Generally speaking, we Bengals are a very social cat breed and often enjoy being involved in various social interactions. We actually like being the center of attention and tend to greet everyone at the door. But, we do have our limits, especially when it comes to being held or picked up. Most of us Bengals prefer to have all four of our paws on the ground.
Cats have lived in the wild for many years and have not been domesticated as early as other domesticated animals. Our feline ancestors have had to rely on their inborn abilities to survive and protect themselves from predators. Even the earliest attempts to domesticate cats were not for the purpose of keeping them as household pets, but to use their predatory nature to help control the increasing number of rodents inside homes. So, although most humans are familiar with how good of a predator we cats generally are, it’s best to keep in mind that we also fall prey to larger animals and therefore, react to threatening situations on instinct.
Though many years have passed, many of us domesticated cats still carry the fight-or-flight instincts of a prey animal species. This influences the way we respond to being held or carried and explains why we are naturally resistant to being picked up—which feels like being caught by a predator.
If you want to learn how to handle your cat in a way that’s less offensive to them, you’ll need to understand their instincts both as a predator and a prey animal.
WHERE TO TOUCH YOUR CAT
One of the most famous safe-to-touch spots on cats are the cheeks. It varies from one cat to another, but the cheeks are generally a major feel-good spot for most cats.
Rubbing under the chin may result to intense purring, so be prepared!
- Base of the tail
Some cats like being scratched at the base of their tail. You’ll know they’re enjoying it when they continuously raise their behind and start purring. However, it’s also easy for us to get over stimulated here, so be careful!
- Base of the ears
For some cats, the purrrrfect spot to scratch is right behind the ears. If they like it, they’ll start purring and leaning into you.
WHERE NOT TO TOUCH YOUR CAT
Most of us prefer our whiskers to be left alone. It may not seem like it, but they’re a very important part of our body and play a very important role in our everyday lives as well. They keep us alert and help us properly gauge our environment so we can protect ourselves. They’re also filled with nerves that connect to the area inside our brain that influence our senses and motor movements. So, no matter how much you may want to play with your cat’s whiskers, it’s probably best not to.
Although some cats like belly rubs, most felines don’t. The tummy area is very vulnerable for us cats and most of us prefer to keep it hidden. If you’ve tried touching your cat’s belly and they responded aggressively, it’s not a good idea to force it.
If your cat exposes it’s belly, it probably isn’t actually an invitation for tummy rubs. When a cat exposes their tummy, it means they trust you or like the way you’re petting them. Instead of reaching for their tummy, which will lead more likely to claws and teeth, scratch their head or sides some more!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR CAT MORE COMFORTABLE WITH BEING HELD
- Let them come to you
Most cats will approach their humans when they want affection. If you want your cat to be comfortable with being held, you’ll first need to gain their trust by letting them open up to you at their pace. When your cat sees that you’re no threat, they’ll come around and initiate the petting session themselves.
- Reward them with treats
As embarrassing as it may sound, we cats are very food motivated creatures. You can use cat treats to reward your cat every time they allow you to hold them for a certain amount of time. Doing this will teach them to associate being held—or any other actions that may resemble being restrained—with positive experiences.
- Do little “pick-ups” each day
My sister, Cheddar, was terrified of being carried, but our humans used to hold her for just a minute each day. They would pick her up and set her on chairs or their laps, and after a while, she was comfortable with a few minutes of holding per day!
You can gradually increase the time they’re being held and reward them to accept a little more. They will eventually learn that it’s not something to be afraid of and start to see it as a good thing!
Everything is subjective, one Bengal may want to be in your lap all the time, while another may run at the mere mention of being held. Try and find out whats best for your Bengal, and once you have, try to increase that trust every day!