Have you ever heard of the Turkish Angora or the Chinchilla Persian? Could you recognise one of the rare cat breeds by sight? By genetic mutation and over the course of centuries of breeding, dozens of rare cat breeds have come about.
Not all of them are perfectly domesticated, and some require special attention to their health, temperament and grooming. We look at just ten rare cat breeds that you may never have heard of, but that are gaining popularity in the United States, the UK and elsewhere in the world.
We all like to be a little bit different now and then. If you are a cat lover and you seek to impress with a rare cat breed we may just be able to help. Read on to discover 10 of the world’s rarest cat breeds, and learn a little bit more about them.
What is a “rare” cat?
Rarity in the cat world comes from selective and experimental breeding. Despite our assumption that the number of cat breeds is static, breeders around the world are constantly experimenting with new types. And, of course, genetic mutations are always taking place.
But to be rare also means to be few in number. Naturally, the more popular and well-known breeds of cat are bred in their thousands each year (and on the streets perhaps in their millions!) But there are certain breeds that, for one reason or another, are not bred as enthusiastically.
Look more closely…
If you have ever taken the time to look the different types of cat around you will see almost a countless number of variations: size, shape, colour, fur length and eye colour.
Over millennia of co-habitation, we have become accustomed to what a cat should look like, and what the characteristics make a cat a cat. But looking more closely it is clear that cats are as various in their appearance as we are. And some of them are more outlandish than others.
What is a hybrid cat?
It is worth mentioning hybrid cats. Hybrid cats are domestic cats that are bred with cousins found in the wild. As a result, they possess the warm and affectionate nature of a household cat with a streak of unpredictability. And, of course, they have a stunning appearance.
Here are just a handful of hybrid cat crossbreeds:
- Bengal: Domestic shorthair x Asian leopard
- Chausie: Domestic Abyssinian x Asian jungle cat
- Desert Lynx: Maine Coon x Bobcat
- Pixie Bob: Domestic shorthair x Bobcat
10 of the rarest cat breeds
Our selection of the rarest cat breeds includes cats that do not conform to what we think of as a cat. Thanks to selective breeding and genetic mutations here are 10 of the most unusual and rarest cats in the world.
Originating in the United States in 1966 the Sphynx may be rare but it is as recognisable as the mythical creature found immortalised in the statues of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.
Sphynx cats are hairless and have skin that feels like chamois leather. The hairlessness came about by a genetic mutation. But after the first Sphynx was born breeders attempted to replicate the mutation. As a result the Sphynx remains hairless to various degrees; some cats have fine hairs and whiskers, others have none at all.
Temperament: The Sphynx is said to be demanding of attention, talkative and playful. They have a mischievous trait too.
2. Scottish Fold
Again originating in the 1960s the Scottish Fold has an interesting back story. A cat called Susie had no cartilage in her ears; her ears thus folded down against her scalp. Her owner was taken with her appearance and began to breed Susie with other cats. In her first three years Susie gave birth to 76 kittens, “42 with folded ears and 34 with straight ears,” writes Fanciers.com.
A Scottish Fold kitten’s ears are not folded at birth but begin to flop when the kitten passes its 21st day.
Temperament: The Scottish Fold enjoys time with its owner. It is not an energetic cat but it is exceptionally loveable.
3. Turkish Angora
Although first documented in the 1600s in Turkey, this cat is believed to have ancient roots. It is descended (as most cats are) from the African wildcat and is related to the Persian breed. It is also thought to be a descendant of the Maine Coon.
The Turkish Angora has a long, silky coat and slender body. Colours of coat vary. Due to extensive inbreeding the Angora may be seen with a coat of lavender, chocolate or white. Historically, the Angora was considered inferior to the Persian and was bred with Persians to improve the coat of the latter.
Temperament: Angoras are full of energy and playful, although they have a habit of bonding with just one member of a family and can be standoffish with others.
4. Selkirk Rex
In 1987 the first Selkirk Rex was born. Her long hair was curly and thick. Unlike that seen of other pre-existing Rex, the coat was full across the whole surface of the cat’s body. The kitten, called Miss DePesto, was placed with a breeder. When she reached maturity she was used to produce the breed, first mating with a black Persian male to issue three Selkirk Rex and three straight-haired kittens.
