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How to Discipline a Bengal Cat Safely & Effectively in 6 Steps

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

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For anyone who’s ever owned a Bengal cat, it’s clear how much of a handful they can be. These cats are closer to “wild” than most other domestic cats, and their dog-like behaviors are foreign for some cat owners. This can make it confusing and frustrating when trying to train your Bengal. For many Bengals, normal cat discipline methods may not be effective, which means that you may have to get creative to convince your Bengal to do things your way. By discipline in this article we mean teaching your cat what is acceptable behaviour and not using punishment. This article can help get you started!


How Not to Discipline Your Bengal Cat

To better understand how to discipline your Bengal, you must first understand what you shouldn’t do to punish your cat. Physical punishment methods, like spanking, are not acceptable for any cat and will only increase fear and anxiety which will increase the chances of behavioural and health problems. These methods of discipline are considered abusive.

Spraying your cat with water is a controversial training method that many people consider unacceptable, this is because, in part, the negative correlation is made between you and the poor behaviour choice so they tend to just stop it when you are around. In fact, it may just teach your Bengal to misbehave more sneakily, so they’re more likely to do the undesirable behaviour where you can’t see them.

striped tiger bengal cat
Photo Credit: Cressida studio, Shutterstock

The 6 Steps to Discipline Your Bengal Cat

1. Set your Bengal up for success.

By creating an environment where your Bengal doesn’t have access to breaking the rules, you can set your cat up to succeed. If you know your cat will steal things from your bathroom trash, then keep the bathroom door closed. If you know your cat will bolt the second the front door opens, then create an extra layer of security, like adding a screen door that doesn’t allow for a quick escape. Set up your home so that your cat can, as far as possible, fulfill its natural behaviors in a way that is acceptable to you.  Such as vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces, cat shelves for exploring, hidey holes where they can go to get some peace.

2. Play with your Bengal daily.

Bengals are high-energy cats that need to play every day. A bored Bengal is more likely to get into trouble than one that is content and worn out from play and brain games. Physical exercise, like walking on a harness and playing with a teaser toy, is an excellent outlet for the high levels of energy Bengal cats contain. You should also purchase or create puzzles for your cat that will keep your cat busy and automatically reward the cat when solved.  Bengals can be trained to do some fun tricks such as fetch and high five.  Get creative with your games and enjoy bonding with your cat.

3. Create deterrents.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to keep your Bengal away from certain items or areas in your home, so it’s your job to create deterrents. For example, if your cat’s favorite way to misbehave is to ignore the scratching post and scratch your couch cushions instead, then uncomfortable mats can be used to keep your cat from wanting to settle on the couch for a scratching session. Enclose favorite off-limits items in storage containers or use child locks on cabinets to keep your cat from accessing them.

4. Practice positive reinforcement.

When your Bengal behaves in a way you approve of, praise them! Provide a treat or toy, as well as plenty of loving words and a few chin scratches. Positive reinforcement doesn’t stop bad behaviors, but it reinforces to your cat that a specific behavior elicits a positive response. This will encourage your cat to continue with good behavior. For example, if your cat who likes to scratch on the couch starts scratching on the scratching post, praise and treat to reinforce the behavior.  The key here is consistency and speed.  To link the behaviour and the reward needs repetition and rewarding within a couple of seconds of the behaviour.

5. When all else fails, ignore your cat’s behavior (kind of).

Bengals crave attention and are people-oriented cats that can be quite demanding. Sometimes, they’ll act out simply to get your attention. By not reacting to undesired behavior, you may discourage your cat from repeating the behavior if they are attempting to get your attention.

There is a fine line here, though. If your cat is doing a behavior that is instinct-driven, like scratching inappropriate items, then ignoring the behavior is not likely to fix the problem. If the behavior is dangerous to your cat, like climbing onto pots on the stove, then it’s imperative that you intervene immediately. While getting burned by a hot stove may teach your cat not to jump up there, it’s your job as your cat’s owner to keep your cat safe and healthy. This includes protecting your cat from things they may not understand.

6. Use redirection to distract your Bengal.

Redirection is a great option for stopping a behavior because it allows your cat to get something more entertaining out of the situation. To redirect a behavior, don’t address the problem behavior itself. For example if your cat is scratching the couch, try offering a toy from across the room so your cat must stop what they’re doing and forget about the undesired behavior to investigate what you’re offering instead.

Walking and other forms of exercise and play are wonderful ways to redirect your cat’s behavior. Redirection allows you to ignore your cat’s irritating behavior, as addressed above, without allowing your cat to continue with that behavior. Redirection allows you to intervene in bad behavior without your cat recognizing that you’re paying attention to the bad behavior.

Be careful with redirection, though. There can be a fine line between redirection and positive reinforcement of bad behaviors if you draw an association between the bad behavior and the positive outcome. For example, if you offer your cat a treat every time the couch scratching starts, then you may be unintentionally rewarding your cat for scratching the couch.

young bengal cat playing an interactive toy
Photo Credit: Evdokimova, Shutterstock

Living with a Bengal Cat

Bengals are exceptionally intelligent cats. Many people underestimate just how trainable they are. Clicker and target training can be an effective training tool for these cats, and they are perfectly capable of learning how to take verbal cues as well.

Always set your Bengal cat up with an environment that offers success, though. These cats can become overstimulated and frustrated, and if they are bored and being reprimanded for simply attempting to burn energy, you’ll end up with a cat that may become aggressive, whether true aggression or rough play.

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In Conclusion

When it comes to disciplining your Bengal cat, there is not much active disciplining for you to do but rather training and rewarding behaviors you want to see more of. Indeed physical punishments and discipline are unacceptable.  Make sure your cat has an outlet for its energy and intellect to keep the whole household happy.

These cats are not for everyone, and they do have high daily needs especially if kept as a housecat. It’s essential that you set your cat up to succeed in a safe environment that allows for as little misbehavior as possible. If troublesome behavior continues it is time to call in the professionals and speak with your vet or local accredited veterinary behaviourist.

Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock

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