Different Cat Breeds: How To Identify Pet Cats

Updated on November 28, 2013
Bengal Cat
Bengal Cat | Source

Classification of Cat Family

Family Felidae: 37 species in 18 genera belonging to 3 subfamilies, found worldwide except Antarctica; evolved in the Late Eocene Era, about 37 million years ago,

Sub family Felinae: 29 species, found worldwide except Antarctica; evolved about 10 million years ago

Genus Felis (small cats): six old species, including the wildcat and domestic cat, found worldwide; evolved in the Pliocene Era, about 5.3 to 3.6 million years ago

Domestication and the religious cat cult evolved in the ancient Egypt. In the 5th and 6th Pharaoh dynasties (c. 2465 – c. 2150 BCE), cats were proclaimed as sacred animals. However, Egyptians did not begin to domesticate cats until 1500 BCE.

Apart from Egypt, cats were also domesticated in other civilizations. Ancient Chinese and Greek art and literature dating back to 5th century BCE depicts domesticated cats. Sanskrit texts written around 1st century BCE, in India, mention domestic cat. The Japanese and the Arabs knew domesticated cat in the 7th century CE. A document in Britain, dating back to 936 CE, states a cat protection law.

Cats were domesticated because they were sacred animals and were very useful in protecting granaries and crop from rodents. These days this original reason behind the domestication of cat is lost in the urban areas and slightly present in the rural areas. Now cats are used as pets for companionship and show.

Abyssinian Cats
Abyssinian Cats | Source

Ancestry of Different Cat Breeds

About 40 distinct cat breeds have been recognized. Ancestry of some of these breeds goes back to the time of antiquity. The ancestry of individual cat breed can be traced by referring to the cat mummies, and the ancient statues and drawings available in different cultures. The tabby and Abyssinian are the descendents of sacred Egyptian cat because the present day tabby and Abyssinian look similar to the cat mummies, statues and drawings in Egypt.

The Persian cat, whose exact origin is unknown but Iran is suggested, is believed to be a mixed breed cat. The tailless Manx, the hairless Sphynx and curly-coated Devon Rex are mutant genes. The ancestors of all Egyptian cats come from Africa. The Siamese cat is believed to have Asian ancestry even though no living species of Asian cats have been found. The history of Japanese Bobtail goes back to more than 1,000 years in history. This cat breed, which was very common in the medieval Japan, is rare these days.

Male Sealpoint Himalayan Cat
Male Sealpoint Himalayan Cat | Source

Identifying Cat Breeds

Each breed of cats has special features and habits, and is unique in its own ways. Each breed can provide you companionship for many years. If you are a cat owner or want to own a cat, you must definitely know about the different breeds. Knowing the breed of cats will provide you the necessary information on how to take good care of your feline friends.

House cat has two or three breeding seasons in a year. Cat breed can be recognized through its, facial features, color and texture of the coat, and body shape and size. Different breeds of cats have different looks. The main difference between different cat breeds is the variation of color and texture of the cat coat. Cats can be distinguished by the color and texture of their fur, body shape and size, tail, ears, and face cut. Some of the distinct cat breeds are Persian, Siamese (with different color variations such as blue point, lilac point, chocolate point), the long-haired Himalayan (similar to the Siamese in coloration), tabby, Abyssinian, Burmese, Manx, Rex, and Russian blue.

Russian Blue Cats
Russian Blue Cats | Source

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Commercial cat breeding is very difficult because mating can be controlled only when the male and the queen (breeding female) are confined. Cats are genetically rigid, therefore there are little opportunities for commercial breeders. The facts related to characteristic and features inheritance are quite unknown because there has been little scientific breeding.

Most of the breeds of cat can be grouped into two different categories:



Based on the color of coat, longhair and shorthair breed both have different subcategories. The coat color includes white, cream, silver, smoke, tortoiseshell, tabby, red, blue etc. Some of the colors and patterned colors in a cat can be genetically linked with the sex or condition of the cat. For instance, calicos, tortoiseshells, and blue-cream cats – most of the time – are females; and blue-eyed white cats could be deaf.

Norwegian Forest Cat
Norwegian Forest Cat | Source

Longhair Cat Breeds

Longhair cats are distinguished with their long flowing coat. The coat colors are solid colors, bicolor, or patterned colors . The solid colors in longhair breeds are black, white, red, blue, and cream. Bicolor cat coat includes black and white, red and silver etc. Patterned coats include white with black streaks, silver and black; tabby, calico, blotches of silver; blue-gray and cream, or blue-cream; tortoiseshell and white; and cream, red, and black. Some of the longhair cats include Himalayan, also called colorpoint, Birmans, Turkish Angora, Ragdoll, Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest cat etc.

