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A Bengal Story

To this day, Jafar was by far the best Christmas present I have ever received in my life. It was Christmas morning and before heading over to my dads house I was given a diamond necklace. It was pretty and I liked it, I didn’t own any other diamonds and left the house happy with my new gift. I was inside my dads door all but 30 seconds when i saw the spotted creature run across side living room from the corner of my eye. Immediately I knew he was for me. I had recently started my research on Bengals and made it no secret to family and friends that I was in the market for an exotic house cat.

My whole life I had, had cats, but it had been a few years since I’d lived on my own without any pets and I was starting to want a kitten desperately. The story I have decided to write about Jafar unfortunately does not end well. Just a warning; if you are reading this post away from your pet, it’s the type of story that gives you that strong feeling that you just need to rush home to love them.

The rest of that Christmas was a blur. Probably the only thing I wanted to do was bring home my kitten and play with him, get him acquainted with his new environment, etc. Jafar was slender but had a great build. He had bright green eyes and his coat almost had a pearlescent glow to it. Besides Jafar’s beautiful markings the first thing I noticed about my Bengal kitty was that his meow was extremely loud. Like the loudest I had ever heard a cat meow and he was still just a 12 week old kitten.

At the time I lived with my ex-boyfriend (the one who bought me Jafar and the diamond necklace, which now, I couldn’t care less about). We lived in a 7,000 square ft house on the Puget Sound in Picnic Point Washington just North of Seattle. Once we got home I was immediately worried about how I would have this small cat in this huge house and be able to keep track of him. My ex’s children lived with us as well, we had another roommate, co-workers were coming in and out of the house on a daily basis and we had 2 year old boxer.  How was I going to keep this cat inside? How would I know he was going to be safe and not get himself into trouble in this gigantic house?

From what I can remember, it took a few months but we finally adjusted to having Jafar and he was eventually able to roam the house as he pleased.  I do recall one scare when he actually climbed into one of the open floor vents and went traveling throughout the home’s ventilation system, only to emerge a few hours later on a different wing of the house, unscaved. I, of course almost had a heart attack.

I loved Jarar probably as much as I will someday love a child (although, I don’t have children so I could be wrong about that). Anyway, he was my baby. He followed me everywhere. I didn’t work  then so I was basically always around to spend time with him and play with him. I taught him how to play catch with plastic straws, sit and shake (for treats of course) and a few other tricks. He had this one toy that I used to get him to jump at least 6 feet in the air with. He was extremely active, but because of the huge house, he was easily able to get out his energy by running and jumping. One of his favorite games to play was “Terrorize Biscuit.” Biscuit was our boxer. He wasn’t the smartest and kinda always had this doh-doh look on his face. Jafar would hide and pounce on Biscut when he least expected it, then run off and do it again later. He definitely had a devious mind.

During that first 10 months Jarar seemed scared to go outside. I had a harness and leash for him and would sometimes walk him around outside, but he seemed content staying in.

It was in June of 2008 that we decided to move to Florida. We got the dog and the cat in the car, rented a u-haul and drove across country. It took about 5 days and Jafar seemed to do better than I did. I got really sick once we hit Kentucky and wanted nothing more than to get out of that car. For the most part Jafar slept on my lap during the drive. Everytime we stopped I would take him for a walk with his leash and he did great. That wouldn’t be the last time I traveled long distance with Jafar, so its a good thing he was able to handle it so well.

We settled in a house in Port Charlotte, FL. Why? I have no idea, we had no family or friends there, just some real estate, but it hardly seemed necessary to move there for that. Just needed a change of scenery I guess. The house was nice, but much smaller. However, we had a pretty large piece of land with a screened in pool. I loved having a large lanai that Jafar was able to sit outside in the sun and watch the wildlife from the safety behind the screen. The backyard there was basically the jungle as far as I was concerned. There were dense trees and we often saw large lizards, snakes, armadillos and birds. I even saw a florida panther once, trying to sneak up on Biscut who was outside the screen taking a nap. I clapped and scared it away, but I thought “Oh, that was close!”

