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Hybrid cats have become a fad in the pet breeding world. While hybrids are generally the same size and stature as your typical domestic cat, they are the result of selective breeding between domestic cats and wild cats such as Asian leopard cats and African servals. Many people adopt hybrids because of their unique, beautiful markings and appearance without understanding the gravity of what it means to care for one of these animals. As part domestic and part wild cat, hybrids require specialized care and attention. 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 personal stories below from people who adopted hybrid cats with the best intentions, but learned what a true challenge caring for these special cats is.
Louis Scratchmo the Bengal
Thirteen 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
Accidental Adoption of Ceci the Bengal
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 four 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 percent 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.
Living With a Bengal-Tabby Mix
My name is Jenni and my husband, Dan, and I adopted our Bengal-Tabby mixed cat about five 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 okay 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 lifestyles 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 two 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 two 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 two 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.
What Can You Do to Help Other Hybrids?
The topic of breeding hybrid cats is extremely controversial. While there are people on both sides of the debate, there is no arguing with the fact that there over four million domestic cats waiting in shelters to be adopted, many of which will be euthanized due to lack of space and funds. Breeding any animal for the sake of profit is irresponsible when you consider the enormity of the pet homelessness problem in the U.S. Additionally, many hybrid cats end up abandoned by their guardians who find that they are simply not equipped to care for these semi-wild cats, which only serves to exacerbate pet homelessness.
You can help to put an end to this vicious cycle by sharing what you’ve learned and discouraging others from purchasing hybrid cats. To learn more about what the Wildcat Sanctuary is doing, click here.
Lead image source: Sean McGrath/Flickr