Bengal Cat Colors and Patterns
These days, Bengal Cats come in a whole variety of colors and patterns. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming knowing what is or isn’t a Bengal cat.
People all over the Internet are offering Bengals for you to choose from as your new fur baby. Some of these “Bengal kittens” don’t look very much like what you would assume a real Bengal cat would look like and in some cases you are right. But not always!
There are some surprising patterns that you wouldn’t expect when you think about a cross between an Asian Leopard Cat and a Domestic Shorthair cat. For example, Bengals are not always brown; a lot of other colors have been introduced to the breed through selective breeding with domestic shorthair cats with specific color genes.
Another surprise for a lot of people is that Bengals are not always spotted. One of the Bengal patterns is called marble, and it can be just as striking and impressive.
This article outlines some of the more accepted colors and patterns of the Bengal Cat. Keep in mind that lots of Breeders are continuing to find new ways to bring different colors and patterns into the breed.
The ultimate goal is to create a wild type reminiscent of the Asian Leopard Cat so that people can have a bit of wild to look at and a domestic cat personality to fit into your household.
Brown Spotted Tabby Bengal
Brown Bengals are the most common and most popular Bengal color out there. Because brown is a dominant color, most litters are going to have a brown spotted tabby or a brown marble tabby in them. These Bengal cats are the most similar in appearance to the Asian Leopard Cat.
There are a variety of different shades that all fall into this color category. From cool browns all the way to the red-based browns. Brown Bengal cats can have green or gold eyes. The green eye gene comes from the domestic tabby side and the gold/brown eye gene comes from their Asian Leopard Cat ancestry.
There are three different Bengal cat colors in the snow Bengal category. While the Seal Lynx Snow Bengal is fairly easy to distinguish even from birth, the other two Snow Bengal colors can often be hard to tell apart without doing a genetic test. The best clue that you will have is their eye color.
The Snow Mink Bengal will have blue-green eyes or aqua eyes. The Snow Sepia Bengal will have green or gold eyes. Unfortunately, because all Bengal kittens are born with blue eyes, it is impossible to be sure until their eyes change to their adult color.
Seal Lynx Point Bengals
Seal Lynx Bengals are very light-colored Bengals. They always have blue eyes. When they are born they have almost no visible pattern but it develops and darkens, as they get older. Their genetic code is cs/cs a recessive Siamese gene. So the Bengal has to have a copy of the gene from each parent, in order to express as a Seal Lynx.
Seal Sepia Bengals
Seal Sepia Bengals are one of the Bengal cat colors that’s a bit darker. They have a pattern already when they are born, and their eyes will either settle to gold or green in adulthood. Their genetic code is cb/cb the recessive Burmese cat gene. They also must receive a copy from each parent in order to express themselves as Sepia.
Seal Mink Bengals
Seal Mink Bengals are often tricky to distinguish from a Seal Sepia Bengal at birth. They can look very similar, but their eyes generally settle to an aqua shade in adulthood. Their genetic code is cs/cb. These genes are both recessive, therefore when they are paired together they work simultaneously to create a new color with elements from each.
Silver Spotted Bengals are a direct result of the Inhibitor gene. A spotted Bengal cat either has the Inhibitor gene, or they don’t. Bengals cannot “carry” silver, they either are silver or they aren’t. I/I and I/i equals a silver cat. If a cat is i/i, they are not silver. Silver cats can either have green or gold eyes.
The goal for silver cats is for them to possess no brown on their bodies. When a silver Bengal has brown coloration on parts of its body it is called “tarnish”. While they still look beautiful, it is not desirable on the show circuit.
Charcoal Bengal Cats
In order to talk about Charcoal Bengal Cats, we need to understand what the gene Agouti (ASIP) is: Single hairs that have multiple colors distributed along the hair shaft. Agouti is dominant, so a cat can have either one or two copies of this gene to display the Agouti trait: A/a or A/A. This gene can be found in any domestic short hair cat.
Agouti and Non-Agouti (which we’ll discuss below) are not necessarily color genes and they aren’t pattern genes. In reality, they affect how a color will express in a pattern. If a cat is A/a or A/A, it can be patterned with spots, marbling, or rosettes.
