Identifying cat breeds is something that a significant number of people want to do. This, though, is a very tricky subject, probably more tricky and involved that people realize.
Firstly, why do people want to identify a cat breed? It suggests that people have a cat that they acquired/adopted other than from a breeder or a rescue facility or through a procedure that only dealt with purebred cats.
They perhaps feel that their cat is a cat of a certain breed. They may think that all cats are of a certain breed.
A cat that is part of a cat breed must be a purebred cat. The truth is that globally the percentage of purebred cats to random bred is minuscule.
Lets say there are about 500,000,000 domestic cats in the world. I will make a wild guess and say that there are about 100,000 purebred cats. I will no doubt be rapidly corrected. If I am correct that means that 0.02% of all domestic cats are purebred cats.
The point I am laboriously making is that if a person is seeking to identify the breed of their cat it is almost certain that the cat will not be part of a cat breed but a random bred cat. See: What Breed Is My Cat?
Sometimes cats do look very much like purebred cats. This is because the cat looks very refined. The refinement being the result of selective breeding. It shows. I always think that a classic example is the RagaMuffin in this story: The RagaMuffin Cat and the Princess. She was a rescue cat and a cat that was abused a little as I remember. But she shone through as a purebred cat.
If this is the case it seems to me that the first stage in identifying the cat breed is through appearance. This site has lots of high quality photographs to assist in that process – please start here. However appearance alone is not enough.
The trouble is that the cat breeds are not always that different in appearance. They almost overlap sometimes. This is because there are too many breeds! Sorry breeders. Think Thai cats and Siamese cats (see below) and also Siberian and Norwegian Forest cats.
Identifying Cat Breeds – Cat you tell the appearance difference in the cats above?
Also appearance alone can be deceiving. Some individual cats might be purebred but not typical of the breed concerned. In other words from a breeder’s perspective they might be a cat that was poorly bred (not “typey”).
There is currently (March 2011) no complete DNA test that allows a person to identify cat breeds. That leaves the only true evidence from which a cat breed can be identified: documentary evidence. What I mean is a paper trail of parentage (pedigree) or a recognition by a cat association or cat registry that an individual cat is registered with that association/registry.
If you have a cat that has no history it seems to me to be all but impossible to find out if the cat is registered with an association. Someone can correct me on that too! I hope this helps.