People often wonder what the difference is between different cat breeds. Two extremely popular breeds are the Maine Coon and the Bengal cat. Though these two cats do not look much alike, they have similarities and differences beyond physical appearance. Both breeds are popular among cat enthusiasts, and it is helpful to learn more about these two different felines.
Both feline breeds are significant in size. One of these breeds, the Bengal, is truly a hybrid animal, while the Maine Coon is just rumored to be. Both have fascinating histories and are considered feline breeds native to the United States.
While it is unlikely that a Maine Coon and a Bengal cat would be mistaken for each other, there can be mixes between the breeds. Both exquisite feline breeds can make for fantastic family pets, as well as having unique physical and care needs. Let’s jump in and discuss these two breeds, the Maine Coon vs. the. Bengal cat.
Cat enthusiasts know that every feline is different, even within the same breed. The widespread assumption is that all cats are the same, regardless of breed, size, bloodline, and physical stature. This is a misconception. Though all felines have apparent similarities, they also have significant differences, and not all are reflected in their physical appearance. Personality, health, temperament, and more vary among feline breeds. To truly understand the differences and similarities between these two gorgeous kitties, one must learn a little about each breed.
Maine Coon cats are an indigenous breed considered native to The United States, specifically the area of New England. The Maine Coon serves as the state cat of Maine. This breed is surrounded by tall tales about where they originated. A common urban legend is that the big cat is a hybrid animal, crossed between domestic felines and wild raccoons.
Another variation along this same line substitutes a wild bobcat instead of a raccoon. This myth attributes the cat’s ringed bushy tail to the connection with a different species. As thrilling as the idea of this hybrid animal might be, it is a biological impossibility. The Maine Coon is a breed of feline that developed naturally through mingling and breeding among the breeds that all found their way to New England.
Another story connects these big, bushy kitties to the doomed French queen Marie Antoinette. According to that tale, she was supposed to escape her fate and had readied to run away with her beloved feline companions. Unfortunately, the story says that she did not make it, but her beloved cats did and were the predecessors of today’s Maine Coon. As fun as this connection is, there is no historical proof of this clever story. In all likelihood, these kitties found their way to America as ship companions, as they were often brought along to control vermin. The different breeds mingled and bred to create a kitty well suited to hold up to the harsh climate of New England’s winters.
Eventually, the breed became more domesticated and kept as pets. They were named “Maine Cats” in the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s (CFA) first-ever breed registry and studbook printed in 1908. The breed is considered a foundation breed and is also recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) as the only long-haired cat native to America.
Another fun historical fact is that the first cat show held in America, at Madison Square Garden, in May 1895, was won by a Maine Coon named Cosey. Although this breed is large in size and rugged in appearance, they are not aggressive felines at all. They retain their impeccable skill as mousers but earn the nickname gentle giant for their sweet demeanor and love of people.
Bengal cats are incredibly unique in that they are genuinely hybrid animals. The breed was developed for research by a pediatric doctor and leukemia researcher at Loma Linda University in the 1970s. Dr. Centerwall bred hybrid kittens crossing Asian Leopard cats with domestic kitties. This pairing was done to study the wild Asian Leopard cat’s partial immunity to feline leukemia. When the research was done, the good doctor gave the kittens to a well-known California breeder, who further developed them into the domestic Bengal cats that are kept as pets today. In time other lines were created, and today, connections to these earlier bloodlines can still be found.
It is important to point out that there are two classifications of Bengal cats. The earlier generations, F1 through F4, are considered a hybrid, and generation F5 and beyond are considered domestic. The earlier hybrid generations are much larger and far less agreeable than their domestic relatives. People looking for a Bengal cat for a pet would only be able to purchase a generation above F5.
Due to their hybrid nature, some strict bans and regulations on Bengal cats exist. These vary by state and municipality. Hawaii, for example, bans the ownership of all Bengal cats regardless of generation. Some other places in the United States, like Seattle, Washington, also impose complete bans. Other places will restrict ownership to the F5 generation and beyond. Because of the potential restrictions and bans on this breed, potential owners need to research local and state regulations before purchasing one of these kitties.
