Categories: Cat Breeds

Rare Cat Breeds

Sokoke cat – rare breed. Photo: Helmi Flick.


This section goes over the issues in trying to find the rare breeds.

Fringe cat breeds
This section lists some very little known cat breeds, some current and some variants. Lesser known cat breeds or emerging cat breeds are bound to be the rarest,

Criteria for selecting rare cats from mainstream breeds
I have devised a new, common sense criteria based on information freely available.

List of rare cat breeds
This is a list of the more established domestic cat breeds with the rare ones picked out.

This section sets out some conclusions and thoughts on the results.

List of sources for this article

This page contains guidelines on rarity, popularity and numbers of breeders.

The world’s rarest cat wild or domestic is probably the Borneo Bay Cat


Date of post: early 2008. Remember things are always changing but this page remains accurate 4 years later in 2013. The criteria for deciding which are the rare cat breeds is easy, on the face of it. They will be the cat breeds with the least number of cats. However, it is not as easy as that but it is possible to discover the rare cat breeds with a satisfactory level of usefulness using common sense methods.

At one time there was very little about rare cat breeds on the ‘net despite the fact that if something can be done it is done a lot on the internet. That was the case at 2008! Things have changed in 2013, probably because people followed the ideas presented on this page. There are now many more pages on the subject.

There needs to be an approach that has a degree of science in it. The first hurdle is to decide what a cat breed is. For the purpose of this exercise I am confining myself to domestic cat breeds. A cat breed is obviously a part of the classification of domestic cats. The point is, upon whom do we rely to make the classification? The associations have different ideas (see below) and some breeds are rare and have been classified by people (or a person) other than recognized bodies.

Above Photo of Elf Cat: copyright Kristen Leedom – this cat is not recognized by the cat associations (at 2008) and has only recently been created. This cat is bound to be rare therefore

Some cat breeds have developed naturally, been “discovered” ( I really am not sure about this word) and then refined by humankind in the cat fancy. Others are simply created by the cat fancy. There are bound to be a number of “types of cat” that have very similar traits due to being isolated geographically (and are therefore arguably a cat breed) that have developed in areas of the world where this is no cat fancy. They are unrecognized. These are probably the rare breeds but there are no photographs and you can’t get to keep and care for these cats.

Then there is a mixed bag of extinct, or variant breeds, which are (or were) naturally rare. There are a number of cat breeds on the fringes in the West (US, UK and EEC) that are worth mentioning, however.

The cat associations (registries) tell us what they think the current cat breeds should be. The water is muddied by the fact that the approach to what is and what isn’t a cat breed differs from association to association.

In addition the biggest cat registry in the world, the Cat Fanciers Association, don’t agree to register one of the most popular cat breeds, the Bengal. There are other complications such as different standards by different associations. This muddies the water further.

We can’t rely exclusively on the cat associations (or at all) to find out which are the rare cat breeds.

Singapura photo by Helmi Flick. Smallest cat breed. A rare breed.

Where does this leave us in deciding the rare cat breeds? I have decided to make two lists. The first contains a selection of the cat breeds that are rare but which are really on the fringes.

Why a selection? Because the list it too long and frankly rather pointless. Some of these breeds are due to breeders who seem to be seeking out the last remains of hybridization by mating cats breeds that haven’t been crossed before (I think we’ve reached saturation almost). You won’t get to see a photograph of one nor keep one unless you are lucky. Some breeds that I have not included are technically different breeds but only on account of a variation on an existing breed.

Here are some rare cat breeds – the photos are copyrighted to Helmi Flick.

Here is the list (updated and checked on 27th July 2011):-

Selection of breeds on the fringes (there are lots more). See a list of fringe domestic cat breeds, with links to more on the breed. I have listed the more prominent ones below:

