Monday, February 28, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #2

I did not do this to her...

Indeed, I did not stage, pose, alter or encourage this shot in any way. She did it all herself.
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Serious Scratching Posts

While it's true that some cats will never learn to love a scratching post, you have to at least give it the old college try -- especially if you have a Bengal. And all posts are not created equal (check out above photos). The standard pet shop scratching post is usually just a bunch of sisal rope glued to a base, with maybe a couple little useless balls hanging off the top. This is fine for many cats, but our cat Leela shredded the crap out of the one we bought (as you can see). Plus, it was easy for her to knock over and, consequently, lose interest in. The best scratching post we've found is a really tall, really sturdy post with an extremely dense fiber covering (see photo at right). Leela has yet to shred any part of it or knock it down even though she frequently leaps on top of it. This post is not cheap, but well worth it. Check it out at

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

For your general amusement, from The Joy of Tech.

It's true in much the same way that The Daily Show is true. Though I'm not entirely sure which one of those is more Bengal-appropriate...

Is It Safe?

If you have a Bengal for a pet, sooner or later (usually sooner) someone is going to worry about whether it's safe to be around. Family members will fear for your life. Friends will worry about whether it's safe to let their children visit your home with this wild animal running loose. It's probably the number one concern of people who aren't really familiar with Bengals.

Look, cats - Bengals or otherwise - have claws and teeth and they know how to use them. I can't speak for all cats everywhere. But I have literally never seen Leela display an aggressive impulse toward any living thing. On the contrary, she's quite affectionate, and perhaps the most universally friendly cat I've ever seen. After a few thousand years of living with humans, house cats are pretty well domesticated. If one strikes out, it's probably because something's frightened it and it feels cornered and threatened. And Leela just doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. (Sure, she doesn't like the vacuum cleaner, but I'm not sure if she's actually afraid of it or just doesn't like the noise.)

Play is a special case, obviously. When she plays, she means it, as Laszlo can testify. But even there, she's very careful about skin. If she grabs bare skin, her claws are sheathed. In the rare cases when she nips, it's very gentle. She really seems to be aware of it and careful not to hurt you. Skin that's covered (and sadly for Laszlo, this includes fur) doesn't get quite as much deference. She will pounce with great abandon on movement beneath bedclothes - if you move while sleeping, or curl up beneath a quilt on the sofa. And in these cases, the no-claws rule doesn't apply. Again, we're not quite sure what her little kitty thought processes are. Does she not realize that this is the same foot she'd treat more gently if it were bare? Or does she just figure you've got protection and she doesn't need to hold back as much?

But in any case, the bottom line is that she's never broken my skin, deliberately or accidentally. And the frequency of minor scrapes and scratches is no greater than it's been with the domestic cats I've had for most of my life. (A heck of a lot less than one of them, in fact...)

We had an illuminating experience not long ago when a friend came over to visit with her daughter, who's about two and a half. Indeed, she was a bit wary about whether her daughter would be safe around the cat. And indeed, the moment the daughter saw our cats, it was all "kitties!" and she was off after them. Laszlo was like Keyser Soze. He was smoke. He was just gone. But Leela was curious. She stayed around and she tolerated all the enthusiastic poking and prodding without any kind of retaliation. When the girl got too aggressive, Leela would move off a bit, but she'd come right back. Like I said before, the best way to get scratched by a cat is to threaten and corner it, and that's just what over-eager kids are likely to unwittingly do. But since Leela was never afraid of her in the first place, this just never became an issue. A fine time was had by all.

So my conclusion is that, despite their "wild" ancestry, yes, it's safe to be around a Bengal. Quite possibly even safer than a standard domestic cat. She makes a lovely pet, and I can recommend the breed without reservation.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Gratuitous Cat Picture #1

Number one in a series... Just because she's cute:

This is an older picture, from when we first brought her home. She's a tiny little thing here, but you can see the stripier parts of her coat, and that lovely bronze tone she's got. You can't really tell in this shot, but her sides and back are more given to spots than the stripes you see here.
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So It's a Tiger, Then?

Sigh. No. Though we do get that reaction sometimes, especially from the in-laws, who seem to think we've taken in some ravenous man-eater that's going to maul us to death at any moment. (Okay, our tales of her antics may not have helped there...)

