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His name is Pilot. He attacks the vacuum cleaner. He greets guests at the front door. He comes running if there are loud noises. He loves dogs. He loves a party.

He is…A Bengal Cat.

Bengals are a relatively new breed (1986). Although they look exotic, most of them are quite domestic in personality, to the point of being dog-like.  Pilot will actually fetch and return a nerf ball, but only his favorite pink one these days.

When friends, clients, or workmen come to the house, Pilot is the cat that they see (the others will be hiding under the bed), and inevitably they want to know all about him.  For one thing, he is gorgeous. (Don’t you think so?)  But his friendliness also amazes people. There is no better way to put it: he is an extrovert.  The more the merrier.  What you smell like, what you are doing, where you are going, what are you holding there in your hand — Pilot thinks all these are his business. And just to test you every now and then to see if you might feel like playing, he will jump out of the shadows, briefly wrap his front paws around your leg (claws retracted of course) and then run off in that sort of sideways run that kittens do, with his tail in a question mark. In fact, Bengals tend to remain as playful as kittens for most of their lives.

Before you fall in love with Bengals, consider carefully whether you have a lifestyle that will accommodate these little extroverts.  I work from home, so adding Pilot to our family made us all happy. He is a perfect pet for a harpist. True, I have to be very careful about not leaving my instrument standing with its canvas harp cover on.  He will climb it. “Yay! You brought me a tree!”

As much as we play with him, Pilot will get into a lot of trouble if he is bored or wants to remind us that it’s his dinner time. We used to leave water glasses out on the counter top, until Pilot figured out how to push them over with his paw and watch the water run onto the floor. (Did I mention how much Bengals like water?) He never broke a glass though; I call that talent.

You can baby-proof a home, but you cannot Bengal-proof one.  You have no idea what they will get into or onto.  Like, licking the furniture. Seriously, Pilot? I have no idea why he does that, but the grandfather clock is his favorite.  Or pushing nicknacks off shelves. Or repeatedly leaping up to dislodge a map off the wall. (Only that map, not the other pictures on the wall.)  Interestingly, he has never messed with my knitting.  Probably too pedestrian (“that is SO normal cat”).

But beware of bringing a Bengal home if no one is going to be around most of the day.  A bored Bengal is not a nice Bengal. I have heard enough dark tales about Bengals that were left home alone every day to know that the consequences go far beyond physical messes. Bengals need to run, chase and be chased, explore, climb, and most of all, be near you and be a part of your life.  To be left alone is like torture for most Bengals. The people who get Bengals only for their exotic good looks and then leave them all day lose the best Bengal trait: their sweet and friendly nature.  From what I hear, it is like the wild ancestor takes over and you are suddenly living with a bobcat. Distant, mistrustful, and destructive.

Sigh.

The way I look at it, good Bengals are like friends: you have to earn them.  But the rewards are priceless.

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