How to Determine My Cat's Breed—Identifying Mixed Breeds to Purebreds

Updated on June 29, 2019
Layne Holmes profile image

Layne is an animal lover and grew up in a household full of rescued critters. She is a registered veterinary technician.

What Breed Is My Cat?
What Breed Is My Cat? | Source

What Breed Is My Cat?

I'm guessing you're a cat lover. You probably love cats so much that you may have one or multiple that simply seemed to choose you. If you are unsure of your cat's breed status be it purebred, crossbred, or mixed-breed due to one reason or another—you adopted your cat, were gifted your cat, rescued it from some other situation or your cat simply chose you—there are some sure ways to determine what type of genetic pool your cat comes from.

We will go over how to search for your cat's breed on the internet. Your query will look something like this (covered further down):

cat + torbie + bob tail + friendly + short legs + medium fur

Cats, in my opinion, are a little bit more challenging to identify than dog breeds. But, some clues we have to work with include: behavior, body type, face and ear shape, vocality, color, fur, markings and patterns, body size, and mannerisms. There's a lot to go over, so let's get started.

How to Identify the Breeds in a Mixed-Breed Cat

The first and perhaps most identifiable characteristic of a cat is their fur or coat color, pattern, and length. Let's start by classifying fur length. If your cat is a mixed-breed, your vet will likely consider them to be one of the following:

Domestic Shorthair (DSH)

"Moggies" in British English, domestic shorthairs are a breed of mixed ancestry. These cats make up around 90-95% of cats in the United States and are not to be confused with the British Shorthair and American Shorthair. There are 80 million DSH cats in the U.S. alone.

Domestic Medium Hair (DMH)

These cats have double-coated fur and are of varying temperaments. Their eye colors, coat colors, and coat patterns vary greatly.

Domestic Long Hair (DLH)

These cats have long, fluffy coats and tend to be larger than DSH and DMH. Many of these breeds can be quite affectionate and independent, as well as mellow. Others like to keep to themselves.

Video: The Domestic House Cat Facts

"Common" Cat Coat Colors and Eye Colors

Common Coat Colors
Common Eye Colors
White
Brown
Cream
Hazel
Lilac
Gold
Fawn
Green
Cinnamon
Blue
Red (Orange)
Chocolate (Brown)
Smoke
Blue (Grey)
Black

Which Cats Have Two Different Eyes?

Odd-eye cats have a condition called heterochromia. It is mostly observed in white cats and is considered a genetic anomaly. Breeds that come in white include: The Russian White, Ragdoll, Van Kedisi, Oriental Shorthair, Persians, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, Himalayan Cat, Cornish Rex, the Persian, the Japanese Bobtail.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Orange tabby (or red tabby) with the classic "M" on the forehead.Classic "M" on the forehead.
Orange tabby (or red tabby) with the classic "M" on the forehead.
Orange tabby (or red tabby) with the classic "M" on the forehead. | Source
Classic "M" on the forehead.
Classic "M" on the forehead. | Source

The Tabby Cat "M"

Tabby cats are distinguished by having a characteristic "M" on their forehead.

Cat Identification by Coat Color and Pattern

The Tabby Cat (Patterning)

Tabby cats tend to be a blend of two distinct colors—with one dominant collar. They are characterized by having an "M" on their forehead. Tabbies may come in the following colors: gray/blue, silver, red (orange), chocolate (brown), red-silver, and cream. Tabby cats also come in several tabby patterns:

  • Spotted: Speckled across their body.
  • Mackeral: Narrow, parallel stripes, similar to a "mackerel sky" down the side. Mackeral tabby cats with "fielding" exhibit the tabby patterning, but the "field" or "fielding" refers to the background color, e.g., "Brown Mackeral Tabby with a Gray Field" would be a cat with black stripes and a gray body.
  • Classic: Typical blotched or bold, marbled markings—often patterned with dark brown.
  • Ticked tabby (also Abyssinian or agouti tabby): Not covered in stripes but bears the "M" on the forehead. Hair is striped or grizzled thanks to the agouti gene.

