Cats do not make excellent guard and protection animals, we do not typically use them for labour (with the exception of the occasional rodent control), and even as companions, they can be more demanding than giving.
Yet, cats have lived among us, and we have been amazed by them for thousands of years. Why is that? Probably, because the cat is the only animal that came so close to people without fully bending.
So, it is normal for people to wonder how many different types of cats are there. How many breeds of cats are there? Why there are different numbers and statistics? And, most importantly, are cats even truly domesticated?
In this article, give all the answers. We will explain the cat breed classification systems and various cat types. We will also discuss the different cat breeds – histories, current statuses, and future trends shaping the feline world. Finally, we will briefly describe several unique cat breeds. Let’s begin.
Brief History Of Cat Breeds
Despite the 10.000 years long domestication, cats haven’t changed much. The modern cat is almost identical to its wild ancestor, both physically and genetically.
To be more precise, a new study found that the domestic cat shares 95.6% of its genome with the tiger. This is an amazing number considering the two species diverged more than 10.8 million years ago.
What differentiates house cats from wild felines are changes in the specific genes responsible for pleasure and reward. Or, as a Guardian article states, “wild cats were tamed with strokes and treats.”
Research suggests that there are five wildcat genetic lineages. However, all pet cats come from one lineage – Felis silvestris lybica or the African wildcat.
Throughout its history, the domestic cat evolved without human interference, and it spontaneously went from a mouser to a beloved pet. It is believed that the domestication of cats started in ancient Egypt, and then these felines sailed to the new world.
It wasn’t until recently that we started to breed cats on purpose. Yet, even now, cats are bred for appearance rather than performance (as is the case with most domestic animals).
So, how many cat types are there today? Well, this is a complex question whose answer depends on who you are asking (more details below).
How Are Cat Breeds Categorized?
Cat breeds are categorized based on different systems and features. One of the oldest categorizations is based on coat type.
According to this classification, all cat breeds are divided into:
- Long-Haired Cat Breeds
- Persian cats
- Non-Persian cats (Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cat)
- Short-Haired Cat Breeds
- British & American cats (distinct in terms of coat colour)
- Other cats (Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, American Wirehair)
- Oriental cats (Siamese)
Another classification uses the cat’s genetic background or origin. In these terms, there are four cat breed categories:
- Natural Cat Breeds: these cats developed on their own, and their genetic lineages can be traced back for over many years
- Examples: Burmese, Abyssinian, Maine Coon
- Crossbreed Cats: developed due to intentional breeding between two or more already established cat breeds
- Examples: Himalayan, American Bobtail, Tonkinese
- Hybrid Cat Breeds: developed due to intentional breeding between house cats and wild cats
- Examples: Bengal, Savannah, Chausie
- Mutated Cat Breeds: develop when an otherwise normal litter has one kitten with a quirky feature
- Examples: Scottish Fold, Sphynx, Devon Rex
How Many Cat Breeds Are There?
Simply put, there are between 45 and 83 different cat breeds. The exact number depends on who you are asking. Here is a complete breakdown of the answer.
The International Cat Association (TICA)
The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes 73 cat breeds. TICA is the most accepting association. Plus, unlike other organizations is recognized long and short-haired cats of the same cat as separate breeds.
In addition to the official breeds, TICA recognizes:
- Non-championship breeds (household cats and kittens)
- Advanced new breeds (Serengeti cat, Highlander cat)
- Preliminary new breeds (Tennessee Rex, Toybob, Aphrodite)
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA)
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) is the most trusted and strict organization. CFA recognizes only 45 cat breeds. However, it accepts the fact that there are possibly much more breeds as most of the pet cats are non-pedigreed.
In addition to the officially recognized 45 cat breeds, CFA has a miscellaneous group for breeds that are soon to be accepted, such as the Toybob and Lykoi.
Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe)
The Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) accepts 48 cat breeds. In terms of rules and classification, it is very similar to CFA. However, the only difference is that it recognizes certain breed variations separately.
So, exactly how many breeds of cats are there? Across all three organizations, there is a total of 83 different cat breeds. For easy understanding, here is our comparison table.
|3||American Bobtail Shorthair||YES||YES|
|5||American Curl Longhair||YES||YES||YES|
|25||Don Sphynx (Donskoy)||YES||YES|
|35||Japanese Bobtail Longhair||YES||YES|
|39||Kurilian Bobtail Longhair||YES||YES|
|44||Maine Coon Polydactyl||YES|
|52||Norwegian Forest Cat||YES||YES||YES|
|66||Scottish Fold Longhair||YES||YES|
|68||Scottish Straight Longhair||YES|
|69||Selkirk Rex Longhair||YES||YES||YES|
|70||Selkirk Rex Shorthair||YES||YES||YES|
Examples Of Unique Cat Breeds
There is something special about each cat breed. However, some stand out from the crowd. Here is a closer look at several unique cat breeds.
