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How to Tell What Kind of Cat You Have/How to Identify Cat Breed

Updated on: July 20, 2021
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Have you ever asked yourself: “what breed is my cat?” Do you know how to tell what kind of cat you have? If you didn’t get your cat from a breeder, chances are you aren’t sure exactly how to tell what breed your cat is.

Knowing what your cat’s breed is will help you in many ways. You’ll know if your cat is behaving normally and whether or not they have any potential health risks. You’ll be able to tell if your cat will get along well with other pets and people and whether or not you should change its diet. 

cat breed

Breed identification may be challenging for some people, but learning how to identify cat breed allows you to get to know your cat better than ever.

Identifying Cat Breeds

Is your cat one of the mixed breeds? Or is it purebred? Here are a few of the ways you can determine different cat breeds:

Start with Appearance

You can learn a lot about your cat based on appearance. However, it is important to remember that the cat's looks do not automatically dictate personality traits.

Take size and shape, for example. Certain cats are known to be of a certain size. Some breeds must be within a certain size range to officially be a purebred member of that breed. But even if your cat isn’t purebred, if he’s noticeably smaller or larger than average, you might be able to determine one of the breeds that were an ancestor of your cat.

For instance, a Norwegian forest cat tends to be long and large. Bengals are bigger than most, athletic, and muscular. Burmese cats are on the petite side.

Size alone won’t give you a definitive answer when it comes to the breed of your cat, but it will help you narrow down possible breeds.

Compare Coats

Your cat’s fur is a major indicator of its breed. Some have long fluffy coats, while others have short hair. Certain patterns are distinct to certain breeds. If your cat has a tortoise, calico, or tabby pattern, you’ll know that at least one relative is that breed. 

It’s also possible for particular combinations to create new patterns, so if you see a blend of two patterns, you can narrow down the breed of your cat even more precisely. Combined with other breed-specific traits, your cat’s coat is a major identifying factor.

Look at the Head and Eyes

Anyone even vaguely familiar with a Siamese cat's small, slanted eyes knows how important eye shape is for determining breed. Head shape is equally important. Siamese cats tend to have triangular-shaped ears and heads.

Your cat’s eye color also offers insight into its breed. Many cats have yellow or green eyes, but this isn’t always the case. If your cat’s eyes are blue or gold, it almost certainly means there is a Turkish Van in its ancestry.


Want to know the best DNA testing kit for your cat? Read our 2021 Guide.


Cat DNA Testing

If you still aren’t sure of your cat’s breed after observing the traits already listed, you have the option of using a DNA test to determine your cat’s ancestry.

Cat DNA tests are non-invasive and fairly affordable. They can help you determine:

  • Various breeds that make up your cat
  • Whether your cat is at any risk for genetic disorders
  • Why your cat looks and acts like he does
  • Whether your cat is related to a wild or big cat

There are two ways to collect your cat’s DNA: you can either use a buccal swab or collect your cat’s loose fur. The swab is a bit more of a challenge to gather, but it tends to be more accurate. Neither of the options is painful or messy. Once you’ve collected the sample, you mail it to the testing company, and you’ll get your results in a few weeks.

How to Tell What Kind of Cat You Have/How to Identify Cat Breed 1
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Some cats have unique characteristics that are a result of genetic mutation. A DNA test can help identify and solve the mystery behind this.

Additionally, some cat breeds are more prone to developing certain diseases. Persian cats, for example, are found to have a higher risk for health problems. A DNA test can help in prevention and early diagnosis.

Difference between Domestic and Purebred

The majority of cats in American households are domestic. Very few people have purebred cats, but they are out there.

If your cat’s ancestors were all the same breed or if there was controlled cross-breeding according to certain standards, your cat is considered purebred.

Domestic cats can be short, medium, or long-haired. Domestic cats are a menagerie of different breeds. They can be fat, thin, large, petite, have a different coat, and have vastly different personalities. These are the most common types of cats in the world. Domestic cats have a variety of different coat patterns and characteristics, including:

Tabby

Tabby is the most common type of domestic cat. They have coats in all colors - blue, brown, cream, silver, red, and black. Their patterns include swirls, dots, dashes, stripes, and more. Many have an M pattern on the center of their forehead above their eyes.

Calico

Calico cats come in various colors, including orange, blue-gray, white, flax, and black and white. Calicos tend to be female. Many purebred cats also have calico coats.

Tortoiseshell

Tortoiseshell cats have coats that are made up of two colors. It can include different combinations of black, brown, blue, gray, and red. The color combinations are patched or brindled. Sometimes their patches are tabby-patterned. It is difficult in some cases to tell the difference between a calico and a tortoiseshell, but one of the most obvious indicators is that white fur means your cat is calico. Tortoiseshell cats have no white fur. Some of the purebreds that make up tortoiseshells include Japanese Bobtail and Cornish Rex.

Tuxedo

Tuxedo cats, as you might guess from the name, are black and white. Most of their white markings are on their face, feet, legs, and chest. Tuxedos can be domestic breeds but are also in some of the purebred families, including Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, Persian, Maine Coon, and Manx.

Most domestic cats have a similar look and lack the truly distinctive features of many purebreds. For example, most domestics don’t have smashed faces or lack fur, as specific breeds of cats do. But they might have a hint of some of these purebred features if a parent or grandparent was a purebred cat.

The bottom line when it comes to identifying your cat breed?

You can only tell for certain what kind of cat you have if your cat is domestic to conduct a DNA test. This way, you’ll see genetic evidence of the breeds that make up your pet.

Different types of cat breeds

The International Cat Association (TICA) has officially recognized 71 cat breeds, while the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) recognizes 45 pedigree cat breeds. There’s a long list of cat breeds, including:

  • Abyssinian
  • American Bobtail
  • American Curl
  • American Shorthair
  • American Wirehair
  • Balinese cat
  • Bengal
  • Birman
  • Bombay
  • British Longhair
  • British Shorthair
  • Burmese
  • Burmilla
  • California Spangled
  • Californian Rex
  • Ceylon
  • Chartreux
  • Chausie
  • Chinchilla Persian
  • Cornish Rex
  • Cymric
  • Devon Rex
  • Domestic shorthair
  • Donskoy
  • Egyptian Mau
  • European Shorthair
  • Exotic shorthair
  • German Rex
  • Havana Brown
  • Highland Fold
  • Himalayan
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Javanese
  • Khao Manee
  • Korat
  • LaPerm
  • Maine Coon
  • Manx
  • Munchkin
  • Nebelung
  • Norwegian Forest cat
  • Ocicat
  • Oriental
  • Persian
  • Peterbald
  • Pixie-bob
  • Ragamuffin
  • Ragdoll
  • Russian Blue
  • Safari
  • Savannah
  • Scottish Fold
  • Selkirk Rex
  • Siamese Cat
  • Siberian cat
  • Singapura
  • Snowshoe
  • Sokoke
  • Somali
  • Sphynx
  • Thaï
  • Tiffany
  • Tonkinese
  • Toyger
  • Turkish Angora
  • Turkish Van

Cat lovers will go to great lengths for their cats, not because cats are pets but because they’re family. Properly identifying a cat’s breed is one of the ways to make sure they get to live long, happy lives.


The Definitive Guide to Cat DNA testing: What you need to know.

Resources

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“Basic Feline Genetics – The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc.” Cfa.Org, cfa.org/basic-feline-genetics/.

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