Cats make wonderful companions, but not all of them may be right for you. Learning about breed-specific personality characteristics helps you make the perfect match.
You’re probably familiar with the vast variety of dog breeds — from Yorkie and Basset hound to mastiff and wolf hound. Dogs of every size and conformation are seen on sidewalks and in parks. But pedigreed cats? You are unlikely to see them in your neighbor’s yard. They are relatively rare. In fact, pedigreed cats represent only around 3.5% of the estimated 88 million cats living in U.S. households.
However, thanks to popular Animal Planet and Discovery Channel programs about cats, people are discovering the many fascinating and lovable traits of different feline breeds. These breeds have distinct personality traits, as well as unique looks. Registering bodies such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association (cfa.org) and The International Cat Association (tica.org) are also educating people about the endearing personalities and singular beauty of different feline breeds.
What’s her body type?
Everyone who has a pedigreed cat – or any cat, for that matter – will tell you that theirs is the best, smartest, cutest and most beautiful of all. And certainly, they are right! But how do you make sense of this when deciding which cat is right for you?
The semi-longhaired Siberian has been known to convert “dog people” into “cat people” with its zany combination of devotion and fly-through-the-air agility.
First of all, cat breeds are grouped into body types:
- Cobby: short, round, like a Persian, British shorthair, Scottish fold, Manx, Burmese
- Semi-foreign: medium length body like an Abyssinian, Japanese bobtail, Ocicat, Russian blue, American curl, Egyptian Mau
- Foreign: Siamese, Oriental shorthair or longhair, Turkish Angora, Balinese, Cornish Rex
These basic body types also come with general personality traits – although there are always some exceptions. Cobby cats are relatively laid back, calm, quiet and gentle. Semi- foreign cats are usually athletic, active, playful and curious. Foreign-bodied cats are active, playful, intelligent and talkative.
More trait tips
- As a guideline, but not a hard and fast rule, longhaired cats can be calmer and less active than shorthaired cats.
- The “gentle giants” of cat breeds, such as the American Maine coon or the semi-longhaired ragdoll, a breed developed in the 1960s by Ann Baker in Riverside, California, tend to be mellow and mature slowly. They get along well with and tolerate children. Contrary to myth, however, ragdolls do not go “limp” when picked up.
- The semi-longhaired Siberian, the national cat of Russia and a relatively new arrival to the US, has been known to convert “dog people” into “cat people” with its zany combination of devotion and fly-through-the-air agility. Although longhaired, Siberians are said to be tolerated by people with allergies.
- Gentle Persians, with their flat faces and glorious coats, are calm, sedentary, affectionate and quiet. It is said they were used to create the white-socked Birman and the British shorthair.
- The Persian’s relatively shorthaired cousin, the exotic shorthair, has a similar personality and is known as the “lazy man’s Persian”. Although this breed’s semi-short and very plushy coat does need grooming, it’s a snap compared to the obligatory daily grooming and face-washing requirements of the longhaired Persian.
- At the other end of the spectrum are Orientals, both ultra short-coated and longhaired (silky, non-shedding). With their uncanny sensitivity to the moods of their people, and their “lap kitty” and “sleep under the covers” personalities, they keep their families entertained with quick intelligence, toy fetching, impossible leaps and singularly devoted affection.
- Similar in personality is the Siamese, known for lively conversations and a tendency to bond very strongly and lovingly with their people. They tend to be more emotional and sensitive than the Orientals.
- Although Burmese are in the cobby body group and Tonkinese are semi-foreign (Tonkinese are a hybrid of Siamese and Burmese), their roots are similar to the Orientals and Siamese. They have the same playful and devoted personalities. Balinese and Colorpoint shorthairs have similarly loving and gentle spirits. Sensitive and social creatures, these cats get lonely if they do not have a companion or are left alone for long hours.
- Semi-foreign body type cats include Abyssinians, Bengals, Ocicats and Cornish Rexes. They are high energy, extremely curious cats with amazing athletic and acrobatic abilities. They love high places and can be entertained by just about anything. They are social, playful, entertaining, busy and enthusiastic. Although Cornish Rexes are definitely lap cats, the other breeds don’t have time to sit still in your lap – it’s a waste of good time, to their way of thinking. Grooming requirements are minimal for these cats.
- Hairless cats, such as the Sphynx, are known as affectionate “Velcro kitties” because of their desire to be on you at all times. However, in spite of being virtually hairless, they are not hypoallergenic. And they require a lot of bathing, due to their lack of absorbent coat.
Currently, 40 cat breeds are recognized by CFA, and TICA recognizes 55, so this article barely scratches the surface. Finding the right cat for you takes a bit of research and thought but the effort will reward you with years of love and fun!