All Cat Breeds Are One Species

Although I have said it before a few times, in the light of the recent discussion on the cat breed mashup, I think it is useful to remind ourselves that there are 36 wild cat species¹. Amongst these species, within a group of small cats, is the domestic cat with the scientific name of felis silvestrus catus.

Domestic cat is one cat species
Domestic cat is one cat species. Source: Wild Cats of the World by the Sunquists.
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Nowadays, when scientists distinguish one wild cat species from another they employ DNA testing. In the current classification of the species scientists have decided that all domestic cats are effectively the same from a DNA standpoint. It makes no difference if the cat is feral, stray, domestic moggie, fancy cat breed, Russian, Egyptian, American, English, Japanese or anything else. They are all the same species of cat: felis silvestrus catus.

Surely that puts the cat breeds into perspective? When scientists do DNA testing on the cat breeds as discussed in the Cat Breeds: Its a Mashup page, they are analysing fine differences between the breeds to decide which region they might have come from or if there is a commonality between certain breeds. Yet, these differences are not sufficiently great to allow any one cat breed to be separated out as a different cat sub-species or species.

As we have discussed in the comments, the cat breed is a human creation. It is a manufactured product of the human imagination. A cat breed is not the product of nature. Nature has a reason to make animals: better survival. The driving force behind the cat breeds is entertainment. They are the product of a human hobby.

Many cat breeds are less able to survive than the moggie. The super long haired contemporary Persian, the most popular cat breed according to the CFA, should be a full-time indoor cat because its fur is unnaturally long “Their long flowing coats require an indoor, protected environment….” (CFA profile)



  1. This is what is currently agreed but the classification of the species is work in progress and the figure varies. There are more than 36 cats listed in the drawing on this page.

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22 thoughts on “All Cat Breeds Are One Species”

  1. PleaseGetThingsRight

    Your lineage chart is wrong. You are showing that the domesticated cat breeds are part of the original “tree of cats”. But in reality you should have two lines drawn from the lines denoting the African Wildcat and the European Wildcat. Detached from the main trunk (nature’s evolutionary endeavors), and starting off on their own man-made path between those two. This is often drawn with dotted lines to show they are not part of any naturally occurring species.

    The way you have it drawn now you are directly implying that the domesticated cat species came from nature. That it, along with the European and African cats, all came from one common ancestor (where those 3 lines meet). They do not. The domesticated cat came wholly from the handiwork of man.

    In fact, the way you have it drawn, you are depicting that the domesticated cat was the original cat species and the European and African Wildcats are descendants of some earlier form of the domesticated cats (being denoted by being the central limb of those 3 species). Your lineage tree is wrong on all counts.

    1. Thanks for the comment. The chart comes from a highly respected book, The Wild Cats Of The World by the Sunquists. The lineage of the cat species as well as their taxonomy is in flux and people will have different opinions as to how to draw such a chart.

      The domesticated cat came wholly from the handiwork of man.

      I am not sure this is accurate because it implies that people “created” the domestic cat when in fact it was a mutual arrangement and the wild cat ancestor, the wildcat (as a domestic cat) has simply evolved over the past 9,500 years or so. That is a combination of nature (natural evolution) and human intervention.

  2. Harvey Harrison

    No Michael. Fiona Sunquist has nothing to do with this. I never mentioned her except to say it is not about her. Please read Sarah Hartwell’s critique. It’s all about Leslie Lyons’ and co-worker’s obsession with the cat fancy concoctions, and her need to authenticated them.

  3. Ankara Kedisi Derneği

    Michael, Harvey talks about one geneticist Leslie A Lyons.

    Some of those studies done by her and her students contain some flaws where personal opinions/interpretations are shown as some kind of ”facts” like the cat ”Turkish Angora” is best representative of all Turkish cats. This is dishonesty and absurd because this cat is man made from cats non-Turkish origin and the data actually proves that.

