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Should I Let My Cat Outside? Especially a Bengal?

A very controversial topic in the Bengal cat community is whether or not you should let your Bengal outside. As I understand it, some countries consider it cruel to keep a cat locked up inside. People will do what they need to do to give their cats access to the outdoors, even when living in an apartment NOT on ground level. In the US, it is very common for people to keep their kitties as indoor pets, especially Bengals because they are a rare breed and there is the added risk of theft when they are outdoors unsupervised.

SEE ALSO: How To Train Your Cat To Walk On A Leash

A few months ago, some events went down that made me question whether or not I should let my indoor Bengals outside. Despite living in a large two­story home, working from home, having two Bengals so they can play with each other, interacting with the cats constantly, trying to play with them vigorously multiple times a day, giving them a variety of toys to play with, and practicing positive reinforcement, my one Bengal grew more and more unhappy indoors. I had to do something since my Bengal was miserable, not to mention the rest of my household.

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After trying everything possible to keep my Bengals happy indoors despite them wanting to go outside, I finally decided to let them have free roam of the outdoors. This decision has not been easy and I’ve gotten a lot of mixed feedback from people. My family thinks that I am irresponsible for letting my cats have their freedom and frequently remind me of the risks for letting my Bengals outside. Other people tell me that I am selfish if I don’t let my cats outside.

I have created a 3­part video series (so far) documenting the entire process of letting my Bengals outside and what it has been like. For the most part it has been great but also, something happened to my Bengal that I would have never expected as you will find in Part 3.

Whether or not you let your Bengals outside is a personal decision and my intention is not to sway you one way or the other. My goal is to raise awareness of the pros and cons to letting your Bengal outside and ultimately, help you make the right decision for your Bengal.

I welcome you to engage in the conversation on this topic whether on YouTube or right here on the blog! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

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If you have any questions or tips to share on this subject, you can also visit our Bengal Cats Forums.

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30 comments

  1. Have you thought of building a catio? We have built an outside catio where our cats can have some freedom while we are outside.

  2. no not unless u have them on a harness leash I think I tried that on my female tawny once and she didnt know what to think,but she’s really an indoor cat, so she’s scared to go outside, and I haven’t tried it again. Went I went for a walk, I carried her the whole time so she could just look around, and she got a little heavy, but I think she had a little fun doing that. I think sometimes they need to get a little fresh air either way.

  3. I have an 8 month old Bengal who adores his walks. I put him in a harness and lead as soon as we bought him, and he never had any issues with the harness at all. SniPurr knows where his lead is kept on the hat stand in the hallway and brings the lead to me when he wants a walk, normally a couple of times a week. He has a special bird-like call he makes with this act of bringing the lead. Strong winds frighten him and so do vehicle sounds. He has a regular pattern of where we walk, he likes to check out the same places, sniff the same spots, and scratch the same two trees, so routine is important. I allow SniPurr to lead me, except near the road curb, which I deter him from in case he ever gets out of the house unharnessed. So far he has only ventured around our house and the two neighbouring houses, he shows no interest in venturing further. Generally his walks take about 30 minutes and then he happily wanders back to the front door. A most enjoyable time for us both.

  4. Can we talk about leash training? It’s something between free roaming and not going out.

    My cats have loved it. My 8 y/o female has an escape proof harness which I keep on her. She is a little high strung, and really doesn’t care as much about outside.

    My male on the other hand – Just two years old this april has come to be somewhat demanding about getting his walks. Today we got to chase 6 squirrels two rabbits and a couple birds. To him – this is the meaning of life.

    This is now my fourth Bengal to leash train.
    If you are successful leash training a cat, be prepared to learn what the “I want to go outside” Yowl sounds like… It’s a most insistent peacock sound, which sounds like the cat is trapped and in serious trouble. It’s incredibly irritating.

    Playing and walking outside activates the ‘wild’ gene in a cat.

    Cats are normally reluctant to the harness, they get used to it. Eventually.

    Once they are used to it, then the leash, and then a venture outside.

    A cat will go where it wants to go. It must occasionally be dragged in the direction that you want to go, so that it learns that is the direction that it wants to go.

    At the same time, this must be an enjoyable experience for you and the cat. You may not enjoy this for a while.
    Dont push too hard (or I mean pull). Make sure that the cat learns that this is his adventure.

    Now – the real caution. Cats have a fright response which trips like a trigger, and a cat when frightened will lose rational thought capability. These have to be recognised.

    Most cats won’t do well with strangers at first. You should have a sense about your cat here from experience with visitors at home. Start with walks around the immediate home, and develop a pattern. Eventually the cat will anticipate the pattern – and be comforted by it . Slowly but consistently make changes or differences in the walk pattern – so that changes dont provoke the fright response.

