My Bengal kitten is a special kind of crazy and I need answers
May 13, 2016 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Our 10 month old bengal kitten plays *hard*. When we're playing, or when she wants to play more than we do, she puffs up her tail and arches her back and does that weird crab-shuffle and then laps around the house. I'm concerned because in my head arched back and puffed tail equals stressed out cat, but with her it seems to be associated with intense play. This behavior is also never associated with attacking us or being aggressive. I'm aware that bengals are, uh, crazy, but is this within the bounds of how bengals are? This is daily behavior.

I'm reasonably certain the answer to this question is "She does this because she's a cat," but I needed to check the hivemind. Obligatory pics.
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yup. This is daily Bengal behaviour and you are going to have your hands full. A happy Bengal is a busy Bengal, and as long as she's not attacking or being aggressive with you, the intense play isn't anything to be concerned about. As she grows older, she may mellow out a *little* (not much tho - Bengals and Abyssinians are notoriously active and seem part "wild." Without lots and lots and lots and lots... and lots... of play ... like lots... they can get very bored and miserable) but enjoy having a cat that will be practically kitten-like in exuberance forever!

Have fun!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:12 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is utterly and completely normal. If you're lucky she will continue this deep into adulthood and you can take delight in her antics for years to come. Cats are wonderful and entertaining unless it's at three am.
posted by tatiana131 at 10:13 AM on May 13, 2016

Response by poster: (Yeah if it wasn't clear I love the little monster like crazy, and we definitely play lots, but this is more of a wellness check than a complaint)
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:14 AM on May 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

She is absolutely stunning, btw. What a beauty!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:20 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

During play our adult Bengal often looks at us eyes wide suddenly, ears back and crouched down like he's terrified, then legs it away from us at high speed. Our biologist relative suggested that he's practicing the skills he needs as potential prey as part of play, even though his daily life is very cosseted.

It doesn't seem to reflect on his actual relationship to us (very cuddly) and he continues to enjoy the rest of his playtime, so we've just accepted that Cats Are Weird.
posted by pickingupsticks at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2016

My cat isn't a Bengal and he does this too. He's about four years old. I read an article by a veterinarian that said this mildly aggressive form of play is because of lack of opportunity to play with other kittens, taken too soon from the mother. Mine nips and scratches but if I withdraw from play he plays a bit nicer. BTW please post pictures!
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Totally normal (weird) cat behavior (because they're weirdos).

My mutt black cat puffs up her tail and makes much show when she's totally happy. FWIW you can tell they're happy because their ears are pointed towards you (not flattened against their head) and there's no aggressiveness.
posted by fraula at 10:22 AM on May 13, 2016

Oh, hit post too soon! So adorable!
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:22 AM on May 13, 2016

I had a non-Bengal regular tabby mutt who did this every day of his life.
posted by something something at 10:23 AM on May 13, 2016

Great photos, BTW.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:29 AM on May 13, 2016

I'm concerned because in my head arched back and puffed tail equals stressed out cat, but with her it seems to be associated with intense play.

100% normal. This is, in fact, a very good sign. She's relaxed and comfortable enough around you to consider you a playmate.

Our 10 month old bengal kitten plays *hard*.

The concern with cats like this is to train them early enough not too play *too* hard. But this is pretty easy too: if cats start to scratch or bite during play, simply stop playing with them. Kitty will quickly get the message that this doesn't get what they want, and learns to play w/o pointy bits.
posted by bonehead at 10:32 AM on May 13, 2016

Think of it as "imaginative play". You may want to build her a durable tackling dummy for pouncing and "killing" where you can redirect her when she's in her Mind Jungle.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:34 AM on May 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think pickingupsticks has it. Its instinct to make yourself seem bigger when under threat; lots of animals do it. And a lot of the 'play' behavior humans do with cats is in fact hunting activities- chasing birds, small animals, etc. So during play, you get their instincts up, and the reverse of hunting is to 'spaz out, puff up, and run around like a loon'

She almost certainly doesn't feel threatened by anything, just instinct and 'cats are weird'
posted by Jacen at 10:42 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

FWIW I have two "normal" maine coons (littermates, stayed with their mom until 12 weeks), and the larger one does this occasionally when they're full-crazy playing. The arched back, the sideways hop, and then she takes off to lure her sister into a chase. It's not a fear thing at all, because the one who does this is The Boss and the two of them get along great.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:14 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have an older cat who still does this - it's hilarious and adorable.

