Savannah Cat Or Bengal Cat? What’s the main difference between these two wilder-type cats? First, we are going to discuss the defining characteristics of the Savannah Cat followed by the uniqueness of the Bengal Cat. And finally, we’ll do some comparisons of the two since they look similar but definitely have different temperaments and dispositions.
The Savannah Cat
If you were asked to name the largest domestic feline breed, what would you say? Most people who know a thing or two about cats usually say that the largest is the Maine Coon, which is the size of a small to medium dog. While they wouldn’t be wrong, they also wouldn’t be right.
The actual answer is the Savannah cat. This breed was originally created in the mid-1980s by crossing an African Serval cat with a domestic feline. Without a doubt, that is no easy feat because most wild cats are not likely to mate with their domesticated cousins. If you are fascinated by this idea, or just exotic cats in general, read on.
The African Serval And The Start Of The Savannah Breed
Imagine a graceful, very long-legged feline with leopard- or cheetah-like spots slinking through the high Savannah grasses of Africa as it tracks down prey. That is exactly what the African Serval is. It closely resembles its Cheetah cousins with its long slender legs and spots, and it shares the African plains with its cousin too.
However, the Serval is a hunting and killing machine, a fierce predator that will go after poisonous snakes just as easily as it goes after birds, rats, and baby animals that get separated from their mothers and the herds. So why would anyone want such an animal in their home?
It’s the idea of owning something almost wild, much like wanting to own a tiger or lion while still knowing it could maul, maim, or kill you. The big difference here is that the Savannah cat isn’t quite as wild because it’s been bred with a domestic cat. It’s slightly less ferocious and every bit as beautiful.
The Size of the Savannah
If you had an Australian Shepherd, you would know that that is exactly how big the Savannah kitties become. They may start out as cute balls of fluff, but as they grow, their legs get really long. That’s a genetic gift from the Serval, which requires the long legs to see up high through the tall grasses in Africa. The Savannah is a big cat.
Their heads are quite small, with really large ears. The Serval doesn’t have large ears; those come from a domestic cat. What it does have are ears that pivot full one-hundred-eighty degrees like sonar dishes to pick up sounds only wild animals can hear when they hunt.
Between the really tall, pointed ears of the domestic cats and the pivoting sonar ears of the Serval, the Savannah gets the best of both worlds.
The more docile and less wild and ferocious the Savannah the better, especially if you have children. The National Registry for Cats does not allow for declawing or defanging either, which presents a major concern if you purchase an F1 savannah cat or F2 savannah cat.
An F5 is generally the safest around children, but you still can’t keep it around other animals.
Legal Issues of Owning a Savannah
Savannah cat owners need to be aware, in a handful of states, the big cat is completely illegal and considered too dangerous to keep as a pet. In other states, it is only allowed if caged, regardless of its F-rating and distance from its Serval lineage.
Still, a few more states require that you get a permit to own such an animal, which is often difficult to get because you have to justify why you want one in the first place.
Savannah Temperament and the Need for a Lot of Space
They are still instinctually territorial, so Savannah cats need a lot of room to roam. If your house is tiny, or your property small, these cats are not for you. You should also know that if a Savannah gets out of your house and your yard, it can and will roam several miles from home.
These cats can also jump twelve feet straight up into the air. Your typical property fence is not enough. They can and will climb trees, they love water and can swim, and they are exceedingly clever enough to figure out how to escape. Most people who own a Savannah often build a large outdoor enclosure complete with a fenced-in roof for these cats to roam when the need arises each day.
Be Prepared for the Wild Sounds They Make
These felines will purr when petted, which is nice considering that the rest of the sounds they make are most unnerving. If you live with a Savannah long enough, their vocals become less unnerving, but initially, it might throw you for a loop. They do not meow like a domesticated cat.
- Hiss like a cobra in a very loud tone to scare off anything or anyone they think is a threat.
- Growl like a mountain lion to warn you they don’t want to be touched now.