But, in case you're totally unfamiliar with the Bengal cat, it isn't a tiger (despite the name); and it isn't a leopard (despite its parentage). It's a hybrid of the standard domestic cat and the asian leopard cat, or simply leopard cat (Prionailurus Bengalensis). The leopard cat is not a leopard, the name notwithstanding. It's a smaller wild cat, more like a lynx or a bobcat. There are a good dozen different subspecies, found all the way from Pakistan to Japan, and south into places like Indonesia and the Phillippines. Those subspecies can have fairly dramatic differences in appearance, so searching for photos will turn up a wide range of coat patterns and even different body shapes. Some look sort of like domestic cats, while others have a slinky weirdness in the head and body that immediately says "wild animal." Coloration tends toward spots and stripes, in colors that definitely suggest a big predatory cat. In fact, one danger the cats face is fur hunting.

Here are a couple good links for further reference.
Mating between leopard cats and domestic cats happens naturally from time to time, and some breeding experiments were conducted at least as far back as the 19th century. But it was in the 1970s that a deliberate effort began to create the Bengal breed, combining the leopard cat's exotic appearance with the personality of a domestic cat.

Crossing the two gives you what breeders call an F1. This is still a long way from being a pet. F1 males are sterile, but F1 females are mated - again with domestic cats - to create F2 kittens, and so on. By the time you get about four to six generations away from the original leopard cat, you have what's no longer considered a hybrid, but a Bengal proper.

As is obvious from looking at Leela, the Bengal maintains a lot of the exotic coat pattern of the leopard cat. Otherwise, any physical differences between her and regular cats are pretty subtle. Her tail is particularly long and expressive. She's a long, sleek cat (remember she's about ten months old right now). When she sleeps, her rear paws clench up in a way I don't recognize from other cats. The leopard cat is quite a tree climber, so we guess this is to hang on to branches. When she's in "about to pounce" mode, her ears do the weirdest kind of swivel. She doesn't just flatten them against her head; she seems to literally rotate them back or something.

But one of the things I find most interesting about her is that her back seems - I don't know - compressible. When she sits, the tips of her rear and front paws are almost in a perfect row. And her spine seems to have an almost 90 degree bend in the middle. Much more than the rounded back I'm used to from regular cats. I was just digging through our pictures of her, but I don't think I have one of that pose. I'll have to try and catch one to post.

So she's got some different traits, but they're pretty minor apart from the coat. A bengal is not a tiger, but more standard domestic cat than anything else.

What's All This About?

This is about life with cats ... when one of them is a Bengal. Here are the cats in question. Laszlo, neutered male, black, about eight years old, very mellow and dignified. We think of him as a sort of feline Oscar Wilde. And Leela, neutered female, about ten months old, and a Bengal which pretty much says it all.

Leela and Laszlo in a peaceful moment.

Note the air of affectionate camaraderie as Laszlo drapes his forepaw over Leela's shoulder. It isn't always like this...

Who are we? We're not breeders, veterinarians or any kind of animal experts. We're just a relatively normal married couple living in British Columbia with our two cats. Since adding Leela to the family, we've come to realize that the Bengal is no ordinary cat. On this site, we'll share our experiences, and the lessons we've learned about how to get along with a Bengal. If you're considering getting a Bengal, if you've got one (or more) and want tips and advice, or if you just like cruising the web for cute cat pictures, we hope you'll enjoy this site and come back from time to time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Best of LwB

The nature of blog design means that posts gradually trail off the main page and into the archives where, honestly, no one's ever likely to see them again. For steady readers, that's not much of a problem. But if you randomly stroll into a newly discovered blog, you're likely to miss posts you'd really enjoy, or just basic information about what's going on here.

With that in mind, this page provides pointers to some past articles I thought might be of ongoing interest. (I could always be wrong...) Enjoy, and as always, thanks for reading Living with Bengals

Leash Training a Bengal
A four part series on getting your Bengal prepped and ready for walks outside. Includes selection of a harness or walking jacket, getting the cat to wear them, and some tactical pointers on incorporating outdoor exploration into your Bengal's routine without driving yourself crazy.