Bengal Cats Vs Tabby Cats [Differences & Similarities]

Bengal and tabby Cats share characteristics that sometimes make them hard to differentiate. But while they are both large, loving cats famous for their rosette coats, each type has different characteristics and histories.

Continue reading to discover the differences between a Bengal and a tabby cat, how to tell them apart, and which makes the best pet for you.

Differences Between A Bengal Cat And A Tabby Cat?

Perhaps the most significant difference between the Bengal and the tabby cat is that the Bengal is an actual cat breed, while “tabby” refers to the markings on a cat’s coat and is a term used to refer to multiple breeds.

What Are The Key Characteristics of Both Breeds?

Use the table below to compare the key characteristics of a Bengal and a tabby cat.

BengalTabby
Height14-18 inches10-16 inches
Weight8-12 pounds10-14 pounds
Lifespan12-16 years12-20 years
Activity LevelHighHigh
Grooming RequirementsLowLow to moderate
Family; Pet FriendlyYes to bothFamily Friendly. Often friendly towards other pets, but not always.
Ease of TrainingExcellent pets to trainUsually good pets to train, but not always.

What Is A Bengal Cat?

The Bengal cat is a hybrid of an Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat. This heritage means that the Bengal is a highly active cat and prefers to be an outdoor rather than an indoor pet. 

Bengals are a large and athletic breed skilled at running and climbing. Though they are highly energetic animals, Bengals are also loving and affectionate cats who make the perfect family pet.

The Bengal cat is famous for its rosette pattern, and while the tabby has similar markings, they are often not uniform.

What Is A Tabby Cat?

The term “tabby” actually refers to a coat pattern rather than a cat breed. Breeders derived the name from the middle eastern word “Atabi,” which means striped silk. Characterized by an “m” shape on their head, tabby’s share the energy and intelligence of a Bengal.

A tabby cat can be ginger, spotted, black in color, or mackerel. All ginger cats display tabby markings because the genes that give a cat its ginger color are the same as those that make tabby markings visible.

What Are The Different Tabby Patterns?

Breeders define a cat as a tabby if it has an M shape on its forehead and stripes along its cheeks, eyes, back, legs and tail; this definition applies regardless of its breed. There are a minimum of five tabby patterns, as listed below.

Classic Tabby Pattern?

The classic tabby pattern encompasses bold, swirling patterns – similar to a marbled cake – on the body. These felines also present circular streaks on their coat that look like a bullseye.

Mackerel Tabby Pattern?

The mackerel tabby is also referred to as a “tiger cat” as it has narrow vertical stripes running down its body in parallel. 

Spotted Tabby Pattern?

A spotted tabby has spots over the sides of its body that can be large or small. These spots can be rosettes, round or oval, and they sometimes present like broken mackerel stripes.

Ticked Tabby Pattern?

The ticked tabby is also known as the agouti tabby and doesn’t possess the traditional spots or stripes of other tabby types. They still have tabby face markings and hairs striped with alternating dark and light bands.

Patched Tabby Pattern?

A patched tabby has separate patches of red and brown tabby patterns. They are also known as tortoiseshell or “tortie” tabbies.

Are Bengals And Tabby Cats The Same?

Strictly speaking, Bengals are defined as tabby cats because of their coat markings, but tabbies are not necessarily Bengals. Tabby is the term used to refer to a wide variety of breeds.

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is A Bengal Or A Tabby?

Bengals possess tabby coats, but they do not display white in their coats. In addition, Bengals have a sparkle to their coats which you can see when the light shines through them.

Though both breeds are energetic and playful, the Bengal is usually more active than their tabby counterparts. In addition, Bengals are stronger and more muscular than tabbies, the latter carrying more domestic traits.

What Are The Historical Differences Between A Bengal And A Tabby Cat?

Experts believe people may have bred the Asian Leopard cat with the Egyptian Mau as early as 1889. Still, it wasn’t until the 1970s that breeders intentionally bred the Bengal as a domestic housecat. 

The International Cat Association accepted Bengals in 1983, and by 1999 the breed was accepted by most cat organizations around the world.

You can also trace tabby cat markings back to ancient Egypt. There are numerous myths around the derivation of the “M.” Christian folklore states that when a tabby comforted the baby Jesus, his mother Mary thanked the cat by placing an M on its forehead.

Meanwhile, Islamic legend says that the M stands for Muezza, a tabby cat that saved Mohammed from a poisonous snake.

What Are The Differences In Personality Between A Bengal And A Tabby Cat?

Bengals are lively and energetic cats who are loving towards their family. They are easy to train and, unlike other breeds, Bengals love water and will often find a source to play in.

Bengals love to be high off the ground; you can often find them in trees and roof rafters or sitting atop wardrobes and kitchen units. They are highly intelligent, playful, and eager to please, making them the perfect breed to train.

Along with basic commands such as “sit” or “lie down,” Bengals can learn many more complex tasks such as opening bin lids or cupboard doors. Even if you don’t teach them, they may learn to do these tasks independently.

Tabby cats share many of the characteristics of a Bengal. They, too, are outgoing felines who love to explore the outdoors and possess lively, intelligent personalities. Also, they are loving and caring toward their family.

But while the tabby is an intelligent breed, they can be a little more intensive to train than a Bengal. Tabby’s react to treats for desired behavior; they are food-driven creatures, so your teachings will eventually stick if you use an edible incentive.

Are Bengals Cats Or Tabby Cats Better Pets?

Bengals are a lively and energetic breed that benefits from interaction and at least one playmate (human or feline). The more stimulated a Bengal is, the better they behave. This breed also requires time outdoors to avoid restless or destructive behavior; they are the closest to a wild cat that a person can own as a pet.

Tabby cats are also playful and energetic, but their needs may be slightly less than Bengals. Bengals are one of the highest maintenance breeds in the world. Tabbies love attention, mostly get along with other pets, and enjoy sharing cuddles with their owners.

Final Thoughts

As an owner, it can be challenging to determine whether your cat is a Bengal or a different breed with a tabby coat. However, there are some clues to look out for, and you can opt for a genealogy test if you want to know definitively.

Either way, a Bengal or tabby makes a beautiful, loving, and playful family pet, and you won’t be disappointed if you add either of these gorgeous breeds to your family.

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