The Kong Kickeroo is a great toy - my cats can really grab and kick it and seem to enjoy it quite a bit.
posted by mogget at 11:21 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My very active four-year-old cat also does this. Sometimes he appears to be trying to entice the dog to chase him (by deliberately darting past her under her nose and turning to look perturbed if she doesn't bounce after him). Other times he seems to be trying to chase (or be chased by) our much smaller kitten. He apparently grew up in a large feral colony before we adopted him as a year-old cat and has excellent skills for getting on with other cats--I think he just gets super excited and wound up, then tries to burn it off by running around for no reason.

(He also likes to hide behind corners and lurk with huge eyes and wiggly butt but acts all upset if you go and ask him what he's doing. I've never seen him actually leap on anyone. Maybe he's just imagining something GREAT and DELICIOUS hiding behind that next corner of the house.)
posted by sciatrix at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2016

what a cutie!!! totally normal. it'll ease up a bit over the years but there will be that occasional moment when SPAZZ ATTAAAACCKAT! will come out of the woodwork again :)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:36 AM on May 13, 2016

Absolutely normal, if the ears remain upright.

If her ears go down, you may want to check to see if she's near enough to a window to be responding to something outside. I have a cat who is an outside-feral-cat detector, and the line is quite thin between 'just bouncing around playing, no probs here' and 'LEMME AT 'EM THAT THING IS IN MY SPACE'. Mostly we just shut the curtains when he gets upset, but it does genuinely stress him out when ferals, large prey animals, and anything else he might not want in his territory wander by.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 12:52 PM on May 13, 2016

Vetinfo has some info on aggressive play in Bengals.

I had to look up a useful link so I could say OH MY GOD SO FREAKING ADORABLE!!!!
posted by bunderful at 1:15 PM on May 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Normal; good clean fun. Our bengal played *somewhat* less hard once he got out of his teen years, but IMO if you can manage it, it's still worth getting her accustomed to you trimming her claws while she's youngish. It would have saved us more flesh wounds.

Seconding the Kong Kickeroo, and directing her energies (climbing, jumping, problem-solving) lest she start to make her own fun. The wiggly-butt pouncing, the x-files-black-oil eyes, the crab hop, A+.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:27 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

SO FREAKING CUTE that my foster cats and I may have just followed you on instagram ;) . But nthing that yes, this sounds like completely normal behavior. I take care of a lot of kittens in a given year, and I'd say a good 25% - singles, in litters, with moms, whatevs - will puff and jump sideways when super excited. I'm always happy when it happens with the littermates rather than the singles because it spares my feet the extra play-bites, but apart from getting her another kitten to play with because we NEED to see that, I don't think there's anything you could be doing or need to do. Have fun!
posted by theweasel at 2:56 PM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Our cat does this almost every day, usually after he's been alone in the house and one of the humans comes in, or if the one that was home wasn't entertaining enough and the other humans come in. Then he goes flying around, bouncing off furniture, racing up and down stairs, etc. He's having fun.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:09 PM on May 13, 2016

My two (large, but not Bengal, I don't think?) tabbies are currently chasing each other around the place. Tails bushed out, backs arched, furniture as minimal impediment. They're littermates and as far as I know, have never spent a moment of their lives apart. They're also obviously choosing to play with each other, in that when one approaches with tail bushed and switching, the other could physically leave but often chooses to stay and bush/switch. They also give me dirty looks when I attempt to intervene. From what I've read, yowling or loud meowing or growling might indicate that a cat is serious, while "miming" or silent play would indicate that it's play. Assuming you didn't omit that your cat is yowling a lot while running around, I would classify what you're describing as normal cat behavior.
posted by lazuli at 9:28 PM on May 13, 2016

My Siamese-mix kitty used to play like this (I owned him for almost twenty years, he finally passed away a year or so ago). And that is the CUTEST STINKING KITTEN EVER, now I want one.
posted by celtalitha at 10:51 PM on May 13, 2016

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