Breeds

Snow Bengal Cat Breed Overview: Traits, Variations & More

The Snow Bengal is an exotic looking beauty that resembles a tiny snow leopard. These rare kitties are far more than just a pretty face. Get to know these gorgeous kitties in this breed overview.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: August 24, 2022 | 19 min read

Snow Bengal kitten outside in grass

There is no question that the exotic Bengal cat is one of those breeds feline fans and cat owners have heard about and admired. These glorious creatures are everything one expects them to be, beautiful on the inside and out. Bengal cats are a breed that holds a lot of mystery. Within that breed, there are a few variations. One very intriguing one is the Snow Bengal. These gorgeous kittles look like miniature snow leopards and have a range of colors and patterns.

Bengal cats have a fascinating history, which only adds to their allure. Potential owners often have many questions about where this breed came from and if they have special care or nutritional needs. Finding one can be challenging, and owning one of these kitties, including the Snow Bengal, is sure to be an adventure.

Before bringing home any new cat, prospective owners want to know everything they can about a specific breed. It’s time to get acquainted with the elusive Snow Bengal. Learn more about this beautiful cat, where they came from, and more.

Snow Bengal Cat
    • weight iconWeight8 - 20 pounds
    • height iconHeight13 - 16 Inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan9 - 16 Years
    • color iconColors Snow Lynx Point, Snow Seal Mink, Snow Seal Sepia, Tabby, Rosette, Marbled
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Exercise
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Kitten Costs

Breed History

These exotic kitties are a relatively new feline breed. Bengals have a wildcat look about them, and this is because they are part wildcat and genuine hybrid animals. Throughout history, many people tried to cross wildcat species with domestic felines. There are a few mentions of hybrid cats bred from Asian leopard cats and domestic breeds. Bengals are also referred to as toy or pet leopards.

The most notable and successful undertaking was done for science. In the early 1970s, a researcher named Dr. William Centerwall bred the first of today’s modern Bengals by creating a mix of wild Asian Leopard cats and domestic felines. Centerwall bred the hybrid kittens so he could study the partial immunity to feline leukemia that wild Asian leopard cats have. Once the doctor was done with his research, he passed the hybrid kittens on to a breeder in California. From there, the cats were mixed further with several domestic cats, developing the breed eventually accepted as the Bengal. Other breeders took up an interest in the hybrids and developed more bloodlines.

Prior to Dr. Centerwall’s kittens, there were a few other mentions of hybrid kitties from crosses between wild Asian leopard cats and domestic cats like the Egyptian Mau. However, he, and the breeder he passed the kittens on to, Jean Sudgen Mill, are credited with starting the breed. One of the most notable was developed by a couple named Greg and Elizabeth Kent. Both bloodlines continue to be found in some of the highest pedigree Bengals today.

Bengals were accepted into The International Cat Association in 1983 but were not recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association until 2016. They have become a very sought-after breed. Variations of the Bengal came later, including the snowy cats. Some occurred naturally in the breeding process, and others were intentionally bred for their gorgeous, light-colored coats. In the 1980s, two breeders took up efforts to breed Snow Bengals by adding Burmese cats to the mix, hoping to diversify their limited breeding gene pool. These first frosty-colored cats were bred using cats descended from some of the first Bengal cats produced by Jean Sudgen Mill.

The coloring of these light, shimmery felines often gets compared or confused for Silver Bengals. Silvers differ from snowy cats in a few subtle ways. It can be hard to tell these two apart when they are young. Silver Bengals carry a color inhibitor gene that prevents their brown color from fully being expressed. Instead of white fur, they have a silvery color that often has a darker brown or gray base. A Silver Snow Bengal can happen but are a very elusive blend to find.

Genetics

Bengals are classified into two different groups, hybrid and domestic. Hybrid cats are labeled generation F1 to F4. These generations are far closer to wild cats than domestic pets. Earlier generations are larger, have high prey drives, do not really like to be around humans, and look more like wildcats than domestic. F5 generation and beyond is much tamer in both appearance and behavior. Because these kitties are hybrids, there is a misconception that all Bengal cats are half wild. Only the first-generation hybrid offspring are half wild. As the breeding process continues, these wild genes are significantly reduced. First to fourth-generation cats are rarely kept as pets.

While some lighter-colored Bengals will be born in litters due to their randomly matched genetic makeup, many are bred purposefully. The most common way these cats are created is by breeding a purebred Bengal with a Siamese cat. The lighter color comes from the albino gene carried by the Siamese bloodlines. Snowy cats have a recessive colorpoint gene. Snow Bengals are usually bred from two purebred parents and must have the right genetic makeup to produce these splendid creamy coats.

