The Bengal cat is a uniquely beautiful animal, having all the domestic cat attributes that cat lovers know and love, combined with spectacular patterns and colors that imitate their wild ancestors. Two major aspects differentiate modern Bengal Cats: their coat color and their coat markings. These colors and patterns can come in a large degree of variance and intensity, but the basic breed-recognized colors are brown, silver, and snow, and each of these colors can be patterned with either marbling, spots, or a combination of both.
With all these variations in colors and patterns and the inevitable combinations, it can be difficult to know where to start in finding the right Bengal to bring home. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to Bengal colors and patterns to help you identify and choose from the wide varieties available.
The Bengal Cat Colors
Bengals come in three standard, breed-recognized colors but can also come in a variety of “unrecognized” colors. While these colors are found in most domestic cats, the combination of color and unique patterning makes for a visually stunning animal. The spots or marbling can be in various shades and intensity and will give a beautiful contrast that is not found in other domestic cat breeds.
The standard recognized colors of Bengals are brown, silver, and snow, and unrecognized colors can include charcoal, blue, and melanistic (solid black), as described by TICA.
1. Brown bengal cat
Brown Bengals are one of the most popular varieties and can be found in color range variations that include descriptions like golden, creamy, honey, caramel, red, and orange, with an orange-brown or butter-coat being the preferred standard base coat. This base coat is usually beautifully contrasted with dark chestnut or black markings, which can be varied solid rosettes or marbling and can also be tricolor, typically a dark outline with graduated shades of browns inside.
This color variety, whether with spots or marbling, is often referred to as the Leopard Bengal due to its close resemblance to this big cat. They usually have green or golden eyes and a solid-black tipped tail.
2. Silver bengal cat
Silver Bengals have an almost pure white base coat that can vary from white to a steel-like silver shade, contrasted by black and grey spotted or marbling patterns. This can also include charcoal and blue shading in both base coat and patterns but should never include brown or golden tones on the feet or face. They will usually have green or golden eyes and a solid black-tipped tail.
3. Snow bengal cat
The Snow Bengal comes in three different variations, and contrary to their name, their base coat is not pure white in color.
- Seal lynx point. These Bengals are the lightest of the snow variants and will often be born without any markings or faintly visible markings, at most. They have a creamy-white base coat that is contrasted by brown, grey, or tan spots or marbling. These beautiful cats often resemble snow leopards and are the only Bengals that have ice-blue eyes.
- Seal mink. Seal mink Bengals usually have a light brown, cream, or ivory base coat, with a darker brown or caramel spotted or marbled pattern. They will usually have blue-green or aqua eye color.
- Seal sepia. Usually the darkest of the snow variants, seal sepia Bengals have light chocolate or tan brown base coat that has various shades of brown or tan spotted or marbled markings. They are typically found with green or golden-brown eyes.
Non-recognized bengal cat colors
Although these colors are not officially recognized by Bengal competition standards, these rare colors are just as striking as standard Bengal color variants. They are typically caused by recessive genes that can crop up among standard litters.
This color variant is more of an additional masking layer than a separate color, as it is usually described as a “ghost” layer that comes out on top of Bengal’s standard base coat. Charcoal layers can be seen in any of the standard color variations and are then described as charcoal silver, charcoal brown, etc. They will typically have a dark face mask, with a thick, dark stripe running down the length of their back, known as a “cape.”
Blue Bengal variants are rare, and thus, these unusual cats are highly prized animals. They have a steel-blue or powder-blue base coat with occasional cream tones and a dark, grey-blue marbled or spotted patterning. They will typically have hazel brown or green eyes.
6. Black or melanistic
These prized cats are revered for their resemblance to black panthers and will typically have a base coat with marbled or spotted patterned colors that are almost indistinguishable from each other, giving them an almost solid black appearance. The patterns on these cats are usually referred to as “ghost markings,” because other than in bright sunlight, they are virtually invisible.
The Bengal Cat Patterns
While a Bengal’s markings typically fall into two distinct categories — spotted and marbled — there is a wide variety within each category of pattern that Bengals can display. Spotted variants were the first recognized pattern type, with marbled cats coming soon after.
A spotted Bengal is the most popular and most recognizable pattern variety, at times closely resembling baby leopards. The spots are usually small to medium-sized patterns that are scattered all over the cat’s coat, with large, dark spots on a light background being the most highly prized variation. These spots can appear in many different colors and shapes, each with a distinct category described by breeders.
- Single spotted. This is the simplest variation of spotted Bengal, but just as eye-catching. The pattern consists of small monochrome spots that are spread on a contrasting base coat, without any gradient in color inside the pattern. The spots are similar to a cheetah in that there is no second color to the small spots, and they are usually a dark contrasting color, like dark grey, brown, or black.