Temperament: The Rex is not as active as some cats and is known to be patient, tolerant and gentle. Writes Vet Street: “The Selkirk Rex is gentle and sociable. He is affectionate and likes to cuddle, making him a good choice for families with older children, other pets or frequent guests.”
The Charteux is a French domestic cat. It is believe the antecedents of the breed were brought back to France from Syria during the Crusades. The cat’s popularity grew throughout the 1700s, but it is now considered a rare breed.
The Chartreux is heavy set and muscular. It has a striking contrast of blue (silver-grey) water-resistant coat and orange eyes. It is also known for its smiling appearance due to its short muzzle.
Temperament: The Chartreux is a fast cat, energetic and intelligent. It is an exceptional hunter but also playful. It is not a vocal cat, but remains quite and observant. Like the Angora, the Charteux will usually bond with just one member of its household.
6. Chinchilla Longhair
The Chinchilla Longhair is a variant of the Persian breed. It diverged from the main parent breed during a South African breeding programme in the 1800s. It was given the name ‘Chinchilla’ because, like the South American rodent, its fur is seen of two colours.
The Chinchilla now has a slightly different appearance to the Persian. Its snout is longer and its body more slender. Kittens are born with dark colourings which disappear as the animal grows. Usually Chinchilla Longhairs are white or silver.
Temperament: The Chinchilla is a placid cat. It is hardy but not overly energetic. Due to the texture of its silky fur this breed of cat requires a lot of grooming.
Seen first in and around St Petersburg in the mid-1990s the Peterbald Cat is one that was born of experimentation. The Peterbald has a similar appearance to the Sphynx due to its being hairless but bears more of a resemblance to the Oriental Shorthair. The breed actually issued forth from the breeding of those two established breeds. The Peterbald, if born with hair, is known to lose its hair as it grows older.
Temperament: The Peterbald is affectionate and playful. It makes an excellent family pet because it loves to be around people. It is however very vocal!
The Colorpoint originated in the United States in the 1940s. It came about due to a desire by some breeders to produce a Siamese-type cat with a greater variety of colours to its coat. The Siamese is often seen of seal, chocolate, blue and lilac. Breeding programmes saw the mating of Siamese cats with Abyssinian and red domestic shorthairs.
Breeding was not altogether successful and “Colorpoint” now refers to any pointed cat (a cat with pale body and dark limbs) of Siamese origin in colours other than those of the Siamese.
Temperament: Affectionate and intelligent, the Colorpoint is a good family pet. However, it is also nervous and excitable and quick to become agitated.
The Korat is a rare breed of cat found in Thailand. It is thought to also be an ancient breed. Traditionally, a pair of Korats is given to a newly-married couple as a good luck token. In fact, until quite recently, Korats were always given as gifts and never sold.
It is medium in size, with silver-tipped blue-grey short hair. It first appeared in Britain the late 1880s and was then called the Blue Siamese (Thailand was formerly known as Siam). It had all but disappeared by 1901. It made a re-appearance in the United States in 1950 but remains a rare breed.
Temperament: The Korat is an intelligent breed of cat. In the wild, a pack of Korats will form a hierarchy system usually with a female in charge. They have, according to Healthy Pets, an unusually keen memory.
The first Lykoi was discovered in Virginia, US in 2010. This original cat was bred to produce successive Lykois and two years later the breed was registered with the International Cat Association. It has the appearance, some say, of a werewolf (hence the name), and is either covered in hair or hairless. Those with hair shed and regrow their fur seasonally.
Temperament: Despite its appearance the Lykoi is exceptionally affectionate and loyal to its owners. It is playful, loving and placid.
Most of these rare breeds have come from natural genetic mutations which have taken place over thousands of years. Those that are deliberately bred for certain characteristics, while affectionate and playful on the whole, may suffer some congenital abnormalities in later life. Just as we see with dogs inbred for centuries, problems with joints and predispositions to cancer and hormonal conditions are often seen of cats unnaturally bred.
Notwithstanding the problems associated with inbreeding, the cats that we have listed make excellent family pets. If you are looking for a cat that is a little different from most, and that may be a talking point, you should visit your nearest rescue shelter to discuss the likelihood of adopting.