Whether you’re a new Bengal owner, have had one for years, or if you are just thinking about buying one, you likely have a lot of questions about this beautiful breed of cat. One of the most common questions people have is whether Bengal cats have to be kept indoors.
Bengal cats do not have to be kept indoors, but it is probably not wise to make them strictly outdoor cats either. There are a lot of dangers outside for your Bengal, but keeping them indoors may not be best either. It’s best to create safe environments for your Bengal cat both inside and outside.
While Bengal cats do not have to be kept indoors, it is vitally important that the environment, inside or outside, is safe for your Bengal. That means controlling various risk factors, and below we go into more detail about the kinds of things you need to consider as a Bengal owner.
Are Bengals Indoor Or Outdoor Cats?
Bengal cats are neither indoor nor outdoor cats. They can be kept exclusively indoors, or allowed to roam between outside and inside. As long as you can provide a safe environment for your Bengal cat both inside and outside, there is no reason to restrict them to only being indoor cats.
First, check local laws, both for cats in general and Bengals in particular. Since Bengals are technically hybrids with wild cats, some places have unique rules for them. Some localities do not permit cats outdoors, others say cats should have some outdoor time, and a few may not allow you to own Bengals at all.
Provided the law doesn’t require a certain behavior, then it’s mostly up to the owner. There are many happy Bengals that spend almost their entire lives inside. There are other happy Bengals who roam freely for miles. Many have a hybrid life, spending their time both inside and outside in varying amounts.
Can You Keep A Bengal Cat Inside?
You can keep a Bengal cat inside, but you don’t have to. In fact, indoor cats often live longer than outdoor cats. Some cats, even Bengals, prefer being inside, and even if given the choice they may not roam very far.
But if you want to keep your Bengal happy, you need to provide a lot of physical and mental stimulation. There needs to be places to run and jump. There needs to be lots of toys, and preferably someone else to play with. If they have all this, your Bengal may not be interested in going outside at all!
If your cat shows no interest in going outside or generally acts aggressive to other animals or people they don’t know, you may want to keep your Bengal as an indoor cat. The same applies if your cat has health issues that need to be carefully monitored or you live near a busy road or in an area with a lot of predators.
Can Bengal Cats Go Outside?
Bengal cats can go outside, and many Bengals will enjoy going outside. Being outside provides many stimuli that can’t be found inside. If your Bengal seems bored, depressed, or destructive, you may wish to try letting your cat have some outdoor access.
Bengals love to climb, hunt, and splash about in water. They love to explore. They can even be trained to relieve themselves outside, limiting how often you need to clean their litter box. Being outside can also help socialize them as they are more likely to encounter other animals and people.
Hazards That Outdoor Cats Face
There are advantages to being outside, but there are also disadvantages too. There are dangers that your Bengal can encounter outdoors that they are unlikely to run into indoors. If you choose to give your Bengal outside access, consider the risks outlined below.
Car accidents are a sadly common cause of death for outdoor cats, Bengals included. If you live near busy roads, you might not want to let your Bengal roam free.
Fights With Other Cats And Dogs
Bengal cats are territorial with keen hunting instincts. As such, if allowed outside, Bengals will not hesitate to get into fights with other cats they encounter. Depending on the cat, the Bengal has a good chance of holding their own, possibly even killing the other cat, which leads to other complications.
Bengals may be disadvantaged against fighting dogs, depending on the dog. Injuries or death is possible, and so is simply picking up a disease from interacting with other animals.
The boundary between human habitation and animal habitation is shifting. You may have predators in your area that you are unaware of. Foxes, racoons, and coyotes are becoming increasingly common in urban areas, any of which could be a threat to your Bengal even in the best of times.
If you hear of a rabies sighting in your area, it would be best to restrict your Bengal to indoors only or closely supervised when outdoors. Birds of prey could also be a risk your Bengal, though the odds of a disease jumping species is much less likely.
Indoor cats can only be exposed to germs that are brought in from outside. Some diseases do jump species, so you can catch something from your cat, or your cat can catch something from you. Cats may catch Covid but will rarely suffer serious effects from it and are unlikely to pass it on to humans.
Outdoor cats not only interact with other animals but are also exposed to viruses and bacteria that indoor cats will never see. All cats, Bengals included, explore many items by licking or chewing on them. This gives viruses and bacteria an easy way in. There is also the risk of contaminated water, dirt, or plant matter, or eating a diseased animal.
Cats like to chew on plants. Some plants are poisonous. This can include some very common garden plants like tulips. Some lilies are so toxic to cats that licking a few grains of pollen off their fur or drinking water from a vase that held lilies can lead to fatal kidney failure in a matter of days.
While you can control what plants are in your own garden, you can’t control what your neighbor grows, or what chemicals they may use, like fertilizer or pesticides. Some of these could be very dangerous to your Bengal.
Bengals love to explore every nook and cranny of their play area. Bengals love to play in water too, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily good swimmers. If your Bengal overestimates their ability to swim, they could drown.
Bengals also love to climb, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fall, or that whatever they are climbing will support them. While cats can usually handle falls well, there is the possibility of getting hurt or stuck.
Other people can be a threat to your Bengal. Some will mean well, taking in a cat that they assume either doesn’t have a home or has a bad owner that lets the Bengal get into dangerous situations by being outside. Microchipping your cat can help deter these people, especially those who don’t think your Bengal has a home.
Bengals are a valuable breed, being both rare and distinctive. Some people will steal a Bengal cat if they have the opportunity to. Microchipping might help in this instance, but it is not a guarantee. Having it on record that this is your cat will make it harder to sell your Bengal to someone else but it will not deter someone from keeping your cat for themselves.