- Howl softly when they want your attention or they want to be fed.
If you can adapt to an animal that does not meow when you would expect it to, then you should be okay. You just have to remember that these cats are a partly wild animal, and they will sound more wild than domestic.
A Savannah Owner Will Reconsider Having Other Pets
These half-wild animals do not pair well with other pets, not even other domestic cats. Because of their territorial nature and their immense stature, other pets would be in danger. They would view other non-Savannah cats as a threat to their territory, and may even shred them with their long claws.
Dogs are a definite no, since the nature of the wild Serval in the Savannah would seek to defend its territory against a natural enemy.
For the Savannah owner, it is best to wait until all other pets in the house have passed away before getting this exotic cat. This is especially true if you have birds, fish, or anything smaller than the Savannah might see as “lunch” instead of another family pet.
If your children are still infants or toddlers, it is also a good time to wait as these cats do not respond well to having tails or ears tugged/pulled as in the typical family of a cat owner with a domesticated cat. They are generally well-behaved with elementary school-aged children and older, although some children might still find them intimidating with the sounds these cats tend to make.
The Start of the Bengal Breed
Bengal cats are a cross between domestic cats and Asian leopard cats. They’re a comparatively recent breed but have become popular because of the dramatic markings on their coat. Despite their spots, they’re not related to leopards.
The hybrid crosses resulted in strikingly beautiful and intelligent cats, now accepted in all 50 states as a recognized breed.
The Bengal Coat
Bengal coats are something special. They have thick, dense, shiny, plush fur that glistens beautifully in the sunlight. What’s more, they don’t shed a lot and require minimal grooming. Because of the way they groom themselves, little saliva or dander accumulates on the fur, making them ideal for people with cat dander allergies.
Bengals are known for a wide variety of colors and patterns, which change during the first few years. Breeders have often focused on spot size and shape rather than temperament, selecting cats for the most notable markings.
Pattern types include:
- Rosetted (shaped like arrowhead, doughnuts, or pawprints)
- Marbled (mottling with irregular patching and streaking like marble)
Bengal breed colors include:
- Snow (from Siamese crossing): White to cream ground with seal markings, tail tip, and blue eyes
- Silver: White to steel ground with steel or black markings and tail tip
- Brown: Light brown ground with darker brown markings
- Blue: Pale blue gray ground with darker blue markings and dark tail tip
- Charcoal: Grayish brown ground with dark spots
- Black or Melanistic: Black ground with black ghost markings
Physical Attributes of the Bengal Breed
Bengals generally range in weight from 8-15 pounds of bulky muscle, similar to a medium or large house cat. They usually have green, gold, or hazel eyes although certain coat colors come with blue eyes.
Special Considerations If You Want to Buy a Bengal Cat
Because they’re intelligent, active, and get bored easily, you’ll want to keep them supplied with lots of different toys. Although they’d undoubtedly love being able to run free outside, they can wreak havoc: not only are they predators who will kill other small animals of all kinds, but they don’t have the same concept of territory as you.
You think that your deed defines your property lines, right? Your Bengal urinates to mark where he or she decides his or her property lines are! And will engage in violent fights to defend that territory. For those reasons, your Bengal will need to stay inside.
However, many Bengal fans have discovered that they easily accept training to wear a harness and that they very much enjoy agility training to exercise both their minds and bodies. You’ll want to socialize your Bengal cat with people early on, frequently, and thoroughly to prevent fearful or aggressive behaviors.
A final word of advice from someone experienced in the workings of the Bengal mind: keep your toilet lid down! Do not forget!
Bengal Temperament and the Need for a Lot of Space
Comparison of Savannah Cat Vs. Bengal Cat
Size: Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat – Savannahs weigh 12-25 pounds or more and are noted for their tallness from those long legs, standing up to 17 inches high at the shoulders; Bengals weigh 8-15 pounds, and have dense, muscular bodies, standing 13-16 inches at the shoulders.
