Table of Contents
- This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Many people are lucky to count cats among their family members, but if you’ve ever wondered, “What breed is my cat?” you’re not alone! The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes 73 breeds, while the Cat Fanceirs’ Association (CFA) recognizes 45. Either way, that’s a lot of different cat breeds!
Most cat breeds today can be traced back to the indigenous cats of their regional origin. Domesticated thousands of years ago, people are thought to have developed mutually beneficial relationships with cats as they became more agricultural—after all, cats are exceptionally good at fending off rodents.
“Over 96% of cats on the planet are mixed breed and not under controlled breeding (meaning they choose their own mates),” says Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, PhD. “Purebred cats are cats who have been selectively bred over a period of time by humans for specific physical traits.” Dr. Delgado notes that selective breeding limits the gene pool, and it’s important to be aware of the increased risks of certain health problems.
Below, we look into the research and consult with Dr. Delgado about what traits and markers can help you discover your cat’s breed—and why this information can be important.
8 Ways To Identify Your Cat’s Breed
Given the breadth of cat breeds, how can you tell what your cat’s breed is? There are some clues in the cat’s physical appearance that can help determine the breed. Features such as face shape, body type, fur color and length can all be indicators of certain breeds.
Size of your cat
When it comes to size, medium cats (between 9 to 15 pounds) are the most common cat breeds in households. However, cats considered to be small breeds (under 9 pounds) or large breeds (over 15 pounds) exist, too—albeit they are less common.
Below are some examples of cat breeds in the three different size classifications.
|Cat Size||Cat Weight||Cat Breed|
|Small or dwarf sized||<9 pounds||Singapura, Munchkin, Napoleon, Bambino, American Curl, Balinese, Cornish Rex, Japanese Bobtail|
|Medium-sized cats||9-15 pounds||Siamese, Burmese, Abyssinian, American Shorthair, Russian Blue, Ocicat, Manx, Sphynx, Korat, American Wirehair, Chartreux, Scottish Fold|
|Large cats||15> pounds||Maine Coon, Ragamuffin, Savannah Cat, Chausie, Siberian, Norwegian Forest Cat|
Fur colors and patterns
There can be a lot of variance in fur color, patterns and markings, but some of these characteristics can help signify certain breeds. However, patterns can be found in more than one breed, and can be found in mixed or pure breeds. Colors and combinations you’ll often see are solid black, gray or white/cream; bi-color such as a tuxedo, tabby, and harlequin; tortoiseshell; calico; and markings such as color points.
Here are a few examples of cat breeds you’ll find with different coat patterns. Again, some overlap, so while this feature may help you narrow down, other features may be more helpful in determining breed.
|Cat fur color or markings||Possible cat breed|
|Solid color||Siberian, Russian Blue, Bombay, Persian|
|Bi-color||Maine Coon, Manx, Exotic Shorthair, Cornish Rex, Turkish Van, British Shorthair, Cymric|
|Tortoiseshell||American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, Cornish Rex|
|Calico||Manx, American Shorthair, Persian, Devon Rex, Scottish Fold, Arabian Mau, Japanese Bobtail, Cornish Rex|
|Points||Siamese, Tonkinese, Birman, Himalayan, Balinese, Snowshoe|
Hair length and patterns
Cats, in addition to different coloring and patterns, also have different lengths and types of fur hair. There are four basic types of coats cats can have: long, short, curly, and no hair. Since some types of coat fur are the result of recessive genes (such as long hair) and specific mutations (curly and no hair) the type of coat may be a helpful indicator of your cat’s breed.
|Cat hair type||Cat breed|
|Long hair||Persian, Birman, Himalayan, Japanese Bobtail, Maine Coon, Ragamuffin, Turkish Angora, Siberian|
|Short hair||American Shorthair, Abyssinian, Manx, Russian Blue, Bengal, Siamese|
|Curly hair||LaPerm, American Wirehair, Cornish Rex, Selkirk Rex, Devon Rex|
|No hair||Sphynx, Peterbald, Donskoy, Bambino, Elf|
It’s less common to identify cat breeds by face shape, however, face may also be a clue into your cat’s breed, specifically if they have a flat or narrow face.
