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12 Most Popular Cat Breeds

Cats are typically referred to as either domestic or purebred. Domestic cats do not have a pedigree history of their lineage, while purebred cats do. Three main associations recognize purebred cats: The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), The International Cat Association (TICA), and Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe). The CFA recognizes 44 breeds, TICA recognizes 58, and FIFe recognizes 43. The breeds that are not recognized by all three associations are not as commonly seen as some of the recognized breeds, and several factors are taken into account prior to a cat becoming recognized as a purebred. Smaller associations also exist, such as the South African Cat Council.

Some breeds have been around for many, many years and have thus garnered a following of cat lovers. These breeds may have grown in popularity due to a movie that featured one of their own, personality traits that are unique, or physical appearances that leave them hard to forget.

  • 01 of 12
    siamese cat
    Jovana Rikalo / Stocksy United

    Popular since the 19th century, this breed of cat originated in Thailand (formerly known as Siam). The Siamese has helped create many other breeds, including the Oriental Shorthair, Sphynx, and Himalayan.

    Siamese cats have distinct markings called “points,” that are the areas of coloration on their face, ears, feet, and tail, but some Siamese may not have any points. There are also two varieties of Siamese cats, one with an “apple” shaped head and chubbier body and one with a larger head and slender body.

    The animated Disney film, “Lady and the Tramp,” featured Siamese cats singing a song and demonstrating not only their intelligence, but also how vocal they can be.

    Many Siamese cats that were originally from Thailand had a kink in their tail. This trait was bred out of most Siamese, but you’ll still find it in Siamese street cats in Thailand.

  • 02 of 12

    Persian

    persian calico cat
    Cara Dolan / Stocksy United

    Also lovingly referred to as one of the “smushed-face” cats, Persians have beautiful, long, fur coats. They can come in almost any color, depending on which cat registry association you are looking at, and have a flat face when compared to most other breeds of cats. Some breed descriptions even state the nose is not allowed to protrude past the eyes when viewed in a profile.

    Persians have been seen in many movies, art, commercials, and homes throughout the years and have also been one of the most popular breeds of cats for decades.

    Their coats demand regular grooming, otherwise matting will result. Like many purebreds, they are prone to a variety of diseases, including renal and cardiac problems.

    Persians are also known as the Persian Longhair, the Iranian cat, and the Shirazi cat, named after the city of Shiraz, Iran, since they were originally imported from Iran.

  • 03 of 12
    Maine coon cat outside
    Jorbasa Fotografie / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

    Known for their large stature and thick fur coats, the Maine Coon is a cat that is difficult to ignore. Hailing from the state of Maine and also the state’s official cat, the Maine Coon is a gentle giant. They are great hunters and were popularized after the CFA recognized them as a purebred in the late 1970’s. They remain one of the most popular cat breeds.

    Many Maine Coons have extra toes, a trait referred to as polydactylism, which makes their already large feet even larger. This is a great feature to have when hunting in the snow, since large feet act as snow shoes.

    The classic Maine Coon coloration is a brown tabby, but this breed can come in almost any color.

  • 04 of 12

    Ragdoll

    Ragdoll cat on a basket
    Peter Munks / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Ragdoll cats get their name from their docile temperament. They seem to go limp when picked up, much like a rag doll. At one time, it was even thought that they couldn’t feel pain, but that is of course only a myth.

    Ragdolls look a lot like long-haired Siamese cats with their pointed color patterns. They also have distinctive blue eyes and dog-like personalities, following their owners around the house.

  • 05 of 12
    Bengal kitten sitting on a bed
    Sean McGrath / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Bengals are wild looking cats–literally. Their markings make them look more like they belong in the jungle than in your home, but they are domesticated cats nonetheless. They are talkative and require a lot of exercise.

    Many colors are allowed on Bengals, but their approved patterns only include spots and rosettes. Their name comes from the Asian leopard cat’s taxonomic name, Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis, since Bengals were originally bred from both domestic cats and this wild cat. They get their beautiful patterns from this wild cat as well.

  • 06 of 12

    Abyssinian

    Abyssinian cat on a white blanket
    Josef Timar / Getty Images

    Originally from Ethiopia (previously known as Abyssinia), the Abyssinian cat has a distinctive red/orange agouti coat. The agouti fur, which actually means it has bands of light and dark coloring on the individual pieces of hair, gives the Abyssinian its unique look.

    In addition to the most common color referred to as ruddy, Abyssinians can also come in cinnamon, fawn, and blue.

  • 07 of 12

    Birman

    Birman cat on hardwood flooring
    Giulia Chironna / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Birmans are another color-pointed cat like the Siamese and Ragdoll. They have blue eyes and a medium-long coat but no undercoat, setting them apart from Persians and Himalayans.

    Birmans were used for breeding in the development of Ragdolls, so they look very similar but can have slightly different markings and personalities.

  • 08 of 12

    Oriental Shorthair

    Oriental shorthair cat close-up
    TaniaVdB / Pixabay

    At a glance you may think this slender cat is a Siamese, but Oriental Shorthair cats are a breed all their own. Unlike Siamese cats, they usually have green eyes and can come in many color patterns and colors. A longhair variety also exists.

    Oriental Shorthair cats are prone to skin cancer and getting cold due to their lack of fur, so they are often seen wearing sweaters.

  • 09 of 12

    Sphynx

    Sphynx cat on a chair in front of a window
    Wunderfool / Getty Images

    If you are looking for a cat that doesn’t shed, then the Sphynx is for you. Sphynx cats look unique due to their lack of fur and are very social, active, dog-like felines.

  • 10 of 12

    Devon Rex

    Devon Rex cat outside on a porch
    Andrea Abbott / Getty Images

    Devon Rex cats have a wavy, short hair coat and slender bodies. Their fur is also very soft and their ears very large.

    The Devon Rex is a playful, active cat and is sometimes described as “a monkey in a catsuit.”

  • 11 of 12

    Himalayan

    Himalayan cat on white background
    Getty Images / Kryssia Campos

    Very similar to the Persian, the Himalayan cat is considered a sub-breed in some cat associations and a breed all their own in others.

    Himalayans were bred from crossing Persians and Siamese to achieve their color points. Himalayans only come in the color point pattern, but this pattern can be a variety of colors.

  • 12 of 12

    American Shorthair

    American shorthair cat on a white background
    Getty Images / Marc Henrie

    An all-American breed, the American Shorthair cat is a large, intelligent shorthair feline that have round faces and short ears. They are often confused with domestic, mixed-breed cats, but are in fact a purebred and their name change from domestic shorthair cats in 1966 helped to differentiate them.

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