If you’ve arrived at this page and want to see cat breeds listed alphabetically please start here. This page classifies breeds and discusses them generally.
The different cat breeds are listed here as well but as part of a discussion on the subject.
All domestic cats originate from the wild cat. Some say the Eastern European and some the African. At the moment of origin there was only one breed and it was not purebred in the sense that we use the term.
July 2012 – the poll is now closed. Here are the full unedited results. Thank you very much for voting. Great work.
Before there were cat associations there were some de facto “cat breeds” that had evolved. These were the natural cat breeds such as the Eygptian Mau and Abyssinian. But they were not true cat breeds because a cat breed can only be that if it is recognised by a cat association and the cats that make up the breed are purebred.
Since the beginning of the cat fancy in the late 1800s in England, the breeds have since been delineated, modified and expanded under the umbrella of the cat fancy and the various cat registries. Despite the progress of the cat fancy, people in general, I feel, tend to prefer the established breeds, a more normal and natural appearance as the spreadsheet above demonstrates. The public generally dislike excessive “refinement” carried out by some breeders.
A typical example of all three processes taking place is the Siamese cat. The once exotic but semi-cobby Siamese has gone through a metamorphosis through selective breeding to become the super-slender (oriental) Modern Siamese.
One breed, now called the traditional Siamese, has become 2 (an expansion). There is a clear delineation between the two Siamese breeds. In fact there are three types currently, the middle bracket being filled by the Classic Siamese or Thai. It is confusing, isn’t it? Expanding breeds without careful control leads to confusion. This is mainly because to create a well delineated cat breed (a cat breed that can be positively distinguished from all others) requires selective inbreeding. That can lead to health issues.
Designer cats are a fairly new concept although the cat fancy has been heading this way for some time. There is no definition of designer cats. A common sense definition will do.
A designer cat is one which has been breed (designed) for a particular market (a certain type of human keeper).
Two cats come to mind as being bred as designer cats as opposed to becoming one. These are the Allerca (not a registered breed) and the Toyger. These are also exotic cats. In fact more precisely the Ashera GD is the true designer cat, while the Allerca cat is a Moggie. Both are bred by what people refer to as Allerca Cats. It might be better to call them cats from LifeStyle Pets.
There is a little bit of controversy surrounding designer cats. In general some people might not like the idea of breeding cats in what they might consider to be an unnatural way and for a commercial market.
Specifically, the Savannah cat breeders don’t like LifeStyle Pets because they say the Ashera is a very expensive Savannah marketed as something else. This has been confirmed as being true.
Exotic cats are sometimes wild cat/domestic cat hybrids such as the Savannah, Bengal and Chausie. The desire for wild cats types has gone one step further in the taming of wild cats such as the Serval and Safari as mentioned below. It might be fair to say that the Bengal cat has now almost dropped out of the exotic class as it is so popular, ubiquitous and is comparatively benign compared to the Savannah as an example.
The move towards wild cat/domestic cat hybrid breeding and taming wild cats has been questioned by some, including legislators. Perhaps as the wild areas of the earth become more precious and scarce due to humankind’s activities, we seek a substitute such as a tame wild cat or something almost as good, a hybrid.
Exotic cats are on the threshold of and overlap with being designer cats. The other exotic cats are the Chausie, Safari, Sokoke, Toyger, Serengeti and Ocicat. The Exotic Shorthair is not, in the sense of being a wild cat substitute, an exotic cat. It is very definitely a domestic cat and looks like it. This illustrates the difficulties with the naming of different cat breeds throughout the world.
On this page, I talk more about exotic cat breeds (opens in a new window).
These cat breeds reflect the changing pattern of cat “ownership” from acquiring a pet cat to buying a large and rather extravagant status symbol. Such cats are rare and come with a heavy burden of obligation as a set off against the pleasure for some of living with a true wild cat. This breed is the Serval. The F1 (first generation) offspring of this cat (the F1 Savannah) and the other wild cat hybrids are close in terms of character and size, as expected, to their wild parents. Other wildcats can be tamed fairly easily apparently. One such small/medium cat is the Clouded Leopard, a stunning looking wildcat with an extraordinarily long tail. See Clouded Leopard photos (new window). Some people also like to own an Ocelot (see Ocelot kitten).
