This explains some key appearance characteristics that help to identify, as genuine, a cat advertised as a “pedigree Bengal cat”. There are lots of Bengal-mix cats, which are not purebred, pedigree cats and which look like a Bengal cat to an untrained eye. There are also poorly bred Bengal cats that look wrong.
The breed standard tells us in detail what to look for, but I believe you can focus on some key characteristics, which can be spotted by a person who is not a cat expert.
The goal of Bengal cat breeders is to create a true domestic cat that has the appearance of a small, primarily, forest dwelling wild cat. Perhaps the ideal model is the leopard cat which is the wild cat ancestor of the Bengal cat.
These small wild cats are as nature intended: highly functional with a balanced appearance. There are no extremes such a super-large ears or flat faces (note: one wild cat does have large ears: the serval). The first notable characteristic is that this cat breed is pretty normal in overall appearance.
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Bengal cat breeders like their cats to look wild. That is the objective. We are looking, therefore, for a “wild appearance” in the face. Breeders tend to believe that one aspect of this is a head that is slightly smaller in proportion to the body than usual. I have seen big headed Bengal cats and they do look too much like “standard” domestic cats and not wild cat hybrids. They are almost too friendly looking. The Bengal cat should look more wild than friendly, in my opinion.
The small wild cats are very athletic and strong. And so the Bengal cat should be muscular and on the large side although not as large as the Maine Coon. The Bengal cat should have a strong presence and be of a good size and muscularity, which fits that objective.
The forest dwelling small wild cat species often have super-high contrast, striking patterns. The sort of patterns that you do not see in the random bred domestic cat. The facial patterns are often strong and there is white around the eyes.
This leads me to state that another major appearance characteristic of the Bengal cat is that the coat should have extremely high contrast, strong facial markings and sometimes white around the eyes.
The coat of the Bengal cat is a major feature of the cat – perhaps the most important feature of the cat. It is a tabby coat and the spotted tabby Bengal includes arrowhead or rosette style spots. There is also the classic tabby with strong swirls.
Two fine tuning aspects of the coat, that are interesting, can make the cat more desirable. Some Bengal cats have a coat that is not only silky (a standard feature) but which exhibit a kind of glitter as if the coat has been sprinkled with gold dust. Some kittens also have an embossed coat. This can follow through to adulthood, I believe.
Inline with the wild cats the belly should be spotted.
In my view, these are the features that mark out a true and classy Bengal cat from the Bengal cats that are not to “type” (not in adherence to the breed standers) or are Bengal-mix cats.
Note: I realise the ultimate test is whether the cat is registered, and has papers to prove it, but this page addresses a different topic.