Comparing Maine Coon vs Bengal Cats
Bengal Cat Vs. Maine Coon
- Height 13 - 16 Inches
- Weight 8 - 20 Pounds
- Temperament Smart, active, affectionate, playful
- Energy Very High
- Grooming 1 x a week
- Health Average
- Lifespan 9 - 16
- Friendliness Slightly to moderate
- Kitten Price $1,000 - $3,000+
- Nickname Pet or Toy Leopard
- Weight 15 - 25 Pounds
- Height 10 -16 Inches
- Temperament Gentle, smart, playful, loving, loyal
- Energy Moderate
- Grooming 2 to 4 x a week
- Health Average
- Lifespan 12-15 years
- Friendliness Very friendly
- Kitten Price $500 - $2,500+
- Nickname Gentle Giant, Maine Cat
While both breeds are large, bodied felines, Maine Coon cats are significantly bigger. They can reach between 9 and 25 pounds on average, sometimes larger. Gentle giants can stand between 10 and 16 inches tall. Males are larger than females, but both are hefty, muscular cats with long bodies. This breed is known for exceptionally long bushy tails. Their bodies can reach 30 to 40 inches long without counting the tail. Tails can reach 11 to 16 or more inches.
Bengals are also muscular felines. They reach between 8 and 20 pounds, although most fall around 12 to 15 pounds. Males will be larger than females. This kitty will stand about 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder and stretch 16 to 22 inches long, not counting the tail. Bengals have muscular, sleek bodies, with back legs that are noticeably longer than their front legs.
Though both these felines are majestic to look at and have large muscular bodies, they do not look much alike. A mixed breed of the two is amazingly gorgeous, hard to find, and something every cat lover will never forget if they are lucky enough to meet one. Gentle giants have large, square-shaped heads with big, wide-set eyes. Their eyes are markedly expressive and tend to be copper, green, or gold. Heterochromia, having one blue eye and one differently colored eye, often runs in the breed. Gentle giants have huge, wide, pointy ears that are cuffed. The breed also has a signature ruff of fur around their necks that gives them a look similar to that of a lion’s mane. They also often have tufted feet.
Bengals are known for their striking appearance and unique physical traits. As we mentioned, their back legs are much longer than their front legs. Pet leopards have small heads that are round in shape. Their eyes are round, wide, and large, and they have noticeable facial markings, which include a capital M-shaped marking on their forehead, as Bengals often have tabby patterning. The eye color for this breed is often orange, yellow, green, and brown. This breed also has tails that are exceptionally long for domestic cats. Even the very domestic ones carry wild air about them and look much like smaller versions of their wild cousins. Bengals have short, silky fur, appearing much smaller than the gentle giant. A long-haired Bengal does exist through cross-breeding, but these are incredibly rare. Long-haired varieties are bred by select breeders and are called Cashmere.
The Maine Coon is called the gentle giant for a good reason. Despite their generous size, these giant fur babies are not intimidating. In fact, they are colossal sweethearts. They are usually very friendly with children and have good relationships with people of all different ages. These cats are incredibly smart and love to play games. They keep a kitten-like mentality throughout adulthood. It takes longer than many other domestic felines to mature, sometimes until they are three or even four years old.
The gentle giant is an incredible mouser and loves to play chase and other games. They are not aggressive at all and are incredibly amiable to humans. They do retain a bit of a stubborn streak, so owners need to start training them early. This breed is extremely agile and quite dexterous. They know how to use their paws as tools and often figure out ways to play games, do tricks, open doors, and other exciting skills.
A unique characteristic of this breed is that they are incredibly vocal but do not make the traditional meowing sound like most other breeds. They make a chirping or chattering sound and have no problem letting their minds be known. These kitties are also known to love playing in the water. They splash about happily in puddles or the bathtub. This breed has water resistant outer cover and will enjoy splashing about in the bathtub or even a small kid’s pool.
Toy leopards are not as friendly and agreeable with humans as the Maine Coon. These wild-looking kitties are far more active and are not always as cuddly. This breed is affectionate and will enjoy being around people, but is not a kitty that is happy sleeping away in the afternoon. The breed is incredibly curious and highly intelligent, with a high prey drive. These cats are high-energy if their physical activity needs are being met.
