Cat enthusiasts everywhere know that there are many amazing specialty breeds on the market – everything from Ragdolls to Sphynx cats and beyond.
However, there are two breeds in particular that have won hearts around the world: Bengal cats and Savannah cats. These two breeds are unlike any other, only in the best of ways.
They may look similar, but Bengals and Savannah cats are actually quite different, even though they are both the result of breeding a regular domestic cat with a wild feline.
A Bengal is a mix between an Asian leopard cat and a normal cat, while a Savannah is born from a Serval and a normal cat. The Savannah is wilder, bigger, and costlier compared to the Bengal, but both breeds are vocal, curious, lovers of water and the outside, don’t shed much, and are very athletic.
Many people think that because they are both hybrid breeds of wild cats, Bengals and Savannah cats are the same. While they do have many similar traits, their ancestry creates a marked difference in their physical qualities, and any Bengal or Savannah owner can quickly identify these dissimilarities.
Keep reading to find out more about these wonderful breeds, including what they have in common and some key contrasts.
Savannah cats are a lovely and exotic-looking hybrid between a regular domestic cat and a Serval, a wild cat that hails from Africa.
Servals fall in the medium range of size when compared to other wild cats but have very long bodies and limbs that give them a distinctive look. They have large ears, smaller heads, and a beautiful golden coat with a spotted pattern.
Some people keep Servals as pets, but this requires a great deal of care and caution. The desire to have a household Serval is what spawned the Savannah cat, first bred in 1986.
By the end of the 1990s, Savannah cats had become a popular breed, and in 2001, they were registered by The International Cat Association (TICA).
The Savannah cat can have a wide range of coat colors and patterns, but the breed standards set by TICA require a spotted coat.
These cats are slim and graceful, with very large ears, given their Serval heritage. Their lanky bodies make them seem bigger than most cat breeds, but usually don’t weigh that much more than their domestic counterparts.
Savannah cats that are closely related to Servals (i.e., a generation or two away) are much larger than their descendants.
Male Savannah cats can weigh up to twenty pounds and stand 18 inches at the shoulder. With each subsequent generation, their size decreases, but they retain their lanky appearance.
Bengals are a beautiful breed of cat that is the result of breeding an Asian leopard cat with a domestic feline, resulting in an unusual but glamorous coat.
Asian leopard cats hail, of course, from Asia, and were once heavily targeted by poachers for their fur and kittens. In the 1960s, an activist and breeder by the name of Jean Mill decided to step in.
Mill figured that if people could have access to a cat that looked like an Asian leopard cat, the fur trade would lessen, giving these cats a fighting chance. Thus, the Bengal was born – in 1963, Mill bred a female Asian leopard cat with a domestic black tomcat.
From then on, generations upon generations of Bengals were bred and refined, giving us the Bengal we know and love today.
TICA first accepted Bengals in 1983, and in 1991, they were given championship status, meaning that they could compete in professional shows. Bengals quickly became popular as a household breed because of their alluring coats and charming personalities.
Bengals are noted for their long, athletic bodies, high cheekbones, rounded ears, and large, rounded eyes.
Bengal vs Savannah Cat Similarities
There are plenty of commonalities between these two breeds, despite their ancestors originating from different continents. Both are half domestic and half wild, so it is no wonder that they have similar behavior!
They Are Both Very Athletic
Given their wild ancestry, both of these breeds are incredibly physically gifted.
Both Bengals and Savannah cats are known to jump high in the air from a standstill; Bengals manage to jump three times their height, while Savannah cats can sometimes leap eight to twelve feet in the air. Sometimes it is hard to believe they are domestic breeds!
Bengals and Savannah cats both have extremely high energy levels and need to be given plenty of opportunity to burn off this excess steam. If they are not given appropriate room to run around, climb, and generally explore their environment, they will grow listless and anxious.
Both breeds love to play with physically engaging toys that let them show off their prowess in both jumping and running, so if you are thinking of adopting either a Bengal or a Savannah cat, be prepared to devote time every day to play with them.
They Are Both Curious Creatures
Highly intelligent breeds, Bengals and Savannah cats are both known for being mischievous. If you close a door on either one of these cats, chances are that they will figure out a way to open it anyway – they are excellent problem solvers.
They love to explore their surroundings in whatever way they can and will go to great lengths to do so.
“Cat proofing” is a familiar term for both Bengal and Savannah cat owners. Without proper safeguards in place, these cats will work their way into any enclosed space they can find. When I first adopted my two Bengals, I had to put a safety latch on nearly everything in my house that they could reach.
If either of these breeds feels cooped up and bored, they will act out and likely become destructive. Curiosity paired with high energy can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t give them their due: these cats need owners that can give them time and attention.
Depriving these lovely animals of playtime is truly a mistake.
They Both Love Water
…making them total oddities among most other cat breeds. Many cats steer clear of water at all costs; Bengals and Savannah cats can’t get enough of it.
Allowing them access to flowing water is a treat for these cats, whether it is simply running the tap, investing in a cat water fountain, or even giving them a bath. Oddballs indeed!
It is their wild ancestry that gives both Bengals and Savannah cats their affinity for water. Their unique genetics set them apart from other cats, giving them a love for water rather than a fear.
