Facts about the animal kingdom

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards

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It is easy to see the link between domestic cats and their big cat brethren. They have sharp canine (or should that be feline?) teeth which mimic the ferocious pictures we see in magazines like National Geographic. While their prey may not be as big as the beasts of the plain, you can see them pounce and jump on small animals in a similar way. This is not to mention the tiger and leopard print patterns which can often appear on their coats. When we think about how similar domestic cats and wild cats are, it's a a wonder we manage to live with them at all. Fortunately for us, although there are domestic cats that look like leopards and other wildcats, many of them still choose to be our friends. AnimalWised takes a look at some of these wilder looking breeds which manage to cohabitate with us.

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  1. Bengal Cat
  2. Savannah Cat
  3. Chausie Cat
  4. Egyptian Mau
  5. Arabian Mau
  6. Ocicat
  7. Abyssinian Cat
  8. Bombay Cat
  9. Toyger Cat

Bengal Cat

When we talk about domestic cats that look like leopards, we don't mean they're so big they can't fit through the hallway. We mean cats that have a similar look to leopards and their wildcat compatriots. This is usually down to their coat, but can also be like skull shape and ear position. There are many cats which look like leopards, but not many which closely resemble the tiger. However, the main physical comparison is that many cats have fur markings known as ‘tabby’.

Tabby markings are the stripes, swirls, lines and dots which make up one of the classic domestic cat looks. These are similar to tiger markings which are used for camouflage to hide when attacking prey. They may also be there to strike fear into other predators, giving them an often ferocious presence. Many domestic cats have them, even those bred with non-tabby cats to give some absolutely beautiful markings.

The first house cat on our list shares a name with a type of Tiger - the Bengal cat. This cat was purposefully bred to resemble wild cats like the tiger as well as leopards and ocelots. The idea really was to have a cat which was as strikingly beautiful as these wild cousins, but with a temperament which was more suited to shared indoor living. Fortunately, the result is a cat which is full of personality and a wonderful companion pet to us humans.

Like tigers, they are incredible jumpers and are fond of staying up in high places. This can lead to some issues with high-rise syndrome, but usually are able to look after themselves. They are intelligent, just like wildcats. However, they need to be enough generations away from their wild heritage to ensure their behavior is not problematic.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Bengal Cat

Savannah Cat

One of the most beautiful wild looking house cats, the Savannah cat has its heritage crossed with the serval, a wildcat known for its distinctive ears. The Savannah cat shares these ears which have distinctive spot markings at the top which makes them look like eyes (known as ocelli). It is believed these spots are in part to put off attacks from other predators as it makes it look as if the cat is watching them even when they can't be seen at all.

The markings on the ears are not their main purpose. Servals have a very keen sense of hearing as well as vision, making them expert hunters. This means your Savannah cat might be more likely to bring home dead mice and birds. Servals have some of the longest proportional legs of any wildcat with Savannah cats also possessing a similar form. This makes them incredible jumpers, just like the leopard which takes its prey into trees.

Savannah cats are said to often behave in a canine like manner, following their owners and developing close bonds. They may be skittish with strangers and other animals, but usually are fine with adequate socialization. It is thought that many house cats do not like water, but Savannah cats are more like their wild counterparts in this respect as they enjoy going into water. Tigers and leopards are very aquatic for cat species and this is another reason the Savannah cat is so leopard like. Another is the spotted pattern on their coat which is necessary for official classification.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Savannah Cat

Chausie Cat

One of the reasons the Chausie cat might make you think of a leopard more than a domestic cat is its size. They are closer in size to Maine Coon cats, but not quite as big. They have the tabby markings which compare them to wildcats, but they do not have as distinct a pattern as many of these more exotic cat breeds. The officially recognized colors are black, grizzled or brown tabby. Their tail often has a striped pattern on down it, but their body has a smoky sort of appearance known as ‘ghost’ markings.

They originate from a wildcat/domestic crossbreed from Ancient Egypt, going to show that these wildcat crossbreeds are not as recent as is commonly believed. You can understand their wild origins as soon as you look at their striking faces. They resemble Abyssinian cats, but their ears are even more pronounced sitting high on their head. They have beautiful eyes and cheekbones, like a catwalk model of a cat.

Something which is almost odd about these domestic wildcat exotic breeds is the fact that they are often better human companions than many domestic breeds. The Chausie is no exception. They can become extremely loyal and their intelligence means they need the kind of attention which many dog owners afford their pets.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Chausie Cat

Egyptian Mau

Perhaps more recognizably linked to Egyptian culture is the Egyptian Mau. These cats greatly resemble a leopard in their spotted coat, but are actually domesticated descendants of the African wildcat. They are incredibly intelligent animals which have been revered in Egyptian culture since the ancients. They were so revered that they appear in much Egyptian art as well as mummified remains being found in burial areas. Another Egyptian link is the ‘M’ marking on their forehead common to many tabby patterns which is also known as a scarab marking. Despite all these Egyptian links, it is possible this breed actually originated in Europe.