It was in Florida, in the smaller house that Jafar’s behavior started getting a little hard to deal with. I hadn’t neutered him and he started spraying. Once he peed in my underwear drawer leaving it for me to discover only once I put on a pair and they were wet. Another time he actually peed on me! In the middle of the night! While I was asleep in bed! I could have killed him at the time, but now I look back and think it was pretty funny.

Even with his erratic behavior and loud 6am morning mating calls, I was still completely smitten with Jafar. He did well with the kids, but I could tell that he prefered adults. He and Biscuit always had a great time playing together (maybe Jafar more than Biscuit), but he absolutely hated other cats. He was probably about a year old the first time he even met another cat besides his brothers and sisters he was born with. It was like he didn’t know what to make of this strange animal inside his house.

I guess that it was his ability to now see all these prey-like animals through the screen of the lanai that gave him the urge to hunt and go outside.  Even though Jafar was a F5 Bengal, you could still see his wild instincts were trying to come out. He wanted outside, bad. The problem was, he had no street smarts. He had been indoors up until this point and I was far from confident that he would be able to survive out there in the jungle! I was constantly worried, making sure the kids shut the screen door every time they let the dog out. It was like a full time job to make sure this cat wasn’t getting outside. But even with all my efforts, it was inevitable that I would fail. Honestly it probably happened more than once, but the only time I can remember him getting out in Florida was the time he didn’t come back for three-long painful days. I searched for him everywhere and then on the third day, late in the afternoon I finally heard his meow. I ran to him, scooped him up and he willingly came back inside with me. After a quick examination I noticed about a 2 inch long cut on his face with missing fur. Yep, definitely confirmed my suspicions that he didn’t know what he was doing outside. He hurt himself, but I was still really proud of him for finding his way home.

Ever since he was a kitten he refused to eat dry food. Or maybe I just didn’t try hard enough. Either way, I ended up giving in to the wet food diet he wanted. I also gave in to his begging for people food. He didn’t just beg either, he stole. I could leave a whole subway sandwich on the counter and he would eat it. Lettuce and all, he had no boundaries. My love for this cat let him get away with alot. He was smart. His favorite food were these blueberry muffins I would buy from the store with huge chunks of sugar on top. I knew he loved it, so every once in a while i would let him have a bite. Eventually he discovered that I kept them in the top cupboard and this little cat would get on the counter, open the cupboard, knock the box down, open and eat the sugary tops off all the muffins.

After a year living in Florida and realizing there was nothing there in Port Charlotte, we decided to move back to Seattle. But first we rented a house in San Diego for the summer. It was a big house with a fenced backyard. For some reason, living in this house, it was impossible for me to keep Jafar inside. He escaped about three times within the first week. Except this time he was actually coming back home after a few hours. I thought that maybe he wanted to get out so bad because he wasn’t fixed and wanted to find a mate. That mixed with his loud meows early in the morning is finally what convinced me to get him fixed. He did well and after a few days was back to normal.

I can’t quite remember if I let him go out in San Diego or I just didn’t try as hard as I used to to keep him in. Either way, our time there was short lived and soon enough we were back in Washington. I tried to keep him inside again in Washington but mid-november he got out. Days went by and I searched for him endlessly. I put up signs around my neighborhood and about 10 days later I had almost lost hope. It was Thanksgiving dinner and I had just sat down to eat at a family members house about 15 minutes from my home when I got a call. It was one of my neighbors and he thought he had seen Jafar in his backyard. I rushed home and went to the neighbors house. I grabbed a can of cat food from my house and a fork to bang against it. That was the sound Jafar had grown accustomed to as meaning dinner time. It only took about a minute for me to hear his meow. I saw and couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe I actually found him after 10 days! But he was so skinny. As I got closer I noticed something wrong with his leg. It was like it was just dangling there and he couldn’t put any weight on it. Horrified I got him home and found I vet that was open on Thanksgiving and took him there. After his ex-rays the vet came out to tell me the news. He had completely shattered his femur. The vet suggested that perhaps he got him by a car of fell from a very high tree, but whatever it was to cause this amount of damage had to have been a strong force.  They gave me two options. Option number one immediately had me crying, it was to amputate his leg and it would cost $1500. My second option was for him to have surgery where from what i can remember, they would piece back together as much as they could and put in a metal rod for for the rest (probably in more technical terms). This option would cost around $5,500 between what cash I had and multiple credit cards, I went for option 2.