Bengal kitties can make wonderful pets but they are not the right choice for every owner. They must socialize with other animals when still young and should be supervised around young children. Because of their high energy and high desire to hunt, they will sometimes target smaller animals in the home. This breed does prefer to be an only pet and does not do well when left home alone for a long time. They are prone to separation anxiety and need an owner available to them most of the time. They can get bored incredibly quickly, so owners must keep a constant variety of games, toys, and other stimulation. Bengals are actually far more sensitive than many people realize. They can become destructive if they get scared, bored, or agitated. Because these kitties are so highly intelligent, they can also be stubborn and may require regular sessions with a feline trainer.
One thing that the Maine Coon and Bengals have in common is that both are very vocal and make chirping and chattering-like sounds instead of the traditional cat’s meow. The Bengal cat also does not mind playing in the water, so the breeds have this in common.
Gentle giants have a substantial amount of energy and will need regular physical activity and daily exercise. This breed is known to spend large swaths of time napping and then have short bursts of energy scattered throughout the day. They need at least two or three 20-minute sessions of high-quality physical activity every day. This is a breed that is easily trained to walk on leashes and will enjoy a brisk walk around the yard. They like to escape, so training them to wear harnesses is advisable.
Bengal cats are the definition of a high-energy breed. They need a ton of physical exercise. It is important to provide a toy leopard with plentiful options inside so they can get out some of that energy. This breed loves to go outside but should always be on a leash and supervised. They should only be allowed off-leash in a securely enclosed area like a cat patio.
These spunky kitties love to climb and will constantly seek a way to do so, so owners should ensure they have a cat tower or tree. Additionally, providing them with a cat wheel and climbing structures like kitty steps that can be mounted on the wall will help give them a healthy outlet for all that energy. Owners should expect multiple play sessions with their Bengal cat daily.
Training for both breeds can be challenging as they are two incredibly intelligent felines. Because of this, both often exhibit a stubborn streak. The Bengals will be more of a challenge to train than gentle giants. It is essential to start training young for both breeds and to provide positive behavior reinforcement. Especially for the Bengal cat, setting and reinforcing firm boundaries often is advisable. This cat will spend their entire life trying to get the upper hand. Owners need to be aware of this and stick with the training.
For both breeds, it is advisable to enlist the help of a feline trainer when they are young. Maine Coons are often called the dogs of the cat world because they love to play games and can be trained to walk on leashes and play fetch, among other things. Bengals can also be trained to do some of these things but setting down basic boundaries with this cat is the most important thing. When one loses control of a Bengal kitty, it is incredibly hard to take it back. Training for both these breeds should start at an early age.
Both of these felines will need clear boundaries set for them. It is essential to set and stick to behavior expectations from when they are very small throughout their senior years. Both breeds retain a kitten-like attitude and prominent level of play throughout their lives. One thing to keep in mind with The Maine Coon cat is that they often knock things over and make messes because they are so large. It is important to train them where it is safe to walk and climb to avoid injury, messes, or other safety concerns. Litter box training and socialization with other people and other animals should start noticeably young.
While both feline breeds are overall healthy, there are some common inherited diseases that both can be susceptible to. For Maine Coons, this includes hip dysplasia, spinal muscular atrophy, heart disease, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The gentle giant is also predisposed to polycystic kidney disease, joint issues, and arthritis and can suffer from a high touch sensitivity condition called hyperaesthesia. The breed often exhibits extra digits, but this is not something that causes any health concerns.
Bengals are prone to common feline health conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy heart disease, feline lower urinary tract disease, hypothyroidism, hip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis, overeating, and diabetes. Additionally, they have an extreme sensitivity to feline anesthesia. In some cases, they can have an allergic reaction leading to cardiac arrest.
Owners of both these breeds may consider looking into pet insurance. While insurance does not cover everything and does have a restriction on when coverage starts, it can be extremely helpful when a serious medical condition arises or in emergencies. A wide variety of insurance plans on the market cover everything from regular and preventative care to emergency situations. This is something that only some cat owners will be able to afford or will want, but for certain breeds, especially the Bengal, it can be beneficial to investigate.
Gentle giants will live, on average, between 12 to 15 years, though some have been known to live longer. Factors like health, nutrition, care, activity level, and genetics play a role. The Bengal cat has an expected life span of between 9 and 16 years, so both these breeds are long-lived felines.