A comparison of a Calico, Torbie, and Tortie.
A comparison of a Calico, Torbie, and Tortie. | Source

The Tortoiseshell Cat (Color)

Tortoiseshell cats or "Torties" are generally characterized by two distinct colors: red and black, and are diluted with reds (orange), creams, black, blues (grays), pale grays, and brown. Some coat patterns include patches and brindle. They are almost always female; males are generally rare and sterile. Fun fact: In Irish and Scottish culture, tortoiseshell cats bring good luck.

Common colorations include the classic tortie (red or orange, black, and cream), the dilute tortie, lilac tortie, and chocolate tortie (or brown tortie).

The Calico Cat

The difference between a Tortie and a Calico is whether or not white markings are present. Calicos present with tortoiseshell patterning but white as well—either calico (with large patches of white) or dilute calico (cream or blue/gray). Tortoiseshell patterning is not exclusive to mixed-breeds like domestic shorthairs, Japanese Bobtails and Cornish Rex present with tortie coloring as well.

The Torbie Cat

Torbies are interesting cats in that they exhibit the coloration of the tortoiseshell but also present with tabby patterning. They are also sometimes referred to as "patched tabbies."

What Is a Torbie?

Torbies are cats that present with the tabby patterning and tortoiseshell coloration.

A medium-haired tuxedo cat—not all tuxedos are simply black and white.
A medium-haired tuxedo cat—not all tuxedos are simply black and white. | Source

The Tuxedo Cat

Tuxedo cats are a favorite. Their distinctive markings—white paws, chest, and belly (sometimes white markings on face), set them apart. Tuxedos are often thought of as black and white, but they can be smoke and tabby tuxedos as well.

Points in Cats (Color)

"Pointed" cats usually have lighter bodies and darker extremities which include the face, ears, tail, and inguinal areas in males. Siamese are notorious for exhibiting this type of coloration, but it also appears in other species.

  • Seal Point: Light body and dark brown accents.
  • Cream Point: Cream body coloring with minor shading in similar color on the points.
  • Red Point or Flame Point: Cream body with apricot highlighting.
  • Blue Point: Dark faces, dark paws, and blue eyes.
  • Lilac Point: Cream body, gray highlighting, and blue eyes.

Points in Cats (Pattern)

Pattern points in cats may be exhibited as tortie, torbie, or tabby. Common well-known pattern points include the Tabby Point (Lynx Point) which exhibits tabby patterns, the Red Tabby Point (orange striping), and Seal Tabby Point (gray-black striping).

Crazy Cat? Keep Them Busy

VAVAPet Interactive Cat Toys, Cat Toys Three Modes Day&Night Play Automatic Randomly Stimulates Cat's Senses Easy Replace Feather(Included Battery&Spare Feather) (Full Unit)
VAVAPet Interactive Cat Toys, Cat Toys Three Modes Day&Night Play Automatic Randomly Stimulates Cat's Senses Easy Replace Feather(Included Battery&Spare Feather) (Full Unit)

My 1-year-old Tuxedo cat was feral when I found her as a kitten. From cardboard boxes to cat tails, nothing keeps her busy. I purchased this automated toy feather toy and she LOVES it! Tip: I also put shipping paper over the toy to take it to the next level of play—the rustling and randomness keeps her attention. Anytime she is acting out (scratching, stalking, chewing random things) I turn it on and immediately her attention goes to it. If you have a "crazy" cat or kitten, you'll love this. It takes batteries. GREAT PRODUCT.

 
A Seal Point Siamese
A Seal Point Siamese | Source

Additional Cat Coat Patterns or Markings

Misc. Patterns
Specifics
Colors
Snowshoe
Siamese cats crossed with bi-color American Shorthair
Point coloration: light body and dark ears, face, legs, and tail.
Bicolor
50/50 coloration
Black and white
Van
Mostly white; color on head and tail.
Locket or Button
Not well understood genetically.
White spot on chest.
Mitted
White paws
Harleqiun
Much like the patterns of a Holstein cow.
Predominantly white with large patches of color.
Information adapted from: https://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/files/2011/11/identification-and-coat-colors-patterns.pdf
Your brachycephalic Persian breed with the flat or "smooshed" face.
Your brachycephalic Persian breed with the flat or "smooshed" face. | Source

Cat Identification by Ear Type and Face Shape

Cat ears and face shape tell a lot about a cat breed. There's everything from narrow, apple-shaped faces like in the Siamese, to big, blocky or round heads in the Persian. The same goes for ears. We have tall and pricked ears, and in some breeds, curls and folds.

