Persian comes to mind. But no cat is more laidback than the Ragdoll, which was named from the curious trait of going completely limp when picked up. Most Ragdolls look like longhaired Siamese, but they are infinitely more docile than their Siamese ancestors.

In fact, the breed seems to have a high pain tolerance, so much so that some overly protective owners feel compelled to monitor them for illnesses and injuries. Given this cat’s docility, a quiet life indoors rather than an outdoor life is suited to this cat. One other distinctive trait: this is a very large cat. The average male weighs more than fifteen pounds. Ragdolls and Maine Coons are the largest breeds of domestic cats.

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Turkish Van

Europe and the United States in the 1950s, where owners were amazed to find that the breed didn’t mind being bathed—and actually chose to swim.

The Van has a long white coat with distinctive patches of red on the ears and tail. (Interestingly, in their native Turkey, Vans were often all white, and the Turks still prefer this to the redpatched type.) Although Vans take to water, they are basically a quiet, indoor-loving cat.

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Like their Burmese ancestors, the Tiffany has a sleek seal-brown coat, but long and silky, giving the head a rounder appearance than the Burmese. Like the Burmese, the Tiffany has yellow-gold eyes and is affectionate and playful—and also “talkative” (or “noisy,” depending on your point of view).

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Norwegian Forest Cat

Many breeds have geographically based names that sometimes have nothing whatsoever to do with where the cat originated. The Norwegian Forest Cat—the “wegie,” as fans call them—really did originate in the forests of Norway. (In their homeland, they are known as the Skaukatt. Nearby Sweden’s version is the Rugkatt, while Denmark’s is the Racekatte.) As you might expect, a thick coat and stout body help this cat survive in a cold climate.

This large longhaired cat resembles the Maine Coon, though the two breeds are not related. They do share the need to roam the outdoors, both are good hunters who like a certain amount of independence, and both breeds are very affectionate. Wegies have been known to fish and even to swim.

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Manx, with the characteristic Manx trait of having either no tail at all (a “rumpy”), a very short tail (a “stumpy”) or a halftail (a “longy”).

The breed was the result of a genetic mutation, and by the 1980s they were being exhibited in shows. Like their shorthaired Manx ancestors, the Cymrics are affectionate and active cats, with front legs shorter than back legs, giving them a curious “bunny-hop” walk.

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Abyssinian, so the breed gives the impression of being a small (and longhaired) cougar. Like their Abyssinian ancestors, the Somali is playful and inquisitive and fond of the outdoors (meaning that, unlike the Persian, the Somali is not a good apartment cat). The Somali has the fairly large ears of the Abyssinian as well as the same affectionate nature and soft voice.

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Maine Coon

American farm cats and wild raccoons—or so the legend goes. (Cats and raccoons do not mate.)

Probably the Maine Coon resulted from the breeding of shorthaired farm cats with Angora cats brought back to New England by sailors. (A more “all-American” explanation is also possible: the Maine Coons resulted from a genetic mutation in Maine farm cats, with no help at all from foreign longhairs.)

These lovable, longhaired, bushy-tailed cats were popular in America in the 1800s both as pets and show cats, but they lost ground to Persians. (There is lots of trendiness in the pet world.)

Maine Coons are popular once again, particularly with people who like longhaired cats that are more active and outdoorsy than the Persians. (Maine Coons aren’t lap cats, but they do like to be in their owners’ company.) Like the Persians, the Maine Coons are found in a multitude of colors and patterns, even within the same litter.

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Turkish Angora

This lovely breed was named after Angora, the old name for Ankara, now the capital city of Turkey. Like Persians, Angoras are prized for their rich coat of long hair, and even though many people confuse the two breeds, they are different in many ways.

The Angora has a more slender build than the Persian, with a more triangular face that is more “catty” than the round, snub-nosed Persian face. The Angora’s long coat does not mat and tangle as easily as the Persian’s does and comes in as many colors as a Persian’s.

They also share the Persian’s genetic flukes: blue-eyed white cats that are often deaf and “odd-eyed” cats that have one blue eye, and one copper or green eye. Though we can’t be certain, it’s highly possible that the Angoras were a naturally occurring breed, and that Persians were developed from them.

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Siamese), and like the Balinese, was named for an Indonesian island (even though both breeds originated in the United States).

The Javanese are longhaired, white or cream in color, with “points” like their Siamese ancestors and the blue eyes of the Siamese. Like all the longhaired breeds descended from the Siamese, the Javeneses’ points are much less distinctive than those of their shorthaired ancestors.

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Siamese, the Balinese started out as a real Siamese—specifically, as a genetic mutation in a litter of Siamese kittens in the 1950s.

Having too long a coat to be exhibited as Siamese, the mutant kittens were given a new breed name, even though they had no connection at all with the island of Bali, except perhaps that their graceful movements reminded people of Balinese dancers. The Balinese has long hair, though not as fluffy as the Himalayan or Birman. Personality-wise and body-wise, this cat is all Siamese—playful and slender.

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Burmese, obviously. (The two breeds are not related at all.) The Birman, like the Himalayan, gives the appearance of being a longhaired Siamese, but the Birman occurs naturally, while the Himalayan is the result of deliberate crossbreeding.

The Birman has an offwhite coat and the Siamese-like “points” of black or dark brown on the face, ears, legs and tail, plus attractive blue eyes. Though not as rambunctious as Siamese, Birmans are not as laidback as Persians are.

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Siamese. That’s exactly what breeders did back in the 1930s, and the result is the longhaired Himalayan, which some call the Himalayan Persian.

This cat inherited the stocky body and round face of the Persians, but the distinctive “pointed” coloration and the blue eyes of the Siamese, giving an appearance (obviously) of a longhaired Siamese. (Its blue is more subdued than the blue of the Siamese.)

Personality-wise, this cat seems more Persian than Siamese—fairly quiet, soft-voiced and less demanding than the typical Siamese. Thanks to a thick coat, a Himalayan also requires a lot more grooming than a Siamese does.

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