To Bengal or Not to Bengal?

While Robie is doing fabulously well these days, we’re continuing to have behavioral problems (ahem) with biting. Dr. Doolittle gave us some excellent suggestions: rattle a can full of pennies or whack him on the nose with a roll of magazine paper. Well, he thinks both are a game and doesn’t get it that he’s being disciplined no matter how harsh we are with him. And when we try to discipline him by being “alpha cats” — holding him aloft by the scruff, hissing in his face or thumping him on the nose — he gets seriously pissed off and retaliates by running away, then dashing back to smack us on the leg or runs off to destroy something he KNOWS is forbidden.

He is, in short, diabolically smart.

The doctor’s last bit of advice was to use the spray bottle on “stream” instead of “spray” because even our toilet-loving jungle cat will find that annoying. We just started this last night and it seems to work.

Finally, I was chatting with a coworker yesterday who has three Bengals (five in her lifetime). She was looking at a picture of his face and exclaimed, “He’s a Bengal! Look at the marks on his face!” I had decided long ago that he was merely a mutt, but it helped me start to reframe Robie’s aggressive behavior. He’s insanely energetic (way beyond any of my other cats at this age), far more companionable (when he isn’t biting) and if he didn’t have Softpaws, our house would be one big shaggy, shredded hovel. My coworker told me that bizarre health issues are a lot more likely with pure breeds.

I tried this theory on Dr. Doolittle and he agreed. Apparently, if a Bengal has “flaws,” breeders typically put them down. If a rescued Bengal doesn’t have paperwork, the shelter has to give it the label “Bengal Mix,” which is what they did. I felt ambivalent about that label because of the white patches on his toes and under his chin. But now that I think about it, who knows? Maybe a female got loose and mated before she could be fixed? Lord knows they’re crazy smart and capable of pretty much any kind of mischief. That brood would be worthless to both a breeder and an owner. My coworker said his ears are exactly like a Savannah, which is true, too. Obviously something kooky happened on the DNA front to make a cat — a herkin’ cat! — allergic to meat.

So, we’re dealing with this in a whole new way. We’ve decided to play with him a lot more, to use only toys and not our hands to play, and to use the streaming gun when he’s seriously misbehaving. Someday, we’d love to get a pedigreed Bengal. Hell, now we know what we’re in for.

And, just so you know, he’s been sleeping in my lap the entire time I’ve been typing this. Sweet little weirdo.

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