Cat Breed Versus Cat Species
All cat breeds, of which there are over 100, are balled together with random bred cats (moggies), feral cats and strays in any country, and classified as a species of cat called “the domestic cat”, which is a domesticated African wildcat². The domestic cat is on the same level, in terms of classification, as the 5 subspecies of wildcat.
The term “cat breed” is not a scientific classification, whereas “domestic cat” – scientific name: felis silvestris catus is classified by scientists. Some people write that “felis catus”. The wildcat has a similar scientific name: felis silvestris lybica (African wildcat for example).
Cats breeds in the West are a human creation. Some of them are literally created by mating a cat of one breed with a cat of another breed. The real Turkish Angora in Turkey is not registered or recognised by a cat association but is a cat breed nonetheless. The same goes for the Siamese in Thailand and other so called “natural cat breeds”.
Some people would prefer to call the natural cat breeds “types of domestic cat with a certain appearance”. However, the real Turkish Angora in Turkey, the real Siamese cat in Thailand, the real Japanese Bobtail in Japan, the real Norwegian Forest Cat etc. are all seen as “domestic cats” by scientists when classifying cat species.
You can see in the chart that a cat species (of which there are 36) is a higher rank that the domestic cat, which is in effect a subspecies of the wildcat.
So, a person can’t say “wild cat breed”. That is wrong. And they can’t say “a species of domestic cat” because there is only one species of domestic cat, which is in fact a subspecies.
The term “wildcat” and “wild cat” are often mixed up. It is confusing and makes it harder to understand. “Wild cat” refers to any one of the 36 species of wild cat – the wild cat species. ‘Wildcat” is one of the 36 species and is a small wild cat species that looks very similar to the tabby domestic cat.
It is ironic that the wildcat has frequently mated with the domestic cat in the wild to create hybrid cats. These then mate again with domestic cats. It is quite possible that there are very few true wildcats left in the world.
Also the domestic cat is very close to the wildcat. A tabby feral cat is similar to wildcat hybrids in behavior and appearance. The boundaries are blurred.
The situation with respect to cat breeds has been confused by the cat fancy in the West. It would have been better if there were no formally designated cat breeds bred by breeders. Before about the 1850s there were no formal cat breeds, as there are now. There were just “domestic cats” and they varied somewhat in appearance from region to region due to evolution over 10,000 years.
The state of affairs before the middle of the 19th century reflects the classification of the species, namely, as mentioned, that all domestic cats are the same in the eyes of the taxonomists, the people involved with classifying all living species. The science of classification is called “taxonomy”.
Note: (2) the “African wildcat” that was domesticated is better described as the Near Eastern wildcat or North African wildcat because it has been decided that there are two types of African wildcat.