Abyssinian Bobtail (feral cat)
Aegean Cat (native to Greece – early development)
Albino Siamese (self explanatory)
Alpine Lynx (hybrid wildcat/domestic)
American Keuda (Egyptian Mau lookalike)
American Lynx (hybrid wildcat (Bobcat)/domestic)
American Miniature
Australian Mist (this cat is more mainstream I believe).
Australian Tiffanie (more mainstream than fringe)
Bahraini Dilmun
Bohemian Rex
Black Bengal
Britanica (long haired Brit. Shorthair)
Brooklyn Rex (NY curly haired cat)
Canella (Brit. SH x Persian)
Caracat (wildcat – caracal/domestic – Aby hybrid
Cashmere (longer haired Bengal)
Celtic SH
Cheetoh (Bengal x Ocicat)
Cheub (Selkirk Rex with Persian faces)
Chinese White (Angora like cat)
Cyprus Cat
Desert Lynx (Manx x Bobcat)
Dragon Li
European Shorthair
Euro Chausie (Wild/domestic hybrid – European wildcat x Chausie)
German Rex (more mainstream and listed below too)
Highlander (more mainstream)
Honeybear (related to IRCA Ragdolls)
Jambi & Habari
Jungala (NZ Ocicat)
Khao Manee
Kucing Malaysia (like Tonkinese)
Mandalay (NZ Aby/Burmese cross)
Marbled Mist (Aussie Mist marbled coat)
Mekong Bobtail
Mokave Jag Cat (see below)

Nile Valley Egyptian Cat

Poodle Cat
Russian Black (black Russian Blue)
Russian White
Sterling (Chinchilla longhair)
Templecat (Birman shorthaired)
Tenessee Rex
Twisty Cat (mutation)
Ural Rex
Van Kedi (A Turkish “Van” cat)

{go to top of page}

Here are some more relatively rare cat breeds – the photos are by Helmi Flick and copyrighted:

The second is a list of the cat breeds that are the rarest of those breeds that are either recognized by the associations or are pending acceptance (this is not a totally comprehensive list but a very good one nonetheless). This is the sort of list that I think people are searching for as these cats can be adopted as they are available. The question is, what criteria should be used to decide the rare cat breeds in this group? I’ve come up with a unusual answer and used a combination of commonsense tests to decide. The method is very much less academic than might be expected but I believe sound. Anyone of these criteria would be inaccurate on their own but together a reliable picture of rarity is built up. These are the criteria/tests:

  1. Any information available on the Internet is used. This is usually incomplete information, hence the need for further criteria and tests. In other words does the Internet give us any clues as to the rare cat breeds?
  2. The lack of popularity of a cat breed is a reflection of its rarity. A very rare breed cannot be popular because of its rarity and an unpopular breed will be rare because breeders have no motivation to breed the cat. I have used this website’s current popularity poll as a reasonable guide.
  3. YouTube is a great unused resource in certain respects. There are many millions of videos of cats. They accurately reflect what is happening “on the ground”. I have used the YouTube search facility to discover how many videos there are of each breed of cat. The rare cat breeds will be reflected in the lower number of videos. {Note: this has proved to be very reliable and an accurate reflection}
  4. In essence, cat breeding is in a commercial market. It follows the market. Where there is demand
    for a cat there will be more cat breeders. A search on the Internet for cat breeders of a certain breed is a guide as to whether the cat is one of the rare cat breeds. The smaller the number of breeders the rarer the cat. Breeders use the Internet a lot so this is a sound method. They use the Internet a lot as cat breeding is now an international market, at least at the top end. I chose to do this research by selecting a directory site with a lot of hits, The Cat Channel. A lot of breeders are listed on this site so the sample was large.
  5. I know a bit about pictures of cats! Where there are many pictures there are many cats and vice-versa. I  have used this indicator as another tool to find the rare cat breeds. I have qualified this search. When there are a number of pictures that are the same but on different sites a reduction in the number is made. I have ranked the outcome of using these criteria with a bar chart. The longer the bar the more breeders, photographs or popular the cat.

Note: I found that the criteria I used matched nicely, one following the other and reinforcing the other with little surprises, thus reassuring me that the methodology is sound.

Finally, it is hardly worth saying but we have to decide in which country we are researching the rare cat breeds. I have chosen the obvious answer (no choice really) which is the USA as it is the biggest domestic pet market. If a cat is rare there it is more likely to be rare elsewhere. Although some breeds such as Russian cats (Peterbald, Kurilian Bobtail and Donsky) will be less rare in Russia and more rare in the US, of course.

So, to work. Set out below is a table of all the mainstream cat breeds in alphabetical order with their rarity ranked and based on the above criteria.

