Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Bengal vs Tabby Cat: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

There are some similarities between the Bengal and the tabby. They both have similar brown and black markings. The Bengal is known for its rosettes, which are the spots on their coat, and the tabby has similar markings, although they do not tend to be as uniform. In fact, both the Bengal and the tabby come with markings known as mackerel and traditional, showing their similarities.

Both breeds can grow to be large, and while they have an almost wild look about them, they can be very loving, affectionate, and incredibly loyal towards their family.

However, while they do share similarities, the two breeds have different histories and some very different characteristics.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that, while the Bengal is a breed of cat, tabby only refers to the markings of a cat’s coat and it isn’t an actual breed of cat. As such, you can expect to find tabby cats of wildly different heights, weights, life expectancies, and characteristics.cat face divider 2

Visual Differences

bengal vs tabby feature

At a Glance

Bengal
  • Average height (adult): 14–18 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 8–12 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–16 years
  • Active: Very
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Very good
Tabby Cat
  • Average height (adult): 10–16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 10–14 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-20 years
  • Active: Very
  • Grooming needs: Low to Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Usually good

3 cat face dividerBengal Overview

The Bengal is a large and athletic cat. He has a thick tail and has a wild appearance that comes from its Asian Leopard Cat heritage. It is this lineage that makes the Bengal more of an outdoor than an indoor cat. He will enjoy a lot of exercise, will be skilled at climbing as well as running, and he will be playful and energetic when he gets home, too. With that said, he also makes a good family cat because he is loving and affectionate.

bengal cat standing by the window
Image Credit: Elena Borisova, Pixabay

History

The Bengal Cat is believed to have been bred by crossing the Asian Leopard Cat with the Egyptian Mau. Such a cross was first mentioned in 1889 but early breeding efforts stopped after one or two generations. However, Jean Mill of California intentionally crossed the Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic Californian tomcat and in the mid-1970s, the Bengal started to emerge as a domestic cat breed. It was accepted by the International Cat Association in 1983, and by 1999 the breed had been accepted by most international cat associations around the world.

Personality/Character 🐈

The Bengal cat is generally considered to be smart, energetic, lively, playful, and a loving family companion. They are natural retrievers and they not only put up with water but will often go out of their way to find a water source to play in. This is at odds with most cat breeds that will actively stay away from water sources.

The Bengal loves to be up high, which means that you will find him in trees and in hedges but also on top of wardrobes, kitchen units, and even in the rafters of sheds and outbuildings.

Training 🎾

The breed is known for being intelligent and is generally eager to please. He also enjoys having fun. This combination means that the Bengal is considered one of the easier breeds to train. You should be able to train some basic commands like sit and lay down, and many examples of this breed are naturally prone to retrieving items. The Bengal can also learn more complex “tricks”, such as lifting bin lids or opening seemingly impregnable cupboard doors, even if you haven’t intentionally taught them. They are known for keeping their owners on their toes.

Health & Care 🏥

The Bengal breed is known for being hardy and, generally, for being in good health. However, there are certain conditions that they are prone to:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) occurs when the heart muscle becomes too thick. This makes it harder for the cat’s heart to pump blood. HCM is believed to be present in more than 15% of all Bengal cats. There is no genetic screening available, but cats can be individually screened and tested.

side view portrait of a bengal cat
Image Credit: 5826286, Pixabay

Bengal progressive retinal atrophy, or Bengal PRA, is a degeneration of the retina that can lead to sight loss and it is inherited as a secondary trait.

Erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency, or PK deficiency, is a common complaint in Bengal cats and, like Bengal PRA, it can and should be tested by breeders. If two PK deficiency carriers are bred, it is more likely to lead to kittens that inherit this same attribute.

Suitable for 👪

The Bengal is an active and lively cat that will benefit from having at least one playmate, whether human or feline. They will enjoy time spent with their owners, and the more interaction a Bengal cat gets, the better behaved and more behaviourally adapt they will become. With that said, this breed also loves to spend time outdoors, especially on trees and roofs, and he may become restless and even destructive if you do not let the Bengal outside to roam and play.

