My advice to anyone who does want to adopt a hybrid, learn as much as possible in advance. Set your house up for climbing, running, and jumping, and please, don’t adopt one unless you are prepared to face the potential medical issues, which can get quite expensive. Above all, please don’t buy them…Jennifer T.

We are the 2nd Home for our Bengal Georgie. She is very affectionate to me now, but started out rough, and she wants to kill one of our older cats, so we have the house divided in two. Didn’t know she was a Bengal until recently-and knowing all the traits listed are normal for her has helped, along with other peoples solutions. Liz originally saw her living in the crate (while at the store) where we adopted our other two rescues; and since she was getting along with her cage mate, unrelated, we assumed they would get along OK with the previous two if we were not stupid about introducing them; only found out about the first person who adopted Georgina after we committed to getting them-and that she was thrown in with this woman’s multi-cat household, then brought back in a week saying ‘she’s mean’. Her ears had the tips frozen off before she was rescued. We still have not gotten to where we can trim her nails, but at least if I am around, the vet can do it. We made a commitment when we adopted her, and are honoring it. We did initially have some bad advice from a pet behaviorist, who turned out to be a PhD on dogs. (Get her used to a harness/leash-that was a wasted 6 months)…Scott R.

Sure are beautiful cats! But as someone who works in a vet office where we see bengals, they are very, very different and don’t make good pets. If people want a wild looking domestic cat, think about Abyssinian and Ocicats. Gorgeous and no wild blood…Kim V.

I adopted an adult Snow Bengal from a local high kill shelter a few years ago (said to have come in as a stray). He is beautiful, BUT not like any other cat I have ever had. I DO NOT recommend these for house pets. He is very territorial, aggressive, and he pees in the house when we don’t go on regular walks. I am not a person to give up on an animal so he is not going away. We have built him a 10x12x10 catio to help him bramble to spend more time out on his own, and maybe curb his aggression and peeing. He loves going out and spends most of his time there by his own choice. He is exhausting. I wish people that think they want one, lived with one for a time. They would change their minds…Ricci F.

My parents bread these when I was a teenager… I would never get one, not even for free. They are not your typical cuddle cat at all, they are very independent as male and female, don’t like to be held at all (referring to multiple cats that they had…they always bit) and they are up all night howling (yes, howling. Many of them did this and it’s LOUD). They really are as beautiful as the pictures and very soft but very difficult. I rescue animals as an adult now so I’d definitely never pay $1000+ for a “pretty cat”. Also, they are claimed as a hypoallergenic cat…wrong. Our family member still couldn’t be in our home for more than 20 minutes before he started having his reactions and having to leave the house and that was with ONE Bengal and no other animals. Definitely do your research before forking out the doe for these….Melissa P.

I work at an animal hospital where we see about half a dozen Bengals regularly. One is pretty friendly considering he is at the vet’s and we’re told he is a nice house pet. Four are described by their owners as unfriendly and disappointing as pets. The last one attacked the family at every opportunity and was very hard to catch when he got out of the house, which was often. Only the man could catch him. The last time he got out, he attacked and badly hurt a little girl who tried to pet him. Animal Control had to capture him with a catch pole. We were contacted to verify his Rabies vaccination, which was up to date. I don’t know what became of him, but he was not returned to his owners. Poor cat…his wild genes prevented him from being a house pet and the attempt to make him one ruined his life and may have led to his premature death…..Kay A.