What is the difference between the Bengal cat and the Savannah cat?

By Michael

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I have just been asked by a visitor to my YouTube channel for information about the differences in appearance, use of litter, activity levels and liking of water in relation to the Bengal and Savannah cats.

I'll try and answer the question without reference to any material whatsoever but it would be nice to get a breeder to comment as well.There are a great many similarities between these breeds as both are wild cat hybrids. However, the influence of the wildcat parent is diluted at the fourth and fifth generation levels. At these truly domestic cat generations the differences come through mainly in terms of appearance.

The Bengal was the first wildcat hybrid being created in 1963 while the Savannah started in 1986. Both breeds import into the home a bit of the wild cat.

The Bengal cat has a coat that has generally more "bling" than that of the Savannah cat. That is not a criticism of the Savannah - perhaps the opposite, in fact. What I mean is the coat generally has slightly higher contrast and there is that famous glitter finish the breeders seek. Sometimes individual Bengals also have more slightly more saturated colours than the Savannah cat. The Bengal is also either a spotted cat or the pattern in the classic tabby blotches. There are also silvers and snows....and, well yes, lots of different very flashy and interesting coats.

It might be said that the high contrast coat of the Bengal cat derives from the high contrast coat of its Asian leopard cat ancestor. Of course it is selectively bred for high contrast and for a coat other than a spotted coat, but the guiding standard will the original wildcat. And the Asian leopard cat has a very flashy high contrast coat.

The Savannah has a spotted contrasty coat as well but the breeding program has given this breed a coat that is in general less contrasty than the Bengal in appearance. Although judging by the photo heading this page I might be wrong!

Certainly the serval has a coat that is as high contrast (between the black spots and yellow background) as the Asian leopard cat.

Also the Savannah is not bred to have the blotched tabby coat. It is spots and short areas of banding but no swirls and blotches or mackerel lines! The spots should be solid. Bengals often have doughnut (donut) spots meaning hollowed out spots. And incidentally, the Savannah cat tail should not be long as the serval has quite a short tail and as mentioned the appearance of the serval is the guide.

Martin Stucki is the expert on this subject. But he makes it clear that the Savannah cat is not meant to have that golden, rich, high contrast coat of the Bengal. The Savannah coat should reflect the serval coat (see serval description for a short video). There is clear ticking in the Savannah cat. Ticking reduces contrast.

Here is Martin talking briefly about the Savannah cat coat:

The heading photo also shows a difference in body type. The Savannah is more foreign in conformation while the Bengal, although elegant, is more cobby.

I my experience it is probably fair to say that the Savannah cat is better known for its F1 and F2 fillial cats (first and second generation from wild) than the Bengal, which is more a mainstream domestic cat with most cats being 4th and 5th generation from the wild. Although people do keep high generation Bengal cats.

As to activity levels the higher generations of both breeds will tend to be more demanding than the generations of cats that are further from the wild cat. This is for the common sense reason that there is more wildcat in the first and second generation cats. Both the Bengal and Savannah are considered intelligent and active cats. See this video for instance:

As to litter, any generation of either breed will use the litter tray if as expected they are trained to use it by the breeder. They will naturally use it as any domestic cat.

In respect of their liking for water, both the Asian leopard cat and the serval have habitats that include water courses as this is where the prey is found. Both these wild cat therefore like water and their offspring will too or at least that will be the tendency.

Cost is similar as well. An F1 Savannah that is spot on in terms of desired appearance will cost a lot more than an F5 Savannah that has a tail that is too long for instance (a defect in the Savannah cat). A1 Savannahs sell male F1 cats at $7,500-$22,000. A male F5 costs $950-$6,000. It might be accurate to say that the Bengal cat is often cheaper when compared with Savannahs of the same generation from the wild - someone will say I am wrong on that I am sure. That may be because A1 Savannahs breeds absolutely top quality cats and quality ultimately dictates the price.

One last point the F1 Savannah is considerably larger (more than twice the size) when adult than the average house cat while the standard SBT Bengal cat is about the same size as a random bred cat of average size.