Important: Owning tamed wildcats requires above all else a knowledge of the laws governing ownership and also the needs of the animal and their habits. See for example UK laws. And here is some hard information, including legal stuff, on owning a Serval in the USA: Serval Cats
Another group of cats that can be classified by way of how they originated are the hybrids.
These, of course, are man made, although if cats were left to their own devices it is not inconceivable that the hybrids could have occurred naturally in due course. A hybrid is the result of the mating of two cats of different breeds.
Wildcats sometimes mate with domestic cats (wildcat hybrids). This for example has watered down what was the pure genetic makeup of the Scottish Wildcat. There are some known cases of the American Bobcat mating with the domestic cat to produce American Bobcat hybrids
People have cross bred the large wildcats to create the Liger for example (tiger x lion). Ligers can be enormous and the largest individual cat is a Liger. I am against this practice.
Please note though that as the first generation hybrid (an F1) mates and so on through successive generations it could be argued that the cat can no longer be classified a hybrid but a breed that has been developed by people (a developed breed).
A large number of the cat breeds have become labeled breeds because their appearance is different due to a genetic mutation. Of course, throughout evolution genes have mutated to form the animals we now know – that is the nature of evolution. Yet in the case of a number of the registered breeds the mutation, it could be argued, is strictly speaking a defect that results in an interesting looking cat.
There are several examples of this occurring. Mutations affecting the coat resulted in the Rex cats, namely the LaPerm, Devon, Cornish and Selkirk Rexs. The Rex coat is crinkly and wavy. The Devon and particularly the Selkirk Rexs are also quite fragile looking cats, to my eye.This fragile appearance extends to the Oriental Shorthair. The rare American cat breed with a different coat is the American Wirehair. A coat that is more permed than crinkly is on the LaPerm.
Where the mutation has gone a step further from modifying the coat to removing it we can find the hairless or near hairless cats. There include the Sphynx, Don Sphynx (Russian variety), Bambino (dwarf variety) and Peterbald (noticeably a little more hair and associated with the Don Sphynx in terms of origin).
Other forms of genetic mutation resulting in a very noticeable change in appearance are the Manx type cats, with no tail or a shortened tail. There are a number of these cats all with their particular characteristics and mutations. They are the Manx (no tail), Cymric (long haired Manx mutation), American Bobtail, Pixie-Bob, Kurilian Bobtail, Japanese Bobtail
The dwarf cats have a whole group of different cat breeds to themselves. This is because it is possible to make any cat breed a dwarf cat breed. All you have to do is out cross the breed in question with the Munchkin, the first and founding dwarf breed cat. Hence you get the Bambino Dwarf Cat, which is a cross between the hairless Sphynx and the Munchkin. Others are the Minskin (a Rex coated cat), Kinkalow (American Curl and Munchkin), Skookum (Laperm and Munchkin), Napoleon (Persian and Munchkin), Lambkin (Selkirk Rex and Muchkin). Two even rarer Dwarf Cats are the Knook and Dwelf. You can see an overview and links on the Dwarf Cats and Miniature Cats page.
Dwarf cats are standard cats with short legs.
The Dwarf Cat Association have, it could be said, re-branded itself the Designer Cat Association. That is fair enough but in my opinion dwarf cats are not designer cats. Designer cats are exotic domestic cats as described above.
Although the miniatures and teacups would obviously fall into the small cat category there are others. The Singapura comes to mind coming from Singapore where she was not that welcome apparently. Perhaps that it why she is so small and on the edge of being a miniature cat. She is small but not quite miniature but the smallest cat breed
My personal favorites are the natural breeds. These are cats that have evolved naturally meaning without mankind’s intervention. This state of affairs can only exist until the cat is noticed or more dramatically discovered. From that point on people will naturally try and improve the breed through selective breeding. This normally means enhancing or exaggerating the natural features of the cat.
Cats that could be classified as natural breeds are the Chartreux (the most natural), Maine Coon, Siberian, Kurilian Bobtail (this is also a breed brought about by genetic mutation), Japanese Bobtail, Abyssinian, Persian, Siamese, and British Shorthair (the ACFA call the British Shorthair a developed breed, however) .
It may be useful to classify cats by their size as well. Some cats are naturally big having been bred from mating wild cat and domestic cat. Wild cats such as the Serval (resulting in the Savannah) and Jungle Cat (resulting in the Chausie) are very large by domestic cat standards and medium small by wild cat standards. When crossed with domestic cats you get large first generation (F1) and F2 cats. See the Savannah as a classic example. The photos on this page illustrate the size well.
