How to choose between different cat breeds
Before talking about the most popular cat breeds or how to choose between different cat breeds, you should know more about the different cat breeds and its features. There is a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, colors, and coat types to choose from if you opt for a pedigree cat. However much looks appeal, you should consider a breed’s personality and needs before coming to a decision.
Do your research
- The first tip to correctly choose between different cat breeds is doing more research. Most people fall in love with a particular breed of cat because of its looks, but there are other important points to consider. Different cat breeds have distinct characteristics and varying requirements in terms of daily care, companionship, space to roam, and mental stimulation.
- You cannot have a happy cat if your lifestyle is not compatible with the breed’s temperament. And you will not be a happy owner if your pet is a noisy and hyperactive mischief-maker when you wanted a peaceable lap cat.
- The advantage of having a pedigree cat is that you can find out beforehand what you could be letting yourself in for. Do some research in advance—breed websites are often an excellent source of information. If possible, visit a cat show on a fact-finding mission, but be prepared to find all the breeds you look at equally appealing.
The most popular cat breeds
Maine Coon is one of the most popular cat breeds. One of the largest of all cat breeds, the Maine Coon is a gentle giant with a playful nature. The shaggy, semi-longhaired coat changes seasonally; be prepared for heavy shedding of the thick undercoat in warmer weather.
Persian is one of the most popular cat breeds. Sweet-tempered and home-loving, a Persian likes to take life quietly. Daily grooming is essential to prevent the long coat from tangling or matting. The Golden Persian shown here is just one of the many color variations available.
Exotic Shorthair is one of the most popular cat breeds. A shorter-coated version of the Persian, the Exotic has the same round-faced appeal and placid temperament of its cousin, but needs far less grooming. Content to spend life indoors, it makes a good pet for flat-dwellers.
Siamese is one of the most popular cat breeds. There is never a dull moment with a Siamese in the house. Noisy, mischievous, and always on the go, this cat expects a lot of attention, which it repays with devoted attachment to its owner.
Russian Blue is one of the most popular cat breeds. This lithe and leggy breed with a smoky, plush coat has become extremely popular over the last century. Russian Blues are calm, easy to live with, and very affectionate toward their owner, although a little reserved with strangers.
Bengal is one of the most popular cat breeds. Originally developed by crossing domestic cats with the wild Asian leopard cat, the dramatically patterned Bengal is a rare breed. It has no “wild” traits, but possesses boundless energy and is unhappy without constant amusement and companionship.
Balinese is one of the most popular cat breeds. With a dancer’s grace and a silky coat, this longhaired version of the Siamese is exquisitely beautiful. The Balinese is an all-action cat that does not appreciate being left to entertain itself for any length of time.
Sphynx is one of the most popular cat breeds. Hairless cats are not everyone’s choice, but the elfish Sphynx’s endearing character has won the breed a solid fan base. Sphynxes should be kept indoors and protected from extreme temperatures. The skin needs regular washing to remove excess body oils.
Burmese is one of the most popular cat breeds. Being with the family means a lot to a Burmese—this is not a cat to leave at home alone all day. It is intelligent and inquisitive, and makes a loyal and loving companion.
British Shorthair is one of the most popular cat breeds. Considered by many to be the perfect household cat, the British Shorthair is handsome, robust, and adaptable to either a town or country lifestyle. It likes comfort and company but does not pester for attention.
Cornish Rex is one of the most popular cat breeds. This breed’s clarifying feature is its tightly waved coat. The Cornish Rex cat is thrives on fun, an acrobat and an athlete. Because its fur is fine, the cat is sensitive to cold and heat weather and requires actual soft grooming.
Abyssinian is one of the most popular cat breeds. Not a cat to laze on the sofa, the Abyssinian needs plenty of scope for play and exploration, and would best suit an experienced owner. It has a striking appearance with a strong, elegant body and beautiful ticked fur.
Different cat breeds factors
To know how to choose between different cat breeds, you should understand the factors which characterize the different cat breeds.
(A) Body shapes
The body shape is the first factor which characterizes the different cat breeds.
- Eastern breeds, such as the Siamese, tend to have a slender and supple body with thin limbs and tail. This shape particularly suits a warm climate because it gives the body a large surface area, in relation to its volume, from which excess heat can disperse.
- Western breeds, such as the British Shorthair and most longhairs, are suited to temperate and cool regions. They tend to have a thickset, or cobby, body with a stockier tail and limbs. In this instance, the shape minimizes the body’s surface area and helps to reduce heat loss. Other breeds such as the Ragdoll, have a body shape somewhere between these two extremes.
