If you find yourself looking for an exotic feline to bring home, chances are you have come across both Bengal and Savannah cats. Both are beautiful hybrid species that have become very popular among cat enthusiasts. Therefore, it’s important to know the differences between Bengals and Savannahs.
The 5 differences between Bengal cats and Savannah cats are:
- Different histories
- Size and appearance
- Health problems
- Price range
- Savannahs are more wild
This article should help you understand the differences between these two breeds in order to decide which is the best fit for you. While there are differences, we will also discuss the similarities between the two breeds, as they do have a lot in common as well.
5 Differences Between Bengal Cats And Savannah Cats
1. Different Histories
A major difference between these two cats are their breeding histories. While both are hybrids with wild and domestic genes, their wild roots are not the same. Savannahs are a cross between the wild African serval and a domestic cat, while the Bengal is a cross between an Asian leopard cat and domestic cat. These different roots contribute to these cats’ various differences.
Bengal cats were bred before Savannahs and have a much longer history starting in the early 1900s. Humans began breeding Asian leopard cats with different domesticated cats in order to produce what is now known as the Bengal. While this became common practice, the breed was not truly established until the 1970s when it became more standardized.
The First Bengals
The person most known for pioneering the breed is Jean S Mill. She began breeding Asian leopard cats to domestics in 1963 in a true attempt to create a new domestic cat species. This is the first time such an attempt was made with a wild species of cat, as most other domestic cat breeds are achieved through the breeding of different domestics.
Part of the reason Mill started to breed the Bengal hybrid was to combine the well-known friendly temperaments of the domestic tabby with the exotic look of a leopard. However, another reason was to help protect the wild Asian leopard cat who was often poached for their fur and the kittens sold. The idea was the Bengal would help reduce poaching and thus save the Asian leopard cat population.
Mill’s first attempt at creating the modern Bengal was to breed a black tomcat to an Asian leopard cat producing a successful litter. From this original litter Mill was able to backcross several generations, achieving her goal. By 1983 The International Cat Association was the first to accept the Bengal as a new breed of domestic cat followed by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1997.
The Cat Fanciers Association was the last organization to recognize the Bengal in 2016, mainly because they do not recognize or promote the breeding of wild and domestic cats. However, because the Bengal is so far removed from the Asian leopard cat, only using Bengals in breeding, they are now accepted. Today there are over 1,000 Bengal breeders worldwide, and even more Bengal cat owners.
The Savannah Cat
In contrast the Savannah cat is a fairly new hybrid and newly accepted domestic breed in the cat breeding world. The Savannah’s breed standard was implemented in 2001, and in 2012 it finally achieved TICA Championship status. Furthermore, TICA is the only organization at this time that has officially recognized the Savannah.
Savannahs, unlike Bengals, are still considered to be too close to their wild relatives – the African serval – to be considered a domestic breed by other organizations. Nobody uses Asian leopard cats in the breeding of Bengals anymore and are instead the result of Bengal to Bengal breeding only. Savannahs on the other hand are still produced via Savannah to serval breeding in order to breed F1 Savannahs.
A Happy Accident
The first Savannah wasn’t even deliberately bred but rather was the result of an accidental mating between a captive Serval male and a domestic Siamese female. This happy accident however did pave the way for a second hybrid species in addition to the Bengal. In fact, early breeding of the Savannah involved breeding Bengals with servals.
Today, Savannah breeders are becoming more and more common as the breed’s popularity skyrocketed rather quickly. Savannahs are also bred at all generational levels starting with F1s, who share 70% or more of their genetics with a wild serval. Purebred Savannahs are the result of at least three generations of Savannah to Savannah breeding.
2. Size And Appearance
To the untrained eye of someone who is unfamiliar with Bengals and Savannahs, it’s easy to confuse them for one another, especially if the Savannah is of a lower generation and nonstandard coat. However, looking at a Bengal and Savannah side by side makes it easy to tell the difference.
Bengals are often much smaller than Savannahs, with an average height of 8-10 inches and weighing at a maximum of 15 pounds if healthy. Their bodies are long and lean, and their legs are proportionate, and they are also very muscular. Looking at a tiger and a Bengal they are actually shaped very similarly, with size as the exception of course.
A Bigger Cat
In contrast a Savannah cat can reach up to 17 inches in height, 22 inches in body length, and weigh as much as 25 pounds. Additionally, while they are athletic and muscular like a Bengal, they are shaped quite differently. Much like a serval, Savannahs have long slender bodies but also abnormally long legs and necks that give it an even larger appearance.
However, larger Savannahs are also often F1s and F2s, whereas later generations are actually similar in size to Bengals and even normal domestic cats. This is just another unique factor of Savannahs that make them very different from Bengals, which are a more standardized size because they are so far removed from their wild relatives.
Besides of their size differences, Bengals and Savannahs can vary greatly in their appearance. While their color palettes are similar, containing many of the same variations, they are still quite different. Bengals have eight color variations, including brown, blue, charcoal, black, silver, and three variations of snow. Savannahs also have those colors, as well as an additional seven.