3 cat dividerTabby Cat Overview

The tabby cat is not, strictly speaking, a breed of cat. The term tabby refers to the markings on the cat’s coat. The word comes from the Middle East word Atabi, which was a type of striped silk. The cat, which is characterized primarily by the “M” on their forehead, is known for being intelligent and energetic, which means that it is similar to the Bengal in these respects. They are very cuddly with their owners, and they can also be quite mischievous in nature.

mackerel tabby cat relaxes on the floor
Image Credit: Massimo Cattaneo, Shutterstock

History

The tabby marking dates back to ancient Egypt, although the markings can be present in many different breeds of cats. Ginger and red cats always display tabby markings because the genes that give the cat color are the same genes that make tabby markings visible. Similarly, you may see black, grey, or other solid color cats that have the barely visible markings of a tabby when they are sat in direct sunlight. The tabby cat can be ginger, solid-colored, spotted, or mackerel tabby, but they all have one thing in common: the “M” marking on their forehead.

Myths suggest that the “M” comes from the word Mau, which means cat in Ancient Egypt. According to Christian folklore, a tabby turned up to comfort baby Jesus and Mary thanked the cat by thanking him with an “M” on his forehead. Islamic legend states that the “M” represents the name Muezza, who was a tabby cat that saved Mohammed from a poisonous snake.

Personality/Character 🐈

Tabby owners agree that they have an intelligent, lively, and loving cat on their hands. Most owners agree that they are a special type of cat: one that is even more outgoing than other cats. They are known for their desire to explore, and their energy levels and athleticism usually aid them towards this end. They do better when given time outside to explore and to burn off energy. With that said, once they are indoors and they have had some time to play, they are loving and caring family pets, too.

Training 🎾

The tabby is considered intelligent but, as with training any cat, the key is to identify natural behaviors that you wish to encourage and then give them praise when they complete that behavior. Use healthy training rewards and reward your cat when they do something you want them to repeat. At the same time, give them a verbal or hand command to represent this trick. It may take a lot of repetition, but most cats are food-driven, so this activity will eventually stick.

cream tabby ginger maine coon cat playing with lawn_Nils Jacobi_shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Suitable for 👪

Tabby cats are loving but playful, intelligent, and energetic. They make excellent family pets, thanks to their inclination to hug and give cuddles. They can be taught some basic tricks, will enjoy the attention, and they will usually get along with other cats and dogs. The tabby cat is better suited to a life with some time outdoors so that he can burn off energy.

3 cat face dividerDo Bengals Have An “M” On Their Foreheads?

Strictly speaking, a Bengal has a tabby coat, but while Bengals are tabbies, tabbies are not necessarily Bengals.

As a tabby, the Bengal will usually have the distinctive “M” mark on their forehead. This may be difficult to spot in some Bengals, but it is there.

Is My Cat a Bengal Or a Tabby?

Although the Bengal does have a tabby coat, it does not have white in its coat. Bengal cats also have a sparkle or glitter in their coats that can be seen when light shines through it.

Bengals are usually more active and vocal than their more domestic tabby counterparts. They are strong, agile, athletic, and can be very muscular. They are as likely to be found in treetops and on the top of buildings as they are on the ground, and they are also at home in the water.

It is very difficult to determine whether a cat is a Bengal or another breed with a tabby coat, but you can expect a loving and caring cat with plenty of energy in either case.

yarn ball dividerWhich Breed is Right for You?

The Bengal is one of several breeds of cat with a tabby coating. He is usually considered as close to a wild cat as a person can own. He is muscular, athletic, and strong, and he enjoys spending time up high as well as on the ground, in water, and potentially on your lap. Other domestic tabby cats are not usually as wild, but owners will tell you that they are mischievous, energetic, intelligent, and enjoy spending time with all family members.

Both cats enjoy time outdoors and require attention from their owners, and there is little difference between the two that would force you to choose one over the other. Bengal cats may be more difficult to come by, and they do have a few known health problems. So, if you want to avoid vet bills and enjoy a potentially longer life from your domestic cat, then you could opt for a different domestic breed with a tabby coat.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay