Bengal cats are one of the most beautiful breeds known around the world today. Originally a hybrid of an Asian Leopard Cat paired with a domestic feline, Bengals have incredibly unique coat colors and patterning, distinguishing them from other specialized breeds.
A Bengal is easy to spot – they are regularly referred to as “household leopards” due to their exquisite coats inherited from their wild ancestor.
The appearance of a Bengal’s coat is just one factor of many that make it so rare; their fur possesses different properties from those of domestic cats.
In order to truly see what makes Bengals incomparable, it is imperative to know the basics of the various types of coats. After all, Bengals come with a price tag for a reason!
Popular Bengal Cat Colors
Bengals are a diverse breed of cat with a wide range of coat colors. All Bengals have silky, elegant coats – the color is simply a matter of personal taste.
Choosing a preferred coat color is important when selecting a breeder, as most specialize in just a few different hues.
If a new owner wants to show their cat in competition, it is important to note that there are “recognized” colors and “unrecognized” colors:
- Recognized Bengal colors include brown, snow, and silver,
- Unrecognized Bengal colors include charcoal, blue, and melanistic.
However, all of these colors are recognized by TICA (The International Cat Association), so regular pet owners should not be too bothered by this.
It’s useful to explore the various coat shades before scoping out different catteries – knowing what you want in a Bengal will narrow your search considerably and guide you to just the right fit.
Brown Bengal Cat
The most common coat color among Bengals is brown, which presents in a wide array of shades including everything from light gold to fiery orange to rich auburn.
Many people choose to adopt orange-brown Bengals due to the gorgeous, recognizable color – they are also the easiest color to find at a typical Bengal cattery. Many catteries choose to breed brown Bengals because of their popularity and distinctive appearance.
Brown Bengals are frequently compared to wild leopards due to color and patterning they present.
The owner of a brown Bengal can typically expect her to have green or golden eyes, though specific shades will vary.
As with any Bengal, the best way to guess what her adult eye color will be is to look at her queen and sire. My two Bengals, Charlie and Winston, are both brown, but their coat and eye colors are slightly different despite being from the same litter.
Brown Bengals have beautiful coats, but they are just one shade of many!
Snow Bengal Cat
Snow Bengals have a highly coveted coat color that ranges anywhere from creamy white to soft ivory. Snow Bengals are closely compared to their cousins, the snow leopard, because of their rare and beautiful coats.
Snow Bengals are second only to browns in popularity, though they can be a little more difficult to find. “Snow” is a broad term, however, as there are several distinctions of snow, each with their own unique looks.
- Snow seal lynx Bengals have the lightest coat of this subset, which presents as a white cream color that contrasts beautifully with their blue eyes. A new owner who wants to make sure their new family member has blue eyes can count on a seal lynx kitten to deliver.
- Snow seal mink Bengals have a slightly darker pattern than seal lynx that is best described as a creamy tan or ivory color. Seal mink Bengals will typically have bluish-green or aquamarine eyes, making these some of the most unusual of all Bengal eyes.
- Snow seal sepia Bengals present the greatest contrast in their coats, which are a deeper, warm cream color that can range from pale to dark. Think of a sepia effect on a photograph: these Bengals look as if they have a filter on their coats. Their eyes will reliably be green or gold, unlike other variations of snow Bengals.
Silver Bengal Cat
Silver Bengals have one of the more popular coat colors of the breed, due in part to the relative rarity. A silver Bengal’s coat can range from white to a dark, steely gray, with plenty in between.
At first glance, a silver Bengal might be mistaken for a seal lynx or even a seal mink, but their coats are decidedly on the “cool” side of the color spectrum.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of a silver Bengal versus any other type of Bengal is the noticeable lack of any warm colors, or “tarnish,” which includes anything from yellow to orange to brown. The contrast of their dark markings on silvery fur makes these Bengals stand out among their cousins.
A silver Bengal will have green or gold eyes, which stand out nicely against their fur.
Charcoal Bengal Cat
Charcoal Bengals are a special variant of these beautiful cats, characterized by dark, smoky coat patterns. Charcoal markings are unique in that they can appear on any Bengal, no matter their base coat color.
Silver, snow, and brown Bengals are known to have these gorgeous markings, given that they possess the charcoal gene. It is, however, a recessive trait – my two Bengals, Charlie and Winston, come from a brown sire and a charcoal queen, yet they did not inherit their mother’s charcoal coat.
One especially distinctive trait that charcoals may present is a “mask” over their eyes. In these cases, the Bengal’s markings surround their eyes to create the illusion of wearing a bandit mask. This pattern often extends down the cat’s back, as if she was wearing a cape.
If a new owner is interested in their Bengal looking like Zorro, seeking out a cattery with charcoal queens and sires is the way to go!
Blue Bengal Cat
A Bengal cat with a blue coat is an extremely rare find. This variant of coat requires both the queen and the sire to carry the recessive gene that leads to blue fur, which breeders can be hard pressed to locate.
Blue Bengals have coats that are distinctively blue in color, ranging anywhere from a darker, steely hue to a lighter powder blue.
Their markings will also present in a noticeably blue shade that remains that way into adulthood, which is different than most other Bengals, who usually have black markings.
Melanistic Bengal Cat
Melanistic Bengals, also referred to as black Bengals, have completely different coat presentation when compared to others in the breed.
At first glance, a melanistic Bengal appears to be a regular black cat, but a closer look in bright lighting reveals their “hidden” coat patterns, much like black panthers in the wild.
Many Bengal owners seek out these special cats for that very reason – having a tiny jaguar in your house is certainly uncommon!
Some owners who have a black cat might be led to believe that their fur baby is a melanistic Bengal, but the hidden patterns are the telltale sign. Melanistic Bengals can have hazel, gold, or green eyes, which are entrancing against their mysterious pelts.
Most Bengals have a distinctly white underbelly, with some exceptions including melanistic Bengals. The white creates a lovely contrast against their beautiful coats and provides the perfect area for tummy rubs.
Markings – What Are the Different Types?
Part of what makes Bengals so distinct from other cats is their unique patterns. Bengal coat patterns are usually categorized as either rosetted (also referred to as spotted) or marbled, with plenty of variety in between. A Bengal of any color can have either of these coat presentations, depending on their breeding and lineage. Their markings often present in a wide assortment of different colors similar to their base coat, giving them a distinct contrast. Exploring these coat patterns is one of the most fun parts of learning about Bengals – the possibilities are endless!
Rosettes are exclusive to Bengals among domestic cats, which is part of the appeal of these gorgeous creatures. Rosettes can present in many different shapes and patterns, including paw-print, arrowhead, donut, clouded, and cluster. Breeders tend to focus on making the appearance of these rosettes more distinctive as generations pass, hence the wide range of possibilities.
Rosettes usually start out as small spots on a Bengal kitten, which then “blossom” into dark, color-filled spots. Many people prize Bengals’ rosettes and seek to find kittens with large, evenly distributed rosettes, especially when showing the cat in competition.
Marbled Bengals are a striking variety of these gorgeous cats, characterized by symmetrical swirls on their back and sides. Marbling is rarer than spotting in Bengals, due mostly to breeders’ preference for leopard-like spots. Either coat presentation is lovely – choosing between marbled versus rosetted is a matter of personal taste.
Another aspect of Bengals’ patterning that sets them apart from other breeds is spotting on their bellies. A cat might appear to be a Bengal, or even possess some similar traits, but without the presence of these spots it is unlikely that the cat in question is a Bengal.
Bengals typically have stripes that wrap around their tail, ending in a dark point. I like to think that my Bengals are part lemur, but this tail pattern is actually a remnant of their tabby cat ancestry. Bengals also present stripes on their legs and chest, creating an interesting pattern contrast with their back and side coat.
A Bengal’s Fur – Unlike Any Other
Bengal cats have always been in high demand because of their beautiful patterns, but another aspect of this desirability is their unique coats. Contrary to other domestic cats, Bengals have pelt-like coats that make them unlikely to shed. For this reason, many consider Bengals to be a hypoallergenic breed, which can be true to an extent.
Reactions vary from person to person, but many people with cat allergies report little to no symptoms after interacting with Bengals – my brother, who is deathly allergic to regular cats, is able to play with and even snuggle my Bengals.
This pelt-like coat gives Bengals an incredibly soft and silky feel, adding to their allure. Some Bengals have even more uncommon properties to their fur, including a glitter-like appearance that almost seems to sparkle, even in low lighting. In sunlight, a Bengal’s glitter is striking, almost like a diamond. Not all Bengals have this signature glitter, but it is plenty common among the breed.
Fur maintenance can be a burden for some cat owners, but Bengals hardly, if ever, need additional help in grooming, which means less vacuuming up clumps of hair for their lucky owner.
Every Cat Is Different
No two Bengals are alike. This applies to personality as well as coat – but a kitten’s color and pattern are a little easier to predict than her attitude! Most Bengal owners choose their breeder based upon the cats they breed and the kittens they produce, which will strongly indicate what her appearance will be when she is fully grown. Tracing pedigree is important for this reason – a new owner who wants a silver Bengal would be hard pressed to adopt one from a cattery that specializes in browns!
A newborn kitten might seem like she will only present small, sparse spots and end up with large cloud rosettes. No matter what the new kitten ends up looking like, she will be as distinctive and beautiful as any other Bengal. Bengals are a truly special breed of cats that require plenty of attention and care, though as any owner can attest, they are worth every bit of love that goes into them.
Having a sense of a kitten’s lineage will make guessing her appearance easier, but don’t expect her to look exactly like her queen – after all, her sire makes up half of her genes. Breeders take such things into consideration when pairing their mating cats in order to produce a beautiful litter of kittens that suit the desires of their new owners, but there is no guaranteeing the outcome.