(B) Head shapes
The head shape is the 2nd factor which characterizes the different cat breeds. There are three basic head shapes found in cat breeds.
- Most cats, including the British, European, and American Shorthairs, resemble their wildcat relatives, having a round head with a wedge-shaped face.
- In certain breeds, including the Siamese and the Devon Rex, the face has a much more elongated, or extreme, wedge shape.
- Other breeds, such as the Persian, are described as doll-faced. In these breeds the cat’s face is round with a flat nose, which sometimes causes breathing difficulties.
The tail is the 3rd factor which characterizes the different cat breeds.
- Most domestic cats have a long tail, although it is slightly shorter than that of their wild ancestors. The tail is used for balance and communication.
- In Eastern cat breeds, its tail is whippy described and thin with an elastic quality.
- The defining characteristic of breeds such as the American and Japanese Bobtails and the Manx, however, is a short, stumpy tail—sometimes curved or kinked— or even a total absence of one.
- Another breed, the American Ringtail, has an unusual- looking curl in its tail; this is due to the cat’s stronger-than-normal tail muscles, rather than any skeletal deformity.
(D) Eye color and shape
The eye color and shape is the 4th factor which characterizes the different cat breeds.
- Domestic cats have large, alluring eyes that come in a wide variety of orange, green, and blue tones.
- Some cats even have odd-colored eyes, usually with one blue eye and one green or orange.
- Eye shapes can vary too, according to the breed of cat. Some breeds—for example, the Chartreux and the Persian—have round eyes, while others, such as the Maine Coon, retain the slightly slanted eyes of their wild ancestors.
- In some breeds of Oriental cat, including the Siamese, the slant of the eyes is even more pronounced, producing an almondlike shape.
(E) Ear shapes
The ear shape is the 5th factor which characterizes the different cat breeds.
- Almost all cat breeds have large, erect ears shaped like a half-cone, similar to those of their wildcat ancestors.
- In some breeds, such as the Siamese and Angora, the ear tips are pointed. Hair tufts at the tips, as in the Maine Coon, further accentuate the ears, so that they resemble those of a lynx.
- Other breeds, such as the British Shorthair and Abyssinian, have round-tipped ears.
- Two breeds have highly unusual ears caused by genetic mutations: the American Curl has ears that curl backward away from its face toward the rear of the skull; in the Scottish Fold, a fold in the ear cartilage bends the ears down toward the front of the head.
(F) Coat types
The Coat type is the 6th factor which characterizes the different cat breeds.
Coats are generally made up of three types of hair: down, awn, and guard. Soft, wavy down and fine, mid-length awn form an insulating undercoat, while the longer, stiffer guard hairs form a protective outer coat.
The lengths and proportions of these types of hair vary among breeds, and not all breeds have all three types.
- Most cats are shorthaired, like their wild ancestors.
- Long hair is caused by a recessive gene.
In Persians the hair may reach up to 5in (12cm) long. Curly, or rexed, coats are caused by genetic mutations; there are now several rexed breeds, including the Cornish Rex and American Wirehair. There are also breeds, such as the Sphynx, with mutations that cause hairlessness.
(G) Coat colors and patterns
The Coat color and pattern is the 7th factor which characterizes the different cat breeds.
Cats come in a bewildering range of colors and coat patterns—there are endless combinations. Some breeds are defined specifically for their color, such as the blue-only Chartreux, and others for just one kind of coat pattern, such as the pointed Siamese. In many other breeds any combination of color and pattern is acceptable.
- Coat color is produced by two forms of the pigment melanin: eumelanin (black and brown) and pheomelanin (red, orange, and yellow).
- Except for white hair, all colors—in solid and diluted forms—are derived from the varying amounts of these two pigments in the shafts of a cat’s hair.
- White hair lacks pigment, and the white gene (W) is dominant over all other color-producing genes and coat patterns. Therefore, cats with colored and patterned coats have two recessive forms of the white gene (ww). Solid white is considered a Western color.
A cat’s ancestral coat pattern is tabby. Selective breeding, however, has also created a wide range of other coat types, mostly produced by the expression of recessive genes. Popular patterns include solid-color, coats, pointed coats, smoke coats, and coats that have a mixture of colors, as seen in torties and bicolors.
Western colors Coat colors traditionally found in European and American cats, such as British Shorthairs, Maine Coons, and Norwegian Forest Cats, are known as Western colors. Specifically, they are black and red, along with their respective diluted forms, blue and cream. Bicolored coat cats (a mixture of one of the Western colors and white patches) and solid white coats of cats are often described as western too. Today, Western colors have a global presence, having been successfully introduced into Oriental cats. Burmese cats, for example, are often bred so that their coats bear Western reds and creams.