Breeds With Curls and Folds (Ears)

  • American Curl: This breed's ears curl away from the head.
  • Scottish Fold: A result of a natural mutation, these ears are visibly and naturally pressed into the head.

Breeds With Lynx Tips and Tufts (Ears)

  • Norwegian Forest Cat: Originating from—you guessed it—Norway, these cats exhibit lynx tipped ears. They also have fluffy tails.
  • Maine Coon: These cats are known for their gentle demeanor. They often bear well-tufted ears. They, too, have fluffy tails.

What Are Cats With Flat Faces Called?

Brachycephalic breeds are cats with "smooshed" or flat faces. These breeds often include Persians. Persians feel as good as they look, so they often require regular grooming and care to prevent skin issues.

What Are Cats With Narrow Faces Called?

Cats with narrow or "apple-shaped" faces and high, pointy ears are often Siamese. They also have lean, long, muscular bodies, and tend to be quite vocal.

Video: Maine Coon vs. Norwegian Forest Cat—Tipped Ears

Video: Scottish Folds With Floppy Ears

What Type of Cat Has Short Legs?

The Munchkin Cat or "Sausage Cat" is a new breed of cat that resulted from breeding for a genetic mutation. The International Cat Association recognized this controversial breed in 1995. Munchkin cats exhibit pseudoachondroplasia—because they only exhibit the characteristic short legs but not the large head seen in achondroplasia.

How to Identify Cat Body Types

As written by Michael Broad on Pictures-of-Cats.org, these are the common cat body types. Included are examples of breeds exhibiting these characteristics:

  • The "Oriental" Type: Slender bodies, triangular heads, long appendages. These cats include: Cornish Rex, Siamese, Oriental Shorthair and Longhair.
  • The "Foreign" Type: These cats have long, lean bodies, almond or oval eyes, and slim builds: Abyssinians, Japanese Bobtail, Russian Blues, Turkish Angoras.
  • The "Semi-Foreign" Type: Middle-sized bodies, standard shape: American Curl, Devon Rex, Havana Brown, Munchkin, Sphynx, Showshoe.
  • The "Semi-Cobby" Type: Thicker build, big-boned: American Shorthair, Bomba, British Shorthair, Scottish Fold.
  • The "Cobby" Type: Described as short and compact, these breeds have round features and are muscular: Burmese, Persian, Himalayan.
  • The "Substantial" Type: Large breeds with built body types. These breeds include: Maine Coon, Bengal, Norwegian Forest Cat, Ragdoll, Turkish Van.

Cat Tail Type: Long or Short?

Several breeds have no tail or short tails. A missing tail or short tail can be a result of a birth defect or injury, but some breeds are simply born this way. These breeds include the Manx which originated hundreds of years ago in England. The Japanese Bobtail is another breed that exhibits a curved or kinked tail—it has been doing so for centuries.

Fun Fact: The American Bobtail breed is known for loving to ride along in big rigs—yes, this cat makes for an unusual feline.

Cat breeds with long, fluffy tails include the Norwegian Forest Cat, the Maine Coon, the Persian, the Ragdoll, and the Siberian Cat.

Cat Tail Types and Breed

Cat Breeds With Long Tails
Cat Breeds With Short Tails
American Shorthair
Manx
Cornish Rex
Japanese Bobtail
Maine Coon
American Bobtail
Scottish Fold
Siberian
A calico with a bob tail.
A calico with a bob tail. | Source

Cat Breed Characteristics, Behavior, and Traits

Determining what your mixed breed cat is also relies heavily on expressed behaviors. From anything from shy, water-loving, vocal, dog-loving, to sassy, energetic, aggressive, you can find out a lot based on noteworthy behaviors.