Reputation, Bans & Restrictions

Bengals have a reputation that precedes them due to their connection to wild Asian leopard cats. Many people hear that these are hybrid animals and assume that because of that connection, all offspring will be wildcats. Bengals, in general, are an increasingly popular breed. Because of their wildcat connection, the pet leopard is often misinterpreted, which has led to bans and restrictions on owning them in certain places throughout the United States and globally.

One of the primary considerations that drive these bans and restrictions on Bengals is that these earlier generations are quite unpredictable. These wilder kitties are harder to train and do not often make good pets. Additionally, these cats can be very detrimental to the natural environment should they get outside. They are more like true wild animals and can be incredibly disruptive due to their highly aggressive nature and impeccable hunting skills. Most pet owners would be unable to handle caring for and training one of the earlier generations of these exotic cats. It is relatively rare to find anyone keeping an earlier-generation Bengal as a pet.

In the United States, several states ban the ownership of early generation Bengals, F1 through F4. F5 generation and beyond are permitted in every state except for Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the only places in the country that actively enforces bans and regulations on every generation of Bengal cats. Some cities, including New York City, New York, and Seattle, Washington, ban all Bengals. Denver, CO specifically allows 5th generation and beyond.

States that ban or strictly regulate F1 to F4 generations include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, and New York State. Some municipalities and states will require permits to own a Bengal. Prospective owners should always check carefully with both state and local codes when considering adopting a Bengal. There are varying penalties for possessing one of these cats in an area where they are banned. Consequences include fines, requirements of getting permits, or a cat being confiscated from its owner. This is heartbreaking, so it is always advisable to thoroughly research if the area you live in restricts Bengal ownership in any form before putting in the time and investment to bring one home.

There are no restrictions or bans based on the color of the Bengal cat. Snow Bengals, as well as all other colors, are included in general restrictions and bans. There is no distinction of color. Instead, the generation determines whether a kitty is permitted to be owned in certain places. F5 and beyond are domestic cats. F1 through F4 are classified as exotic pets.

Size

Snow Bengals are not a different breed than any other Bengal cat. So, they will share the same physical characteristics as most other Bengal varieties. These kiddos are very muscular animals that will reach medium to large sizes when fully grown. They can weigh anywhere between 8 and 20 pounds. Most stick to the 12-to-15-pound range. Males are always larger. Bengals can range from 16 to 22 inches long without their tail. They stand 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulders.

Bengals have a distinct appearance due to having shorter front legs. Their back legs will be noticeably longer. This physical characteristic makes them look more streamlined and contributes to their notable prowl-like gait. Their heads are small and round, with large striking eyes and very clear facial markings. Ears are wide set, tall, and pointy.

Coat Colors & Patterns

A Snow Bengal has a unique look, with lighter colored coats and striking dark markings. They have short, single coats of vibrant off-white fur, topped with darker markings. These perfect kitties look remarkably like small white leopards. Some of the earliest Snow Bengals were created by mixing purebred Bengals with Siamese cats. Due to this breeding and careful selection, there are three main types of Snow Bengal.

3 Types Of Snow Bengal

Snow Lynx Point

Snow Lynx Point laying on blue background
The tips of their tails will have a darker, seal tip coloring.

Snow Lynx Point, also called Snow Seal Lynx and Snow Lynx, is the lightest colored of all the snowy Bengals. Their coats are a delicately light color often described as cream. These cats exhibit some of their colorings due to their recessive Siamese genes. Snow Lynx kittens are born with either an entirely white coat or a very light, almost indiscernible pattern. As they age, their coats will start to develop contrasting and darker coloring. Snow Lynx cats always have bright blue eyes and a lighter colored base coat of off-white, cream, or ivory.

Snow Seal Mink Bengal

Snow Seal Mink Bengal sitting on black background
These cats can have blue eyes but most often have green or even aquamarine-colored eyes.

Seal Mink, also called Seal Snow or Snow Mink, is quite rare. These kitties are bred from a cat with Snow Seal coloring and Snow Seal Sepia, which creates their unusual coat and eye color. Their base coats are lighter in color than the snow leaks. Their coats will range from pale ivory and cream to a light tan color. They will have a range of light to very dark tan seal markings. The patterning will be darker than that of a Snow Lynx. The Snow Mink are usually born light beige or a creamy tan color.

Snow Seal Sepia

Snow Seal Sepia laying on table
Base coats of Sepia Snows are light cream, tan, or ivory.