- Cluster rosettes. Rosette patterns are spots that have two contrasting colors that are distinct from the base coat. Cluster rosettes are the least dramatic version, consisting of a center color that is darker than the base coat, punctuated by small clusters of even darker colored spots.
- Paw-print rosette. Similar to cluster rosettes, paw-print rosettes consist of dark spots edging one side of the second color only, but never enclosed. They resemble small paw prints strewn across the cat’s back.
- Clouded rosette. These rosettes are spaced close together and are large in size, with subtle signs of a second color around the edge.
- Doughnut rosette. This pattern is defined by spots that are surrounded by an even darker colored outline. This is one of the most popular spotted patterns, giving the cat a leopard-like appearance. They can also appear as what is known as pancake rosettes, which have thinner outlined rings than the doughnut rosettes.
- Arrowhead rosette. Arrowheads are a fairly uncommon pattern that can be monochrome or outlined, with varying degrees of a rosette. They are triangular-shaped patterns that point toward the back of the Bengal and can vary greatly in size and density.
The marbled pattern is a series of swirls and stripes that intermingle in a flowing, random pattern made up of two or more color variations. This patterning can come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, which are typically divided into four distinct categories by breeders.
- Horizontal Flowing. These markings are much like the markings seen on a Boa Constrictor, flowing horizontally along the spine of the cat.
- Reduced horizontal flow. Also known as “high-acreage,” this pattern has a high ratio of background to markings and is prized due to its close resemblance to wild cats.
- Sheeted flow. This pattern has a high ratio of markings to base coat, with little negative space. This can be especially prominent in some Bengal kittens, and it can take up to two years before the patterns properly “open up.”
- Chaos pattern. The chaos pattern lives up to its name and is a dramatic amalgamation of all of the above. It consists of chaotic swirls, flows, and colors, punctuated by occasional splashes of color and patterns.
A sparbled coat is the meeting of spotted and marbled varieties, creating a marbled and rosette clashing of markings. Although it is not an officially recognized pattern, it is still beautiful to behold, especially when there is significant negative space between the chaotic patterns. This coat variety can become all the more dramatic when mixed with clouded or charcoal markings, making for a unique looking Bengal indeed.
If all that variation is not enough for you, there is yet more to the incredible Bengal Cat!
- Glitter. While not all Bengals have it, some have a shiny, glitter-like appearance to their coat. This sparkling, shimmering effect is eye-catching, to say the least, and is visible even in low light. This unique trait was first seen in cats among Bengal breeds, and although it is beautiful and dramatic in appearance, it has a simple explanation behind it. The “glitter” effect is caused by random translucent hair shafts in the cat’s coat. These shafts catch and reflect light, causing the hair to shimmer and shine.
- White Stomach. Breeders have long attempted to bring the characteristic white-spotted tummy of Asian Leopard Cats into the Bengal breed, but it is still exceedingly rare, and these cats are thus highly prized varieties.
- Long-haired Bengals. Some Bengals have long and silky coats, which are more commonly known as Cashmere Bengals. Because many domestic cats were used in the creation of the Bengal breed, it is thought that this genetic trait comes from one of these many crossings. They are not recognized by most cat registries, but some breeders have chosen to develop this trait further into the Cashmere variation.
- Primordial pouch. Another trait that comes from the Bengal’s wild ancestry is the primordial pouch, found on both males and females in the breed. It is located on the cat’s belly, with the appearance of a flap of loose skin hanging between the back legs. This pouch is often confused with a cat being overweight or lactating, but it has a few biological uses. Some speculate that to store extra food, to facilitate movement due to its elasticity, and to insulate the cat’s internal organs.
- Frosted phase. At around three weeks old, Bengal kittens will often go through a unique fuzzy stage of growth, commonly referred to as the frosted phase or “uglies.” This process entails the kitten’s coat becoming fuzzy and messy in appearance, similar to what Asian Leopard kittens go through in the wild. This unique stage of growth is thought to enhance the kitten’s camouflage at this vulnerable stage of growth. But don’t worry, it is usually gone by the time they are three months old!
These unique and wild-looking cats have dramatic variations of color and patterns, resembling the wild ancestors they came from. These cats are the gentle, domesticated versions of leopards, tigers, cheetahs, and jaguars, with almost all big cats being represented in miniature by Bengals.
The modern Bengal breed began in the early 1960s, thanks to Jean Mill, when she made the first deliberate cross of an Asian Leopard Cat with a black Tomcat. Although several other breeders contributed to the Bengal breed, Mill is widely considered as the originator, as she was able to successfully continue the breed past the fourth generation (F4). The breed was officially recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1983.
From glittered, spotted snow leopards, to jet-black panthers, the Bengal breed really does have it all. With all the exotic blends and variations in color and patterns, it is a magnificent breed that truly has something for everyone.
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Featured Image: Sean McGrath, Flickr