Longhair Breeds of Cats

long, slender body; sapphire-blue eyes
Siamese mutant, sways tail when walking
bushy tail, white paws, deep blue eyes
Known as sacred cat of Burma
stout, heavy chest, no tail
Also called longhair Manx
Himalayan, or Colorpoint Longhair
short, full tail, sapphire-blue eyes
Siamese and Persian cross
Long and flexible body, silky coat
Balinese and Colourpoint Shorthair cross
Maine Coon cat
large and well-muscled, hairy coat
Oldest American breed
Norwegian Forest cat
full-bodied, muscular, double coat
featured prominently in Nordic fables
Sturdy, massive head
having many variations, one of the oldest and most popular breeds
heavy and powerful, blue eyes
resembles a limp ragdoll, relaxes muscles when picked up
flexible and muscular, full brush tail, green or golden eyes
distinguished as a longhair Abyssinian
Turkish Angora
Long, feathery tail; large, pointed ears
one of the first longhair cats in introduced in Europe
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
British Shorthair Cat
British Shorthair Cat | Source

Shorthair Cat Breeds

Shorthair breeds consist of British Shorthair, American shorthair, Bombay (pitch-black colored) Bengal (gray-white stripes), Manx (tailless), Sphynx (hairless) etc. Shorthair cat has round head, round eyes, ears rounded at the tips, sturdy built up, and strong-boned legs.

Shorthair cat breeds have short hair. Their coat color maybe similar to longhair breeds. However, the most common coat colors in shorthair breed are tabby colors such as brown, silver, blue, and red. Blue-cream color is rare in shorthair.

Shorthair Breeds of Cats

Majestic, flexible body; long, slender legs
Sacred cat of Egypt
American Shorthair
big, muscular body; thick, dense fur
natural hunter
American Wirehair
Varies in sizes, from medium to large; curly coat
rare outside US
spotted coat; forelimbs bigger than hind limbs
Cross between Asian leopard cat and American Shorthair tabby
resembles black panther
cross between Burmese and black American Shorthair
British shorthair
Short, muscular, short legs, thick tail
oldest natural English breed
medium-size; shiny, thick coat
related to Siamese
Full-bodied; blue-gray
one of the oldest natural breeds
Cornish Rex
short, curly hair; large ears
named after the Rex rabbit
Devon Rex
slightly rough coat than Cornish Rex; pixie face
nicknamed "poodle cat
Egyptian Mau
Graceful, distinct spot pattern, banded tail
Mau is Egyptian word for cat
Japanese Bobtail
triangular head, large ears, rabbit like tail
symbol of good luck
silver-blue coat, heart-shaped face
native name Si-Sawat, symbol of good luck
cream colored coat with dark or light brown spots
cross between Abyssinian and Siamese
Oriental Shorthair
long, flexible body; vibrant green eyes
Specialized with numerous colors unique to the breed
Russian Blue
Muscular, fine-boned, double coat; blue in color with the streaks of silver
Symbol of good luck
Scottish Fold
short, round, well-padded body; folded ears
May reproduce a cripple when two folded ear gene cats mate
Thin, long body; sapphire-blue eyes
Intelligent, unpredictable behavior
hairless, large ears
rare outside North America
medium-sized, blue-green eyes
cross between Siamese and Burmese
Isle of Man
tailless or with stump; double coat
If two tailless gene cats are breed, there might be stillbirths or skeletal defects
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Siamese Cat
Siamese Cat | Source

Special characters of the Siamese cat

  • Light color in the body and dark color around the feet, tail, legs, and face
  • Slanted blue eyes
  • Muscular
  • Round heads
  • Color points
  • Social, communicative, noisy, playful
  • Attention seeking
  • Emotionally high maintenance
  • Short hair
  • Weighs between 6 - 16 pounds
  • Around 15 - 20 years of life span

Siamese Cat

The Siamese cat has round head; flexible, long body; long, slim tail; slim legs, and slanted blue eyes. Some Siamese may also have crossed eyes, curly tails, or muscular body. The Siamese cat is small and agile. It is regarded as the most intelligent house cat. It is affectionate and loyal, but can be destructive sometimes. Siamese cat is highly vocal.

Even though Siamese cats are named after Siam (old name of Thailand), its origin as a breed is unknown. The Siamese cat is a popular breed of cats. They have been domesticated in Thailand and some parts of Asia since a long time, however, they did not reach Europe until late 19th century.

