Determining Your Cat's Breed

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Does your furry friend exhibit behaviours or characteristics that make you wonder, "What breed is my cat? Why do they have odd-coloured eyes? Who will help me figure out how to determine my cat's breed?"

If your cat was not accompanied by official certification papers upon their adoption, they’re probably not pure bred. They are most likely a combination of a few breeds, although they may display dominant qualities of one over another.

Luckily, there are a few options for finding out to which breed your kitty cat belongs. However, filling out their family tree might be tricky, considering there are approximately 600 million domesticated cats roaming the earth.

What Breed Is My Cat?

One fun way to determine your cat's breed is to study their physical features and behavioural patterns. This option offers you quality time with your feline friend. For example, the Maine Coon is a very popular cat, and familiarising yourself with their temperament and physical features may lead you to discover commonalities with your own furry baby.

Close-up of black and orange kitten in red collar.

Here are some cat qualities to consider on your breed identification journey:

Size and Shape

Official clubs, such as The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA), set standards for pedigree cats. Their experts look at many aspects of a cat's body, including size; proportion; head; ears; eyes; forehead; nose; muzzle; jaw; chin; neck; body; legs; paws; and tail. All this can be overwhelming, but a cat's height and weight are good starting points. If your kitty is long and large, they may be part Norwegian forest cat. Muscular and athletic but not fluffy? They could be part Bengal, a sleek cat that resembles their big cat cousin. Or maybe they are a small cat, like the Burmese.

Head and Eyes

Another good physical indicator is their head. Asian breeds, like the Siamese, have a triangular head and ears, says TICA. Some breeds, including the British Shorthair, have round heads that match their sturdy bodies. The Siamese also has a very distinctive eye-shape (triangular), another key feature of a cat's breed. The colour of a cat's eyes says a lot about their ancestry, especially if they have odd-coloured eyes (one blue and one gold, for example) — a common feature of the Turkish Van.

Coat and Personality

Coats come in a variety of patterns — tortoise, tabby, and calico, to name a few — and a multitude of colours. Certain combinations are unique to certain breeds, but as the CFA explains, typically only your kitty's immediate parents determine their breed: "The colour/patterns found in the pedigree of a kitten will NOT always directly affect the colour/pattern of the kitten. One notable exception is the colourpoint gene, which can carry through a number of generations." A black cat doesn't necessarily mean your kitty's a Burmese.

Although it's true for many other animals, a cat's coat doesn't determine your kitty's temperament; however, their fur can provide some strong clues about their breed. As Chewy writes about the popular tabby, "They act as if they know their genetic label is 'wild type,' so named because their camouflage colour is similar to that of their wild ancestors." Similarly, a dark grey cat may exhibit the personality traits, such as excessive talking, of a Russian Blue.

Genetics

There are numerous genetic tests that can be performed on cats, some of which you can purchase over-the-counter and others that are performed by a lab. According to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California Davis, not all tests will determine breed. Some are strictly for disease or other physical maladies.

Why Breed Matters

In addition to the fun of knowing your kitty's pedigree, an important reason for answering the question "What breed is my cat?" is that you can identify potential health problems that are common to a specific breed.

Research shows that the beautiful Abyssinian, for example, is more likely than other breeds to experience gingivitis and hip dysplasia, explains Trupanion. This doesn't mean your kitty will experience these problems, but if the potential exists, you can put preventative measures into place, like brushing your cat's teeth.

The next time someone asks what breed your cat is, perhaps you may be able to tell them, "They’re a Siamese-calico Ragdoll, and they’re perfect." But no matter what breed your cat is, whether you find out or not, know that they are part of your family, and that is a lineage that you can certainly trace.

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien

is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.

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