Monday 24 March 2008

What Breed is My Cat?

Selkirk Rex. Photo in public domain.

What Breed is My Cat? This is a question asked by people who think they may have a purebred cat or are unsure about cat breeds generally. There are many visitors on the main site PoC, who ask about their cats. Here are just two examples:
Two more recent examples of visitor's submissions to the main website  (at June 2010) ask if their cat is part Egyptian Mau or purebred Egyptian Mau. It seems that this is one of the breeds that people believe most represents their cat. There actually may be something in this if we look at it dispassionately as the Egyptian Mau was originally (in about 1,500 BC or so) a domesticated African wildcat. It is reasonable to assume that the genes have travelled far and wide and dispersed with other mixed bred cats over the centuries. Also people with cats that have nice spots see the Egyptian Mau in their cat. The Egyptian Mau is in the top ten most popular cats and a naturally spotted cat. However, tabby spots are very common. The tabby spotted coat is perhaps the most natural cat and commonly occurring cat coat as it comes from the wildcat. Just because a handsome domestic cat has spots does not mean that it has Egyptian Mau or Bengal cat in its makeup. Here are these recent posts (June 2010):
In fact, there are very few (in the world scheme of things) purebred cats in the world. If you lived with one you'd almost certainly know about it because your cat would have usually been bought from a cat breeder. The breeder would have proved the cat was purebred by demonstrating parentage (pedigree) in certificates. The cat would be registered with a cat association who keep records of pedigree and provide these certs. The cat may also have the look and feel of a purebred cat. Not all purebred cats, however, are registered. Sometimes breeders don't bother if the cat is not sufficiently of type. These are sold as pets sometimes and even relinquished to rescue centers. A classic example is the case of the RagaMuffin cat and the Princess.

If your cat was adopted from a rescue center the center should know the breed, if purebred and should have papers to prove it. You can read about mixed breed cats (Moggies) and their place in cat world on the main site on this page. The moggies page also explains the difference between purebred and pedigree. There are in fact a number of purebred cat rescue websites.

If you are unsure whether your cat is a cat breed it is more than likely that your cat is a mixed breed (or random bred) cat. Mixed breed cats are as fine and beautiful as purebred cats and often healthier because they come from a wider gene pool. Cat breeders of purebred cats must get the appearance just right and in achieving this goal risk breeding too tightly. This has the potential to bring in genetically associated conditions (see Genetic Diseases of Purebred Cats).

If you still think your cat is purebred you will have to obtain some evidence that is more than simple appearance. Apperance alone is not enough to judge whether a cat is purebred but it does provide clear indications. Some cats shout out, "I am purebred". But without papers you cannot say that they are really.

It may be that your cat is between mixed breed and purebred (a purebred mix). As mentioned a purebred cat has to have a parentage as laid down by the registries and indeed should be registered. But what if your cat is nearly perfectly purebred but just missed out in her parentage (lineage)? It will look like a purebred cat but perhaps not exactly right in terms of appearance (type). This is not uncommon judging by searches on Petfinder for example. In this case you will be living with a mixed breed cat like the rest of us (including me) albeit one that has the appearance of purebred cat which means they are more expensive. It can be hard to tell if your cat is a genuine purebred but if the cat is registered (and therefore a pedigree cat as well) you can find out. A visit to the main cat registries (CFA, TICA, ACFA, ACA) would be a useful start.

It is possible to get confused. Some coat types can be confused for cat breeds. Calico and tabby come to mind. These both describe a coat type not a breed of cat.

By the way, I think that there are too many cat associations, which causes confusion and the names of the breeds vary sometimes from one association to the next - more confusion. This doesn't help in answering, "What Breed is My Cat".

You can do a visual check by scrolling down the list of pictures of nearly all the cat breeds starting on this page. This exercise won't tell you if your cat is purebred, but it may indicate it. As mentioned, your cat's lineage will need to be as required by the associations to be a purebred cat.

The bottom line is that documentary evidence is required and if it is not there the cat is almost certainly not purebred and it could be argued that even purebred cats without documentary evidence are not purebred and therefore not a breed of cat.

From What Breed is My Cat to Pictures of Cat Breeds


  1. I have re-homed a cat and he is 2 years old. He does look like a Norwegian Forest Cat and has very similar characteristics but also reminds me of a Maine Coon. I would like to know his breed just to have an idea in how much more he will grow and how to care for him. thanks

  2. is it true that calico's are only females and what causes this coat patern?

  3. Hi, response to last comment. Yes, calico cats are almost always female cats.

    The answer to your question can be seen here:

    Calico Cats

  4. Hi, in response to the cat on the face page, no, I don't believe it to be a Coon Cat (but) it has the 'stand out' markings of 'part' Brendal Cat. They are sold as half Asian Leopard Cat and, half domesticated. Yours might be a Quarter, I know, I've had one for over (12) years, their ornery little critters, lol. I also have a 1/2 Bobcat, 1/2 Orange Tabby, that was "literally raised with it's full Cubs, he's still young and about 27 pounds". A female Cat can be impregnated by more than one suitor, so it's siblings run and play all of the time, lol!

    1. Thanks for this comment. Good comment. I like the reference to being impregnated by more than one suitor.

  5. Sorry, excuse me Bengal, I wasn't awake. :)


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