Black and White Cat of no breed — photo copyright Helmi Flick
People quite often ask, “what breed is my cat”. It might sound strange but it is possible to answer the question now, with a reasonable degree of success, without seeing the cat or reading a description of the cat in question. I say this for the following reasons (of course, please leave a comment if you disagree and tell me why).
Almost all cats in the world are mixed breed cats. Although, even that is a misdescription as the parents of most cats are not part of a recognizable breed so these often beautiful cats should be called random bred cats or freeborn cats.
This means almost all cats are not a breed of cat. There are very few cats that are part of a cat breed in the East (Asia etc.). Nearly all cat breeds are in the West because they are a Western invention. It all started in England, UK, in the late 1800s. Cat breeds are a human invention for the amusement of humans. Nature did not create cat breeds. Nature created cat species. All 400 million domestic, feral, stray cats on the planet are a single subspecies of the North African wildcat. From a scientific point of view all cats, breed or otherwise are the same subspecies.
In the West, for a cat to be part of a breed, it needs to be purebred and registered with a cat association. I am not sure of the percentages of purebred cats and it doesn’t matter really. There are many more purebred cats in the United States than in any other country but even in the USA the percentage is relatively low, perhaps 10-15% of the total.
A definition of purebred cat might be:
A cat whose ancestry is formally registered is called a purebred cat, or a pedigreed cat. A purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed. A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded, but may have ancestors of different breeds.
That statistic alone would support the answer, “your cat is a moggie or not a cat breed”, to the question, “what breed is my cat”. But one can be more certain than that.
Almost all people who keep and live with purebred cats (cats that are part of a specific and identifiable cat breed) do so deliberately. They would have selected the cat either from a breeder or even a rescue center as purebred cat rescue does, surprisingly, exist.
These people will, therefore, know the answer to the question, “what breed is my cat?” That leaves a very small number of people who may have rescued a purebred cat or a cat that looks purebred and there is no documentation to confirm the status of the cat as purebred.
These people might want to find out the type of cat breed, which, without documentation as to the purebred nature of the cat (parentage of all the same breed) and pedigree (documentation as to the parents for a period of three years) will have to guess by a visual check against, for example, the photographs on this website.
Even then, there is no evidence that the cat in question will be a specific cat breed. These cats would, therefore, have to be called moggies or domestic cats. Most often they will be shorthaired cats and therefore a DSH (domestic shorthair), a cat of no defined breed.
Of the remainder, the vast majority, the cats will also be moggies, DSH cats with the occasional longhair or more often a semi-longhair.
So, the answer to the question is, “your cat is a domestic cat of no fixed breed and a random breed cat or moggie”. That in no way diminishes the status of the cat or it shouldn’t. All cats are born and remain equal in the eyes of all people who keep cats. It that is not the case for a certain person, I would personally doubt the person’s suitability to keep cats.
Random bred cats can be as glamorous as any purebred pedigree cat. They are shown at cat shows as Household Pets. They photograph beautifully, see Helmi’s photographs on this page. They all have middle range cat body types and cat head shapes. And the fact that they are more numerous than purebred cats indicates their popularity.
Also the random nature of breeding ensures a healthier genetic makeup, which usually results in a healthier cat with a longer life.
Update 28th July 2012. Leslie Lyons, of Lyons’ Feline Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, has devised a DNA test that will cost you a mere £76 – GBP (but I think you will find that the test best applies to USA cats). The test will check if your cat has purebred blood! It will probably work best for cats that are moggies but are one removed from purebred meaning that one of his parents was a purebred cat. I guess the test will also tell you what breed your cat is related to. Of course in a strict cat fancy sense that does not make your cat part of a cat breed but it will be nice to know and it provides a better answer than mine above! The test would seem to only apply to 29 core cat breeds. There are lots more let me add. So this test is not that comprehensive. Still nice all the same. You provide a cheek swab sent by mail. There is a 15 day turn around time for the result. I don’t have an address unfortunately so I will leave you to Google the laboratory. Good luck…Michael