The almost entirely bald Sphynx is one of the most unique cat breeds. Hallmarks of the breed include lack of hair, peach-soft skin, large ears, and wrinkly body.
The Sphynx personality is described as clownish. This playful cat is pretty much like a comedian and loves being the centre of attention.
Interestingly, the Sphynx’s body is warmer to the touch, and contrary to popular belief, the breed is not hypoallergenic.
The Munchkin is a playful cat with very short legs. It is popularly known as the Dachshund of the cat world or the sausage cat.
The disproportionally short legs result from a genetic mutation that causes bone deformities.
Being short-legged, the Munchkin cannot jump as other cats do. Instead, it perches on its hind legs like a prairie dog.
The Selkirk Rex is a curly-coated cat with a mellow personality. The breed started in Wyoming, USA, when a curly kitten was born to an otherwise regular litter.
The main feature of the breed, the curly coat, can be short or long. Selkirk Rex kittens are born with curls that disappear and then reappear.
Selkirk Rex cats are playful but also laid-back. They are sociable and unusually fond of other pets and children.
The Japanese Bobtail is an ancient breed with a history that stretches back to the Buddhist monks and old Japanese nobility.
The breed’s hallmark is the rabbit-like, short, and puffy tail. Japanese Bobtail cats are people-oriented, chatty, and very intelligent.
In 1602, a severe rodent infestation threatened the Japanese silk industry, and these cats were used to control the rodent population.
Native to Thailand, the Khao Manee’s breed name translates to “the white gem” in honour of its silky pure white coat.
The most striking feature of the breed is the bright eyes that can be blue, green, gold, or oddly coloured. Therefore, it is also known as the “Diamond Eye Cat.”
Like all purebred white cats, the Khao Manee has a higher-than-average risk of being born deaf in one or both ears.
Future Of Cat Breeds
Regarding cat domestication and breeding, we are at the dawn phase. Humans and cats have lived side by side for at least 10.000 years. However, it wasn’t until recently that we actually started to interfere with these processes.
Basically, the future of cat breeds holds two possibilities – either cat will refuse to bend to our will (which would be the expected cat-like behaviour), or within the next thousand years, we will have as many and as versatile cat breeds as we do dog breeds.
Each possibility is equally amazing. Yet, if other animal domestication processes are an indicator, it is more likely that cat breeds will evolve. Two trends will probably shape the future of cats:
- Weird-Looking Cats: Genetic mutations that cause short legs, bent ears, and puffy tails have always amazed us, and we will probably breed cats toward such traits carrying the “aww” factor.
- Exotic-Looking Cats: We are also in love with the idea of bringing jungle cats into our homes. Therefore, the other trend will be hybrid cats – crosses between existing house cats with wild felines.
However, we must note that the more we interfere with the cat’s genetics, the more likely it is for new medical conditions to arise.
Today, there are between 300 million and 600 million cats worldwide. Yet, the cat remains much of a mystery for us.
We know the general history of the cat, and today we are focusing on planned cat breeding. However, it is still a little-known fact how cats remained true to their ancestral DNAs despite their close proximity to humans.
In simple words, modern cats are still defying true domestication. It is our hope that, given time and an organized strategy, we will be able to affect cats more in the future.
So to finally answer the question of “how many kinds of cats are there”, we identified 83 different recognised cat breeds across the three main organisations including TICA, CFA, and FIFE. However, it is only 35 breeds that are universally recognised by those associations and these are listed below. And one may agree that this is truly the answer to the question of “how many different breeds of cats are there?”
Common ones below
- American Curl
- American Curl Longhair
- British Shorthair
- Cornish Rex
- Devon Rex
- Egyptian Mau
- Exotic Shorthair
- Japanese Bobtail
- LaPerm Longhair
- LaPerm Shorthair
- Maine Coon
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Oriental Longhair
- Oriental Shorthair
- Russian Blue
- Selkirk Rex Longhair
- Selkirk Rex Shorthair
- Turkish Angora
- Turkish Van