I think I’d better start this discussion by clarifying what a ‘cat species’ is. There are around 37 cat species. The number depends on how you classify them (taxonomy) and there is still some discussion on that topic. All bar one are wild cats. One of the species or subspecies is the domestic cat whose Latin name is Felis silvestris catus if they are classified as a subspecies and Felis catus if classified as a distinct species. Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their excellent book on the wild cats: Wild Cats of the World have a section on the domestic cat because at heart they are still a wild cat. Actually, a subspecies of the wildcat.
The problem with asking the question in the title is that a lot of people don’t know what a cat species is and I’m not being critical. I only know because I write articles for this website. I had to learn.
People tend to think that the cat breeds are “species” of cats but they are not. All cat breeds are domestic cats and a subspecies of the wildcat as mentioned above.
The normal answer to the question in the title would probably be the special domestic cat that the person is living with. To them, they are the most attractive species because they have a fantastic relationship. This would be a good answer. The answer would be that the domestic cat is the most attractive cat species and it could be true when you bring into the equation the cat breeds.
Of the cat breeds probably the Ragdoll and the Traditional Persian are the most attractive breeds. Perhaps they are the prettiest.
What makes a cat breed attractive? Probably a breed which is not that far from the appearance of a cute baby! Humans tend to equate cats with babies and therefore the attributes to make a baby attractive are also the attributes that make a domestic cat attractive. This normally means big round eyes and a cute face with an open expression.
Although there are other popular breeds such as the Maine Coon which has a very square muzzle. The Maine Coon cannot be described as cute. A better description would be impressive.
But I’m digressing because in talking about the cat breeds, I’m just talking about one subspecies. I must discuss the wild cat species if I’m going to answer the question properly.
It’s probably pretty certain that the wild cats that look more like domestic cats are the most attractive in general. This would be the sand cat example which is why a picture of the species heads this page. Pallas’s cat (manul) is also attractive because they have a huge amount of fur and cute faces. These are both small wild cat species. But don’t think they make good pets. You’d find it impossible to live with either of these cats. Their voices can be fierce and their behaviour is wild!
Of course, the tiger is very attractive but once again the better description would be impressive. People are fearful of the tiger and you can’t really admire the attractiveness of this fantastic wild cat species fully because of this background fear of the animal. So, yes, the tiger that is one of the most attractive cats species but I would not put it at the top of the list. Tiger cubs are more attractive than adults because they are not dangerous. It’s why there is tiger abuse. Commercial enterprises like to organise tiger cub selfie photo sessions. There is cat abuse behind these businesses.
Sometimes a part of the anatomy of a cat is so attractive to humans that they kill the cat to possess that part. I’m thinking of the ocelot which has a wonderful coat and which was mercilessly persecuted for their coat over many years and many beautiful coats were made from their pelts. So, the ocelot is an attractive small wild cat species which should be mentioned.
In this category, the clouded leopard must also be mentioned. This is a medium-sized wild cat species with a wonderful coat that gives the impression of clouds hence the name of the species.
A lot of people find the serval very attractive. I know that because there are quite a few pet servals in America. They don’t make good pets but people adopt them as pets because they are an exotic animal and attractive. They are very lanky with the longest legs to body size of all the wild cat species. They are therefore elegant. Elegance plays a role in attractiveness of the cat species.
Which brings me right back to the cat breeds and the modern Siamese which has been bred to extreme with long legs and a long face. The idea is to craft the cat through selective breeding to make it look more elegant. The cat breeders and the cat associations like their cats to be elegant which means slender – ‘Foreign’ in cat fancy language. This is probably a subconscious desire to make a cat breed look like a catwalk model wearing fashionable clothes.
Humans do tend to project their human preferences onto cats and those preferences relate to the appearance of attractive humans. We like to model cats in the image of humans when it comes to cat breeds.
And humans like to merge both domestic and wild cats because they find those attractive to. I’m thinking of the Bengal cat which is a wildcat hybrid. It’s a mixture, to varying degrees, depending on whether they are F1 or F5 Bengal cats, of the Asiatic leopard cat and a domestic tabby cat. These cats are exotic, particularly high filial individuals, and people like exotic animals. The word “exotic” equates to “attractiveness”. The two go together and bringing a bit of the wildcat into the domestic cat makes the animal more attractive to some people.
And that leads me to the next and last point. Attractiveness is subjective. Some people love the Bengal cat while others might prefer the traditional Persian. These two cat breeds are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. As it is subjective there can be no firm answers to the question.
And sometimes the cat fancy goes too far such as creating the contemporary Persian which has a very flat face to the point where the animal is unhealthy. It’s hard to understand how the cat associations can think that the contemporary, extreme-faced Persian can be attractive but they do. To me it just looks like a distortion of the genuine cat but that’s another story.
Humans tend to go too far in a kind of addictive process where they want to make an animal more attractive and they selectively breed that animal to extreme and go beyond the point where it was attractive. Of the two, the traditional Persian is far more attractive than the extreme version. I believe most people would agree with that. It’s just the cat fancy who don’t.
I have referred quite often to the cat breeds which means I have focused on the domestic cat, one subspecies of wild cat. I’ve done that because that’s what I believe people would want me to do but in truth it would be more accurate to focus on all the wild cat species.
The cat breeds are a tiny part of the family of wild cats and the 37 species. But of course, in sheer numbers the domestic cat massively outweighs all the wild cat species combined. It is thought that there are probably around 500 million domestic and feral cats in the world. There are around 3500 tigers in the world. There are about 20,000 lions left in the world. We don’t know how many individuals there are with respect to many of the small wild cat species but for each species the numbers probably vary between around 2,000 to 10,000 – very small numbers. You can see how small the numbers are compared to the world population of domestic and feral cats.
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