Bengal cats can often have a different expression of this gene however APb/a or APb/A. APb comes directly from the Asian Leopard Cat. This gene affects how the color is diluted on the banded hair, so it works WITH the A/a and A/A genes as an incomplete dominant gene. If a Bengal cat has this genotype, then it is automatically a charcoal Bengal. If a Bengal is APB/A or APB/a they will have spots, marbling, or rosettes.
They will also most likely, but not always, have a dark facemask as well as a dark cape along their spine. This gene affects how color distributes on a Bengal cat and can really make their patterns pop. This gene is also not color-dependent. It can express all Bengal cat colors, creating a ton of diversity in the color scheme of Bengals. It also is possible that the pigment will darken or lighten over time.
A lot has been learned about the APb genes and how the Agouti/Non-Agouti genes work together, but there is still a lot of research being done in order to fully understand how these genes relate to each other and what actually makes up a charcoal Bengals genotype and phenotype.
Melanistic Bengal Cats
The opposite of Agouti, aka Non-Agouti, would be Melanistic (a). Melanism is a recessive gene, so in order for a Bengal cat to be melanistic, it must receive two copies of that gene: a/a. This means that each individual single hair shaft is not banded.
Melanism is very rare and it is believed that only about 10 percent of wild cats are Melanistic. It is difficult to determine the percentage of melanistic Bengals as that depends on what Bengal Breeders are breeding for and it is not dependent on natural selection.
About 30 percent of domesticated cats are black, however, not all black cats are melanistic. One way that you can tell if your black cat is Melanistic or not, is if they change color throughout their life, or experience fading from being in the sun. The only reason a melanistic Bengal will experience coat color changes is due to a deficiency in their health or diet. You should consult a vet if this occurs. All black Bengal Cats are melanistic, however. They will always be solidly black.
Some Melanistic Bengal cats have a ghost pattern of spots or rosettes that you can see in the sunlight. This is often hard to see when they are kittens as all Bengal Kittens go through a fuzzy stage. Because these melanistic Bengals are rare, it can be hard to find a black-spotted Bengal to add to your family.
Another exciting aspect of Melanistic cats is it can also be round on silver Bengals, blue Bengals, and snow Bengals. On silver Bengals, they are called smokes. On Blue Bengals it is referred to as solid Blue.
Snow Bengals with the melanistic gene are called solid snows. Eye colors of melanistic Bengals can be green or gold/brown. Melanistic snow Bengals still have Blue eyes.
The Dilution Gene accounts for a Bengal cat’s color density. If a cat has dominant Genes it has no Dilution. D/D means no dilution. D/d means the cat carries dilute but does not express it. d/d means the cat has a diluted color.
Diluted colors are very rare still, and most of the registries don’t recognize them and don’t allow them in the show hall. The Blue-spotted Bengal is recognized by CFA however. Blue Bengals are dilute of a black Bengal.
Lilac (chocolate dilute) and Fawn (cinnamon dilute) are not recognized by CFA or TICA and it takes careful planning by a breeder in order to produce them in their Bengal cattery.
Did you know that there is a long hair breed of Bengal? This is a recessive gene in Bengals, and for a long time it was considered atypical and people sought to breed it out. However, more recently it is gaining popularity and breeders are striving to have cashmere Bengals added to the cat registries.
These Bengals have the luxuriously soft fur of a regular Bengal, but just longer. Hair length varies, but can get as long as that of a Maine Coon, but easier to groom as their hair is extremely fine and not prone to matting.
Some claim that Cashmere Bengals are still Hypoallergenic, which would make them one of the only longhaired, hypoallergenic, cat breeds around. What more could you ask for than a longhaired, spotted Bengal cat that is also hypoallergenic?!
Unique Qualities of a Bengal Coat
Because of their wildcat background, Bengals have some very unique qualities to their coat starting from childhood. Spotted Bengal kittens go through a “fuzzy” stage. This is part of a defense mechanism to make them more camouflaged.
