Think of velvet and you have the basic image of the Burmese. The coat is glossy, short and dense, and found in most solid colors.

Though Burmese had Siamese ancestors, you would never guess from their looks or voice, for they are heavier bodied (and less loud mouthed) than the Siamese. Like the Siamese, they do love to play and are generally fond of people, even strangers. They travel better in a car than most cats.

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Japanese Bobtail

Japanese Bobtail, a naturally occurring breed from (where else?) Japan, where they have long been considered good luck. True to their name, Bobtails have short (and puffy) tails. Most Bobtails are white, with patches of black or red, or both, on the face, back and tail. The Japanese are particularly fond of the Mi-Ke (“three furs”) variety—white with patches of red and black.

Bobtails are affectionate and playful and, as you might expect from a breed originating from an island nation, very fond of fish. As noted earlier, they are expensive, since they are rare outside of Japan. (Historical tidbit: When American troops occupied Japan after World War II, the Japanese got a quick education about cats, learning from Americans that Bobtails aren’t “normal” by world cat standards.)

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As you might guess from the name, this breed originated in Singapore in Asia, where this cat is regarded as the “drain cat,” an unwanted street cat that seeks shelter in drains and other undesirable locations.

They are finding themselves more welcome in the United States and Europe, where their short, silky beige fur and quietness make them appealing pets. They love a quiet indoor life and make few demands on their owners. They don’t demand much food either, for Singapuras are the smallest of domestic cat breeds.

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Siamese ancestry, which is obvious from the long slender build, triangular face and slanted eyes.

There is no direct connection with Havana, Cuba; breeders chose the name because the cat’s color reminded them of Havana cigars. (Go figure.) Like the Siamese, the Havana is alert and playful and requires a lot of attention, which is usually given, given the cat’s talkative nature.

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black patent leather. There are no connections at all with the city of Bombay in India, but the breeders chose the name because the cat reminded them of the lithe and jet-black panthers of the Indian jungles.

These placid, adorable creatures with their copper eyes are veritable “purr boxes,” purring almost constantly when in the company of people they love. The one drawback of their affectionate nature is that they don’t cope well with being left alone for extended periods.

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The beautiful Tonkinese is the result of crossing Siamese with Burmese. The breed has the blue eyes of their Siamese ancestors as well as their familiar “points,” but these are less defined in the Tonkinese. (The points are barely visible on the very dark Natural Mink variety of Tonkinese.) The Tonkinese is a fairly new breed but has become very popular, in part because these cats are extremely affectionate and playful and more adaptable than most cats to riding in cars.

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American Curl

California in 1981, and the breed is now recognized by most American cat associations.

Curl cats are an acquired taste, but one that is easy to acquire, since the distinctive ears do give them an appealing look. They are quiet and sweet natured, and their very long and full-plumed tails are attractive.

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Egyptian Mau

As noted elsewhere in this book, mau was the ancient Egyptian word for cat. (And it’s no coincidence that mau sounds a lot like meow.) The Mau breed does resemble the cats depicted in the art of ancient Egypt.

It is possible the Maus are the direct descendants of those cats—but also possible that the breed was developed to resemble cats of ancient times. We do know for sure that Maus were imported from Egypt to Europe and the United States in the 1950s. Like the Ocicat, the Mau is spotted, a trait many people find appealing, and they are playful and affectionate.

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Devon Rex

Devon is a county in southwest England, near Cornwall, and by an odd coincidence Devon was the locale of a genetic mutation that produced a curly-haired cat—like the Cornish Rex but (genetically speaking) not related.

The Devon Rex looks much like the Cornish Rex, though slightly curlier in coat and thinner in body. (Both breeds are known as “poodle cats.”) The Devon Rex is so unusual in appearance that one appeared in the out-of-this-world science fiction movie Dune.

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Cornish Rex

Sphynx breed. Unlike the Sphynx, the Rex does not appear hairless, but has a thin coat—that is also curly. As the name indicates, the breed originated in Cornwall, the region of far south-western England.

In a litter of shorthaired kittens, one kitten had wavy fur and even wavier whiskers. These large-eared, slender-bodied cats are extremely playful and have the curious trait of wagging their tails like dogs when they are happy. Because of their curly fur, Rexes are often referred to as “poodle cats.”

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kitten was born.

The key word is almost: although the Sphynx appears to be hairless, there is in fact a thin coat of very short suedelike fur. The thin coat gives the cat a lanky and bony appearance, with oversized ears to boot, a look that is not to everyone’s taste. Even so, the Sphynx has become popular in recent years, no doubt aided by Austin Powers.

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Scottish Fold

American Curl breed. While the Curl’s ears turn back, the Scottish Fold’s ears are folded forward, flat against the head. Like the Curl, the Fold resulted from a genetic mutation. On a Scottish farm in 1961 cats with the distinctive fold were born, and all other Scottish Folds are their descendants.

There is some controversy about the breeding of Folds, since some people suspect that the breeding can perpetuate hearing problems. But Folds have their fans, who like the cats’ sweet nature and the distinctive look of the head. Scottish Folds come in most colors and as both longhair and shorthair.

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spotted wild cat of the Americas. The Ocicat breed gives the impression of being a very small ocelot (which this breed was named for), though in fact the Ocicat is a genetic fluke that occurred in a cross between an Abyssinian and a Siamese.

No one knows why the mating produced some spotted kittens, but it did, and this new breed has many fans. Ocicats have a lot of personality, and they are rare among cats in their adaptability to being walked on a leash.

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American Shorthair

When Americans use the term cat in the most generic sense, they are referring to the American Shorthair, and the vast majority of American cats belong to this breed. Alley cats are American Shorthairs, and so is the lion’s share (pun intended) of household pets, whose owners usually don’t particularly care about things like pedigrees.

However, there are pedigreed American Shorthairs, and “the papers” are required to enter them into cat shows. But many cat shows now have a household pet category that allows nonpedigreed cats to compete.

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Shorthairs, in general

As noted earlier, the domestic cat is genetically shorthaired; long hair occurs as a mutation. So, obviously, there are a lot more shorthairs around than longhairs, and no doubt there always will be. Without the deliberate breeding of longhair with longhair (thanks to human intervention), the percentage of shorthairs would be even higher than it is.

There is an immense variety of colors and patterns in shorthairs, but generally speaking they all have the “generic cat” shape underneath—not heavy-bodied, not thin and lanky. The exceptions are the Oriental breeds.

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