Wednesday 21 December 2022

Should you let your Bengal cat outside? Answer: it depends!

I have just visited my doctor's surgery. I walked down to the clinic (about 25 minutes) and on the way back I saw a beautiful Bengal cat on the sidewalk and then crossing the road before entering the grounds of his home through the grille of a fence where he marked his territory against an object in the front garden. It got me thinking. Why was this Bengal cat outside wandering freely? Should you let your Bengal cat outside? And the answer is, it depends.

Here is the cat I describe. It is a poor quality picture I am afraid:

Bengal cat wandering outside in Kingston Upon Thames
Bengal cat wandering outside in Kingston Upon Thames. Image: MikeB

I do not believe that you can let your Bengal cat go outside in the way that I saw today, to roam freely at will wherever they want to. Bengals are too glamorous and too enticing to steal. The cat I saw was beautiful and stood out.


However, I do believe that Bengal cats should be allowed outside under supervision. This means that if, in the instance I refer to above, you live in a city, it must mean on a lead and harness. You can teach your Bengal cat to accept a lead and harness. This is much easier if you do it when they are young and ideally a kitten.

Most domestic cats need training to accept a harness and lead. Once you do they will generally walk with you although not like a dog. You are going to need a lot of patience and going nowhere for a while they investigate their immediate surroundings. Taking a smart phone with you to surf the internet will help with your patience 😃✔️. But keep a look out for dangers such as dogs.

Also, you can allow a Bengal cat outside if you have a backyard without trees and around which you can place a cat confinement fence. This may be very effective. I think, however, that it will be less effective than a harness and lead.

The reason is that a Bengal cat might be able to escape a cat confinement fence even if it is customised and cleverly constructed. Bengal cats are very athletic, inquisitive and determined. Of all the domestic cats the Bengal is the most likely to escape a cat confinement fence around a backyard.

A third option is a catio which allows a Bengal cat to smell the air and perhaps feel some grass under their feet. Catios are a good compromise between keeping a domestic cat indoors full-time and allowing them to have some sense of nature and stimulation from nature.


The need to stimulate a domestic cat is particularly important with Bengals because they are wildcat hybrids. Wildcat hybrids are generally slightly more intelligent than your typical domestic cat because they inherit their intelligence from their wild cat counterpart which for the Bengal cat is the Asiatic leopard cat.

And because they are confined to the indoors full-time they are likely to get bored and they might become a bit difficult. Plenty of stimulation which means playing with them and customising the interior of your home with, for example, a catio, and climbers is the way forward.

Harness and lead

Personally, I would go for adopting a Bengal kitten and immediately train them to accept a harness and lead from the get go and take them out. The harness should be a thick and secure one. You do not want your Bengal cat wriggling free. Some of the earlier harnesses and the cheaper ones are not, in my opinion, secure enough to stop an anxious Bengal cat wriggling out and running away.

Sometimes domestic cats become anxious and excitable when in a harness on a lead. This can make them do stupid things and in the wrong environment those stupid actions can lead to harm.

Good training when young and sensible supervision when on a lead is the answer.

Dr Bruce Fogle

Dr. Bruce Fogle, the UK's number one veterinarian/author, boldly and confidently states that training your cat is logical. Domestic cats train themselves very often and they sometimes train their owner as well. It is a mutual form of training.

In one of his books, Complete Cat Care he says that when cat owners come into his veterinary clinic it is pretty normal for them to feel guilty about not letting their cats go outdoors. And he recommends what I recommend by saying that:

"If you want to give your cat the option of going outdoors, and it too dangerous for it to do so on its own, training it to walk on a lead is an option for any relaxed cat that's not fearful of the outdoors."

Bengal cats are normally pretty confident and therefore should not be fearful of the outdoors. You can go online, I would suggest Amazon, to find a thoroughly sound harness and lead. Some harnesses are much easier to get into than others. I would pick one of those because it can be difficult to get a cat into a harness! But there again if they are trained from kittenhood it shouldn't be a problem.

Bruce has some lead-training tips and here they are:

  • Training a cat to walk on a lead takes patience. It is designed for confident cats who are not frightened of the outdoors. Note: confidence can be built up and taking your cat for a walk on lead will get them used to the outside safely.
  • If you decide to train your cat to walk on a lead you should continue to do so because once they experience the outside on a lead they will possibly find the indoors boring and it would be unfair on your cat.
  • You should never apply tension to the lead as it is not designed to direct a cat but to simply keep them safe.
  • You should avoid parks with dogs or noisy frightening places. A quiet, possibly fenced area, is the best.
  • During a training session to walk on a lead, if your cat pulls on it wanting to go somewhere, go with the flow and don't pull back as your instincts might direct you. I think that this is where it is different between a dog and a cat. You can't really train a cat like a dog. Cats are trainable but there needs to be a little more flexibility in how you walk a cat on a lead compared to a dog.
  • While walking outside with your cat on a lead, if you don't want to go where your cat wants to go, instead of pulling back, just pick your cat up, move elsewhere and start lead walking again.

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