The Savannah and Bengal cat breeds share a lot of common traits. For one thing, they both have ancestry directly linked to wild versions of cats. The Savannah and Bengal are partly bred from the Serval and Asian Leopard Cat respectively.
Both of these beautiful cats have found fans among cat owners, although some new owners sometimes confuse the two. What are the differences between the two breeds? There are some significant ones, many relating to their appearance.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat debate.
The Tail of the Tape: Basic Stats
Both cats are very easy to socialize with other animals and people. Here is the basic comparison in terms of the four most common factors owners consider when getting one of these cats.
A Bengal is, on average, lighter than its Savannah counterpart, and is relatively the same size in terms of height.
Height: 17-22 inches
Weight: 8-17 pounds
Lifespan: 10-16 years
Grooming needs: Moderate
Further reading: Awesome suggestions for Bengal cat names.
Savannahs need less attention in terms of grooming, though they also can live longer.
Height: 17-22 inches
Weight: 12-25 pounds
Lifespan: 12-20 years
Grooming needs: Minimal
The Bengal Background
The story of the Bengal cat is both exotic and exciting. The breed developed as a result of the cross-breeding of an Asian Leopard Cat with another domestic breed. The Asian Leopard breed was highly sought-after for its fur and exotic coloring, and were actually saved from extinction in the 1960s.
A breeder named Jean Mill undertook to breed a hybrid, resulting in the amazing Bengal. The Bengal was officially given championship status in 1991, and recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 2016. Their coats are patterned in colors that are not unlike that of a leopard with a few tiger stripes added in for effect.
Photo by Lifeatthesharpend
The Savannah Story
The Savannah is a breed that resulted from the crossing of a domestic cat (a Siamese breed, allegedly) and a serval, which is a small to medium wild cat from Africa. Servals have long slender bodies and are quite unique cats, even in the wild. They’re spotted, and the pattern makes them beautiful to look at.
Servals have large ears and relatively small heads but are sleek and athletic. The International Cat Association registered the Savannah breed in 2001. Unlike the serval, they have large ears and are relatively heavy for domestic cats. Savannahs tend to be spotted with rings around their tails.
Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat: Key Characteristic Differences
Although these cats are similar in many ways, they are distinctly different in other ways, too. They do share multiple similar personality traits, but their origins and ancestry have imbued them with some very different features to note.
The easiest way to tell the difference between a Bengal and Savannah cat is in their appearance. The patterns of the coat, in particular, are telling. There are also notable differences in the shape of the ears and head and some other aspects of the body.
Image by Irina from Pixabay
The Bengal is the smaller of the two breeds. That’s because Asian Leopard Cats are also smaller than servals. The pattern on the coat can be described as rosettes, similar to the “rings” found on a leopard coat. Some cats also have a swirling pattern in their fur, referred to as marbling.
Bengals have large ears and relatively small heads. Their bodies are well-proportioned and quite muscular. Their front legs are shorter than their hind legs, making them always ready to pounce from a seemingly crouched position.
Bengals typically come in brown, snow, and silver coloring. A very rare variation is the blue color. Finding one of these is a treat. More than likely, it will not be for sale.
Savannahs rank among the largest breeds of domestic cats, in part because of their weight but also because they can grow up to 18 inches in height. That’s as large as some medium-sized dogs. They also seem to have the personality to match.
Their long necks seem designed to enable the cat to look around their environment effortlessly. Indeed, the slender build suggests an expert prey-hunter. Even their large ears harken back to open savanna stalking, where sound is as important as vision.
The serval is a larger wild cat than an Asian Wild Cat. Its body is also longer, which reflects in the Savannah breed. Savannah coat patterns have spots that dot the main area of the body. They may also be slightly elongated spots that look like stripes around the neck and head area. Savannahs come in several colors, notably brown spotted tabby, black, and black smoke.
Image via Stockvault
Personality & Activity
Both breeds seem to inherit a lot of energy from their ancestral breeds. They require lots of exercise or space to roam in order to burn off that energy. They therefore love to climb and chase prey when available. Both are also very playful and will enjoy spending time with you playing games and having fun.
Both breeds are very talkative. They are known to employ chirping sounds to talk to you, aside from the occasional meow as well. Both are also highly intelligent and will attempt to invade any space they can get into, which includes your closed cupboards.
These breeds share a remarkable but unusual trait. They love water. This puts them in a unique Club along with the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat.
A Bengal has the distinction of being able to jump three times its own length in height from a standstill. Bengals are more likely to cuddle with you than Savannah cats. They seem to have fewer characteristics of wild ancestry than the Savannah.
That said, they may be easier to train. They get along fairly well with most people and other pets, provided they are socialized properly.
Savannahs have been known to jump up to 12 feet in height from a standing position. It’s a remarkable ability that demonstrates the cats’ strength and wild origins. This makes them difficult to contain in a home environment that is not suited to exploration.
Between the two breeds, Savannahs are considered to have slightly wilder personalities. Some describe this wild fracture as the cats behaving more like dogs. They can be trained on a leash and are likely to follow you around and interact with you more like a dog than most cats.
On the downside, this also means that they have strong personalities and can be a little bit more difficult to socialize when they are feeling aggressive or in a high-energy mode. Savannahs have been known to be somewhat protective of their humans. They will benefit from early introductions to other people and pets.
Neither the Bengal nor the Savannah shed very much. This makes them easy to care for. Both are also relatively short-haired, which means that they can sometimes be preferable for those with allergies. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to groom them, of course.
The occasional brush does help to keep the coat unmatted and helps to spread essential oils across the fur. Besides, a few sessions of grooming per week is a great bonding experience for you. Try grooming gloves for an even more tactile experience.
Image by 성혁 이 from Pixabay
Prices of Bengals and Savannahs
Acquiring a pedigree Bengal or Savannah is not cheap. A Bengal, for example, can go for about $1,000. Breeders associations insist that the breeding practice be heavily monitored. They assert that Bengal kittens costing less than this may not be the genuine article.
By contrast, a Savannah (which is considered more exotic in some respects) can cost up to $20,000. There are far fewer Savannah breeders and cats, so finding these may be a challenge. That’s also why they tend to be more expensive. First-generation Savannahs are particularly valuable and somewhat rare, and therefore costly.
Something to Note About Ownership Restrictions
In the United States, some ownership restrictions apply to certain animals that are classified as wild or part wild. If you are thinking about owning either a Savannah or Bengal, check with the state or city laws. There may be restrictions on these breeds due to their recognized part-wild status.
Which Would You Choose?
Now that you have some idea of the differences, which of these beautiful breeds do you feel would suit your home? Assuming there are no issues with your state or city, either one of these cats would make a perfect companion for your home.
Keep in mind that Savannahs are typically larger than the Bengal and will behave more like a dog than a cat.
Remember also that their respective personalities may not be typical of a regular domestic house cat overall. These kitties will explore your home, and normal cupboards are no obstacle. With their strength and jumping ability, it will benefit you to explore some cat-proofing techniques.
This savannah cat vs bengal cat post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click through and make a purchase I will most likely receive a small commission. This won’t affect the price you pay. Just wanted to make sure you knew.
With all that said, if you’re looking for more info on these or other smart cats, try reading this list of smartest cat breeds.