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Bengal vs Tabby Cat: The Differences (With Pictures)

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Bengal vs Tabby Cat: The Differences (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 its coat, and the tabby has similar markings, but they do not tend to be as uniform. In fact, 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 to their family. However, while they share similarities, the two breeds have different histories and characteristics.

Perhaps the most significant 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.

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Visual Differences

bengal vs tabby feature

At a Glance

  • 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. They have thick tails and a rugged appearance because of their Asian Leopard Cat heritage. This lineage makes the Bengal more of an outdoor than an indoor cat. They need more exercise than most cats and are skilled at climbing and running at high speeds. However, the Bengals make good family cats because they’re loving and affectionate.

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


The Bengal Cat was first produced 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 worldwide.


The Bengal cat is smart, energetic, playful, and a loving family companion. They are natural retrievers that not only put up with water but often go out of their way to find a water source to play in. This is at odds with most breeds that actively avoid water.

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.


The Bengal is known for being intelligent and is generally eager to please. They also enjoy having fun. This combination means the Bengal is considered one of the easier breeds to train. You should be able to train 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 trash 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 hardy and generally healthy. 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. No genetic screening is available, but cats can be individually screened and tested.

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.

bengal cat
Image Credit: NASTIA KHITIAEVA, Shutterstock

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 content they will become.

With that said, this breed also loves to spend time outdoors, especially on trees and roofs, and they 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 word Atabi, which was a type of striped silk.

The cat, characterized primarily by the “M” on their forehead, is known for being intelligent and energetic, similar to the Bengal. They are very cuddly with their owners, and they can also be quite mischievous.

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


The tabby marking dates back to ancient Egypt but appears in several breeds. 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 with 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, which was a tabby cat that saved Mohammed from a poisonous snake.


Tabby owners agree that they have intelligent, lively, and loving cats on their hands. Most owners agree that they are a special type of cat 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. They do better when given time outside to explore and burn off energy. However, once they are indoors and have had some time to play, they are loving and caring family pets, too.


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

amber tabby norwegian forest cat
Image Credit: Joanna22, 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 basic tricks, enjoy petting and attention, and usually get along with other cats and dogs. The tabby cat is better suited to homes with large fenced-in yards so they 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. Like a tabby, the Bengals 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 has 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 on them. Bengals are usually more active and vocal than their domestic tabby counterparts. They are strong and 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 happy to play in the water.

It is tough 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 with a tabby coat. They’re muscular felines that enjoy spending time up high, on the ground, in water, and potentially on your lap. Other domestic tabby cats are not usually as wild, but owners will tell you 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 challenging to come by, and they have a few known health problems. So, if you want to avoid vet bills and enjoy a potentially longer life from your domestic cat, you could pick different domestic breed with a tabby coat.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay/  CNuisin, Shutterstock

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