Snow Seal Sepia, or Brown Snow Bengals, have the most contrast on their coats of all three Snow Bengal variations. This variety has a deeper, warmer color tone to its coat than the other two variations. They always have green or gold eyes. Any Snow Bengal with blue eyes is not considered a Snow Seal Sepia. This particular variation stands out because it appears as though they have a tan or light brown filter on top of their coats, just like the sepia photo effect we humans often use on pictures. These kittens will have darker markings at birth than the other two varieties. Sepia kittens are also born with a visible sepia pattern and much darker markings even at birth than other Snow Bengal varieties.

Some Bengals will be born with what is referred to as a “glitter” effect on their coats. This can also be seen on Snow Bengals and causes their coats to have a shiny, shimmery, almost glitter-like sheen. When sunlight shines on these cats, their coats start to glitter as if they were embedded with the sparkly stuff.

Patterns

Bengals are tabby patterned and have certain markings that are very recognizable. A distinguishable “M” shaped marking on their foreheads, stripes on the face, near the eyes, along cheeks, and throughout the body are part of this patterning. Tabby is not a breed, it is a coat pattern, and Bengals, including the three Snow varieties, are one of many breeds this pattern can appear in. There are many variations of tabby, including classic, mackerel, ticked, spotted, and orange. These markings will play a role in the Snow Bengal’s coat and appearance. All three frosty-colored cats have light coats with darker patterns and markings.

Snow Bengals can have markings in spotted, also called Rosetta, or marbled patterns.

Rosetta patterned felines have spots present all over their body. These spots come in various shapes, including paw-shaped, clusters, arrowhead, and donut shaped.

Marbled Snow Bengals have swirl-shaped markings all over their bodies. Marbled Bengals are rarer than spotted Bengals because many breeders prefer the spotted patterning over marbled.

Temperament

Snow Bengals are high-energy, vocal, and very friendly felines. They get along well with people and other animals. They may look like miniature snow leopards but, at heart are just big playful house cats. One of the main differences between this breed and other breeds is that Bengal cats are remarkably high-energy, and this mighty mini snowy leopard is no exception.

This feline breed has a few notable behavior traits that make them stand out in the cat world. One is their extreme level of energy, and another is their very active prey drive. While not as eager to hunt as their hybrid relatives, they have one of the higher prey drives among house cats. Owners should remember this when sharing a home with a Bengal and other smaller animals. Animals kept in terrariums, aquariums, and crates should always be kept secured and with doors closed.

Another unique behavior trait of this breed is that they do not make the same meow sound as most other breeds. Not all cats of this breed are loud, but Bengals are known to be very talkative. They make a chattering and chirping-like noise and can get quite loud when excited.

This breed will do well with other animals, though it is best they be best trained very young to get along with animals and humans. This breed is quite independent, and they like to be the boss. Snow Bengals must have owners that can set and stick to clear boundaries. This breed can quickly get the upper hand on an inexperienced owner, and their behavior can get quite obnoxious if not given training early on.

While it is commonly thought that kitties do not like to swim, these feisty kitties will change that perception. These cats love water and will often play in their water dish or willingly go for a swim if water is available.

Health

This breed can live on average between 9 and 16 years. They can have very happy and long lives with proper care, exercise, and nutrition. These kitties are known to be a very healthy feline breed due to the high pedigree involved in breeding them. High-quality and reputable breeders will spend time and money to screen for genetic and hereditary diseases and defects. They can be susceptible to some common feline health issues throughout their lives.

This breed can be at risk for:

  • Heart disease, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a condition in which the heart muscle thickens, resulting in congestive heart failure, blood clots, and other serious issues.
  • Eye disease, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
  • Bengals are very sensitive to chemicals used in anesthesia. Severe allergic reactions can be quite dangerous and sometimes trigger a heart attack.
  • Feline lower urinary tract diseases include infection, bladder stones, and idiopathic cystitis. These conditions are common among Bengals and may worsen when a cat suffers from anxiety and stress.
  • These kitties are also at risk of kidney disease, including chronic renal failure.
  • Bengals often have sensitive digestive systems and can suffer from upset stomach, gastrointestinal distress, and pain.
  • Arthritis and joint problems like patellar luxation. They may suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia.
  • Feline allergies are a concern with this and any feline breed. Allergens include plants, chemicals, fleas, mites, and human foods.
  • Overeating and feline diabetes can also be a concern for this highly energetic breed, as they always want a little more to eat.

This is not a complete list of medical conditions that can affect these frosted felines. Check with your veterinarian to learn more, and take appropriate steps to test for, prevent and treat any conditions your snowy Bengal may have.