  • Siamese: Siamese are known for being extremely vocal and active.
  • Ragdoll: Ragdolls are known for their soft fur and their laid-back demeanor. They will literally go limp in your hands and love to be cuddled.
  • Turkish Vans: Turkish Vans are known as water-loving cats. They swim!
  • Main Coons: These cats are the largest domestic cat breed! The largest Main Coon, Mymains Stewart Gilligan, measured in at over 4 feet long!

Video: Turkish Van—The Swimming Cat

How to Search for Your Cat's Breed

When searching one of my cats, I used the following formula:

white with orange markings + loves water + stocky legs + quiet + gold eyes + cat

Note: "Orange" may be substituted with "red."

The second query that appeared led me to the Turkish Van breed, which is right on the dot. After looking at several images, she looked identical to the Turkish Van breed standard. To back this up, we heard she was rescued from a hoarding situation with her brother (perhaps a breeding household?).

My Search Led Me to a Turkish Van

My search easily led me to the Turkish Van, which is identical to my adopted cat.
My search easily led me to the Turkish Van, which is identical to my adopted cat.

Video: The Bengal Cat

Other Popular Hybrid Cat Breeds

Hybrid
Parent
Parent
Jungle Lynx Cat
Jungle Cat
Bobcat
Jungle-Curls
African Jungle Cat or Jungle Cat Hybrid (e.g. Chausie)
Curled-Eared Domestic
Machbagrals
Wild Fishing Cat
Melanistic Tabby Spotted Domestic
Pantherette
Wild Amur or Asian Leopard Cat or Melanistic Bengal
Maine Coon or Pixie-Bob
Punjabi Desert Cat
Undomesticated Indian Desert Cat
Bengal
Bristol Cat
Margay (Tree Ocelot)
Domestic Breed

Purebreds vs. Crossbreds vs. Mixed-Breeds

What Is the Definition of a Purebred Cat?

A purebred or pedigree cat shares ancestors of the same breed. These cats are formally registered. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), which was registered in 1906, is one of the most well-known pedigreed cat registries in North America.

What Is the Definition of a Crossbred or Hybrid Cat?

Crossbred cats often still receive the same amount of notoriety as purebreds or later get classified as purebreds or experimental purebreds until they are well-established. They are considered designer breeds and often sell for thousands of dollars. Many of these crossbreeds/hybrids are some of the world's most popular cats and later became purebreds:

  • Bengal Cats: The result of crossing the Asian leopard cat (P. b. bengalensis) with a domestic breed to produce a wild-looking, large house cat with exceptional traits—rosettes, large spots, and "mascara" around the eyes—much like a leopard. The International Cat Association considers them to be a registered breed.
  • Cheetohs: An ongoing attempt to cross the Bengal and the Ocicat (their foundation breeds), Cheetohs have been granted experimental breed status.
  • Savannah Cats: A cross between a domestic house cat and an African wildcat, the serval. They are characterized by their huge ears and long legs, and look much like a leopard.
  • Chausie Cats: The result of crossbreeding small wild cats with a domestic breed, this breed is large, adventurous, and active. They are also known as the "Jungle Curl," "Stone Cougar," or "Mountain Cougar."
  • Toygers: In 2007, The International Cat Association recognized Toygers as a breed, but they originated by crossing domestic shorthair tabbies to highlight their "toy tiger" traits.

Are There Cat Genetic or DNA Tests?

Basepaws provides users with a CatKit—the report looks at 32 cat breeds and 14 wild cats. You can choose to do the Ancestry Kit or the Health Kit (to be launched in 2019) which will offer clues on inherited diseases, conditions, and genetic mutations. In 2019, they are set to include additional information like: personality prediction, Catnip-addict likelihood, physical traits, fun facts, dietary specifications, and wellness assessments.

How to Take the Test

The samples are collected from the cat's hair (follicles) and cheek cells collected from a cotton swab. The results are mailed in, and you receive a printed report.

Curious about checking out your cat's DNA? Lookup BasePaws. Otherwise, your veterinarian is also another awesome resource for identifying the breeds in your cat. Happy searching!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Layne Holmes

    What does your cat look like?

