Is My Cat a Bengal?

I have been quite active in the Facebook Bengal communities and sadly I’ve discovered the most hostile question you can ask is “is my cat a Bengal?”.  Sadly the anonymity of  internet allows Bengal Elitists to hate on anyone who dared asked this question.  There are those that believe that you don’t have a Bengal if you didn’t purchase it from a breeder who provided you with papers (which includes the lineage), end of story, nothing else in their eyes is a Bengal.  Well, I don’t feel that way because neither of my Bengals are from a breeder with papers, mine were rescues through the SPCA that were rescued from a ‘puppy mill’ type environment.  But in my opinion they are no less a Bengal than one that comes with papers.

4 years ago I was in this very position where I thought my kitten might just be a Bengal and that is where my long journey of research began and my love the breed grew.  So I will help you answer your question “Is my Cat or Kitten a Bengal?”. And I promise no Bengal Elitist hating will be found here.  All cats are beautiful and precious even if they aren’t a Bengal!

From the beginning we noticed our Bengal Cookie was different from our two tabbies and our vet is actually the first one that suggested she might be Bengal.  This is when our research began and I read hours and hours of material on Bengal cats as well as watched videos, spoke to some breeders and joined some online communities for Bengal enthusiasts.   What lead us to our conclusion was the following criteria:

  1. Fur and colouring
  2. Body shape
  3. Head shape & facial markings
  4. Personality

So lets break these down a little more.

Fur and Colouring


Fur and colouring is first, namely because this is one of the fastest ways to rule out if your cat is a bengal,  if he or she can pass this check list then you can continue on through the other sections, but failing one of these will conclusively rule out your cat as a Bengal.

First off, if your cat:

1. Has white anywhere on their body other than their chin/whisker pad area or belly they are not a Bengal.  For instance, white on the paws, patch of white or any other colour on the body rules them out.

Bengals will not have the white areas of fur seen here.

Bengals will not have the white areas of fur seen here.

2. Must have a spotted belly


A shaved belly from just being spade, Timbit shows her spots.

3. Must have rosettes or a marble pattern

Rosettes on the left, marble on the right

Rosettes on the left, marble on the right

4. Should have very soft, short-haired fur, like a rabbit’s pelt if you’ve ever pet one.  They have no thick under fur and other then their bellies, their hair should be the same length as a short-haired domestic cat.  Their fur can have a glitter trait where it sparkles in sunlight or is ‘ticked’ which means it has bands of 2 or 3 colours on a single strand of hair.  Their fur also comes in a limited range of colours compared to tabbies.  Grey / brown is most common colour, but they also can be white (snow leopard), grey/silver, reddish brown, pink (mink seal) and black (panther like).

This is how ticked fur will look, giving dimension and texture to fur

This is how ticked fur will look, giving dimension and texture to fur

Now, all of these fur and colouring traits exist in domestic short hair cats as well as in other breads (Ocicats have spots like rosettes and tabbies can be marbled and have ticked fur etc.,), so passing the test this far still doesn’t mean you have a Bengal, but you’ve weeded through the more obvious deal breakers.

Body Shape


Bengals have notable differences in their body shape, they tend to have a longer body, longer tail and their back legs are slightly longer than their front legs, making their hips higher in the back than their shoulders in the front.  This difference in leg height is passed down from the Asian Leopard Cat and allows their ability to run quite fast for a domestic cat.

These are breeding ideals, with traits like these being cultivated from breeders looking to advance the breed.  There are low quality breeders and of course the puppy mill breeders who don’t try to build these qualities so you can still end up with a Bengal who doesn’t have all these qualities.

Head Shape & Facial Markings 


Bengals have some subtle and not so subtle differences.  First off the most notable is their intense facial markings.  They should have:

  • Eyeliner like lines around their eyes
  • Dark markings running length wise from the front of the head to the back
  • Lines running from the sides of their eyes  and cheek area towards the back of their head
  • Darker colouring of fur along the nose

Their eyes should be more rounded than a tabby / domestic short-hair which will have more almond shaped eyes. Their ears are usually more rounded and typically a bit larger.

A tabby on the left and a bengal on the right are a great example of eye shape and ear size differences.



If you have survived the list so far this is where their bigger than life personality will stand out and make the difference.  This is where we first saw the differences between our tabbies and Cookie when we were first trying to figure out if she was a Bengal. She was way more active, more talkative, jumped higher, liked water and it was a our first clue she was different.  But all cats have their own personalities so when it comes to the personality trait section you are looking for an overall majority and not necessarily ticking off every personality trait.  Below is a list of general personality traits seen in Bengals (and examples from YouTube, a great place to learn more about Bengals):

  • They love heights – for the most part they love being up high, even if that means just sitting on the top of the couch, but they are the ones that will venture to the top of door frames, closets, fridges & cabinets and furniture in general.
  • They love water – this can be a small as liking to play with the water pouring from the faucet to jumping in the shower or bathtub with you.
  • They are vocal – they will tell you have they are feeling or what they are wanting from you usually with a wide range of chirrups, meows and grunts.
  • They are very active –  they need daily play time to burn off all their energy.  With out daily play time they can become destructive, getting bored and then turning to ways to get attention from their humans or to amuse themselves like destroying furniture or breaking things.  The video below is a good example of what they can get into.  However, in this case the owner clearly has allowed these behaviours to happen and like a child when you teach them it’s ok they will continue to do it.  Not all Bengals are like this and you have to teach them what is ok and what is not ok.
  • They can be dog like – most people will say they are dog like.  They will come great anyone coming into the home or anything new coming into the home. Some people have trained their Bengals to perform dog like tricks.
  • They will eat a large range of foods – Most cats like human food, preferably meat and dairy, however Bengals will venture further eating breads and vegetables. In the video below this woman’s Bengals are eating spaghetti.  Note that I don’t endorse feeding a Bengal crazy foods, in all instances in our house they have stolen the food or ate left overs on a plate. Purposefully feeding them a plate full of spaghetti (or anything not part of a recommended cat diet) instead of their proper meal is just wrong and this video does disturb me.

So if you have made it to the end of this list congratulations you probably have a Bengal, and if not, congratulations, you still have an amazing cat who will be a loving part of your life!

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2015 at 8:00 am and is filed under Furrsonality, Purrrrrsonality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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