Some people are just downright malicious. Other people get fed up with cats trespassing on their property, because of course cats don’t recognize such things, and will poison them to keep them from digging up flower beds and the like.
This can be accidental as well. Perhaps they are trying to poison pests such as rats or moles and your Bengal ends up poisoned instead. If a neighbor warns you to keep your Bengal out of their yard, do your best to do so.
Weather And Temperature
Your house is likely temperature controlled to some degree. It may still be too hot or too cold for maximum comfort, and sometimes inhabitants disagree on what the ideal temperature is, but it is not subject to the wide ranges of temperatures that outside can be. Inside is also dry and protected from wind.
Bengals are a hardy breed that enjoy the heat and can also play in snow, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t get heatstroke or freeze. Rain or other bad weather can add even more hazards to your Bengal cat’s health.
While it is easy to decide not to let your Bengal out in bad weather, if they are already roaming, they might not be able to find shelter in time. Or they might have found shelter you don’t know about, leaving you to worry.
They Become Dangers Themselves
Bengals love to hunt. They are also territorial and aggressive when scared. This can put them in a position to hurt or kill other cats, which is a tragedy on its own but becomes even more complicated if that cat belongs to a neighbor.
House cats are also one of the biggest causes of death among songbirds. If your area happens to have a rare or endangered species that is about the right size for your Bengal to hunt, then you may want to keep your cat from doing so.
How To Safely Let Your Bengal Cat Outside
If leaving your Bengal inside all the time makes them unhappy, and letting them roam freely seems too dangerous, there is a middle ground. You can let your cat outside in a controlled and supervised manner. Below are a few ways to let your cat explore safely.
A Fenced-In Yard
If you have a fenced-in side or backyard with no plants that would be poisonous to cats, it might be safe to let your Bengal explore as long as someone is there to watch. A fence will slow your Bengal down but will not stop them completely. Bengal cats can jump and climb to an amazing degree and escape through spots you didn’t even know were vulnerable.
If you supervise, you have a better chance of stopping your Bengal if they try to leave your yard or get into something that could potentially hurt them. But your Bengal is probably faster and more maneuverable than you, so you likely want to combine this option with one of the following ones if you want to keep them on your property.
A Cat Run
If you have enough room and a safe enough property, you can build an enclosure for your cat to allow them room to play and explore outside. The cat run must have enough room for your Bengal to have space to roam and go up high enough for them to climb. A roof is highly recommended, both for protection and containment purposes.
With a cat run, your Bengal does not need to be supervised at all times, but it is wise to check up on them frequently. Bengals are strong and smart and will take advantage of any weak spots in the fence. They are also still vulnerable to weather and temperature, though a little less so if there is shelter inside the run.
Walks On A Leash
Bengal cats are famous for being easily leash trained. Taking your Bengal for a walk on a leash will allow you to give your Bengal exposure to new places and experiences while keeping a close eye on them. If your Bengal cat looks like they are about to get into trouble, you can quickly intercept.
Unlike dogs, it isn’t wise to simply put a leash on your cat’s collar and call it good. It is too easy for your Bengal to slip out of their collar or get hurt. If you want to take your Bengal for a walk, it is better to use a harness. Let your Bengal get used to wearing a harness before you try adding a leash. If you also have a dog, you can walk them both at the same time.
When Should You Let Your Bengal Go Outside?
You should only let your Bengal outside when they are an adult. Bengal kittens under 6 months old are far too vulnerable to predators and their bodies aren’t yet able to handle anything but temperate weather. Adult Bengals can be let out when risks have been minimized.
What risks there are will depend on the extent to which you let your Bengal cat roam. But there are a few factors that should be kept in mind any time your Bengal goes outside. Is the temperature very hot or very cold? Is the weather bad or likely to become so? Have there been reports of predators or rabies in your area? If so, it’s better to keep your kitty inside.
You should only let your Bengal outside if you are satisfied that the risks are manageable. A controlled environment, close to the house and preferably supervised, is a good way to keep the risks as low as possible. If you absolutely must let your Bengal roam, then try to evaluate the risks of the neighborhood first. Also, make sure your cat is microchipped and vaccinated against common diseases.
Do Bengal Cats Run Away?
Bengal cats can run away, but it is not necessarily likely to happen if you let them go outside. As long as you take the proper precautions when letting your Bengal cat get used to being outside, you shouldn’t have to worry about them running away.
While it is possible for a Bengal cat to run away, it is also possible that you and your cat have a different definition of what running away means! You may count running away as leaving home deliberately, possibly without returning. Your Bengal probably just thinks they are roaming their territory.
Cats that get outside will roam. Some will roam more than others, but the more a cat is used to being outside, the further they will be comfortable exploring. Bengals, as a breed, tend to roam further than most cats. It isn’t unlikely that they will go miles from home exploring, returning possibly days later. But they aren’t running away in their mind, they are just exploring.
Unless they are very unsatisfied with their treatment at home, your Bengal probably intends to return home. They are smart cats, and usually will make it back on their own, provided nobody and nothing interferes. Cats are more likely to come back at night, so try leaving some food and water near the back door. If you are lucky, your Bengal will come home on their own.
If your Bengal doesn’t come home on their own, having them microchipped means you will be contacted if they end up in a vet’s office somewhere. There are also many local online groups where people can post notices of lost and found pets, or you can post a notice in a local newspaper.
Bengal cats don’t have to be kept indoors, and they are fully capable of being both indoor and outdoor cats. While there are risks to letting any cat outside, as long as you manage these risks and only let your Bengal outside when it is at least 6 months old, it’s usually safe to do so.