One of the reasons why Bengal cats are so famous is their spotted coat, which sure makes for great Instagram pictures. When they see these spots, many people associate Bengals with leopards. But are the two species actually related? Let’s find out.

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Although they have a spotted coat, Bengal cats are not closely related to leopards (Panthera pardus). They are a cross breed between the leopard cat subspecies P. b. bengalensis and various domestic cats (Felis catus).

The leopard cat, which is not to be confused with the much bigger leopard.

Despite what its name might suggest, the leopard cat is only distantly related to the leopard. The two species belong to the Felidae family, but to different subfamilies: Felinae in the case of the leopard cat, and Pantherinae in the case of the leopard.

One of the main differences between the two is that the leopard is much bigger than the leopard cat, which is about the size of a domestic cat. The leopard is in fact considered a big cat, just like the lion and the tiger. Also, the leopard can roar, while the leopard cat cannot.

That being said, the two species also have a lot in common. For instance, both are formidable hunters, although the leopard hunts bigger prey. Moreover, both are agile climbers.

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Final thoughts

While many Bengal owners affectionately call their pets “little leopards,” the fact of the matter is that Bengals are not closely related to leopards.

Does that mean that Bengals are not special? Not at all! They’re marvelous pets with qualities that go beyond their looks.