Eastern colors: Chocolate and cinnamon—and their respective diluted forms, lilac and fawn—are traditionally considered Eastern colors. These colors are thought to have originated in breeds such as the Siamese and the Persian. Nowadays, however, this separation of Eastern and Western colors is somewhat blurred, with cat colors having been transposed through breeding from one group of breeds to the other. All but the most conservative cat registries today accept Eastern colors in Western breeds, and vice versa. British Shorthairs, for example, are accepted in Eastern colors.
Understanding coat pattern
- When just the very tip of each cat hair—about one-eighth of the overall length—is strongly pigmented, the effect is known as tipped, shell, or chinchilla. The rest of the hair’s length is usually white (unpigmented), although in some breeds yellow or reddish colors have also been produced.
- Tipping is controlled by the interaction of several different genes. Some Burmillas, Persian Chinchillas, and Persian Cameos have tipped coats.
- In shaded coats the upper quarter of each hair shaft has color. This pattern is produced by the same genes responsible for tipped fur but in shaded cats the coat appears darker on the back, where the fur lies flat.
- The heavier degree of tipping in shaded fur produces a dramatic rippling effect as the cat moves. Shaded coats are accepted and sought after in many breeds, especially Persians.
- About half of the hair shaft (the uppermost half) has color in smoke fur. When still, many smoke cats appear to have a solid coat with just a paler neck ruff, but when the cat moves, the lighter roots become more visible and the cat shimmers.
- Smokes are very popular and are found in many breeds, including the Manx, Exotic Shorthairs and Longhairs, Maine Coons, and Persians. Smoke kittens are often difficult to tell apart from solid kittens, since the smoke effect can take a few months to appear.
- In ticked coats the hair shafts have alternating pigmented and paler bands (see box, above). The tips of the hair shafts are always pigmented. Ticked fur is a characteristic of many wild cats and other mammals, and it provides good camouflage.
- Ticked, or agouti, hair makes up the lighter areas of tabby coats. A full, unpatterned agouti coat is a characteristic of Abyssinians and their longhaired relatives, Somalis. Abyssinians have 4 to 6 bands of color on each hair and Somalis up to 20.
- Particolored cats, or partis, have two or more definite colors in their coats. Partis include bicolor and tricolor cats and are found in many breeds, both shorthair and longhair.
- Partis also include torties, with white spotting. Even a small amount of white counts as particoloring. When tortoiseshells have a high proportion of white fur, the pattern is described as calico, or tortie and white. Particolored cats are almost always female.
- Torties, or tortoiseshells, have distinct or mingled patches of black (or chocolate or cinnamon) and red fur. Variations include the diluted forms of these colors: blue, lilac, fawn, and cream.
- The pattern usually only occurs in females; on rare occasions the pattern may occur in a male, possibly due to a chromosomal abnormality. Torties with tabby markings are known as patched tabbies, and these cats are classed as particolors.
- Cats with dark extremities and pale body fur are described as pointed. In Siamese and Persian Colorpoints this recessive characteristic is controlled by a heat-sensitive enzyme involved in producing hair pigment.
- The enzyme works only in the cooler extremities of a cat’s body—hence the darker fur on the face, ears, paws, and tail. Other pointed patterns— such as the Van, in which color is restricted to the ears and tail—are a form of white spotting.
- The gene responsible for white spotting on a cat’s coat is dominant. It works by suppressing areas of colored fur to produce a coat that is bicolored or tricolored.
- The effect can range from almost totally white cats and the Van pattern, to cats with just one or a few white patches in which the white fur is limited to the face, throat (bib), belly, and paws (mittens).
- The ancestral pattern consists of swirls, stripes, or spots of solid fur—commonly black, brown, red (ginger), or silver (gray)—mixed with paler areas of ticked, or agouti, fur. It acts as natural camouflage for a cat—a definite advantage when hunting for food in the wild.
- The tabby pattern is a dominant characteristic and its various forms are still common not only in old breeds, such as the Maine Coon, but also in newer wild-looking hybrids, such as the Savannah.
- The Classic Tabby has a blotched or swirling pattern; the Mackerel Tabby has stripes, like a fishbone, running down its sides; and the Spotted Tabby has spots or rosettes. Tabbies have fine lines on their head (usually an “M”-shaped mark on the forehead) and barring on their tail and legs.
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