    I’ve found that stopping and sitting – provokes a serenity and happiness to the walk.

    I didn’t mention – a 15′ retractable lead and running shoes is part of the fun. You can hunt together! What a blast.. Watch how your cat reacts when it actually trees the #$%@ squirrel which teases him while he’s inside..

    When you get to the park, you get to meet new people and dogs. Rarely other cats. The two most common questions are: Is that a cat? and usually heard in the distance: ” mommy, what kind of dog is that?”

    • It’s a very interesting subject and I’m actually reading a lot about this lately because I have decided to give it a try recently. I’ve ordered a harness last week and I’ll be experiencing all of that in a few days. Thank you Mike for sharing your experience!

      • On harnesses – My male is on a figure eight.. He could probably escape it if he tried. My female is on another type, which goes down the front. She cannot escape from this one. When the cat faces you, couches and backs up is how they can slip out of a figure 8 harness.. If they do have a fright and escape the harness – they might literally disappear before your eyes. Chances are that the cat will follow the perimeter of the building. once you find him/her, and you find they are only running from you, the best bet is to corral the cat to an open door of the building home – and get it to run inside. It’s nearly impossible to do this without the help of a second human.. If you take it slowly, and develop the known route, then when the unexpected delivery man, etc shows up, that cat will have a familiar reference.. If they do this at night, a cat will typically give itself away by the reflection of light off it’s eyes.. I havent lost one yet..

        • I ordered the Kitty Holster Cat Harness after seeing this product on Jackson Galaxy’s show. Some people also recommended this harness so I decided to give it a try… My plan is to try first on my rooftop terrace to see how it goes. If everything looks good with the harness and my cat’s behaviour, I’ll slowly introduce him to the outside world but very late at night in order to avoid noises, people, cars, dogs…

          • I saw them, and would’ve ordered, but found a similar one at petco.. That was my fallback from reading the reviews.

  5. I have a question about my daughters Bengal. She lived in my house for approximately 3 years with the bengle and he had the Chihuahua that we have to play with every day. Well since she moved out the cat seems to be more aggressive towards her he wants to bite and I’m just wondering if maybe he misses our dog and if maybe he misses me and my husband and grand daughter and would feel better living in my home instead of hers or maybe she just needs to get him a playmate to play with. When she lived in my home, being out in the country it was okay to let him out so he could run and play but she lives closer to a main road and she’s afraid to let him out because she’s scared he will get in the road and get run over. She’s expecting a baby in November and really doesn’t know if it’s OK to keep the cat or if maybe she should get rid of him considering he continues to bite her she’s afraid he might end up biting her baby. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Hi Marlene! A few things come to mind on this situation…

      First, I know some cats have a hard time dealing with a move. One of my Bengals isn’t too keen on it and he can be pretty grumpy for a week following the move, but never aggressive. Do you think he is having a hard time adjusting?

      Second, do you think he is having a hard time being indoors after he was allowed to roam? I would think this could make him anxious. Maybe he needs more play, space to climb, and more attention?

      Third, as I’m sure you’ve been told, cat bits are very serious. If the cat is being aggressive hopefully she is giving him his space a bit. My Bengal bit my boyfriend’s hand while we were trying to wash pepper spray off of him and it gave us a good scare. He didn’t go to the doc and it healed fine, but cats can carry a lot of viruses. He has had some pretty bad mouth/jaw pain for the past 3+ weeks (started just days after the cat bite), the dentist said his teeth are fine, and we were concerned that he got some bizarre virus from the bite. If the pain comes back he will get a blood test. Probably a small chance the two are related, but it scared us enough to realize cat bites ARE serious (we need to learn things first hand apparently). We were told if you go to a doc for a cat bite that they will send animal control to your house to take the cat and quarantine it for two weeks to observe it for two weeks for signs of rabies… six months if they are not up to date on their rabies.

      If he really is being aggressive, a new baby on the way would concern me even more.

      I would see if she can try to get to the bottom of this behavioral issue. Rehoming a cat is not necessarily the first thing to do but if all else fails and he would be happier with you on your property, at least he would be in the family still and your daughter and her baby on the way would be free from the risk of a serious bite.

      I hope this helps. Let me know what you find out or if you have more questions 🙂 I wish her and her Bengal the best!

    • Cats only bite out of fear in the most extreme cases. Usually it’s a play bite or a love bite. Usually cats have an innate understanding of babies and never use claws or teeth on them.
      Exceptions to this are cats who have been abused – kicked or hit.
      Never ever use your hand as a toy. If your cat decides that your hand is a toy – then quit playing. re-enforce with a sharp no, or hand clap, or spritz from a water bottle if handy.

