The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), one of the more conservative registries, recognizes only 44 cat breeds; it doesn’t recognize hybrids like the Bengal or the Savannah as breeds.
By contrast, the International Progressive Cat Breeders’ Alliance (IPCBA) recognizes over 70 breeds.
A breed’s popularity can depend on the country. Here are some of the most popular cat breeds in the United States:
The Maine Coon has taken the Internet and the Guinness Book of World Records by storm, for they are the longest and one of the heaviest of the domestic cats. A large male can be four feet long and weigh over 25 pounds, and their long fur makes them look even bigger. While they can be almost any color, except pointed like a Siamese, Maine Coons are most commonly brown tabbies. That, and their bushy tails, may have inspired the myth that are descended from cat/racoon hybrids.
Maine Coons have an average life expectancy of about 12.5 years, and their impressive size increases their chances of developing heart disease. Maine Coons are affectionate cats that are aptly described as “gentle giants.” They are one of the oldest breeds to have developed in North America and were first described in the 1860s.
The Persian is an old breed that is thought to have originated in the Middle East. They were first brought to Europe by Italian merchants in the 1620s. They are famous for their long fur and their docile and affectionate dispositions. They can come in any color or pattern, and some registries consider pointed Persians to be a breed in their own right called the Himalayan. The Exotic Shorthair is a relative of the Persian with short fur.
Persians come in two varieties: doll-faced and extreme or ultra. Doll-faced Persians are the older variety, while the extreme didn’t develop until after the 1950s. Extreme Persians are popular in cat shows, much to the ire of vets who argue that the extreme flat face compromises the cat’s health. Extreme Persians have broad heads with flat features that appear to have been pushed in. Those flattened faces can be accompanied by malformed tear ducts and breathing difficulties. Doll-face or traditional Persians have more normal facial features and better health.
The Bengal is a hybrid between a domestic cat and the Asian leopard cat (Felis bengalensis). Although the first known such hybrid was described in 1889, modern Bengals weren’t bred until the 1980s. Bengal cats always have patterned coats with spots, rosettes or blotches. Males can weigh as much as 15 pounds.
Bengals need a lot of attention, for they are playful, active and intelligent. A bored or lonely Bengal can become destructive. “Catios” or outdoor exclosures can provide a safe place for the Bengal to run, explore and leap. Bengals are also among the breeds that enjoy water. While Bengals are generally healthy, some can develop eye problems.
The Siamese is an old breed from Thailand that dates back to the Middle Ages. It is famous for its blue eyes and striking coat with a white or ivory body and darker extremities.
Like the Persian, the Siamese comes in two types, the Traditional and the Modern. The Traditional Siamese, also known as the Thai or apple-head, has a stocky body and a rounded head. The Modern Siamese, which was developed in the 1950s and 1960s, has a more elongated body and wedge-shaped head.
Siamese of both types are social, active and intelligent, and they are notorious for their loud, yowling cries. Like the Bengal, they hate to be left alone and will demand attention.