How to Determine Your Cat's Breed—Identify Mixed Breeds and Purebreds
What Breed Is My Cat?
So you're a cat lover. You probably love cats so much that you may have one or multiple furry friends in your home. If you are unsure of your cat's breed status be it a purebred, crossbred, or mixed-breed adult or kitten 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 traits that can help you determine what your cat is made of are:
- body type
- face and ear shape
- markings and patterns
- body size
There's a lot to go over, so let's get started.
How to Identify the Breeds in a Mixed-Breed Cat or Kitten
The first and perhaps most identifiable characteristic of a cat is its 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
Which Cats Have Two Different Eye Colors?
Odd-eye cats have a condition called heterochromia. It is mostly observed in white cats and is considered a genetic anomaly. Breeds that may have heterochromia include: The Russian White, Ragdoll, Van Kedisi, Oriental Shorthair, Persians, Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, Himalayan Cat, Cornish Rex, the Persian, the Japanese Bobtail. (Find the perfect name for a cat with two different eye colors.)
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.
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—What Is a Torbie?
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.
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
Additional Cat Coat Patterns or Markings
Siamese cats crossed with bi-color American Shorthair
Point coloration: light body and dark ears, face, legs, and tail.
Black and white
Mostly white; color on head and tail.
Locket or Button
Not well understood genetically.
White spot on chest.
Much like the patterns of a Holstein cow.
Predominantly white with large patches of color.
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.
Maine Coon vs. Norwegian Forest Cat—Tipped Ears
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.
What Type of Cat Has a Short Tail or No Tail?
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
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
Video: The Bengal Cat
Other Popular Hybrid Cat Breeds
Jungle Lynx Cat
African Jungle Cat or Jungle Cat Hybrid (e.g. Chausie)
Wild Fishing Cat
Melanistic Tabby Spotted Domestic
Wild Amur or Asian Leopard Cat or Melanistic Bengal
Maine Coon or Pixie-Bob
Punjabi Desert Cat
Undomesticated Indian Desert Cat
Margay (Tree Ocelot)
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.
Unique and Rare Breeds: Cat Genetic and 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!
- List of White Cat Breeds With Pictures | Pets World
- Cat Body Types
- Munchkin cat - Wikipedia
- What Causes a Cat to Have an Unusually Short Tail? - Pets
Because cats communicate with their tails -- they hold them up when happy and flick them when mad -- it seems only logical to assume that all cats should have long tails. Not all do. Some have short tails, but that doesn’t mean those cats are short o
- Cat Identification
- Domestic short-haired cat: Wikipedia
- 7 Hybrid Cat Breed Profiles
Hybrid house cats are gaining in popularity. Many people may want a house cat that resembles their wild counterparts, or they simply want a larger cat.
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