      Bengal cats play rough, and they need to play. These are not beginner cats.

      A cat is juvenile until about two. You may get an alpha/authority challenge on occasion as the cat matures. If a cat is being real bad – and not out of fear, scruff and crate the cat for a while. If the behavior persists – or doesnt fit the conditions I typed here – see a vet, or talk to the breeder.

  6. We have been considering and researching whether to get a Bengal or Cheetoh. But people have told me they can have fixation, is this true? Therefore concerned that if we did get one of these cats that it may not return home if let outside. So thinking of building a huge outdoor cat run/enclosure (most of our rear yard) with lots of big branches to climb etc, plenty of room to run, for outside play time. Would this be a good compromise? We feel it wouldn’t be right to keep a Bengal/Cheetoh inside 100% of the time but don’t want it to be able to roam out of the yard.

    • My Bengals never stray too far from home and come home all the time. I think if they are treated well and fed that they will know where home and their safety spot is.

      A cat enclosure could be a good compromise. That wouldn’t work for my one Bengal as he wanted his freedom but others say their Bengals love it and are content.

      Are you in a city or more in the country? In a neighborhood my Bengals would definitely yard hop. The country makes me feel better as I can usually take a small walk to find them if necessary.

      And I don’t know what a Cheetoh is! Is that similar to a Bengal?

  7. My Bengal is crazy and is indoors all day – usually around 3 or 4 hours on his own per day and when we get home we have to take him out the back to run crazy because he just has built up energy. We always stay outside with him and I do think they need outdoor time whether it is supervised or in a cat run. He is an absolute nightmare to catch when it is time to go back inside because he loves it so much outside!

  8. I have a Bengal who I have trained to stay in the garden if she wants to go outside. I’ve secured the garden so she can’t escape under any bushes and any fence jumping attempts she goes straight back inside again as punishment. It means that when she has access she’s quite happy just in that space and comes in when I call.
    I do this for all the reasons outlined above especially as in the beginning she got so overstimulated she wouldn’t listen to me to come back. Plus I find if a cat is mainly an indoor cat then they tend to revolve their time around the owner and not the great outdoors!

  9. Victoria gabriele

    First of all i applaud your courage for even discussing this topic online as im sure you have been inundated with thousands of texts saying what a horrible idea letting your cats/ bengals outside.
    It took alot of thought for you to be so brave!

    I have five indoor cats myself.one is a purebred bengal female and one of my males is a bengal cross.the other three are different breeds. I find my two bengals very different in activity levels are couriosity than my “regular” housecats. Their energy levels are off the charts.

    I’ve struggled myself with guilt for keeping them indoors. It truly is a balance between quality of life and length of life and like you ive chosen to keep them indoors.it does weigh on my mind though that they are not as happy as they could be. During the winters here in ct they seem fine being indoors.now that the windows are open and the birds are out thats all changed.they sit in the windows and doors for hours watching the world go by.

    Both my bengals have escaped twice before. My purebred was esp hard to get back into the house as she cannot be held ever. I really thought id lost her for good once she was outside. I was able to scare her enough though that she dove back into the window in the house that she escaped from, thank god.

    Ill be watching for your future videos to see if you change your mind or not and how that goes.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    Vicki gabriele

    • Thanks for the kind words, Vicki! This has been such a struggle for me the past few months so I thought I’d share my journey as I know others are (or will be) in the same boat of questioning whether they should let their kitties out, especially when keeping them inside is becoming intolerable.

      All you can do is your best. I believe that cats know where their home is. When I let mine out for the first time I was watching their every move, wondering how far they would go, what they would do and wondered if they would come home or not. They both spend most of their time on the property (that I’m aware of) an over 50% of their time indoors sleeping or hanging out with us while we work.

      Not sure if you watched all three videos in this series (can access by going to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWCkZw5nYGUqn7t0KvyeLnQ/videos) but I’ve chosen to let both of my Bengals outside and they’ve had the option to be indoors or outdoors for 3 months now. A few weeks ago, my Bengal was pepper or bear sprayed and it broke my heart and was a setback mentally for a while. It was a pretty tragic story and day. However, it still doesn’t seem to be an option to keep them indoors with the levels of anxiety that they had (or one of them at least). Comments from people online don’t bother me anymore. It’s a little more difficult when people close to me suggest frequently that I’m irresponsible without giving benefit of the doubt that I’ve thought about this subject deeply and feel I’m making the best decision for the cats despite all the risks that come with the outdoors. It comes down to a deep philosophical difference that the majority of the world doesn’t share and that is okay.

      That said, I’m not trying to convince anyone to let their cats outside. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well! Just nice to have an open conversation for those of us that do question safety vs quality of life.

