Cat Appearance

Bengal cat appearance

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Bengal cat – photo copyright Helmi Flick

The appearance of cats is important to people in the cat fancy – the cat breeders and associations. It could be argued that there might have been a slight over emphasis on appearance possibly at the expense of cat health and temperament sometimes. I am sorry if that is a bit contentious but I believe health should come first.

In general, it would seem that people outside the cat fancy are less concerned with cat appearance. Certainly, according to my research, very few people search Google for “cat appearance”. That said, people do want to see pictures of cats and cat breeds, which is one of the purposes of this website.

Within the cat fancy selective breeding and the adoption and development of naturally occurring genetic mutations have been employed to increase the spectrum of cat appearances. These are all human interventions as opposed to the development of the different species or subspecies of wildcat that took place through natural selection – evolution.

All the breeds of domestic cat are one species, Felis catus. The history of selective breeding follows the history of the cat fancy but no doubt took place earlier than the late 1800s when the cat fancy started. Even before the cat fancy named and developed certain cat breeds, they existed in all but name. A typical example is the Turkish Angora. The Turkish Van is said to originate from 1600 BC.

The tabby cat coat is the wild cat coloring and pattern that dominates cat appearance.

This page sets out links to the pages on which I discuss matters relating to cat appearance be they purebred cats, moggie cats or feral cats. It is a pulling together of the strands of posts on this important topic.

Here are the links on cat appearance:-

The cats alphabeticallythese are also in the navbar

General Links

Slide shows and videos on cat appearance are on these specific pages with reference to breed standard – evolving and expanding.

Special sections on the appearance of individual cat breeds

Wildcats – lots more about wild cats here: Wild Cat Species

As there are many pages dedicated to the cat breeds these pages must be the starting point if cat appearance is what is being searched for. This page contains references to specific articles on the topic of cat appearance, which have been made either at a general level or in relation to a cat breed or wildcat species.

For people involved in the cat fancy it is the breed standards that guide them on the appearance of a cat. These are carefully produced documents that usually describe in words without the assistance of images how the cat breed in question should look. They are open to interpretation by the show hall judges. This has caused a gradual drift in the appearance of some cat breeds, an evolution if you like of the cat; the judges, breeders and cat associations working together unwittingly or knowingly to change the cat’s appearance.

Plush toy or real cat?
Plush toy or real cat? Photo: Instagram page of munchkin_minnie.

UPDATE July 20, 2021: I feel I should briefly update this page as it was written perhaps around 12 years ago. Things always change and I would argue that the appearance of domestic cats is more important in 2021 than it was a dozen years ago. Appearance is everything with domestic cats. People who adopt cats predominantly focus on the appearance of the cat. That’s why kittens always get adopted first at rescue centres and black cats or elderly cats last.

That is why the cat breeders create breed standards which focus on appearance with the intention of pleasing customers and winning cat shows. Cat breeders think that they can refine nature by taking the natural feline anatomy and improving on it through selective breeding. Of course, aesthetics is subjective which is why they have ended up with a Persian cat which has a flat face stuck onto a round head. These are brachycephalic head shapes. They are peculiar and they are distortions of anatomy.

The cat breeders think that the face should look like a pansy meaning a flower which I find very peculiar. In my honest opinion they have totally botched the breeding of the Persian cat because not only have they made it less attractive, they have also made it far less healthy. This cat breed is an example of how humankind can go terribly wrong in trying to play God and in believing that they can really genuinely improve on nature. It’s an indication of human arrogance.

Bug-eyed Minskin made in Russia
Bug-eyed Minskin made in Russia. Photo and breeder: minskin_russia_pride (Instagram).

Appearance trumps health every time even amongst cat breeders because the Cat Fanciers’ Association rules state that they should not breed cats which are inherently unhealthy and here they are creating the Persian cat which is inherently unhealthy. But the fact of the matter is that customers don’t mind. They see a cat which they like in terms of appearance and adopt it. They pushed to one side the negatives on health.

The same, incidentally has recently occurred in the dog world with a surge in adoptions of the French Bulldog which has a similarly flat face with similar health issues. This increase in adoptions was due to people being at home and under self-isolation rules during lockdown. They became bored and thought it was a good opportunity to adopt that dog that they have always wanted to adopt but without properly researching the matter.

Flat-faced Persian versus standard cat muzzle
Flat-faced Persian versus standard cat muzzle

The thing about cat breeds and appearance is that each breed has to be distinguishable from the other and therefore there is an obvious limit to how many cat breeds that we can have. Domestic cats all look very similar, much more so than domestic dogs because they been domesticated for about one third of the time of dogs. Further, dogs were and still are often working dogs and so they were selectively bred to do certain tasks which resulted in this huge difference in size and shape amongst the domestic dog population while domestic cats all look quite similar because their primary purpose in life is to entertain people and keep them company.

Sometimes the cat associations reject new cat breeds because of ethical reasons, which I like. For example, the Cat Fanciers’ Association rejected the dwarf cats because they are predisposed to carrying to particular health problems. And in any case, you don’t really want to make a cat breed out of a substantial anatomical defect. Notwithstanding that statement, the cat fancy has often done just that. For example, the Scottish Fold is a difficult cat to breed because if you get it wrong you create cats who are seriously ill and unviable. This is because the genetic mutation which causes the folded ears affects the cartilage in other parts of the body. The Manx cat has a similar issue.

When it comes to appearance, selective breeding can also cause health problems so there is a balancing act between health and appearance.

What Other Visitors Have Said

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