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Bengal in the Branches

Many of you may know that, for a brief period of my life, I bred and showed Persian cats. What you probably don’t know is that in the cat fancy there is a huge divide in the cat game between long hair and short hair people. That is, there is a huge divide between the people who show long-haired cats and those who show short-haired cats, even more specifically, the people who own Persian Cats and Exotics (a kind of short plush-coated Persian) and the rest of cat exhibitors. The reason is pretty simple. Persians, and the people who love with them, are pretty mellow, while the rest of the cat breeds, and their owners, are not.

Just as we have people in the dog world who have ventured into the dicey world of hybridizing wild breeds with domesticated breeds, the cat fancy has its proponents of an easy path to creating a new “breed.” One such cat breed is the Bengal, a breed that is recognized by the International Cat Association (TICA), but not by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). The Bengal, recognized by TICA in 1986, is the result of a cross between a domestic tabby cat and the wild Asian Leopard Cat. The result is a larger than average, striking-looking cat reminiscent of a miniature leopard which can have the temperament of its wild ancestors. For a couple of decades now, Bengals have been bred to Bengals, and the temperaments are reportedly improving.

Now, I exhibited Himalayans, know in CFA as Pointed Persians. My cats were among the sweetest, most mellow & dumbest cats I have ever met. I mean, I had one that would lie on his back in the bath and purr. In the show hall, I witnessed more than one exhibitor bleeding profusely from an encounter with their short hair cat. I was quite happy to remain separate and apart from these less than friendly animals. So imagine my chagrin this afternoon when my canine version of Moe, Larry & Curly, my Cairn, Scottie, & IG called me to my backyard to announce they had discovered a Bengal there. The encounter did not last long. My Scottie, Bernie, put up a great display of bravado, but made no commitment to battle. My Italian Greyhound, Pepe, raced about frantically…at a safe distance from the intruder. My Cairn, DeeDee (short for Devil in Disguise), did not wait for her timid brothers, but immediately confronted the cat, which was twice her size. After a quick tussle, the cat decided Dee Dee was too much trouble and immediately availed himself of one of the large trees in my backyard.

As I am wont to do whenever I wish to sate my curiosity, I went to Google and I found this on TICA’s web site: “While you can train a Bengal to have ‘good manners,’ they are an active, inquisitive cat that loves to be up high. If you don’t like a cat to leave the floor, a Bengal is probably not the right cat for you.” No kidding. I’m beginning to think that the squirrels in my yard no longer have any safe quarter. The yard means death by DeeDee, and the trees mean becoming a Bengal bite. Three hours after the encounter, my neighbor is at my door. She is a decent enough type, who, like I, rarely interacts with the rest of the neighbors on the street. “Have you seen a Bengal cat around today?” I am probably the only person on the block who knows what a Bengal cat is. I may be the only other person for miles who knows what a Bengal cat is.

“Yes, I have,” I replied. “My dogs chased him up a tree in my backyard three hours ago.” I took her into my backyard, and we searched the trees, but did not see her cat. I assured her he wasn’t likely to return to my yard. An hour later, she shows up with a scruffy looking guy, who announces he climbs trees. This came as no surprise to me as he looked as if he would be very comfortable in a tree (see the definition of Yahoo in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels). “We have spotted him in your tree,” they inform me. Now I have a moral dilemma. I wish no harm to any animal, but I have little sympathy for people who keep hybrid breeds, and I’m certain that my insurance agent won’t be happy that I have a person going stupidly where no man has gone before.

Of course, I sided with the animal. So, for the last three hours, I have kept my dogs in the house while some skinny white guy auditioned for a new Cirque du Soleil show, “Le Chat Dans L’Arbre ou Jamais Un Pompier En Besoin” (The Cat in the Tree or There’s Never a Fireman when Needed). As the sun fell, I caught a glimpse of the Bengal, some 40 feet above the forest floor, languidly draped over a branch as he slept. If I were a squirrel, I would leave before he wakes up. The skinny white dude did. And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.