Hope this helps.

Michael Avatar

From What is the difference between the Bengal cat and the Savannah cat? to Bengal House Cat

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What is the difference between the Bengal cat and the Savannah cat?

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Sep 07, 2010Difference between the Bengal and Savannah
by: Lori - Cahaba Cats

The fundamental differences between these two breeds can be demonstrated by comparing the foundation species cats. Bengals are based on the Asian Leopard Cat while Savannahs emulate the African Serval.

Bengals are long bodied with average legs, small ears set close to the head, spots and/or rosette pattern, round eyes. Overall a good sized cat with a compact muscular body.

Savannahs are long bodied as well, however the breed has long legs, short tails, tall upright ears, spots only, long neck, hooded eyes. Overall a good sized cat with a tall, lean elegant body.

Sep 06, 2010Bengal and Savannah cats:- The Difference.
by: Rudolph.A.Furtado

Thanks to "P.O.C", i am learning about the physical and genetical differences as also the cost of"Savannah" and "Bengal Cats".
As an Indian from Mumbai i have yet to come across either a "Savannah" or a "Bengal cat", although the name "Bengal" has been borrowed from India. Similarly, the "Bombay cat' is totally absent in Mumbai(Bombay), although jet black coloured cats are common feral cats on Mumbai's streets.Ultimately, its the Cat Connoiessiur that has helped in the propagation and development of rare cat breeds, developing "Miniature wild cat breeeds" resembling the larger wild cats of the jungle which are rapidly becoming extinct.

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29 thoughts on “What is the difference between the Bengal cat and the Savannah cat?”

  1. I purchased my cat from a breeder and was told he is a pixie bob with out the bob tail. I saw both mum and dad when I picked him up. When I took him to he vets they feel he looks like a Bengal. He has very long legs and large paws which are black on the bottom. His ears are also very large and pointy with lots of hair inside and tufts of hair to the top.

    1. Hi Kayleigh. Thanks for posting. A pixie-bob without a bobbed tail is not really a pixie bob so it is a strange thing for a breeder to say. Your cat is a gorgeous spotted/mackerel tabby cat. Both the pixie bob and Bengal are tabby cats. Whether he is purebred is another matter. You’ll need a documented pedigree to prove that. In the meantime he is a random bred tabby cat. He does have a nice wild appearance and is very handsome. I hope you stay happy together for the rest of his life.

    1. Yes, his face is more Savannah than Bengal but the coat looks Bengal to me. The picture with your Sphynx shows me a Bengal cat because of the coat. However, I am not a breeder. You know that 🙂

    1. Hi Aynne. Thanks for commenting and showing me your cats. Below I have published a slightly lighter version of your photo. I wanted to take a good look at the spots. These spots are donuts (doughnuts). They are not solid. They are the spots of a Bengal cat. My immediate thought was that Jaxx is a Bengal. But what the breeder should be able to provide to you is a pedigree. Why has she not done that? That would prove her breed. Was she a Savannah cat breeder?

    2. Here is the section of the breed standard for Savannahs:

      “The spotted Savannah pattern is made up of bold, solid dark-brown to black spots, which can be round, oval, or elongated…..”

  2. Hi Michael, I was told Buy a breeder that this wonderful kitten is a Savannah F2 and I traded one of my lovely Sphynxes for him. Was I deceived? I’ve never had a Bengal or savanna cat. He’s slim and long, 11 Weeks old. After reading your posts And observations, I would trust your conclusion. Thank you

  3. Hi, I am debating on adopting Savannah or Bengal cat and my main question will be about kids. I have 2 toddlers and would like to know which breed are generally better interacting with small kids?

    1. Thank you for commenting. Both of the breeds that you mention are not unsuitable for kids. However, there are cat breeds which in my opinion are more suitable. It could be argued that the wild cat hybrids are less suitable for interacting with children than domestic cats with no wild cat in them. The wild cat hybrids can be more aggressive than non-wildcat hybrids but it depends upon the breeding and socialisation and so on. You just have to make sure that the cat is very well socialised and domesticated.

