Top 10 Unique Cat Breeds
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There are a wide variety of domestic and hybrid cat breeds around the world, each with unique physical and behavioral characteristics. Depending on whom you ask, the actual number of recognized breeds varies from around 40 to 70. The FIFe (Fédération Internationale Féline) recognizes 43 breeds, the CFA (Cat Fancier's Association) 44, the WCF (World Cat Federation) 61, and the TICA (The International Cat Association) recognizes 71 breeds.
While each cat breed is special in a way that makes it unique, there are some cat breeds that are more unusual or exotic-looking than others. What sets them apart? Size, shape of the ears and coat patterns are just some of the characteristics that distinguish them. In this AnimalWised article, we bring you a list of the top 10 unique cat breeds including fun facts, information and pictures of each breed. Keep reading to discover more!
1. Modern or Thai Siamese
We begin this list with the Siamese cat, which may be two breeds, according to some associations: the ‘modern Siamese’ and the ‘Thai cat’. The name Siamese comes from the old name for the kingdom of Thailand, Siam. The modern or traditionally recognized Siamese cat is known for its aristocratic looks and sleek lines. Modern Siamese have been specially bred to give them their uniquely stylized appearance, with long heads and large triangular ears.
The Thai Siamese is sometimes called the ‘old-style’ Siamese, and is the breed form which the modern Siamese was developed in the 20th century. The Thai breed remains native to the country where these cats have been a treasured breed hundreds of years. The Thai cat has a more rounded head than the modern Siamese, but also has a long supple body.
Both cats are known for their deep blue eyes, and short silky hair. Their coats are a pale cream of beige on most of the body with darker coloring on the head, legs and tail. Their elegant appearance sets Siamese cats apart, but they are also known for their communicative and affectionate personalities. Siamese are active and intelligent cats, making them one of the most popular exotic domestic cats.
2. Sphynx cat
The sphynx cat stands out for its unique appearance. The sphynx cat was first bred in Canada in the late seventies and they have continued to grow in popularity since, being best known for their apparent lack of hair. Recessive genes are responsible for the sphynx's lack of hair, although the truth is they do have fine, thin hairs that may be more or less perceptible depending on the individual. Sphynx cats are also marked by their loose skin, which tends to form folds and enhances their unusual looks.
Due to these peculiarities, sphynx cats require special care especially in terms of hygiene. They are normally robust cats, but being hairless makes them more susceptible to certain health problems or conditions such as hypothermia, than other types of cats. Sphynx cats are an affectionate breed, generally active and fond of human company.
If you are interested in other hairless cats, here is a list of 5 hairless cat breeds.
3. Savannah cat
The Savannah cat is not just unique, but one of the most exotic cat breeds in the world, being the direct descendant of a wild cat. The Savannah cat first emerged in the 1980s from a cross between a domestic cat and an African serval (Leptailurus serval). This makes them a hybrid cat, and they are often considered a domestic breed being accepted as such by the TICA, for example. Other associations, such as the CFA, do not recognize Savannahs or other hybrids. The breeding of such cats has generated much controversy, but their popularity as pets appears to continue.
Savannah cats are known for their large, pointed ears, hooded eyes and leopard-like markings. These give them a very exotic appearance, much like that of a wild cat. This is part of their appeal as pets, but the truth is that caring for a Savannah cat is not easy, especially for those that have a higher percentage of wild genes. Very few Savannah cats are bred each year and they are infamous for their exorbitant price. Furthermore, it is illegal to own Savannah cats in certain States (New York, for example) where they are considered wild cats until they are five or more generations removed from the serval. It is also illegal to bring them into countries such as Australia, where they pose a threat to native fauna.
4. Scottish fold
The Scottish fold is another cat breed recognized as unique. This cat is famous for its droopy or folded ears and a rounded face with big, tender eyes. As the name suggests, This breed is originally from Scotland where it was developed from a single ancestor with folded ears, a barn cat named Susie. Scottish folds are known for their compact and robust bodies, and their rounded features. They are normally short-haired cats, although there are long-haired varieties, both with dense coats resistant to the cold. They are affectionate, intelligent and loyal cats.
An interesting fact about Scottish folds is that kittens are born with their ears erect. After around 20 days, the ears of those kitties that carry the ‘fold' gene will bend forward, while the others will have straight ears. While these small folded ears are considered their most appealing characteristic, it has also been related to numerous problems. For instance, Scottish folds cannot express some of the normal body language of other vats, as their eras are static. In addition, the genetic mutation that causes folded years affects the cat's cartilage and and can therefore cause joint diseases such as arthritis in cats, even at an early age.
5. Sokoke cat
The sokoke cat is originally from eastern Kenya and is known for the unique coat pattern which resembles the bark of a tree. In fact, the sokoke cat is also known as the Khadzonzo, which mean tree bark. In its home region, this unusual cat continues to live closely with native tribes, such as the Giriama. Sokokes became popular outside Kenya thanks to the English breeders J. Slater and Gloria Modrup, who worked on domesticating and breeding these forest cats.