Click on the link to see a comparison of cat breed weights (and therefore sizes) and comparison between domestic and wild cat sizes: Largest Domestic Cat Breed.
There is probably no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic cat. Hypoallergenic does not mean that a cat is totally allergen free. Then the Allerca brand came on the scene. LifeStyle Pets guarantee allergy free or at least much reduced reactions in their three “breeds”, Allerca GD (a Moggie), Chakan GD (a Siamese type cat) and the Ashera GD (their exotic breed looking like the Savannah), a very large impressive and expensive cat). LifeStyle Pets don’t create different cat breeds, just different types of cat. Some people think that the Ashera GD is a Savannah. If the Ashera GD is hypoallergenic as stated then it is not a Savannah as the Savannah is not hypoallergenic. Update and correcton June 2010: The Savannah cat is hypoallergenic says Kathrin Stucki of A1 Savannahs. She does not promote this as it can’t be measured scientifically or is not presently measured scientifically. The Ashera GD is as a result confirmed as a Savannah cat.
Some cat breeds are thought or claimed to be more suited to people who are allergic to cats. Remember the allergy comes from cat dander. All cats groom hairless or not so there will always be the same problem. Siberian cats are claimed to be less of a problem as are the hairless cats (e.g. Sphynx). See Hypoallergenic cat breeds.
The IPCBA (International Progressive Cat Breeders Alliance) recognizes 73 different cat breeds. There are many more on this website incidentally. The CFA (cat Fanciers Association, the largest in the USA) recognizes 41 different cat breeds. TICA (The International Cat Association, the second largest in the USA) recognize 64 breeds but sub-divides breeds into short and long hair . The GCCF (Governing Council of Cat Fanciers, the largest UK registry) recognises 32 (on my count from the website) different cat breeds. The Fédération International Féline (FIFE) recognize 42 different cat breeds and sub-divide breed by hair length.
Perhaps it is no surprise the IPCBA have the largest number of different cat breeds as they are “progressive”. The smallest number of different cat breeds is found with the GCCF who I think are quite old fashioned in their outlook. Although I agree with caution in recognizing new breeds for the sake of controlling the commercialization of cat breeding and in turn protecting the welfare of both wild and domestic cats.
There are a greater number than 73 different cat breeds. Some breeds come and go. Some breeds struggle to get accepted. This can be because the breed is based on a wild cat (Bengal) or on a genetic mutation (Dwarf cats) as just two examples. There are a great deal of cat breeds that are yet to gain acceptance with the mainstream associations but are, for example, recognized by associations such as the Rare and Exotic Feline Registry. See some cat breeds on the fringe here: Domestic cat breeds.
As animal welfare gains momentum due to the pressure mankind places on other species on this planet the laws governing cat breeding may be amended in some countries but not others, creating more diversity in concepts and rules and possibly cat breeds.
There is a need it could be argued to unify the cat registries. This would help the cat fancy to pull in one direction and be stronger.
The number of different cat breeds is continually expanding due to commercial pressure. This will almost certainly be curbed. There are likely to be more regulations put in place controlling and restricting the keeping of tame wild animals including cats. This would have a spin off in respect of wild cat/domestic cat hybrids and their development.
The domestic cat has gone through phases of popularity and persecution. During the period of the early Egyptians she was worshiped but that does no mean the domestic cat was well treated, see Egyptian Cat art. In fact the Egyptian Mau, an ancient breed, is persecuted in Egypt but an exotic looking and quite rare cat in the West. Before that, when the wild cat domesticated herself her usefulness was welcomed by the hunters who had become farmers.
During the Middle Ages in Europe she was persecuted as a result of misguided religious Christian fervor.
And now we have the era of the cat shows, more different cat breeds and wild/domestic cat hybrids; even tame wild cats as domestic cats. This represents a return, almost, to the Egyptians attitude towards domestic cats. Despite the apparent popularity of the domestic cat there is still an almost hidden but widespread cruelty towards this animal. I am talking about feral cats, no kill cat shelters
Click on the link to see a time line of cat history.
People like black cats (see black Persian cat
Well, I’ve done a bit of work on this. Click on the link to see my views on what are the rare cat breeds.
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Photographs are copyright Kathrin Stucki. They are photos of (top) a Serial, the next two F2 Savannah. She runs A1 Savannas the founding Savannah Cattery. See more of her pictures here.
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