AnimalDiversity.org explains that in Asian leopard cats’ behavior, they prefer living close to water and are excellent swimmers. Bengal cats, although mostly domesticated, seemed to display similar preference as their ancestor; they both like hanging out around water!
Similarly, the predecessor of Savannah cats love H2O! AWF.org states that Servals are commonly found near bodies of water, where they hunt fish and hook it out.
Introducing either breed to water at an early age helps them grow accustomed to it, but you might find your cat in the shower with you every once in a while.
They Both Like to be Outside
On a leash, of course.
Neither Bengals nor Savannah cats should be allowed outside without supervision – outdoor cats have significantly shorter lifespans due to the many risks associated with living outside. That doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the great outdoors; they just need to do so safely.
Some owners like to take their Bengals or Savannah cats on walks, much like dogs. This also allows both of these breeds to get some much-needed exercise and will satisfy their desire to explore new places and smells.
Make sure to leash train from early on to acclimate your cat to being harnessed.
They Don’t Shed Much
Neither Bengals nor Savannah cats give their owners much trouble in terms of shedding.
Bengals have a single, silky layer of fur that only loses hair under certain circumstances. Savannah cats have a more typical double layer of fur, but still don’t shed anywhere near as much as regular cats.
Each breed still requires regular grooming and upkeep, but you won’t have to vacuum quite so frequently with either of these cats. If they are really in need of a bath, they’ll probably just hop in the tub on their own!
They Are Very Talkative
Bengals as well as Savannah cats are widely known for being vocal. They will happily chatter away to their owner, either because they want something or simply because they want to talk to you.
Don’t be surprised if your Bengal or Savannah cat chirps or trills in the middle of the night – they are probably just saying hi.
Bengal vs Savannah Cat Differences
As much as they seem to have in common, these two breeds have their fair share of differences. After all, their genetics are only half similar, and every cat has their own unique quirks and traits.
Bengals Aren’t Quite as Large as Savannah Cats
Bengals are descended from Asian leopard cats, which are a decidedly smaller breed than Servals, which Savannah cats are descended from. For this reason, Bengals are much closer in size to a regular housecat – albeit a bit longer – but Savannah cats can be rather large.
Savannah cats are known as one of the largest breeds of cat, ranked among Norwegian forest cats and even Maine Coons. For this reason, many owners find that Savannah cats aren’t quite the right fit for them because their sheer size makes it somewhat difficult for these cats to live comfortably in a small house.
Savannah cats can be as large as some breeds of dog, like the golden retriever. Bengals are considerably more compact than their counterpart, making it easier for them to thrive in a smaller setting.
If you don’t have the space to accommodate a Savannah cat, it probably isn’t the right breed for you.
Savannah Cats Are Wilder Than Bengals
Typical Savannah cats that are sold as pets have a higher degree of “wild” genes – meaning they have qualities that are more similar to Servals than housecats. Some owners love this, because it makes them more dog-like than most cats; they will follow you around and be extremely loyal.
Other owners struggle with just how rambunctious these cats can be. Because they are genetically “wild,” Savannah cats can be somewhat fiercer than Bengals, though they are very loyal and loving cats.
Savannah cats are unlikely to cuddle up to you, but they have their own ways of showing affection.
Bengals fall more on the side of domesticity, given the higher degree of housecat genes they possess. Your Bengal will loaf around slightly more than a Savannah cat but will be quick to jump into action if they sense that it is playtime.
They Have Different Coloring and Markings
Bengals and Savannah cats both have a wide range of coloring, including everything from black to silver to brown, with many distinctions therein. The main difference is in their markings.
Savannah cats are covered in dark spots, much like their Serval ancestors, which contrast beautifully with their coats.
Bengals have very distinct markings that make them different from any other breed of cat. Bengals can either have rosettes, which are large blooms of color that overlay their base coat, or marbling, which is a swirling pattern that covers their fur.
The markings a Bengal can have depend entirely upon breeding history.
There Is a Steep Difference in Cost
When you want a specific breed of cat, it is expected that you will pay a decent amount of money. Neither of these breeds comes without a price tag – they are rare and unique, after all – but Bengals have been around longer, and are therefore more readily available.
A typical Bengal kitten can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, though the average price is around $2,000-$3,000 for a high-quality cat. The cost also depends on how close they are to their wild ancestors; the closer they are, the higher the price.
Anything less than $1,000 might be an under the table operation, and therefore untrustworthy. Breeders take great pride in the Bengals they produce, hence the high price.
Savannah cats are even costlier than Bengals, simply because there are fewer of them in the world. Savannah cat breeders can afford to be choosier with price, and so the average cost is between $1,000-$20,000. A first generation Savannah cat is a rare and precious thing, which explains the incredibly high cost.
Conclusion – Which Cat Is Right for You?
Savannah cats are a very large, active breed that will not behave like a typical housecat, but instead will act like a very friendly dog. Bengals are also athletic and curious, and much closer in size to a regular housecat.
Now that you are well equipped with knowledge on both Bengal cats and Savannah cats, you can better decide what breed better suits your lifestyle.