If they were in the wild, it would help them to be less easy to spot by predators. This stage can last from 4 weeks up to 8 months! It can also last for a much shorter period of time depending on the genetic line and how close the kitten is to their wild ancestors.
This fuzzy stage helps to cover up their Bengal spots and make them less distinctive looking. But don’t worry… when they grow up they will have the so coveted, high-contrast, rosettes, spots, or marbling you were looking for!
Another quality unique to Bengal cats is that they only have one layer of hair. This often leads to people calling their coat a pelt. There are a number of benefits to this aspect of Bengal Cats; you can read about them here
Bengals are the only domestic breed of cats that has the capacity to sparkle in the sunlight! This is a gene that some Bengal cats carry.
There are two types of glitter. The first one involves the tip of the hair and is called “Mica (gold-tipped)”. It looks like a reflective crystal called Mica is inside the hair shaft.
The second type of glitter is called “Satin (hollow-air)”. Air encases the hair shaft and refracts light. This type of glitter is also associated with a softer, silkier coat.
The more copies of this gene that Bengal cats possess, the more pronounced the glitter effect would be. Some breeders prize glitter very highly and some don’t breed for it at all.
Marble Bengal Cat Patterns
There are two different Marble Bengal Cat patterns that are regularly produced by breeders. Both types are said to be a lot softer than their rosette and spotted counterparts. Oftentimes, breeders that focus on marble patterned Bengals, put a lot of effort into making sure they carry the glitter gene so that their coats are extra sparkly.
The first type of Marble Bengal is the Sheet Marble Bengal. They have the typical wild Bengal head and belly, their legs are generally heavily striped, but their body is more solid. As they grow, spots of color will appear as their pattern expands. They can look very striking once they reach full size.
The other kind of Marble is the Swirl Marble, often referred to as a sparble by breeders. These cats have a swirly horizontal pattern on their sides to go along with their wild faces, bellies, and legs. It is a lot harder to breed swirl marbles than for sheet marbles.
There are a lot of different types of spots on a Bengal. Some Bengals have multiple different types of spots on their bodies. The original type of spot was a single spot that was all one color. Similar to what you would see on a cheetah. These are not highly sought after.
The most popular type of spots on a Bengal are known as rosettes. There are several different types of rosettes, and different breeders often have different preferences on what types of rosettes they breed for.
The one thing everyone has in common is that they are trying to breed a horizontal pattern of a wild cat rather than the vertical pattern of the tabby cat.
Arrowhead rosettes look like… an arrowhead! They end in a point that points toward the cat’s tail. These types of spots can either be solid or rosette with multiple colors. The Asian Leopard Cat is a prime example of the arrowhead rosette pattern.
These are round spots, darker than the base coat of the cat and with an even darker outline. This would be reminiscent of a jaguar’s spots. These are one of the most popular rosettes to breed for now.
Paw Print Rosettes
Shaded on one side with little dots on the other side, these look like exactly what they’re named after!
These spots are similar to what you would see on a clouded leopard. They have a large surface area and are fully enclosed by a darker outline. These rosettes are more what you would find on Bengals imported from Europe and are gaining a lot of popularity quickly.
These are clusters of small spots that encircle a patch that is slightly darker than the base coat. Clusters can resemble a 4 leaf clover at times. They can also be tough to distinguish from the paw print rosettes, as they look very similar.
Finally, we have the spotted Belly. Usually single spots on a lighter background. This is fairly common to all Bengals and is the breed standard.
Both Marble Bengals and Spotted Bengals are accepted as breed standards and can be seen in the show hall. The types of marbles and the types of spots are largely going to be dependent on the breeder’s preference and the quality of their breeding animals.
There will always be an abundance of different colors to choose from. Whether you prefer the more classic Brown, the striking Snow, or the steely silver. The combinations are endless when you add in melanism and charcoal, which can be stacked on almost any color.
So now you can decide what Bengal cat colors and patterns catch your eyes the most, and what kind of Bengal you are looking to add to your home! When you’re ready to adopt a Bengal Kitten, Buckaroo Bengals will be your first choice.