    This is very important for Angora breeders to keep illusion alive that those cats they breed are from ”Ankara Zoo” or very ”pure” Turkish strays. In reality it is not. For most of part loosing breeds history would be a tragedy for cat fancy.

    Nobody wants to be called a liar, after all…

    Fiona Sunquist has nothing to do with it.

  4. Harvey Harrison

    That’s not the point Michael. The UC Davis studies purport to have studied Turkish cats whereas the raw DNA samples show that the cata they assume to be Turkish Angoras are not Turkish cats at all but a cat fancy concoction, , leading to the continued discrimination against the true Turkish Angoras, and the spreading of false information. This is matter of a concoction replacing the genuine natural cats, in fact stealing their name, history, genetic and geographic origins. A scientist uses here reputation to lend credibility to a fake breed. Please read carefully Sarah Hartwell’s critique.

    1. Harvey tell me more about Fiona Sunquist. Are you saying she works at UC Davis and was involved in junk science in respect of a study on the Turkish Angora? I have not read about that if that is what you are saying.

  5. Harvey Harrison

    Hi, I have nothing against Fiona Sunquist. Please refer to Sarah Hartwell’s critique which has pretty much the same complaints as I do. They refer to a series of misleading studies done at UC Davis.

    1. OK. However, it makes no difference because as far as I know no one has said a certain cat breed is a new species of cat! On DNA testing all cat breeds fall into the same species.

      1. Ankara Kedisi Derneği

        All cats are same species – and yet, it’s all easily forgotten when talking goes about special cat breeds…

        Even we see the Anatolian cats/Angoras just as regional domestic cat variety (its truth), we still have to deal with cat fancy nonsense and BS, pure vs impure, lies like they have real Turkish cats because pedigree proves that… etc. etc. Even when we will tell ”we don’t care if that geneticist falsified the data to satisfy CFA breeders” and ”All cats are the same”, while people will continue to buy Persians, Coons and so on because of their label and the others who feel ”cat welfare” heroes will help to maintain superiority of cat fancy cats by making all random bred cats as useless ”abandoned pets” (most are not) that deserve to go extinct and like in America, it works as an excuse for most of shelters to kill them because there is ”overpopulation”. Cat fancy in all cases remain untouchable: will continue with their breeding practices promoting THEİR cats and making all others DOWN.

        Even if we don’t care about the breeds, still that scientist is a lair and unethical (lie in science is a bad thing) because she wants to please cat breeders that they could continue to brainwash people that only their cats are good and others are worthless. It’s actually good to show that even that imaginary breed is not from Turkish cats and they have no right to say ”it is pure. we have pedigrees. your cats are ”moggies” (you can be sure even they don’t say this openly, they all think that way).

        This is why we have to show that random bred cats varieties like Angora and others are good or even better than those made by humans and that we don’t need any breeds, we don’t need cat fancy because a CAT is already perfected by nature.

        I hope you can understand what we mean.

        Kind Regards

  6. Harvey Harrison

    I find it extremely disgusting that a scientist who enjoys a world-wide reputation for integrity and truth and whom people trust implicitly, betrays that trust by producing distorted and erroneous work in order to authenticate the cat fancy’s untruthful claims in regard to their cats.
    I wonder how she could possibly think she would would get away with it when she also publishes phylogenetic trees and other information that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that her own conclusions are false and only repeat cat fancy claims. It is almost like she does not understand her own work or the meaning of the raw genetic data. There is something very wrong there. It’s childishly simple. If samples from American cat fancy Angoras do not tally with bona fide samples from the Ankara Zoo and Turkey, the cat fancy Angoras are fakes.

    1. Are you criticising Fiona Sunquist and if so how is she authenticating “the cat fancy’s untruthful claims in regard to their cats”?

      Fiona Sunquist relies on the taxonomy of Wozencroft. It might be 10 years old but the domestic cat is still one species of cat today and has always been.

      Her book is probably the best book on the wild cat species on the planet.

