You’re all ready to bring your new fur baby home! Here’s a few things you’ll need to consider to help them to settle into your home as quickly as possible. Don’t forget that it will be quite a daunting experience both for kittens and older cats, so the more you can prepare in advance, the better all round
It’s important that you feed your kitty the same food that’s been used by the breeder or previous owner, as sudden changes in diet can lead to upset tummies. You can change their diet over time if you wish to do so, but this shouldn’t happen until the kitten/cat is completely settled into their new home, and it should take place very gradually. You should add small amounts of the new food into the old, gradually increasing the amount of new and decreasing the old in order to minimise possible problems and allow your kitty’s tummy to adjust.
Always have plenty of fresh water available and don’t be surprised if your Bengal wants to play with it! A lot of cats don’t like to have water right next to their food so if you can have it in different place (ideally in two or even three places if you have more than one cat), that’s better.
A lot of Bengals will enjoy drinking from unusual places such as taps/faucets and even the bath tub or shower when you’re in there! A drinking fountain is ideal if you can accommodate one, the fresh flowing water encourages many cats to drink which is always a good thing.
There’s no need to give your cat/kitten milk if they’re fed a complete, balanced diet. If you want to give it as a treat now and again, make sure you buy the milk that’s been formulated especially for cats/kittens (you’ll find it in pet stores, or in the pet food aisle in the supermarket) – some cats are intolerant of the high levels of lactose which are found in cow’s milk and can get an upset tummy if they drink it.
It’s also ideal to use the same kitty litter that your breeder or previous owner used, at least for the first few weeks to minimise the risks of any accidents from happening. If you want to change the litter substance, again do it over time and make gradual changes.
You should expect, however, that your fur baby will be quite daunted by their new surroundings at first so if any accidents do happen do not chastise them or shout at them, this will only stress them more as they won’t understand why this big scary human is being so horrible to them! Just clean the area and perhaps show them the tray if you caught them soon after the act. Never rub their noses in it – this is a barbaric old wives’ tale which is pure animal cruelty and achieves nothing, other than a stressed and frightened cat.
The litter tray should be placed in a quiet location, away from the cat’s food. We are fastidious, and don’t like to eat where we poop! If you have more than one cat, make sure you have enough litter trays – Bengals can be quite fussy about their toileting and may not use a tray that isn’t 100% spotless! You need to scoop out the waste several times a day – this will reduce the risk of your Bengal going to the toilet where they shouldn’t.
Indoors vs. Outdoors
Should you let your kitty outdoors when s/he is old enough? i.e. when they’ve had all their vaccinations and been neutered? Us Bengals in particular love the freedom of the outdoors and the fresh air in our fur and being outside is one way to satisfy our need for stimulation and to stop us from getting bored… But we’re also adventurous and could well wander further than most other cats, and we also don’t think anything of wandering into our neighbours’ houses or outbuildings if the door has conveniently been left open for us!
A lot will depend on the individual cat and where you live. If you’re near a busy road or in an area where there are lots of cats, or other wild animals, you might want to give this careful consideration. One good compromise is to either cat-proof your garden if possible, or build an outdoor enclosure like ours
Cat flap. Do you want one? If so, then consider a microchip operated one. These stop other cats coming into your house, which can be a very stressful experience for your cat, leading to undesirable behaviour (typically inappropriate toileting, or uncharacteristic aggression).
If you do allow your cat access outdoors via a cat-flap, we recommend locking it at night and keeping your kitty safe inside. We’ve never really understood the old adage of “putting the cat out at night”!
Hopefully your cat will never get ill, but you do need to bear in mind that vet fees can be expensive, and your cat will need to have annual boosters and check-ups as a minimum (these aren’t covered by insurance, though they are usually a requirement of the insurance policy terms and conditions). Ask friends or neighbours for recommendations in choosing a vet if you don’t already have one, ideally they should be near-by to reduce the amount of stress caused by travelling there and back.
When first bringing your kitten home remember that they think hidey holes are great! It’s good to have hidey holes for them to play in…except for gaps round the washing machine, fridge etc. Have a look around your home, especially the kitchen, and make sure there’s nowhere that tiny paws can get themselves into tricky situations. Also consider the wires around your home. Tiny teeth are very sharp you can get cable guards to avoid kitty getting a nasty shock!
When doing your laundry always check and double check that your kitty has not crept into the opening of the washer or dryer when you weren’t looking – make sure they’re not inside before you close the door and switch on the machine, we’ve heard of tragic instances where kittens/cats have unfortunately been injured or even killed accidentally in this way.
Cats like dark corners, and Bengals in particular love high places. You can provide safe dark corners by having ‘igloo’ type beds, or even cardboard boxes (which we love). See if you can provide a few high places for kitty to sit and survey his/her kingdom. A couple of gaps on bookshelves, for example, or you can buy large cat trees at quite reasonable prices.
Always look up when you live with a Bengal as it’s not unusual to see us sitting on the top of a door frame and surprising our humans with a friendly paw on their head!
Play with your cat every day. Play with toys, not your hands as you shouldn’t condition your cat to believe your hands and feet are targets. We’ve found that fishing-rod-type toys are a firm favourite for Bengals! These should always be used under supervision and placed safely out of your kitty’s reach when not in use. But try several toys to see which are your cat’s favourite and rotate them to keep it interesting!
Other things to consider
It’s worth giving early consideration to what will happen when you go on holiday: do you have someone you can depend on to come in and feed? Would you rather employ a professional pet-sitter, or use a cattery? Consider the possible costs now, rather than be taken by surprise later.
Remember that popular, well run catteries fill up quickly for peak holiday seasons such as Christmas, Easter and summer, so you need to book well in advance. Again ask friends or neighbours for recommendations for a good cattery or pet-sitter.
Do you have other pets? If so, the new kitten will have to be introduced in a controlled and gradual manner in order to have the best chance of a friendly relationship (see our article on introducing your existing cat). Same with children, actually! Your new kitten will want to sleep as much as 18 hours a day, so children should be encouraged to play at play time, and leave kitty alone when he’s/she’s sleeping.
Talking of sleeping, cats can be quite strange sometimes and will sleep in all sorts of weird and wonderful places, though often not the expensive bed you’ve bought them! But having said that, some cats do like a nice, comfy cat bed… We would recommend that you start off by buying perhaps a less expensive bed, or even providing a cardboard box with some snuggly bedding inside!
If your cat seems to like sleeping in these places, you may wish to consider upgrading to a more fancy cat bed, but if they decide the top of the kitchen cabinet is much more their cup of tea, then you haven’t wasted too much of your hard-earned cash!
Even a short haired cat like a Bengal needs a weekly groom to keep our fantastic coats in tip-top condition! Get your kitten used to grooming as soon as possible. Keep it gentle and light, though don’t encourage playing with the grooming brush! Bribery is fine. A couple of treats can make the whole thing more pleasant for everyone!
Also, check ears, eyes and nose and clean gently with a cotton wool pad soaked in warm water at the same time as grooming – get your kitty used to this at a young age and it will save problems later.
You may also wish to give consideration to whether or not you want to trim your kitty’s claws. This isn’t harmful if done correctly, it’s just like humans trimming their nails, but again if you’re going to do it, it’s best to start at a young age to get your cat used to it.
For information, we do not agree with declawing a cat. It is illegal in many countries for very good reasons. If you don’t like cat claws, then a cat is not for you. Simples.
Showing – if you’re thinking about showing your Bengal, you’ll find a handy guide we’ve written just here!