In addition to similar colors of the Bengal, Savannahs also have lavender, black silver, smoke, cinnamon, chocolate, fawn, and white color variations. Some can look very similar to Bengal colors to the untrained eye, but in reality, they have specific genetic differences that create said colors.
While their colors can sometimes appear to be very similar, and in some cases the same, these two breeds do however have very different patterns. Generally speaking, Bengals are going to have what is referred to as a rosette pattern, more commonly recognized as a leopard or jaguar pattern. Savannahs on the other hand have a spotted tabby pattern.
Bengals, while mainly having rosettes, can also have single spots similar to the tabby pattern. But more commonly, the other coat pattern seen is the marbled version. Marble coats in Bengals are accepted as standard, whereas even though Savannahs can be marbled, it is uncommon as it is not accepted as the standard by TICA.
Savannahs however are often bred purely for the joy of breeding new and exciting patterns, as well as to satisfy what pet owners prefer. Because of this, you can find Savannahs in several other additional patterns including mackerel, ticked, and agouti. While most patterns are a variation of a spotted pattern with some striping, the mackerel pattern looks more like that of a tiger.
Standard nose colors for Savannahs and Bengals also differ. Savannahs are known for their dark and most often black nose leather, resembling that of a serval. Bengals however more often than not have a much lighter nose in various shades of pink or light browns.
Additionally, you will notice the head of a Savannah will have a more triangular face and skull structure. Their large ears will sit directly on top of the head and will often have ocelli patterns like a serval. Bengals have a broad face with small to medium sized ears that are spaced far apart, following the shape of their face. Their ears will also have a wide base unlike the Savannah.
3. Health Problems
One reason for Savannah cat popularity is that they live long, healthy lives with few to no hereditary health problems. This is somewhat due to their strong blood lines with servals, as they too have very few to no health problems. The addition of the domestic genes from several breeds also helps prevent genetic health problems.
Typically speaking, Savannah cats suffer the same common health issues prone to most cats including kidney failure. Felines unfortunately have a kidney system built to fail as they start to deteriorate as early as six years old in some cats. Male cats are also prone to urinary tract infections and disease if not cared for properly.
Proper Care Required
Luckily, although more common among cats, if you take extra care to feed your Savannah a healthy diet with plenty of water,you can reduce the chances of them facing kidney problems. Additionally, there has been much success with supplements that specialize in kidney and urinary tract health.
Overall, Savannah cats, with the exception of health problems common in most cats, can live up to 20 years and in some rare cases even longer. They do not face any common cancers or other diseases, although there are some rare exceptions. However, with the proper care, including regular check ups with the vet in combination with diet and exercise,your Savannah should live a long healthy life.
Bengal Health Problems
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Bengals, who unfortunately are prone to multiple different genetic health problems. It is important to understand that if you want to own a Bengal that they will need some extra preventive care in order for them to live a longer and healthier life. In conjunction with your vet, you should put in place a health maintenance plan.
One major disease that can affect your Bengal without regular maintenance is dental disease, which is fairly common in Bengals. In some cases, dental disease can actually be deadly, and even when it’s not it is extremely expensive to treat. For this reason, it is important that you regularly clean your Bengal’s teeth or take them to the vet for a professional cleaning twice a year.
Other Health Issues
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disease that is inherited through certain Bengal bloodlines. For some the gene may be passed on but will not show, and the Bengal is simply a carrier. But in other cases, PRA can develop in young Bengals and will eventually deteriorate the retina. Unfortunately, PRA is an incurable disease that will ultimately cause blindness in one or both eyes.
Patella Luxation and Hip Dysplasia are two other major inherited ailments that are commonly found in Bengals. Both are the result of deformed joints in the knee and hips respectively and will cause arthritis, making everyday movement difficult once it has fully developed. Both conditions can be detected early in order to prepare and manage it into your Bengal’s later years.
Your vet will be able to detect these ailments through a physical examination as well as x-rays to confirm any suspicion of either luxation or dysplasia. In extreme cases, both conditions can be managed through surgery to help realign the different joints. However, not all cases are so extreme and with proper maintenance can be manageable,giving your Bengal a full life.
Find The Right Vet
While these are not the only health issues Bengals have a predisposition to, they are the most common. With that said, it is always a good idea to find a vet that is familiar with Bengals. They will be able to better diagnose any issues early on so that you are not blindsided later. Prevention is the best course of action for the health of your Bengal, as well as for your financial security.
Although Savannahs face fewer health risks than Bengals, this shouldn’t necessarily sway you away from one breed or the other. Rather this article is designed to give you some perspective on the different health issues you may run into. Both breeds will need you to be a dedicated pet parent with regular vet visits, maintenance, and a healthy diet.
4. Price Range
The price ranges for both of these beautiful cat breeds are also quite different depending on what generation and type you are looking to purchase. In general, Savannah cats are much more expensive than Bengal cats. This is mainly due to their rarity and wild serval bloodlines.