Nutrition

Nutrition is one of the cornerstones of lifelong health and proper development for any feline breed. The Snow Bengal is a natural predator and needs a meat-based diet. All cats are obligate carnivores, needing high-quality animal proteins as a big part of their diet to provide them energy and sustenance for their bodies to run correctly. Because of this breed, higher activity level nutrition needs to be a top priority. This is not somewhere to try to save money because it will impact your cat’s health in the long term.

High-quality foods that use whole meat and natural ingredients like beef, fish, chicken, turkey, and lamb will provide the high-quality proteins these kitties need to survive. Snow Bengals do not need a special kind of food or diet. They can get all the vital nutrients and minerals from high-quality commercial cat food. A mixture of dry kibble and wet or canned food every few days should give them everything they need. An occasional treat of raw or cooked meat prepared appropriately or some feline-safe fruits and vegetables can offer flavor variety and a nice boost of nutrients and minerals.

Some owners and veterinarians may want to stick to a fully raw diet for this breed. If owners choose this route, they should only do so after careful consideration and discussion with their veterinarian. There is more to feeding a cat a raw food diet than just giving them raw chicken or beef. They need a well-balanced variety of foods to ensure their bodies get everything they need. This is also not a switch that should be done rapidly. Again it is always best to discuss a raw food diet with your veterinarian. A raw food diet differs from giving a cat an occasional meat treat. A raw food diet means that cats only eat freshly prepared natural raw foods at every meal and no commercial or cooked cat foods.

Always steer clear of low-budget cat foods. These off and use a lot of fillers, additives, and artificial ingredients. They also tend not to use whole meat animal proteins. Instead, they use things like chicken or low-quality meat meals. Always look at pet food labels to see if they meet AAFCO standards. Owners can also look into sustainable and environmentally friendly companies as these smaller labels often use very high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.

Care & Training

Caring for a Bengal is not very different than caring for any other breed. Owners will need to remember that because of their high energy level and natural ability as athletes, these cats will need a lot of exercise. This means one-on-one play sessions with owners every day and the opportunity to play on cat towers, tunnels, and even cat wheels. These cats need an outlet for all that energy, or they will become destructive, disobedient, and create a tough situation for owners to find their way out of. They can be trained to walk outside on leashes. This should only be done under the close supervision of their owners. Because of their need to hunt and clever escape ability, these cats can be impressively destructive if left alone outside.

Bengals will need a nice comfy place to curl up and call home and plenty of room to move about. Along with access to clean water and a fresh litter box, they need a lot of entertainment. Investing in a few scratching posts may be helpful and help keep furniture from being used instead. This can be an expensive breed to have because they need a constant variety of exciting new toys.

Snow Bengals can suffer from separation anxiety. These purr babies are very attached to their humans and prefer to spend as much time with them as possible. This can make it very hard for owners who must leave for several hours a day to go to work. Because of this, it is essential for owners to focus on training their cats and making sure that they feel safe when they are not home. Additionally, owners who need to be away for an extended period may want to look into a daycare situation or have someone who can come in during the day and spend a little time with their pet.

While suggesting this may seem overboard for some, plenty of canine daycares and boarding facilities offer daytime and drop-in care, so it is not that out of the realm of normal to look for these services for a kitty. Though felines are often considered to be more independent than dogs, they can crave plenty of human attention. Some breeds like the Bengal can get very destructive if left home alone. Rather than allow a kitty to get frustrated and scared, it is better to create a situation they feel comfortable in, even if that means visiting home at lunch or having someone stop by to check on your purr baby.

These frosty kitties take up to two years and even a little longer to fully mature. They will hang on to their kitten-like playfulness throughout their adult lives. This is not a breed that will spend the afternoon asleep, though they will take regular naps. While they make lovely pets, these special kitties are not the right animal for everyone. These kitties are highly intelligent, extremely energetic, and very attached to their humans. They may not be an excellent choice for people who have not owned a cat before or owners who need to spend a lot of time away from home.

Training

Training is especially important for a Snow Bengal kitty. These felines are incredibly smart and very independent. While this is a wonderful combination of characteristics, when it comes to interacting with these kitties and teaching them games or tricks, it can also be a challenge trying to get them to learn the rules and stick to them. Training should start young, especially if other animals or young children are in the home. This is always a breed to supervise around babies and young children.

These kitties may need more than just positive behavior reinforcement to learn good behavior. That is an excellent method and is highly effective, but remember, this breed is known for wanting to be in charge. It may be a good idea to consult a professional feline trainer for advice and get a few sessions in to set basic rules and boundaries.

