What are the differences between Bengal cats and other tabby cats?
Some of the most common questions I’m asked are “What are the differences between a tabby cat and a Bengal cat?” and “Is my cat a Bengal cat?” So I thought it might be handy to write our thoughts down on how you can tell whether your cat is a Bengal or a lovely tabby or even some other breed.
Before I go any further, I must point out that in writing this article, I’m not inferring that tabby cats are in any way inferior to Bengal cats – we love all cats in our World, and have two tabby cats ourselves – Robbie, the ginger tabby, and Friday the regular tabby
They’re going to help us explain the differences between Bengals and tabbies, so they’re saying hello!
So let’s begin by saying that just because a cat has spots or marbling in its fur, this doesn’t automatically mean it’s a Bengal! There are many cats who have this who aren’t Bengals. Regular tabby cats can have spotty or marbled fur too – here’s our very own Robbie cat showing off his spots!
There are other spotty and marbled pedigree breeds too, so let’s look at the spotty ones first: there’s one of the oldest domesticated breeds, the Egyptian Mau, and also the Ocicat, Brown Spotted Manx, Brown Spotted British Shorthair, the Oriental Spotted Tabby and the Brown Asian Spotted Tabby. Here’s some examples:
Turning our attention to marbled breeds, there’s the Marbled British Shorthairs, marbled Manx cats, and marbled Oriental and Asian tabbies. Here’s some photos of these lovely cats:
On my Bengal Cat Facts page, I explain lots of different facts about us Bengals which may help you if you want further information about the breed; in this article, I’m going to be more specific about what makes Bengals different to the other cats I’ve mentioned.
Spots and Marbles
So in our quest to identify whether your cat is a Bengal or not, let’s first examine what coat patterns are unique to a Bengal cat, whether spotted or marbled… If your cat doesn’t display these features, then they are not a pedigree Bengal.
This lovely girl is called Fire Dancer – she belongs to Jessie, who’s a great friend of ours from our Facebook page
We’re using her gorgeous photo to demonstrate to you how fantastic a Bengal’s spots – or rosettes – can be. In the other spotty breeds we mentioned, the spots are round and evenly distributed, though they might vary in size. A Bengal’s spots should be more randomly distributed, with no set patterns, and are usually larger than those of other breeds.
A Bengal’s spots are often arrowhead-shaped like you can see on some of Fire’s in the picture and there should be a sharp contrast of colour between the spots and the base coat. Here is where we can talk about rosettes too – which is a unique feature to the Bengal cat (unique when talking about domestic cats, many of our wild cousins have rosettes). A rosette is a spot that has a dark outline with a lighter colour inside, with the inside colour being darker than the base coat. I’m sure you can see why we chose this pic of Fire to illustrate this – her rosetting is superb!
Because a Bengal’s spots are random, the pattern on each side of the cat will be asymmetrical – i.e. one side will be different to the other.
In the same way that Spotted Bengal cats have asymmetrical markings – marbled Bengal cats do too. This makes it quite easy if you’re wondering whether or not your marbled fur baby is a Bengal. All the other breeds we mentioned have a symmetrical pattern on both of their sides, but Bengals don’t and this is unique to the Bengal breed.
So take a look at your marbled cat: if the coat is the same on both sides, you don’t have a Bengal! If it’s different, you do!
The Bengal marbling is a unique patterning of horizontally aligned swirls that are not found in the other breeds who tend to have bull’s-eye patterning. The patterns should be in at least three colours – the base colour, pattern outline colour and pattern centre colour (if you read the info on rosetted spots, this should sound familiar to you!).
Each cat has their own unique marbling pattern which often develops over time.
In what other ways are Bengal cats unique?
So, alongside the specific markings we’ve discussed for the spotties and the marbled, there are other things that are unique to the Bengal that can help you if you’re still not sure….
One of the most beautifully unique characteristics of the Bengal cat is the glitter in our fur. This is so exquisite, yet so hard to capture in its entirety on film! The golden glow of a Brown bengal or the pearl dusting effect on a lighter coloured Bengal must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Here’s a photo of our Uncle BooBoo which shows some of his glow to demonstrate a little of what we mean, though even this great picture doesn’t capture it fully:
There are other aspects of the Bengal fur that are also unique – it’s often said that you can tell a Bengal by touching it when blindfolded. Some find the best way of describing it is that it’s more like a pelt than fur with its feel of satin or silk, being short and plush.
The fur of a regular tabby cat is often “ticked” whereas this should not occur in Bengals – ticking is where each strand of hair is broken up into different bands of colours. Our Friday cat has ticked fur – we can see the difference this makes compared to a Bengal:
As well as the fur and the coat which we’ve focused on a lot, there are other characteristics of the Bengal breed which when you put them all together, makes us a uniquely beautiful cat.
Our bodies are large, lean and muscular with substantial bones. Our back legs are slightly longer than our front ones, reminiscent of our wild ancestors. Our heads are relatively small in relation to our bodies and should be a little longer than wide, with medium to small ears. Our tails are thick and can be ringed, spotted or marbled, but should always have a solid dark coloured tip. Our chins should be light and our whisker pads prominent. Noses are large and broad with slightly puffed nose leather which is often a rich colour.
Even our voices are different to most other cats and we use them often – you certainly know if you have a Bengal in your house, because we loudly remind you often throughout the day! We can be quite fussy about our litter trays, and will refuse to use them if not clean so will let you know when they’re not up to our standards We’ll also remind you when it’s dinner time – you’ll soon stop whatever you’re doing, just to shut us up!
I hope you’ve found this a useful guide for you to identify if you have a true Bengal or not. Please feel free to comment if you have anything to add or any questions that we’ve not answered in the information above.