Basics of Cat Breeds
With over 70 pure breed cats and countless mixed breeds, choosing the best cat breed won’t certainly be a walk in the park. There are several factors that have to be taken into consideration to help you find the perfect fit.
History of Cats
The origin of domestic cats-- purebreds, mixed breeds, indoor cats, farm cats, stray cats, or feral cats -- can be traced back more than 4,000 years ago to ancient Egypt. Egyptians regarded cats as sacred creatures. In those days, cats helped reduce disease and protect crops.
Cats in Asia
After the collapse of the Egyptian Dynasty, cats were everywhere. In the Far East, only wealthy people originally owned cats. As the popularity of cats grew, domestic cats made their way to India, Japan, and other surrounding countries. It is during this period when selective breeding produced some of the most popular breeds today, such as Siamese and Burmese cat breeds.
Cats in Europe
In Europe, cats were believed to be introduced by Egyptian traders. During these times, cats were used for pest control. But during the Middle Ages, cats became linked with superstition. In 1348, the Black Death saw the killing of cats as ordered by the rulers because cats were suspected as important carriers of the disease. Cats regained their reputation around the 1600s.
Cats in America
During the 15th and 16th centuries, cats worked on ships to protect the cargo from vermin and disease. It’s commonly believed that the ship Christopher Columbus was in when he discovered America had cats that went ashore and flourished.
Varieties of cats
Today’s domestic cats are products of selective breeding. The process was aimed at removing ‘wild’ characteristics from the DNA of wild cats and big cats. Artificial selection is geared toward developing new organisms that possess perceived desirable characteristics.
Cats are generally classified into 4 categories-- Natural breeds, Orientals, Semi-Foreigns, and mixed breeds.
- Natural breeds - These feline breeds are able to tolerate lower temperatures because of their thick hair coats. They are also known for having a calmer temperament compared to other cat breeds. The most popular natural breeds of cats include Persians, American Shorthairs, and Maine Coons.
- Orientals - These cats originally come from warmer climates. To adapt better to higher temperatures, they evolved to have lesser body fats and lighter hair coats than other breeds. One of the distinctive features of oriental breeds is their long legs. They are also known to be more vocal and active.
- Semi-foreign - These energetic cats possess more muscular and leaner bodies than the natural feline breeds. Popular semi-foreigns are Abyssinians and Russian Blues.
- Mixed breeds - Did you know that about 90% of the total cat population in the US is comprised of mixed breeds? They don’t belong to a particular breed because their genetic makeup is a blend of several breeds. Mixed breeds are commonly called ‘moggies’.
Breeding and Reproduction of Cats
Like dogs, cats also undergo an estrous or heat cycle. Queens (female cats) experience their first heat when they enter puberty as early as 4 months of age. But unlike dogs, queens are ‘induced ovulators’ which means they don’t ovulate unless they are mated. This characteristic can greatly increase the chances of stray queens getting pregnant when bred.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the breeding season of cats usually takes place from February to October. During this period, queens generally experience 2-3 heat cycles. When they are in heat, queens are receptive to ‘toms’ (male cats). The behaviors exhibited by both male and female cats during the heat season are fueled by their sex hormones. During heat, a queen can become very vocal and will meow loudly and repeatedly, rub her body against objects, and knead her back paws. Characteristic heat behaviors can be manifested for 3-20 days. If the queen is not bred, heat will occur again. But if breeding occurs, the heat cycle ends as the queen’s body prepares for pregnancy.
The gestation or length of pregnancy of cats lasts about 60-63 days. The average litter is about 4 kittens. Here’s a tidbit of interesting information about queens that are in heat--- a queen can be bred by more than one tom within the same heat period. This means that kittens in the same litter can have different fathers!
What cat breeds live the longest?
The record holder for the oldest living cat is a 35-year old Burmese cat. The top 10 cats that live the longest include the following:
How many cat breeds are there?
There are two main cat associations that officially recognize cat breeds based on strictly defined standards. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) recognizes 42 breeds of cats. On the other hand, the International Cat Association (TICA) officially recognizes 71 feline breeds.
What is the most common breed of cat?
In the US, the most common cat is the domestic short-haired cat. These cats are of mixed ancestry and don’t belong to any breed that is officially recognized. They are also referred to as moggies, house cats, alley cats, tabby cats, or feral cats.
When it comes to breeds that are officially recognized by CFA and TICA, the most common cats around are Persian cats followed closely by Maine Coons and Siamese cats.
Can any cat be an indoor cat?
Any breed of cat can be confined indoors and still live a happy life. This is especially true if they have been raised indoors since they were kittens and their pet parents have made an effort to create an enriching indoor environment for their furballs.