  7. Harvey Harrison

    “What I mean by “human creation” is the concept of cat breeds. The Turkish Angora is naturally occurring but it need not be called a “cat breed”. It could be called a Turkish random bred cat of a certain kind.”

    Reply ↓
    I understand that perfectly well. What I wanted to get across is that wide variations in the type and appearance of the sub-species F s Catus occur naturally, without compromising the immune system, health, etc. . See the photo of Mukker and Yolanda. They look like they come from different planets.
    Yes, the original Turkish Angora would be better referred-to as a naturally occurring cat because it is not bred in the way that cat fancy breeds are bred to suit human tastes often with disastrous results on their health and loss of characteristics that aid survivability.

    1. I see what you mean. Actually living things adapt to their environment. If a certain group of cats migrates to a new region and basically settles there for a long period of time then they become a product of that region – the cats have an appearance which reflects their region or origin. In many ways it seems like a play of words but I think you could call a cat a naturally ocurring breed based on it having had enough time to adapt to a geographical region. Since things are always moving and there is not a particular beginning or end I personally think the only fixed point therefore is what I just described. A passage of time and location specific evolution. That is the fixed point. Thats the only real fixed point of reference in any part of biological evolution in my opinion. It’s impossible to talk about the first ro beginning or number one type of origin. The cat fancy and their breeds are so far away from any of this its ridiculous. Actually the breeds they create are exactly the opposite of cats who have adapted organically to a particular environment. Moreover they have taken cats from an environment and adapted them artificially according to human aesthetic values and popularity therein. It is beyond being ironic – it’s a total loss of reality. They should immediately refrain from even using the term ‘natural breed’ – it is the exact opposite and this should be made clear. Just so that people know and understand before buying a purebred cat (‘purebred’ is another term which is totally inverted) that they are artificial and suffer the same problems brought about by anything artificial, living or not. Just as artificial food is unhealthy so are artificial cats.

      I find it very decieving to be told purebred cats are natural in terms of being the original cats of a region that have been preserved. IT’s total BS.

    2. Yes, I agree, Harvey, but are these variations more than just size, coat appearance and other elements which are not significant enough to say they are different? The domestic cat is the domestic cat anywhere in the world. You can’t really divide them up at a genetic level.

      1. Ankara Kedisi Derneği

        No, you can divide some of those ”breeds” to distinct populations at a genetic level, but still all of them can be traced back to random bred varieties. It’s all go far you want to go… Question would be what it tells about the cats. And… should we care about this or not?

  8. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    That’s very interesting Michael!
    Being into genealogy I love the way you’ve set those lineages out.

    1. It was a bit fiddly doing that! I hope it puts the cat breeds into context. Some people get confused between a cat breed and a cat species.

  9. Harvey Harrison

    The Turkish cats I refer to are not a product of human engineering and are true naturally occurring cats. They have adapted by themselves to the conditions in which they themselves have chosen to live but that adaptation seems to be ancient, as follows. Many of the male cats in Cyprus reach a weight of 7-9 kgs without being fat and their morphology indicates an adaptation to extreme cold weather which we don’t get in Cyprus. In other words they are either recent importations from the highlands of E Turkey or an isolate of ancient importations from the same region. Little or no adaptation to a different climate seems to have occurred in many individuals. My point is that although all domestic cats are classified as the same sub-species of possibly just 2 small wildcats, immense morphological differences occur between members of this same subsecies. I do not necessarily refer to cat fancy forced changes but those that are apparent in “natural breeds”. The naturally occurring cats of Asia are quite different from the cats referred to above. Genetic differences are apparent in DNA analysis.

    The attached picture shows a typical hunk of a Turkish LH’d cat and a smaller type more suitable for a semi-desert environment. The small tabby looks like she comes from point due south and the red white male from points east and north, but they are the same species. Neither are cat fancy bred.

    1. What I mean by “human creation” is the concept of cat breeds. The Turkish Angora is naturally occurring but it need not be called a “cat breed”. It could be called a Turkish random bred cat of a certain kind.

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