When it comes to nutrition, these two big, beautiful cats both need high-quality, well-balanced diets rich in animal proteins. Felines are obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat to survive. While they do eat other things, meat is an essential part of their diet. Both breeds should be fed high-quality foods that use natural meat proteins like fish, beef, chicken, lamb, and turkey. Both kitties are on the larger side and reasonably active, so a formula specific to big cat needs may be advisable. Keep in mind that kittens of any breed have different nutritional needs than adult kitties. They will need more calories and fat to support their rapid growth.
Felines should be fed high-quality, well-balanced kibble with some wet or fresh food mixed in. There are plenty of delicious options on the market. These include freshly cooked meals and freeze-dried options that boost flavor and nutrients tremendously. A combination of dry kibble and wet food is beneficial. It is crucial to ensure that cats are getting enough water, and those fed only kibbles can develop digestive and kidney issues.
It is often asked if Bengal cats need to be fed a raw diet due to their connection to the wild Asian Leopard cat. While raw diets can be very beneficial for some felines, they are not a requirement for the breed. If owners choose a raw diet, they must work alongside their veterinarian to ensure they feed their kitty everything they need. A raw diet means more than just giving Snowball raw meat occasionally. It is essential to do your research and work with professionals to ensure your cat is nutritionally supported.
Raw meat treats once or twice a week can be a great compromise, as preparing fresh and raw meals daily for a cat is a huge time commitment. The toy leopard cat breed is known to have some food sensitivity, so it is vital to pick a diet and be consistent with it for this breed. Talk to your veterinarian or pet nutritionist if you are concerned That your pet is not getting suitable nutrition.
Owners must avoid low-budget cat foods and those that use meat substitutes. Always look for named meats that are listed as the first ingredients. Those that list generic meat byproducts tend to use ingredient substitutions, including excessive carbohydrates, fillers, and artificial ingredients. These can cause digestive issues and will not provide appropriate nutrition for your cat.
Coat, Colors & Grooming
These two kitties have hugely different coats and grooming needs. The gentle giant has a thick double coat of fur that gives them a rugged, shaggy appearance. Their hair is quite soft and is shorter on the upper body than on the stomach, legs, tails, and lower extremities. This breed sports a thick mane of fur around its neck. The gentle giant can come in a wide array of colors and patterns. These include brown, black, white, red, cream, blue, silver, golden, tortoiseshell, solid, multicolor, tabby, calico, smoke, shaded, and more. Many Maine Coons will have the signature bushy, ringed tail.
Gentle giants need daily brushing to keep their coats free of dirt, debris, and pests. They shed a lot, and owners must be prepared to manage it.
Bengals are known for their unique, exotic, wild appearance. There are three standard colors of Bengal that TICA recognizes. These include silver, snow, and brown. Along with those three officially recognized colors, Bengals come in many other hues, including solid black, charcoal, blue, black, and gold, also called melanistic. They can be marbled, spotted, or a mixture referred to as sparbled. These leopard kitties are unique because their fur has a glitter-like effect due to translucent hairs. Most will have short fine hair.
Bengals will need regular grooming at least once a week. Because they enjoy the water, they may be bathed every six weeks or so. Bathing may need to happen more often if your Bengal cat goes outside.
Unlike the Maine Coon the Bengal is considered hypoallergenic. This is due to their short fine coats and lower shedding. Furthermore, Bengals produce less of the allergy-inducing protein Fel d 1 found in their saliva and spread through dander and urine.
Both of these felines will require safe homes with large areas of room to explore. They are big, hefty kitties, so they need plenty of space to move around in. Both breeds are playful and need physical activity to expend their energy. Maine Coons are happy to play a little bit and then sleep away for several hours. Bengals are higher in energy and are unlikely to sleep as much. They will need highly attentive owners who can be home a lot to ensure they do not get lonely or start causing trouble.
Owners must pay extra special attention to litter box care with both these breeds. Because the Maine Coon is so large and has so much hair, it is extremely easy for them to spread unpleasant things around the house. On the other hand, Bengals are known to be incredibly fussy about their personal hygiene. They will only want to use a litter box kept in pristine condition.