The British took Siamese cats as gifts to England. From England, these cats made their way to America. According to widely held belief in Thailand, Siamese cats protect royal palaces and monasteries from evil spirits. This exotic feline creature is believed to bring good fortune to its owner.

The Siamese cat is partially albino. When the kittens are born, they are white or cream colored, but later develop dark points such as dark brown (seal point), blue gray (blue point), milk-chocolate brown (chocolate point), pinkish gray (lilac point), or reddish orange (red point) on ears, face, legs, and tail.

Persian Cat
Persian Cat | Source

Characteristics of Persian Cat

  • Gentle and sweet
  • Long hair
  • Great companion
  • Not very demanding
  • Big eyes
  • Pleasant voice
  • Communicative
  • Passive
  • Easy to keep
  • Needs too much grooming
  • Expensive
  • Playful, affectionate, defensive, languid

Persian Cat

Normally, the Persian cat is white in color, however, it can come up with various colors. Based on the color of the coat, Persian cats are grouped in seven categories such as solid, silver and gold, tabby, shaded and smoke, particolor, bicolor, and Himalayan. Persian cat is identifiable with its long flowing coat.

Persian cats are loving companions. They don’t climb and jump much, they are not destructive, they love to hang with humans and bask in the sun. Persian cats are indoor cats, which mean they are prone to coat damage and disease when they roam outside. They can live up to 20 years.

Persian cat has long and dense fur. In order to protect the coat (fur), frequent bathing and combing is necessary for Persian cat. They also must be kept indoor so that the majestic coat is preserved. Periodical combing is necessary to prevent hairballs in Persian cat.

Orange Tabby Cat
Orange Tabby Cat | Source


Tabby refers to a grey or tawny (a light brown to brownish orange color) streaks, pattern or a patchy coloring.

Tabby cat is a shorthaired cat with a grey or tawny coat having black spots or patches. Tabby or tabby cat is also used to refer the queen (a breeding female cat).

Tabby is one of the most common cat coat colors. It is seen in pure breed cats as well as mixed breed cats.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Vinaya Ghimire


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      • profile image

        Allyssa 10 months ago

        I have a Minx cat!! Anyone know if they are rare?

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Vinaya......I have always loved cats and am sure to have one, sometimes two as my babies. Like so many others here, I had no idea there are so many different breeds. Are you a cat expert of sorts? Or just very fond of cats?

        Have you ever had the chance to see a TV program called, "My Cat from Hell?".....Jackson Galaxy is known as the "Cat Whisperer" and is able to solve any kind of issue people may be having with their pet cat. I love that show. If you can, you should watch it.

        Very informative hub. I appreciate the lesson.....UP+++

      • profile image

        Olgacat 3 years ago

        Group oriental cats includes a large number of breeds. http://cataristocrat.com/en/oriental-body-type-cat...

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        I had no idea there were that many different cat breeds. You sure did do a great job here. Very informative!

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

        Cats are beautiful!!!

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

        What a great article! I do love cats. (We have "only" 7 of them!--LOL)

        Ours are all mixed breeds, and they are all sweet, but still with their own personality quirks.

        Voted up ++ and pinned.

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

        So many different kinds of cats--wow! Great hub Vinaya!

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

        Interesting and so useful Vinaya.

        Voted up for sure.


      • marcoujor profile image

        Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

        Dear Vinaya,

        What a fabulous amount of information, presented in a variety of methods. I also loved the tables of information. The video was one of the coolest I have seen...I never had seen curly cats; a long haired Manx; the adorable elf cats...really a video to come back to as it is so packed with kitty cats.

        No matter what the readers' felines are about felines, you are a master writer! Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

        I have had a variety of cats over the years: siamese, persian, tabby, etc. and everyone has filled my life with joy. Your table chart is a great resource.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

        Since I was a child I have loved plain ones, fancy ones, ugly ones, scruffy ones, elegant ones, tiny ones, large ones, healthy ones and disabled ones. I simply adore their attitudes, their vibrancy and the way they are slow to warm. The cat in the lead photo looks very content. Beautiful.

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        Very interesting about identifying cat breeds you know more than I do about cats but never too late to learn. always a good write from you. Informative, useful interesting and most helpful to cat lovers.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

        I've never owned a cat, but nevertheless this little cat series is useful and informative :)

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I'm just not a cat person, Vinaya, but great information.

      • truthfornow profile image

        truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

        So many cat breeds nicely done.