Savannah cats can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 depending on generation and sex. Females will almost always be more expensive as they are able to breed at any generation from F1 onwards. Males are not able to breed viable offspring unless they are an F3, but more often an F4, as earlier generations tend to be sterile.
The Most Expensive Option
If you are seeking an F1 Savannah you will have a hard time paying anything less than $17,000 to $20,000, mainly because it is rather difficult to breed an F1 Savannah. In order for a breeder to successfully produce F1 kittens they will also need to have a viable serval male. This will cost a breeder extra money for food and vet bills, but it’s also riskier.
Not all mattings between a Savannah female and serval male are successful due to the difference in gestation genetics. Some kittens are stillborn or do not make it after birth. F1 kittens require a lot of care, including being bottle fed in addition to nursing in order to ensure their survival. In other cases, mating is unsuccessful altogether.
Bengals Are Usually Cheaper
Bengals on the other hand, while they are not cheap, usually won’t cost more than $3,000. Additionally, a Bengal that is on the high end of the cost scale will also be show ready. In other words, it will have been bred to be a champion with all the desired characteristics desired by judges. You will find virtually no hair out of place or other abnormalities.
For someone who is in the market for a Bengal because of their love of the breed and has no interest in showing their pet can expect to pay around $1,000 to $1,500. While this is still expensive, it is actually rather reasonable for a specialized hybrid breed.
5. Savannahs Are More Wild
While both Savannahs and Bengals are hybrids and are known for their big personalities and high energy, Savannahs are ultimately wilder in their behavior. This is in large part due to them being far less removed from their wild relatives.
Bengals are no longer bred with Asian leopard cats and are several generations removed, sharing less than 50% of their bloodline with their wild relatives. It is incredibly rare to find an F1 Bengal and most breeders will not breed them. Modern Bengals are all going to be domestic backcrosses and pure-bred Bengals (Bengal to Bengal breeding).
Much Milder Temperament
Because the Bengal has become more domesticated it has a much milder temperament. However, they can still be quite the handful in comparison to other domestic breeds. Savannahs on the other hand can be up to 80% serval as an F1. As a result, they share much more in common with their wild relatives, including their hunting instincts and energy levels.
Generally speaking, F1 and F2 Savannahs are considered an advanced pet for the inexperienced and can take a lot of dedication to properly care for. These early generations need a lot of attention and cannot be left alone for long periods as they can become bored and even depressed. For this reason, it is also recommended that these generations have a companion.
Early generation Savannahs also usually require a higher quality and often raw diet to satisfy their wild genes. A diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates is a must and can get quite expensive if you want the best of the best. With that said, if you have the money to purchase an early generation Savannah, you should be prepared to spend a fair amount on their health and overall maintenance.
Higher energy means they will need more stimulation, including lots of high spaces, personal toys, and furniture, like cat trees. A bored Savannah cat is a dangerous Savannah cat, mainly to your furniture and other valuables. Having plenty of spaces just for them will help keep them away from your fine China cabinet and other knickknacks.
Bengal And Savannah Similarities
Now that you know the differences between Bengals and Savannahs, let’s talk a little bit about what Bengals and Savannah cats have in common. Both breeds are hybrids, which gives them unique personalities and behaviors. While we discussed that Savannahs tend to be more wild, Bengals are still much more active than the average house cat.
Both breeds are considered to be higher maintenance than other cats, and they require some creativity in quenching their high prey drive. Both cats really love a good game of chase and will go after all sorts of little toys, laser pointers, and wand toys. These are great ways to stimulate their natural hunting instincts and run that energy level down.
Play Time Is Key
Lots of toys and play time will also help reduce the chance of them mistaking your fingers or toes for playthings. With a high prey drive, small quick movements can be a trigger and you will have to train them by redirecting their behavior in a healthy manner that still promotes their natural instincts.
These cats are known for their loyalty to their humans as well as their other pet companions, whether it’s another animal of the same breed or the family dog. Savannahs are often referred to as the dog of cats, but Bengals can be very canine-like in their behavior too. This makes both breeds easier to train to walk on a leash and harness, which is great exercise to keep your pet in shape.
Both Enjoy Water
Additionally, both breeds also enjoy water and can often be found trying to jump into the bathtub or shower. Providing a small kiddie pool or other vessel to hold water is a great idea for these cats and will keep them occupied for extended periods of time. This also provides another method of exercise to keep them healthy.
Their coats are both well managed through regular brushing but are also on the lower end of shedding compared to other breeds. Bengals have very luxurious and silky coats that will thrive with proper diet and brushing. Savannahs have even shorter hair, making them even less prone to shedding. However, do not mistake low shedding for hypoallergenic, although it does help if you do have allergies.
Hopefully this article has helped shed some light on the differences as well as some of the similarities between Bengals and Savannahs. This will either make it much easier or much harder to choose which breed you may want to bring into your home! We understand that they are both amazing breeds and it can be hard to make a decision. There is always the option to get one of each!