Egyptian Mau cats (Mau being the Egyptian word for cat) are also one of the fastest domestic cat breeds. They have a pocket of fur behind their legs which actually allows them to stretch out further to run faster. This is a trait also found on the fastest record land animal, the cheetah. They are incredibly loyal and affectionate, happy to sit still and cuddle despite their fast instincts. This doesn't mean they aren't playful when they want to be.

Despite coming in many different colors, the Egyptian Mau will always have those beautiful spotted and striped tabby markings. Some claim the Egytpian Mau is the origin of the domestic cat, making it perhaps the ultimate in domestic cats which resemble leopards and other wildcats.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Egyptian Mau

Arabian Mau

Not as common to breed registries and even availability, the Arabian Mau is descended from the desert cat which is thought to no longer exist (not quite the same as the sand cat). It is a large sized cat with a muscled body. Its facial features are are a little uncommon in that it has a large head like a leopard, but it is not as round. They have beautiful oval eyes which gives them a majestic appearance.

Like many of the exotic cat breeds in this list, they are very intelligent and affectionate. They are quite quiet and despite their wild heritage can make themselves at home indoors. However, this doesn't mean they don't enjoy going outside. It does mean they can be very territorial, chasing off other male cats if they feel like their turf is being encroached upon.

Arabian Mau cats have the tabby look of these exotic cat breeds, but they are often more striped, especially at the front of the body. This makes them a domestic cat which looks like a tiger as much as it does a leopard.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Arabian Mau


Unlike the previous leopard like house cats on our list, the Ocicat isn't actually from wild DNA. This is quite surprising considering its wild look. This is not only due to the tabby fur, but its head and ear shape in particular. Their ears are perhaps more pointed than the rounded ears of an ocelot, they still resemble this wildcat in particular.

One of the interesting aspects of this breed is the range of color which they can generate. These can go form lavender to silver, chocolate brown or ebony. However, almost all of them will have darker spots which gives them this wild appearance perhaps even more than some actually wilder cats. They are strong and agile with a curiosity common to all domestic cats. Their domestication also makes them very friendly, often even with non-members of the family. They love to play and need a lot of attention, as do many of the wild house cat varieties.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Ocicat

Abyssinian Cat

Rather than a tiger or a leopard, Abyssinian cats have a little more of a lion presence to them. Their markings are similar to the Chausie cat in that they do not have very strong tabby markings. However, they often have darker patches on their forehead which, in part, gives them this lion-esque quality. They are beautiful cats with an elegant skeletal structure and a regal demeanor. Their fur has a ‘ticked’ effect, meaning it has a toned element, usually lighter at the end than at the base. This is also similar to a lion, providing more of a wildcat presence.

Despite their royal appearance, Abyssinian cats are very playful, intelligent and love to cuddle. They are great companion pets and will develop a strong bond with their owner. This bond can lead to dependency, so they are not a cat for people who are away a lot.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Abyssinian Cat

Bombay Cat

This exotic looking domestic cat is not like the others. Even though Abyssinian and Chausie cats don't have much in the way of tabby markings, the Bombay cat doesn't have any at all. Instead, they have a dark black coat which makes them look like little household panthers. While there are many black moggy cats out there, the Bombay cat is particular. It has a sleek coat and beautiful large eyes which give it the panther like appearance.

Mixed with a Burmese and American Shorthair cats, they are beautiful pets. Great with kids, they are highly sociable and friendly. They love to play and also crave attention. Great for cat owners who want to have a day long buddy. They are, however, also known to be very vocal, so perhaps not great for those who love peace and quiet.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Bombay Cat

Toyger Cat

Reading the name, you will be unsurprised which wild cat this domestic breed most resembles. With their pointed ears and narrow chin, they look a little like a Siamese cat. However, they have an orange tinted fur with stark black stripes along its body. They were specifically bred with Bengal cats to provide these unique markings. Despite this, same as the Ocicat, they are not at all wild in terms of heritage. They are completely domesticated.

The Toyger cat is so called because it resembles a toy tiger, similar to how you have toy dogs. However, they are very friendly, playful and great for families.

Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards - Toyger Cat

While we have these domestic breeds which look like leopards, there is one other cat which looks very much like a leopard - the leopard cat. It is not a domestic cat breed, but it is beautiful and you can learn a little more about it in article where we compare them to domestic Bengal cats.

If you want to read similar articles to Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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1 comment
Possible Arabian Mau
I think we have an Arabian Mau. He is beautiful and so unique with his large ears and copper colored eyes. Could you take a look and send your opinion? Thank you! Michelle
Administrador AnimalWised

I think this is certainly possible or at least a mix with some Arabian Mau in there. His ears and long body are what make us think we agree.
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Domestic Cats That Look Like Leopards