Common training for cats and kittens includes:

  • Do not scratch people or other pets.
  • No biting.
  • Not to scratch or run across the furniture.
  • Proper litter box training, no urinating outside the litter box.
  • Training to eat at set mealtimes.

Especially with a breed like this, proper litter box training is essential. Set these expectations and habits when they are very young, and enforce them. Always keep litter boxes clean, even if that means cleaning them out once or twice daily. Having more than one litter box in separate areas of the home is very helpful. They can be very particular about eating anywhere near the litter box, so always keep food far away from that area.

Grooming

Snow Bengals are famous for their luxurious and soft coats. They are very good at self-grooming but will need regular assistance from their owners. They do not need to be brushed as often as one would think. Once or twice a week grooming sessions should be enough. Owners may choose to groom a kitty of this breed up to three times a week because they might enjoy that one-on-one bonding time with their pet. Including nail and dental care in grooming sessions is also necessary.

Dental care and nail trimming can often get overlooked but should not be ignored. Investing in high-quality tools like feline nail clippers and brushes will be worthwhile and help keep your tiny snowy leopard looking as beautiful and regal as possible. Poor dental care in felines can often lead to painful mouth conditions and periodontal disease later in their lives. This is a vital area that, while challenging, is not something owners should overlook.

Kitten Prices & Breeders

The Snow Bengal kitten is one of the most expensive kitties around. On the lower end, they will cost about $1500. It is not unusual for a high-quality bloodline kitten to cost over $5000, especially for some of the rarer colored coats. These kitties are quite pricey to purchase and very expensive to care for. They are the definition of a high-maintenance feline.

This may be an excellent breed to consider cat insurance for. There are a variety of plans that cover everything from regular care to accidental emergency coverage and surgery care. Because this breed is such a huge investment from day one, owners want to ensure they are healthy. Medical care can add thousands and thousands of dollars to the cost of owning a pet, and insurance can help manage those costs.

Because these kittens have such a high price tag, prospective owners need to research and thoroughly investigate any breeders they are considering. Always look for current license information, ask about health screenings, and look at previous litters and parent cats. Reputable breeders will freely share all this information and more, as they are as invested in the health and well-being of these kittens as prospective owners are.

These kitties rarely turn up in a shelter. While not impossible, it is very improbable. Prospective owners looking for this breed can check with local and national animal humane societies and Bengal rescues. Sometimes older show cats are retired and will find their way into rescues. These can be a suitable match for owners who would love to have one of these glorious kitties but are not up for the challenge of an exuberant and highly energetic kitten.

As Family Pets

This breed makes for a highly energetic, very agreeable, yet slightly bossy companion. While they make wonderful pets for the right owner, they are not the right pets for everyone. This breed is very high maintenance. These purr babies are expensive and need a lot of attention. They do best in homes where someone is around most of the day to keep an eye on them and do not like to be left alone for long. Snowy Bengals are very energetic, love to chase rodents and small animals, and need a constant cycle of entertainment and exercise to keep them from getting aggressive or destructive. They are incredibly intelligent but can be challenging to train.

Overall, the Snow Bengal is an exotic-looking, soft, luxurious designer breed of cat. They indeed are remarkable animals, but they may not make the best pets for households with a lot of other animals, owners that are gone a lot or do not have the time and energy to give this breed the attention they need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Snow Bengals a different feline breed?

Snow Bengals are not a different breed. They are a variation within the Bengal breed. This specific variation was developed both for its exotic looks and because breeders in the 1980s wanted to diversify the bloodline and create a cat with a more vibrantly colored coat.

Are Snow Bengal cats hypoallergenic?

Yes, these cats are considered to be hypoallergenic. They are an excellent breed for feline lovers who also suffer from allergies. They are not entirely allergen-free but do produce less of the allergy-inducing protein shed in their dander, saliva, and urine. Additionally, because these cats are shorter-haired, they do not shed as much hair and do not spread as much of the allergy-inducing proteins around.

Are Snow Bengals related to snow leopards?

No, these kitties are not related to wild leopards or snow leopards. While they share an exotic-looking appearance, vibrant white cream, ivory, and tan coats, they are not directly related to leopards. Snow Bengals are related to wild Asian leopard cats, as those were the wildcats used to create the Bengal hybrid breed.

Final Thoughts

The Snow Bengal is an exotic, intriguing feline. They are rather rare and quite expensive but do make for remarkable pets. These independent and highly intelligent kitties leave a lasting impression on everyone they meet. While they might not be the best fit for every family, these amazing mini snowy leopards make for unforgettable pets for the right owner. These kitties have a high price tag, but for the right owner, the impact and joy they bring to one’s life will be absolutely priceless.

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