Recognized Breeds

posted: 05/15/12

"Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of." —Sir Walter Scott


The following is an exploration of the currently accepted cat breeds of North America. Three areas will be covered in each profile: history, personality, and conformation. Also provided is a chart in which various characteristics are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 means the breed exhibits the least amount of this characteristic; 10 means the breed exhibits the most of this characteristic). These characteristics can vary from cat to cat and from bloodline to bloodline, but the rating serves as a general guide to help you get an overall picture of the breed and determine whether this breed is right for you. Keep in mind that these are overall ratings and that an individual member of a breed may not follow true to form. Certain bloodlines may differ, and geographical location also can play a part in the overall characteristics, since certain traits tend to be passed around a given area.

In the chart, activity level relates to the amount of hustle and bustle to which the cat is prone. A breed with a rating of 10 is likely to be animated, busy, and forever underfoot, whereas a breed with a rating of 1 tends to be relaxed and sedentary. Playfulness relates to the cat's desire to play with its human companions and with other animals. Most cats exhibit some playfulness, but some breeds have a greater need for this kind of contact with its owners. A breed with a high rating needs more playtime than a breed with a low rating. Need for attention describes the breed's overall need for human interaction. Some breeds seem to get by quite well if left alone for periods of time and rate low in this characteristic, whereas others pine if left alone too much, earning a high rating. The rating in the Affection toward its owners category tells you if this breed tends to be loving and devoted or aloof. A high rating indicates a highly affectionate breed. Vocality indicates the amount of vocalizing the breed is likely to do. Some breeds, such as the Siamese, tend to keep up a running dialogue with their owners, earning a high rating, whereas others, such as the Chartreux, vocalize very little, earning a low rating for this characteristic. Docility indicates how amenable the breed is to handling. A high rating indicates a breed that tends not to object to handling and routine care. Keep in mind, however, that any cat will defend itself if it feels threatened. Don't count on a high rating to protect you if you handle a cat roughly. Intelligence relates to, of course, the general amount of "smarts" the breed tends to exhibit. A high rating indicates high intelligence. Independence relates to the breed's desire for human contact. A breed with a high rating can take humans or leave them; a breed with a low rating desires a high level of connection with its human. Healthiness and hardiness indicates the breed's overall vigor, strength, and vitality. A high rating indicates a breed with few inherent weaknesses. Need for grooming is self-explanatory; a high rating means that you'll spend a lot of quality time grooming your feline buddy. Compatibility with children indicates how well the breed tolerates children's sometimes rambunctious antics; a high rating means that this breed would be a good choice for a household with children. Likewise, Compatibility with other pets indicates how well the breed gets along with other animals. A high rating means that the breed should integrate well into a household with existing pets.

Keep in mind that cats require effort to become the best companions they can be. For example, just because a cat breed has an affection rating of 9 doesn't mean that a member of the breed will give you its devotion if you ignore or abuse it. Cats will meet you halfway if you give them a chance, but you must earn their loyalty and trust in order to have the closest relationship possible.

Not all cat breeds are accepted in all associations because of differing policies or lack of breeder involvement (breeders and fanciers must actively promote their breeds in each association in order for acceptance to be granted). For example, only four associations accept the Bengal because of the other associations' policies to not accept domestic and wild hybrids; therefore, each profile notes which associations recognize the breed at the time of this writing.

The conformation standards provide aesthetic guidelines that help define an ideal specimen of the breed. They are goals for which to strive, not ironclad requirements. Overall balance, artistic harmony, and proportion are just as important as the proper ear set and head shape. Breeders are often compared (by those in the cat fancy) to artists who constantly shape their medium in an attempt to approach artistic perfection.

The standards not only provide general guidelines that define an ideal specimen — they also define characteristics that penalize or disqualify cats from show competition. Although not always noted in these standards, in general the following characteristics are grounds for penalty or disqualification in most breeds: kinked or abnormal tail, incorrect number of toes (there should be five in the front and four in the back), crossed eyes, any evidence of illness or poor health, flabbiness or emaciation, signs of weakness in hindquarters, and defects such as malocclusions, breathing difficulties, and deformity of the skull. Declawed cats cannot be shown in ACA, CCA, CFA, and CFF. Allowances are usually made for jowls and larger physical size in male cats.

A quick note about the method used to calculate the number of breeds: In the Cat Fanciers' Association, some cats, such as the Abyssinian and the Somali, are counted as separate breeds based on hair length. Others, such as the Manx and the Cymric, are grouped in the same breed section regardless of hair length. When a breed includes both the longhaired and shorthaired variety in the same CFA section, longhaired and shorthaired varieties have been counted as one in the ranking of popularity, even though some of the breeds (such as the Manx, Cymric, Himalayan, and Persian) have been profiled separately. The CFA standards have been used for the conformation section unless otherwise noted. Many of the conformation terms are defined in the glossary.


American Curl

American Shorthair

American Wirehair





British Shorthair



Colorpoint Shorthair

Cornish Rex


Devon Rex

Egyptian Mau

European Burmese

Exotic Shorthair

Havana Brown


Japanese Bobtail



Maine Coon


Norwegian Forest Cat





Russian Blue

Scottish Fold








Turkish Angora

Turkish Van

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