After spending 3 months with most of his days in a large dog carrier Jafar was good as new. He had a little limp but he could do everything he did before and had gained back all the weight he had lost when he didn’t eat for 10 days. We moved around the area a few more times within the next year and a half we finally settled into yet another home I couldn’t keep him inside at. The sliding door when slammed would bounce back open just enough for him to escape. I found him once with his collar stuck on a fence and thats when i decided to take it off and really try my best to keep him in. It was a hard decision to make and hindsight it was probably the wrong one. I was worried that he would get stuck and his chances to get out of a sticky situation would be hindered by the collar he hated anyways.

The inevitable happened again and one day as he got outside and then played him game with me of almost coming inside and then just when i got close running away again. After a few hours of this I believe I gave up and decided to let him come back when he was ready. I’m heartbroken to say he never came back.

I searched for Jafar for 3 months tirelessly. I checked every shelter, put up more signs than I could count, posted on craigslist and went to every neighbor within a three mile radius. It was horrible; every new neighbor that would open the door, I would start balling before I could get out my reason for being there. Even to this day – 4 years later, thinking about this makes me sad. I also contacted the Missing Pet Partnership in Seattle who sent out a pet detective and his trained cat-finding Beagle. We searched the neighborhood looking for clues and the dog sniffing everything in sight. There was no sign of Jafar. Honestly it was the saddest time of my life.

After about 6 months of losing Jafar I decided to move back to Florida. This time to be with my family on the East Coast. My sister and I got an apartment together and it wasn’t long before I met my husband. A year had gone by and I was still upset over Jafar. I finally came to the conclusion that I would get another Bengal. However, I wasn’t exactly in the financial position to dish out $1000 and when a friend called me with information about a litter of abandoned kittens I had to go take a look.

The three of us went to the lady’s house who had them and when I saw Cassius I knew I had to get him. He had the same coloring and spotted belly as Jafar. He wasn’t a Bengal but he looked like one and I loved him immediately. Dawn their foster mother had one stipulation; the two spotted brothers had to go to a home together. Felix was skinnier than Cassius but just as cute and my sister easily gave into taking Felix home as well.

We have had Cassius and Felix for nearly two years now in our little apartment. I love them with all my heart and they definitely ended up being the cure for the emptiness I felt after losing Jafar. These brothers are the sweetest cats I have ever met. They follow me everywhere I go and keep each other entertained during they day while we are at work. They never scratch or bite and are pretty well-behaved for the most part.

Even though I wanted a Bengal and do someday hope to get another one, adopting Cassius and Felix has been an extremely rewarding experience. To provide a loving and safe home for a kitty that may have otherwise been left on the streets just warms your heart. They are also terrified to go outside.

Hopefully you are still reading this, and able to hear about our happy ending. I know this was an extremely long story, but I had a lot to say about Jafar that I had never before said.

Having Jafar for the time I did was wonderful and I am happy for the time I got to spend with him. Maybe he is even still out there and found himself another great family who loves him, but I guess I will never know.

Adopting a Bengal is not for everyone. Even with all the time I was able to spend with him he was still a very active cat who needed a lot of attention. I urge anyone who is thinking about adopting a bengal to do their research and really evaluate if this type of cat is a responsibility you are willing to take on for the long haul.

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