Ten Modern Cat Breeds

Posted by Theresa Blood on

The ‘cat fancy’ (as the hobby of selective breeding and the showing of cats is often called) was slow to get off the ground compared to similar endeavors for dogs and has a much lower public profile. The hobby has, however, been gathering pace in recent years and aficionados are busy developing new breeds which are gaining recognition by cat show organizations, if not quite yet by the wider public. Here are a few of the new breeds on the block.

  • Cornish Rex: This cat has an unusually wavy coat and curly whiskers and eyebrows and is the result of a naturally occurring mutation which appeared in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s. Not long after, a similar mutation popped up in the neighbouring county of Devon, which led to the Devon Rex. The Rex is an affectionate and playful cat that enjoys games and human contact.
  • Scottish Fold: The controversial breed has a genetic mutation which causes the ears to fold forward. First identified in the 1960s, efforts to establish the breed in cat fancy circles faced severe criticism when it emerged that the mutation which leads to the distinctive ear folds is also linked to crippling skeletal abnormalities. The Scottish Fold is still a sought-after breed, despite serious concerns about its health.
  • Ragdoll: Developed in the 1960s, this American breed has a long, silky coat and blue eyes and gets its name from its tendency to become relaxed and floppy when picked up. The ragdoll has been the subject of a certain amount of controversy due to the mistaken belief that its floppiness was down to a low pain threshold.

  • Snowshoe: This attractive cat is the result of mixes between Siamese and American shorthair cats and is distinguished by very particular markings, which are not easy to replicate. Developed in the 1960s, the Snowshoe should have the pointed coloring typical in the Siamese, along with white socks on all four paws.
  • American Whitehair: This rare and recent breed came about when an American Shorthair was born with an unusually wiry coat in the 1960s. These cats have coarse, coiled or crimped hair, similar to a terrier dog’s which often springs back to the touch. They are still extremely unusual, even in the cat show world.
  • Bengal: These energetic and often very vocal cats have a beautiful spotted or marbled coat, giving them the appearance of a wild cat – not surprising given that they came about as a result of the crossbreeding domestic cats with the Asian leopard cat in the 1980s. Alert and intelligent, Bengals can be highly territorial and are avid roamers and hunters.
  • Singapura: One of the smallest recognized pedigree breeds, Singapura cats are said to be descended from cats imported from Singapore into the United States in the 1970s (although the story spun by the original breeders has been subject to question.) These pretty, delicate-looking cats have particularly big eyes and come only in a sepia tint.
  • Pixiebob: This stubby-tailed cat with the appearance of a wild American bobcat is a new breed which is said to have been naturally occurring and possibly the result of a mating with a wild cat. The pixiebob was accepted as a breed by some American cat shows in the 1990s and was first seen in Britain in 2004.
  • LaPerm: This is a relative newcomer to the pedigree cat world and has an unusual curly coat which can be traced back to one single cat. The first LaPerm was a female cat (appropriately named Curly) who appeared in a litter of barn cats in Oregon during the 1980s. Curly passed this new, dominant gene down to her offspring and a new breed was quickly established.
  • Toyger: This very new breed is the result of deliberate attempts to breed a tiny tiger. Developed in the 1980s, the Toyger’s original breeder claimed her intention was to create a domestic cat which would discourage people from trying to keep wild cats as pets. The Toyger looks basically like a tabby with particularly pronounced stripes and has received recognition from a number of international cat show organizations.
One short step too far?

One breed of cat has stirred up more controversy than perhaps any other. The munchkin has extremely short legs for a cat and came about as a random and entirely natural mutation. These things happen – but would you really want to turn an unusual genetic event into a recognized pedigree cat breed? This is what one cat owner from Louisiana in the US decided to do when she adopted a litter of short-legged kittens in the 1980s.

The Munchkin has a gene similar to the one that has given the canine world the Corgi and Dachshund (indeed, it is sometimes called the Dachshund cat). But while many people are reasonably untroubled by the fact that dogs are a highly diverse bunch, the general consensus is that cats should be, well, cat shaped.

Although this striking new breed has been accepted by some cat show organizations, notably in America, others – including Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy – have refused to recognize the Munchkin on the grounds that deliberately breeding for abnormalities is not a positive step and should be discouraged.

 

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