Felines need a home where they feel safe and secure, that has plenty of space for them to run and hide. Both breeds like to climb, so make sure to provide them with a specified area to do this or make sure they will not get into trouble, injure themselves, or break things trying to climb furniture. They should have a soft sleeping area, plenty of fresh water, well-balanced nutrition, lots of toys, and ways to interact and keep up with regular veterinary care.
Maine Coons are far more common to find and not as expensive as the Bengal. This is in part due to Bengals often being purebred. These big kitties will range in price from $200 to over $2,000. Purebred kittens will cost more. Because gentle giants are a prevalent breed, it is highly likely to find a mixed breed or even a purebred in a rescue or shelter. These kitties will not cost as much. Shelter pets usually range from $20 to a couple of $100.
Bengal cats are incredibly pricey. Toy leopards come with an expensive price tag and are one of the most expensive breeds to buy. A high-quality bloodline for a kitten can cost anywhere from $1,500 to over $3,000. Shelter kittens will be less expensive, though it is unlikely to find purebred toy leopards in shelters. Kittens that are intended for breeding are not much more expensive and can cost anywhere from $3,500 to over $5,000. Leopards are one of the most expensive cat breeds, especially for high-quality purebred bloodlines.
Things To Remember
The information we have presented here is a general guideline and introduction to learning about these two gorgeous breeds of cats. Every feline is different, even within the same breed. Mixed breeds tend to have physical and behavioral characteristics from both parents. It can be hard to know exactly what a cat will be like unless you know the specific bloodline. Even then, there is always a bit of mystery.
Both feline breeds we have discussed are amazing creatures who can make wonderful pets in the right family. They are both large breeds that like to play, so owners must remember this and provide them with spaces where they are free to roam around. Developing an understanding of things getting knocked over and cats climbing up in places owners do not want them is a good idea.
Regardless of the breed and price tag, welcoming any cat into the family is a huge responsibility. Being a cat parent is a wonderful privilege and a big commitment. Owners must be ready to put in the hard work both these breeds require. Purr babies make wonderful companions who bring us hours of love, joy, and comfort, but they are also a huge responsibility and not something that every person or family can handle. For this reason, it is advisable to spend some time with cats before welcoming one home. This is especially true for a high-need, extremely energetic breed like the Bengal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Maine Coon bigger than the Bengal?
Gentle giants do tend to be larger than Bengal cats. Both are large-bodied felines. Maine Coons are slightly larger physically and have thick, double coats of long fur. They are physically slightly larger than the Bengal but appear much larger due to their glorious fur coat.
Are both these cat breeds hybrids?
No, only the Bengal cat is a true hybrid. It is a mix between the wild Asian leopard cat and domestic felines. Those kept for pets today have the majority of the wild genes bred out of them and are no longer considered hybrid animals. Maine Coons are domesticated cats that develop through natural breeding but are not hybrid animals.
Do these two breeds share genetics, are they related?
These two breeds are not directly related, other than both being cats. It is possible that in the development of Bengal cats, there have been those bred with Maine Coon genetics. Finding a mixed breed is a wonderful occurrence, but these two breeds do not have a direct connection to each other.
Is either of these breeds mean?
No, neither the Maine Coon cat nor the Bengal is considered to be mean. Gentle giants are incredibly agreeable, affectionate, and love people. They are definitely the more amicable and docile of the two breeds. That being said, Bengal cats are quite intelligent, like to be around people, and enjoy affection. They are more likely to set limits on this. However, within the breed, there are plenty of very lovable, affectionate cats. Bengals are high energy, very vocal, and have a high prey instinct, but they are not inherently mean cats.
We have introduced you to two glorious feline breeds, the Maine Coon, and the Bengal. In discussing these two breeds, we have discovered that there are several similarities, like generous size, impeccable hunting skills, and a love of playing. Additionally, both cats are native to the United States. Both breeds can be trained to do things like walk on leashes, enjoy playtime in the water, and can be quite loud and vocal. Though they do have similarities, these two cats have very different histories, as well as different physical needs. Bengals tend to be higher energy, while Maine Coons are more relaxed. Hopefully, our comparison article has helped you understand the similarities and differences between these two impressive kitties.