  10. I have a Bengal female she was a outdoor feral cat..After, a little wooing she chose to be with me an my flock..Yes, my flock..I have 2 Medium Amazon parrots..She has been a great companion so far..But, I want to make sure she has her own space, plenty of play, and toys. I need to Catify my house.. Whatever, it takes to keep her from looking at her other 2 companions a prey or toys..I would love to have Bird Tricks and Jackson Galaxy to help me do so… However, until that dream come true.. I need all the help I can get..Anyone, have any advice about harnesses, toys, etc..

  11. I can’t imagine having a cat that was kept indoors all it’s life. What a boring existence. I’ve had cats all my life and they have always been indoor/outdoor cats. I’ve always lived in residential areas though, so I suppose it’s different if you live in the city in an apartment.

  12. I live in a small town in ND and my bengal goes outside except when it is cold…he refuses to have anything to do with snow, haha!! He loves being outside in the summer months and I couldn’t imagine making him stay inside. Everybody in town knows him and who he belongs to. Our neighbors like having him around because he keeps the mice population down and is just fun to watch. He spends a lot of time in the field across the street and just lounging on the patio furniture. I have had people compliment and well as comment about letting such an expensive cat outdoors. I just say that my kids cost way more than that and I let them go outside, haha !!! You can’t live in fear your entire life that something may happen to your pet.

  13. I have a Bengal we got by accident. (rescued a kitten, vet told us he was Bengal after) and 2 other cats. I would never ever ever let them outside. Nothing is worse than having a cat come home covered in cuts and taking them to the vet and saying “I don’t know”. I cringe thinking about that now.
    Adding to the misery is finding out years later your cat contracted a fatal illness from that.

    Or like my Armus who just never came home one day. Was he stolen? Did someone kill him? Was he hit by a car? How long did he suffer alone before he died?
    I don’t know.
    Of my Buddy who I found howling and shaking under the front steps one day and he was completely different after. But no injuries. The mystery haunts me. What did I allow to happen to my friend?

    I take my Bengal out on a leash. He doesn’t pee outside and create territorial issues with other cats. He doesn’t get hurt by other animals, he doesn’t catch wild Mice and birds (or die from the poisons mice can eat) but he still gets to lay in the grass, run around, chase me up and down the grassy hill and catch bugs. Soon we will get a cat wheel too. He also has shelves along to ceiling to climb and play on.
    Cats are not natural parts of our eco system and should not be allowed out.
    Wild cats aren’t pets.

    They shouldn’t be out un supervised. Be responsible and if you can’t spare time to take them out supervised don’t get a high Energy, high maintenance cat.

  14. I live in a rural area and do not let my Bengal cat outside because of the chance she would be eaten by a coyote, fox or large hawk.

    I have many high windows that she has access to and she loves to sit up there and watch the birds, squirrels and bunnies. She has never tried to get out an outside door and seems to be quite content to be in the house.

    I also found out that Bengals are very sensitive to some vaccines. When receiving her rabies and distemper shots, the vet gave her an injection of Benadryl before the vaccine. I’ve also been told that a vet may sometimes divide the vaccine up into 2 doses given a different times to prevent a possible reaction to the vaccine.

  15. Hi….I’ve got a Bengal cat,,,,as well as two Osi cats. They all go out side…..the Bengal is very good and doesn’t go far but stays in the garden. Cats are outdoor creatures and are much happier being allowed outside.. She uses the cat flap…

  16. Please consider that cats, Bengals and otherwise are little assassins-killings millions of song birds every year. I have a Bengal and for this reason, along with all of the other reasons you talked about, she is an INDOOR cat.

    • My sweet young bengal cat was always looking for climbing on trees and latform roof in my home. At least he died falling from a window, because he was incoutainable and restless in my seventh floor flat. He was only 1 year old and I am very sad for him.
      Bengal is a beautiful cat but now i have another cat and i haven’t so much problem like i have’d with him. Bengal is absolutely an INDOOR cat, and cannot live in high flat or in a garden. If you don’t want to loose him.

      • Susana sorry to hear that your one year old cat died, but how did he fall out of the window, was there no fly screen, that is a bad way to die. My bengal Oscar always is on the window ledges l only have the window open a fraction so as he can not get out, they are strong cats and maybe able to push hard on a fly screen that is why l only have my window open a little bit and l live in a house. When l let Oscar outside l am with him, but l mainly take him outside with his harness on so l walk him he loves it, l would not trust him outside on his own, someone could also steal him, although l think he would drive them crazy lol, anyway good luck with your other cat.

  17. I have cats, one is a Bengal. Your cat has no right peeing and making noise outside of my windows and doors. The pee stinks and it upsets my cats. Be responsible for your pets.

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