Lifespan: Savannahs live 12-20 years; Bengals have a similar life span at 12-16 years.
Personality: Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat – Both are intelligent, active, curious, affectionate, athletic, love to climb, demanding of your attention, highly territorial, dangerous to outside wildlife, and very vocal. Savannahs do not get along with other pets and will consider them territorial invaders or prey, so you should have no other animal in the home.
Bengals, if socialized during kittenhood, can enjoy other pets in the home, especially dogs and some other cats; however, they should always be monitored in case something triggers their predatory streak.
Talkiness: Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat – Both are very vocal but in different ways. Bengal vocalizing is less Siamese-sounding but they’re just as talkative, making a variety of amusing and almost word-like mews, meows, and other sounds which they use to charm their humans.
Health, Genetics, and Price
Medical Issues: Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat – Both are susceptible to the same issues that affect other felines.
Complications from obesity: In the case of savannahs and Bengals, because both are descended from very active predators, they can get easily bored being confined in the domestic setting, and that fact, in addition to being neutered, can easily lead to boredom eating. Boredom eating, as you probably know, can lead to obesity, which in turn can lead to diabetes. A potentially fatal condition is hepatic lipidosis, developing within 48 hours when an obese animal is deprived of food.
Dental disease: Common in animals not receiving dental care and a proper diet, it can lead to gum and bone disease, abscesses, pain, and even sepsis and death.
Genetic tendencies: Savannah cats are amazingly healthy with few known genetic risks. On the other hand, Bengals are prone to a few issues.
Price: Savannah Cat vs Bengal Cat – Both are pricey because of the careful breeding as well as because people are willing to pay that much. Savannahs start around $2000; Bengals from breeders run from $1000-$10,000 depending on the F generation, although rescues may only cost a few hundred dollars.
A note about rescued exotics: they may have behavior problems or, more likely, their former owners may have had unrealistic expectations.
Special Considerations: Savannah Cat Or Bengal Cat vs Domestic Cat
Savannah Cats grow at a fast rate so proper nutrition is vital. They do not require a raw meat diet however a raw meat diet is the most nutritional diet available if properly prepared.
Finding a Veterinarian Specializing in Exotic Cats
Despite the many differences between the savannah cat vs Bengal cat, you can see that they have much in common. You’ll need to find a local veterinarian who is willing and able to provide care for your savannah or Bengal. Every type of animal has its own special needs. Be aware that appointments and procedures will likely cost much more than those for domesticated pets. Some enthusiasts will report that regular vets can provide for exotic cat needs but you’ll need to contact the individual doctor to learn if they feel comfortable doing so. Here are a couple of websites to help you:
Finding the Right Food (Instead Of Your Other Pets)
As with any pets you care for, you’ll want to provide a fresh, nutrient-dense, natural diet for your savannah or Bengal. You know that several types of foods exist for domestic cats, depending on their age, activity level, medical condition, and other characteristics; choosing the right diet for your exotic cat requires the same mindful efforts.
MYTH: Raw food makes your pets more aggressive! Maybe you’ve been told not to give your dog or cat blood or raw meat because such foods will excite the wild side of them and cause them to revert to ancestral behaviors such as increased roaming, hunting, and killing. It’s not true!
What is true is that natural food in the right balance is more nutritious than highly processed chows and kibbles. Canned cat foods print percentages of nutrients such as proteins and fats on the labels, but what they don’t disclose is the kind of proteins and fats.
For example, chicken feathers and steer hooves are protein but they won’t do your cat as much good as eating heart, liver, and muscle meat. Animal nutritionists report that a balance of nutrient-dense raw foods will usually increase your pets’ energy level simply because they become healthier and feel much better.
If you love cats, then you know that WE don’t really own THEM – THEY are the ones who own US! With Savannahs and Bengals, it’s the same only on steroids! More than ownership it’s a matter of the responsibility to give these magnificent cats the life they deserve. If you’re knowledgeable about the savannah cat vs Bengal cat residential partnership, we want to hear about your experiences!