      Of the two you mention I don’t think there’s much between them because they are both wild cat hybrids with similar levels of intelligence and activity. The Savannah cat is a bit rarer and more expensive but I would select the Savannah cat. This is because the wild cat ancestor of the Savannah cat is the serval.

      The serval is a wildcat which can itself be somewhat domesticated and often is whereas the wild cat ancestor of the Bengal cat is the Asian Leopard Cat. This cat is very independent and fractious and impossible to domesticate. Therefore I would suspect that the Savannah cat is likely to be more inherently pliable and friendly than the Bengal cat.

      The Pixie-bob is the cat breed I selected as the best for kids. This is also a rare cat breed. There is no wild blood in this breed. Click on the link to read about this cat breed:


  4. Thanks for your thoughts. She was found in a box in a dumpster with other kittens that appear to be from a different litter and older. She is taking a bottle well. Cannot wait to see what she looks like as she grows.

    1. Hello, thanks for commenting and uploading your photograph. I think it is always extremely difficult and perhaps foolhardy to try and decide what breed a cat is or whether that cat is a breed of cat or a random bred cat, from a photograph. It may be harder still when the photograph is of a kitten.

      However, when I saw the photograph my first thought was that this kitten has some wild blood in him. So my first thought was that this kitten is a wildcat hybrid. And the spots on his belly are absolutely fantastic. Therefore, I lean towards the fact that this cat is a purebred cat. And I also lean towards the fact that this cat is a Savannah type cat. I’m not sure that he is purebred, perhaps a purebred mix. I just don’t know. How can we guess? But the spots in the belly are fantastic and I said. And the face, to me points towards Savannah. What do you think?

  5. My cat is a cross between Bengal and Pixe Bob, she is snow white. Lady has no markings of any kind. She is the first generation of this breed, her papers show this. Do you have any idea as to what her personality might be like. She is 3 years old and I have had her 6 months.

    1. Hi Linda. I have always argued that cat personality is more about the individual cat’s personality rather the personality bred into the cat i.e. the personality of the breed. However, Bengals are normally pretty active and have strong personalities or they are curious, alert and confident. Pixie bobs are meant to be quiet, intelligent and dog like. Your cat should be a melange of those traits! Your cat looks quiet and calm to me, more Pixiebob than Bengal.

    1. Although they are similar they do look different. For example the Bengal is less slim and they have rosettes. The face of the Bengal is more rounded. The best thing is too look at pictures of F5 Savannahs and F5 Bengals (the standard Bengal) and note the differences.

      There should also be a pedigree. So if you are buying you can see the family history.

    1. Bengal cat. For me this cat cannot be a Savannah. Savannahs are more slender and have an overall different appearance although the breeding quality affects the differences.

  6. I have a Bengal mix that I got for free, from a neighbor, he came as a stray to my neighbor ‘s mom. He is agile, weighs 20.5 lbs. He did a jumping jack and caught and released a bird in mid air. He can jump onto a tree standing still and then jump 3-5 feet into the air. He opens refrigerator doors, opens doors, tips wastebaskets and cups over just for fun. He is not a lap cat and hates to be in the house. We let him out all day and he visits the neighborhood. He is also not a lap cat and is not afraid of dogs, dogs are afraid of him. He is very different than a house cat.

    1. He sounds very much like a wild cat hybrid. Wow. He may have more wild cat in him than you think. Thanks for telling us about him.

    2. My female cat sounds very similar to him and for her size can jump an astonishing distance. I got her for $50 and am actually unsure of her breed but have been trying to do some research. Any suggestions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

      1. Hi Spazz. Thanks for sharing on this site. Don’t take this badly please, but in my opinion your beautiful female cat is a random bred, classic (blotched) brown tabby cat and not a member of a cat breed. Best of luck for 2017 to you both. Her coat is fabulous.

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