Rare cat breeds chart

Date for compilation of figures: March 2008 but the fringe breeds referred to above were updated 27th July 2010.

Rarity rank
0.25 (one quarter of one point)= most common
10= rarest
The rare cats are highlighted and linked to more information and pictures.

Cat breedRarity rankPopularity
As per this website’s
poll – as at 2008
Number of
Number of
Number of
breeders – limited to the CatChannel Website
Ashera (not a breed)617
American Bobtail516
American Curl561
American Ringtail91
American Shorthair1211
American Wirehair80
Brit. Shorthair1617
Calif. Spangled90
Cornish Rex4266
Devon Rex4290
Don Sphynx620
Egyptian Mau376
Elf cat10N/A2N/A10
Exotic Shorthair2165
German Rex10N/A300
Havana Brown79
Jap. Bobtail627
Kurilian Bobtail912
Maine Coon0.51,180
Norwegian Forest1275
Ojos Azules101
Oriental Shorthair578
Russian Blue4569
Scottish Fold3376
Selkirk Rex335
Turkish Angora676
Turkish Van683

1. Where the name of the cat breed (or cat group) is a term that could refer to something other than a cat breed to a degree where the search
for the number of YouTube videos becomes misleading this is stated as N/A (not applicable).

2. The Elf cat a brand new breed was listed on this site too late to be included in the popularity poll.

3. These breeds are not included in this site’s popularity poll. No reason other than timing and there are a number of breeds that are on the fringes.


I think it is impossible to work out what the rarest cat breed is. There are many very little known breeds where there are only a few cats in existence. One brand new breed (at Oct 2010) is the Nile Valley Egyptian. There cannot be more than a handful of these cats at this early stage. We can, though, get a good feel or idea about the rare cat breeds.

One thing that immediately comes out of this survey is that the super-exotic cats that should be rare cat breeds are becoming less rare; I am thinking of cats such as the Savannah (wild/domestic hybrid) and Toyger (domestic hybrid and careful breeding) for example. This is because of their continued and increasing popularity.

The flip side is that the dwarf cats are the rare cat breeds because of the controversy surrounding them. I expect this group of cat breeds to remain rare for that reason. The exception is the founding dwarf cat, the Munchkin, which has become more widely accepted in part because this is the most attractive and established of the dwarf cats.

As I have stated there is a remarkable correlation between the criteria utilized. For example, the availability of photographs of the cat breeds and the cat breeders. This is to be expected of course. One set of data supports the other.

A natural consequence of looking for the rare cat breeds is to find the most common. In this exercise it became apparent that the Bengal cat is the most common cat together with the Maine CoonPersian and Siamese. These also the most popular – one supports the other.

The Bengal was an exotic cat, but no longer due to the breed’s popularity. It has joined the ranks it seems to me.

The cats analysed as rare cat breeds from the mainstream cats, under this scheme were:-

California Spangled
Elf Cat
German Rex
Kurilian Bobtail
Ojos Azules

The breeds highlighted are the rarest.

The contents of this page other than the photographs are copyright Michael at


  • Messybeast (for the fringe breeds)
  • Pictures of (for popularity of breeds)
  • YouTube search (number of videos of breeds)
  • Google web search (rare breed search)
  • Google image search
  • The Cat Channel (for the frequency of breeders)
Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

What kind of cat is the cat from Alice in Wonderland?

Although we are not sure, and there has been lots of speculation, it is possible that the cat from Alice…

1 hour ago

Are there jaguarundi in Arizona?

If you are lucky enough to see a jaguarundi in Arizona it will be an escaped captive animal. It will…

2 hours ago

Why do domestic cat eyes reflect light?

The domestic cat has a tendency to be more active at night although they are not wholly nocturnal. They are…

14 hours ago

How do cats spread ringworm?

Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is spread by cats in direct contact with each other or with materials that have been contaminated with…

16 hours ago

Adopt a cat from a reputable source

Dr Bruce Fogle in his book Complete Cat Care provides us with some nice tips about the kind of place…

20 hours ago

Some staff at Cats Protection resigning over the organisation’s kill policy

CAT NEWS & VIEWS: There appears to be dissent amongst some of the volunteers at the well-known cat rescue organisation,…

1 day ago