What Breed Is My Cat?
Explore this list of common cat breeds (with pictures) & their characteristics to see what kind of cat you have!
[Infographic at the bottom!]
Okay, so we know that you'd love your cat irrespective, but knowing her breed can be useful. If you have a purebred cat, for example, it can be helpful to know in case some conditions might be pertinent to the cat species.
Some pure breeds might be more prone to diseases later in life. Knowing that can help you to prepare and take preventative steps early on; after all, many symptoms of those diseases may just initially make you think that you just have a bored cat. It may just pay you to ask, “What kind of cat do I have?”
And, yes, your cat might very well be a purebred. You can’t always tell just by looking at the animal. So that rescue cat could well be one of the rare cat breeds. Realistically, though, this is not likely. Pure breeds are usually expensive to buy and so not quickly surrendered.
It is possible, however, that purebreds are rescued from unscrupulous breeders.
At this point, though, it’s more a matter of personal interest than anything else. Unless your furry friend has proper registration papers, you won’t be able to enter her into shows.
Types Of Cat Breeds & Common Characteristics
Most felines come under the denomination of domestic cats. These cats are divided into long-haired and short-haired. Technically a purebred is a cat that has ancestors of the same breed. Some interbreeding is allowed under strict conditions.
In this section, we’ll go through some of the common breeds that you will encounter. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of how much differentiation there is.
Don’t despise the domestic cat just because of its lack of pedigree. They come in a range of different sizes, coat patterns, and colors. You’ll find the typical “breeds” with coat patterns such as tortoiseshell, tuxedo, calico, and the plain old tabby cat.
For this article, we’ll divide the common cat breeds by their coat patterns. It wouldn’t pass muster with breeders, but it will work well enough for our purposes.
The American Short Hair
Initially known as the domestic short-hair, this breed was later distinguished as being purebred. Today, if you want to call your feline by this name, you need to know their breeding history.
Calicos are basically tortoiseshell cats that have white in their coloring. They might have a mix of orange, black and white, or a flaxen color. You’re unlikely to find two calicos with the same patterns or patches on their coats.
Interestingly enough, most calicos that you’ll come across are female. Males are rare and tend to be sterile.
If you want a calico with a pedigree, look for a:
- Maine Coon
- Scottish Fold
- And a few others
Tabbies typically have whorls, dots, stripes or dashes on their coats. They also come in a range of colors, and the patterns are always identifiable. Most tabbies have an M shape on the forehead. Otherwise, cats with the distinctive “tiger” striping fall into this category. My husband and I have had a few tabbies (Simba and Sir Peanut Butter Jelly Time), and what we’ve noticed is that they were always so active! Simba—who was actually our first kitty—and Sir PBJ Time inspired us to thoroughly research, survey and come up with the best cat toys available to keep any kitty happy!
These are similar to calicos but come in two main color families. They’ll usually be black and red, or some variation on these shades. The lighter red shades go all the way to ginger and cream. The black coloring can also include blue, gray, or brown.
These cats have one of two coat patterns. Brindled or patched. To confuse you a bit more, your tortoiseshell might also have some tabby patterning to it. The difference will be that it has patches, not the allover pattern.
The only difference between these and calicos is that the latter also has white in its coloring.
If you want one of these with a pedigree, look for:
- A Japanese Bobtail
- Cornish Rex
These cats are black and white. They’ll usually have a black body and white socks and bib. They’re quite distinctive so you can recognize them quite easily.
If you’re looking for a Tuxedo cat with a pedigree, you can search for a:
- Maine Coon
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
- And many others
Unique Cat Breeds
These are more the kinds of animals that you’ll see at shows, etc. They have special characteristics that distinguish them from standard domestic cats. They’ve usually been bred to highlight some distinctive trait that they have.
Here are some of the more popular breeds you might come across.
Known for their color point coats, beautiful blue eyes, and extreme intelligence, these cats are sought after. They are usually slim and have a longer head. They tend to be vocal and make excellent pets.
They are also known to be a bit highly strung and tend to bond with one family member over the others. Contrary to what you might think, they are still great cats to have if you have kids. They are very loyal to their humans.
These are lovely felines but can be very high maintenance. The outstanding feature here is that they have long hair and a short, stubby build. Modern breeds look as though they got dropped on the face when small. Their faces tend to be flat, with the nose flattened as well.
If this is the breed that you have, you will likely have to brush it every day to keep it well-groomed; be sure to always need their nails cut because they have a reputation to tear up your furniture.
Luckily, we compiled a list of the greatest scratching posts for cats; this acts as a natural kitty nail filer. These felines will also need to be bathed from time to time. Their coats are usually pale colors and are one color throughout.
These are very similar to Persians in that they have a coat that is the same length. They also share similar characteristics regarding build and flat faces. The difference comes in the coloring. They have a color point pattern, so they might have contrasting socks.
There is a fair amount of grooming to be done with these felines as well. Persians and Himalayans can be very loving but do tend to like living in the lap of luxury.
Maine Coon Cats
This is a very popular breed in the United States. It looks something like a recent offshoot of a bobcat. They are very big, have silky hair and lots of it, and often have ears that have tufts at the top. They come in all shapes and colors.
The only pattern you won’t find with these beauties is color points.
Russian Blue Cats
These cats are famous for their unusual blue-gray color and their brightly colored green eyes. They are not to be confused with the Chartreux or Korat breeds even though they have similar coloring. They have shorter coats, so they don’t require daily grooming like Persians or Himalayans.
This is another breed that is fiercely intelligent and very loyal. They also make great pets.
If your little friend falls into this category, it’ll be pretty easy to spot. For starters, they have a genetic mutation that causes the tail to stop developing. Your kitty will, therefore, have just a stub of a tail. They’ve also got longer hind legs and a more rounded head.
They do come in a range of colors and coat patterns. They are especially prized as hunters and show cats. If you have a mouse in the house, these kitties will take care of it quickly.
We love felines, but these distinctive animals take some getting used to. They don't have fur, so they look more like wizened old people than your typical feline. Those with allergies prize them – without fur, they cannot set off an allergic reaction.
They are incredibly loving and loyal animals, so if you get the opportunity to rescue one, do consider it.
These cats have a medium-length coat and beautiful, pale coloring. They will usually be gray and white and have silky fur. They resemble Persians in that their faces are slightly flattened, though not to the same degree.
These are a lower maintenance animal as the fur does not require daily brushing.
Genetic Testing To Find Out Your Cat's Breed
“What breed is my cat?” is a question that vets hear all the time. The only way to be positive if the cat’s ancestry is unknown is to have a DNA test done. Now, before you start wondering how you’re going to pin kitty down for a cheek swab, relax.
Get your hands on one of the DNA testing kits from Base Paws and find out what they need for the test. Typically it will be a toss-up between cutting some fur off or taking a cheek swab. You can choose which method is best for your kitty.
Once you have the sample, place it in the receptacle provided, and then mail it back. You’ll have an answer within a couple of weeks or so. That will then settle once and for all the question of your cat’s ancestry.
Whether the cat chooses you and decides to move in, or you pick the cat out, it’s the personality that you’re going to fall in love with. The ancestry doesn’t matter that much at the end of the day unless you want a show cat.
Still, as we said, unless you have the right papers, you can’t show your cat anyway. Still, it is something that is fun to work out. The DNA testing is not extremely expensive and can be interesting to learn.
You just have to ask yourself, “How badly do I want to know?”