Sokokes are medium sized cats, with elongated bodies and hind legs that are slightly longer than the front legs. Their ears are rounded at tip and topped with small tufts of hair, which gives them a unique and wild appearance. Sokoke cats have short, glossy coats and are covered in the exotic bark-like tabby markings. They are extremely friendly and affectionate cats, and their energetic nature means they thrive in larger spaces such as houses with gardens.
6. Birman cat
The Birman cat, also known as the ‘scared Birman’ is a beautiful breed whose origins are shrouded in mystery. According to legend, these cats were first raised by Buddhist monks, and were companions to the priests in the temples of Burma. This is why they are often called ‘scared' cats. Some have suggested that Birmans may be a be a cross between Siamese and Persian cats, given their characteristics, but there is not clear record of their origin.
Birman cats have a long, soft and silky coat, and a color point marking similar to Siamese cats and deep blue or sapphire eyes. Their front and hind paws, sometimes called ‘gloves’, are completely white, which is a special feature unique to Birmans. Birman cats are known for their gentle and calm personalities, as well as for the bond they build with their guardians. In fact, they are considered one of the most affectionate cat breeds, and are ideal family cats.
7. Oriental shorthair
Another exotic cat breed with Asian origins is the oriental shorthair. This cat shares an origin with the Siamese cat, as well as some of its features such as a slender stylized body. Their large triangular ears and slender tails are other features that characterize this breed. They have a short, fine, glossy coat, and intensely blue almond-shaped eyes. Oriental shorthairs are inquisitive, athletic and and intelligent cats, known for enjoying attention and being very playful.
Another interesting fact about of the oriental shorthair is that the breed that goes way back, with records from Middle Ages that mention these felines. Oriental shorthairs are endemic to Thailand, being recognized as the country's national cat breed. All of this makes the oriental shorthair a truly unique breed, that stands out among Asian cat breeds.
8. Chausie cat
The chausie is another unique hybrid cat, sometimes called the miniature cougar cat because of its resemblance to cougar. However, the chausie is actually the result of crossing of wild cats cat known as "jungle cats" (Felis chaus) with domestic cats. This breed first appeared in Egypt and, according to TICA, jungle cats and domestic have shown a record of mating that goes back several centuries. The first intentional breeding to produce the chausie hybrid began in the 1990s.
Chausies remain similar in appearance to Jungle cats, and this heritage is also responsible for their considerable size. They weigh between 6.5 and 9 kilograms, and are among the largest cat breeds in the world. Chausies have a strong and proportionate body, with developed musculature. Some chausies have tufts on their ears, making them look even more like small cougars. Chausie cats are energetic and intelligent with an independent character. They retain some of the hunting instincts of wild cats, but are affectionate and develop strong bonds with humans. Chausies need plenty of activity and exercise, and should not be left alone for long.
9. Bengal cat
One of the most popular exotic-looking cats in world is the Bengal cat, known for the distinct spots and marbling on its coat. The original hybrid Bengal cats were bred by crossing domestic cats with leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis), a species of wild cat native to Asia. However, today, these cats are bred by mating Bengals with other Bengals, making them a completely domestic breed. Proof of this is that Bengal cats are recognized by the CFA, which does not list hybrids among its breeds. If you are interested in learning more, take a look at our article on the origins of the Bengal cat.
The Bengal cat is unique among domestic cats for its leopard-like markings that can range from spots to rosettes or an overall marble. They have short-medium hairs that make up a soft, plush and luxurious coat. Bengal cats are medium to large in size and have a long, muscular body. They are confident and curious cats, and make friendly companions. In fact, Bengal cats are known for being among the most playful cat breeds.
10. Lykoi or werewolf cat
The Lykoi is one of the strangest and most unique cat breeds. People are often taken aback when they see a lykoi cat for the first time, because of its strangely wolf-like appearance. In fact, the name ‘lykoi’ comes from the Greek word for wolf, ‘lycos’. These cats were first observed the United States around the 2010s. Their unusual appearance was shown to be related to a naturally occurring recessive gene among feral cats and, although lykoi cats can be successfully bred, care must be taken to avoid the dangers of excessive inbreeding. Lykoi cats can still be found among feral populations.
The lykoi is characterized by its black and whitish coat coloring, known as ‘roan’ in other animals but absent in all other cat breeds. Their coat coloring, along with their yellowish eyes are make them look similar to wolves. Lykoi cats are also known for being partially hairless, although they are unrelated to other hairless cat breeds. They are known to range from nearly hairless to having a full coat of hair. Despite their somewhat fierce looks, lykois are affectionate and fun-loving cats.They are energetic and playful, but tend to be cautious around new people or pets.
To learn more about this singular cat breed, check out our full article on the lykoi or werewolf cat.
If you want to read similar articles to Top 10 Unique Cat Breeds, we recommend you visit our Comparisons category.
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- Paula Boroff. (n.d.). Birmans: The Sacred Cats of Burma. CFA. Retrieved 27 November, 2019.
- The International Cat Association. (2018). Chausie breed. Retrieved 27 November, 2019.
- Cat Fancier's Association. (n.d.). About the Bengal. Retrieved 27 November, 2019.
- Fédération Internationale Féline. (n.d.). Breed standards. Retrieved 27 November, 2019.
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