Cats with flat faces can include: Persian, Munchkin, Scottish Fold, Exotic Shorthair, and Selkirk Rex cats. Narrow faces can include the following breeds: Siamese, Cornish Rex, Abyssinian cats.
It’s important to keep in mind that flat-faced cats are more susceptible to certain health risks. “These health problems include issues with breathing, Chiari malformations (cavities in the spinal cord near the skull), chronic eye discharge, and dental disease,” says Dr. Delgado. “Because of the limited gene pool from inbreeding, Persian cats are also at higher risk than other cats for polycystic kidney disease.”
Most cat breeds possess similar tails that would be hard to distinguish from each other, which is why it’s not a common trait when it comes to indentifying a particular breed.
However, short tails can be markers of certain breeds. Some common domestic cat breeds with short tails are Manx, Japanese Bobtail, American Bobtail, Highlander, American Lynx, and Cymric.
Ear shape and features
Your cat’s ears may clue you into their breed type as some ear features are quite distinctive. There are three unique types of ear features: curled, folded and ear tufts and furnishings.
It’s important to note that cats with curled or folded ears may experience certain health issues. For example, Scottish Fold cats suffer from osteochondrodysplasia, which is a cartilage abnormality that affects bone development and will lead to severe arthritis. Additionally, cats with curled ears, such as the American Curl, may have trouble cleaning their ears or easily experience damage to their ears and ear health.
Below are some examples of cat breeds with distinct ears.
|Cat ear type||Cat breed|
|Curled||American Curl, Highlander, Elf|
|Folded||Scottish Fold, Ukrainian Levkoy, Foldex|
|Tufted Ears, Lynx Tips, or Ear Furnishings||Maine Coon, Ragdoll, Norwegian Forest Cat, Pixie Bob, Turkish Van, Siberian, LaPerm, American Lynx|
Eye color isn’t necessarily an indicator of breed, so it’s likely not a go-to when helping to identify your cat—but cat eye colors are still really cool! The most common colors are blue, green, yellow, and hazel, or some variation of those colors.
Your cat may also have a condition called heterochromia, which is when each eye is a different color. Some cat breeds where this condition is more common include Turkish Angora, Turkish Van, Persian, Siamese, Khao Manee, Sphynx, Munchkin and Cornish Rex.
Behavior and personality
Cats, like people, have unique personalities. “There is not a lot of strong evidence that cats are bred for personality,” says Dr. Delgado. This 2019 study in Scientific Reports, however, found that there were breed differences in social and non-social behaviors among 19 breed and breed groups, in a controlled environment. The findings include such observations as Korat and Devon Rex’s being the most likely to seek contact from people, and British Shorthair, Ragdoll, Persian, Norwegian Forest Cat and Saint Birman cats as being the least aggressive.
Further studies are needed to more strongly establish a link between breed and personality.
What Breed is My Cat? At-Home Tools
Still not quite sure about your cat’s breed? The following tools may be able to help:
- Apps, such as Cat Scanner, where you can take or upload a photo or video to help you identify your cat’s breed (even mixed breeds) in seconds
- Online quizzes can help you narrow down your cat’s breed, or even help you identify what breeds are a good match for you if you’re a prospective pet parent
- Want more certainty? Go with DNA Testing. Dr. Delgado especially likes Basepaws
- Consult your veterinarian
What Breed is My Cat? Takeaway
Today’s cats are not domesticated along the same lines as dogs, as cats, though sometimes affectionate, are still largely self sufficient and capable of hunting. From deities to popular depictions in art and literature, to the first type of pet cloned, cats have shown to be a special part of humans’ lives and continue to be a loved companion.
If you are curious about your cat’s breed, there are several physical traits and indicators to look at. Size, coloring, ears, hair type—and possibly face and tail—to help narrow your cat’s breed down. Eyes and certain personality traits may be clues, but are less reliable sources of identification. The most reliable way of knowing your cat’s breed is to take a cat DNA test.
If you’ve welcomed, or are planning to welcome, a pure breed cat into your home, it’s also important to do your research and learn about any potential conditions or health problems associated with that breed beforehand.
“Learning about your cat’s genetic makeup can be fun,” says Dr. Delgado, “and DNA tests can also see if your cat is a carrier or at higher risk for certain health conditions.”