Hybrid cats such as Bengals and Savannahs have become an intriguing choice for people that want a unique and wild pet. However, a hybrid’s wild tendencies can make them unfit to live in a standard home environment.
What are Hybrid Cats?
Hybrid cats are artificially created by breeders by crossing a domestic cat with a wild cat species. Some of the most common varieties include Bengals (domestic cat crossed with Asian Leopard Cat) and Savannahs (domestic cat crossed with Serval).
Even hybrid cats labeled as “domestic” are not truly domesticated. A domestic Bengal may only be the 4th generation hybrid – its great-great-grandparent was a wild Asian Leopard Cat. True domestication, the genetic alteration of an animal to be compatible with living alongside humans, takes thousands of generations. That means that any hybrid cat still has strong wild genetics and wild instincts.
What’s It Like to Live with a Hybrid Cat?
With their wild instincts still very present, hybrid cats are extremely intelligent and active, needing constant mental and physical stimulation. They need to expend energy that they would naturally spend hunting, chasing, and seeking prey. They are also naturally solitary and very territorial.
These traits make their naturally-expressed behaviors difficult to handle in a home environment. Hybrids can be very destructive to furniture, clothing, and other items in a home. Both males and females have a strong instinct to mark their territory and will spray a foul-smelling stench around the home. They can commonly have problems not using a litter box and are prone to human-directed aggression. Due to their prey drive, hybrids can often injure other pets in the home or neighborhood. Hybrids are also prone to health problems like irritable bowel disease, heart disease, and gingivitis.
The best set-up for a hybrid cat is an enclosed space outside the home. That might be a temperature-controlled shed in your backyard that is equipped with everything they need: climbing spaces, scratching areas, litter boxes, and washable walls. The building can be connected to a fully-enclosed outdoor area with more places to climb, hide, and explore. Many hybrid cats enjoy playing in water features, too. With a proper habitat and plenty of enrichment, hybrid cats can have a good quality of life.
Are There Any Alternatives?
Owning a hybrid cat requires significant time, effort, and expenses that most pet owners cannot commit to. But if you are looking for a pet with wild traits, you don’t need to look any further than the domestic cat waiting for a home at your local shelter.
Dogs have been domesticated for over 15,000 years, and you can see the effects of that time when you compare the differences between a chihuahua and their wolf ancestors. Cats, on the other hand, have only been domesticated for 9,000 years or less and have had less time to change from their wild ancestors. The domestic cat’s DNA is still nearly identical to the African wildcat and they still show some of their wildness.
The important distinction from wild hybrid cats is that our domestic cats have had thousands of years to adjust to life in human homes and can settle in more readily to be the companion that most pet owners are looking for.
If you need help managing the wild traits of your hybrid or domestic cat, contact us at Pawsitive Vibes Cat Behavior and Training.