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      • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

        Layne Holmes 

        7 days ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Ree—your cat seems REALLY interesting in coloration. Very unique patterning. I am curious to know how long her hair is!

      • profile image

        Ree. 

        7 days ago

        My cat is white with a black-ish cape, and stripes that are a yellow-black color. She has this one spot on her shoulder+shin that has that same design. She also has a pitch black back and tail stripe. She also has the same design she has on her back on her tail. I have no idea what her breed is!

      • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

        Layne Holmes 

        2 weeks ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Oscar, cream colored cats really interest me. Turkish Vans are medium haired and have the orange and white, but cream is extremely rare in domesticated blended cats. It could be similar to "fawn" like what's found in an Abyssinian.

      • profile image

        Oscar the cat 

        2 weeks ago

        My cat is cream with slightly noticeable apricot taby markings with white paws, chest, and mouth. Also he has medium thick fur which means he gets really soft with his winter coat. His mother was a grey tortoiseshell. No idea who the father cat is.

      • profile image

        Erin 

        2 months ago

        My sweet girl looks VERY similar to a serengeti in terms of coloring and physique, especially her fine facial features, but she has more white on her underside including the front of her neck and her chin, and one paw is white as well. She is petite but she's still young so i'm not sure how big she will get. her eyes are amber and she has this beautiful peachy-amber hue speckled throughout her coat and in a distinct patch covering the bridge of her nose, which is bright pink. personality wise she goes from sleeping to CRAZY TIME quickly and is very vocal and only getting chattier as she gets older. I rescued her from being trapped on the interstate median, no idea where she came from or what she is. Ideas, anyone?

      • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

        Layne Holmes 

        4 months ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Syd—sounds like my kitty too, but she's fairly small.

      • profile image

        Syd 

        4 months ago

        My cat is black and white he looks like a cow with green eyes he is also fat

      • profile image

        Renae Eisenhauer 

        5 months ago

        How do I share a picture? I think my cat is a mix of British shorthair and Manx.

      • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

        Layne Holmes 

        5 months ago from Bend, Oregon

        Snow—generally that gray color is associated with Russian Blues, they are quite intelligent. As for the long hair and thin tail, check out Abyssinians or something in the Siamese family.

      • profile image

        Snow 

        5 months ago

        My cat is definitely a mix, I got him the humane society. He is very thin and long, with a very long skinny tail. He cannot puff up as his fur is too short so his tail only twitches. He is pure grey with greenish-yellow eyes, his eyes are also narrowed in toward each other like a bird. His legs are quite long as well. Any idea what he could be mixed with?

      • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

        Layne Holmes 

        5 months ago from Bend, Oregon

        I would agree with domestic shorthair and I do think tortie sounds accurate. It's so hard to distinguish the origin of DSHs specifically (but that's what makes them so special). Otherwise, maybe a kitty DNA test???

      • profile image

        meeeeeee 

        5 months ago

        hi i'm abi and my cat names is yoko and i can't find out what breed she is. She has green eyes black nose and underneath the chin and under the chin after the black it goes ginger. Then brown then the rest of her body colour is brown,black,little gingger, little white and mostly brown also she has patterns like spots stripes and just colours and it is really hard to find her type. I am thinking she is a Tortie cat and Tortie or Domestic shorthair cat Calico with my description of her what do you think she is ? .

      • Layne Holmes profile imageAUTHOR

        Layne Holmes 

        8 months ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Melodee—I have a tuxedo too, very talkative, but does not have the triangular face. Interesting thing about the tuxedo is that it is more related to patterning/refers to coloring and not breed. Also the "Felix cat" in the UK. They come in these pattern types: "High-grade bicolor results in Van-pattern cats. There are many patterns between, such as "cap-and-saddle", "mask-and-mantle" and "magpie" per wikipedia. He could have some siamese in him. I think this especially because of the meowing/trilling, the triangular face and long, pointy ears.

      • profile image

        Melodee 

        8 months ago

        He is a shorthair Tuxedo, with triangular face, green eyes, longish, pointy ears and huge feet. 1 year old, talks a lot, sort of combination meow and trilling together. Wants lots of loving all the time. What is he?

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