Orientals, in general

These breeds have a distinctive look: a long, slender body, long legs, a long narrow tail, a wedge-shaped face, fairly large ears and (often) a fairly long neck in short, traits you associate with the Siamese. They are shorthaired but distinctive enough to be considered as a separate group.

Think of the stout-bodied, round-headed, round-eyed, snub-nosed Persians as one cat extreme and the lanky, wedge-headed, slant eyed Siamese as the other. In the middle are the moderate-bodied, moderate-headed and moderate eyed shorthairs. However, as you’ll see in the descriptions of the longhairs, many of those breeds have Siamese/Oriental ancestry.

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Pixie-bobs

Felis catus) breed with the wild American bobcat (Lynx rufus)? The answer is a definite “maybe,” and fans of the Pixie-bob breed believe that their lovable six-toed, bob-tailed pets are descended from Pixie, the offspring of a cat and bobcat in the Pacific Northwest. Only one of the cat fancier associations The International Cat Association (TICA) has recognized the breed so far, and a number of people believe the Pixie-bob just happens to look like a cat-bobcat hybrid.

Whether or not they truly carry bobcat genes, Pixie-bobs are gaining in popularity, impressing owners with not only their size (not as large as a bobcat, but still quite large) but also their willingness to ride in the car, walk on a leash, even learn to fetch. These big, active cats have a future, whatever their ancestry and whatever the cat associations may think of them.

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Chartreux

You might guess from the name that this is a French breed. The Chartreux does have a long history in that country, including being known as the “cat of France” in the 1700s, and was bred even earlier than that by monks of the Carthusian order. (Hence the name; French Carthusian monks were well known for their liqueur called Chartreuse.)

This cat had virtually disappeared by the end of World War II but has experienced a kind of comeback, and rightly so, for this blue (gray, that is) cat with golden eyes and a sweet disposition deserves to be better known. As seems to be true of the larger breeds, this one is fairly quiet.

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Snowshoe

American Shorthair and you get this lovely creature with light blue eyes and white paws, from which the name is derived. Snowshoes are stockier than their Siamese ancestors, and also less vocal, but they make affectionate and active pets.

This very new breed is still rare, but will no doubt catch on with people looking for an attractive and pleasant companion. So far the breed has not been recognized by most of the cat associations.

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Munchkin

general idea, but not the whole story, of this cat: short, but not a real dwarf, for the only thing dwarf about the Munchkin is the leg bones. Essentially this cat is normal sized but with short legs, the result of a genetic mutation.

There is a lot of controversy about whether it is healthy (or ethical) to deliberately breed such cats, and for that reason the cat fancier associations have been slow to recognize this breed. Yet the Munchkins have their fans, not only because of their distinctive look but also because they are so playful and inquisitive. There are both longhaired and shorthaired Munchkins.

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American Bobtail

Japanese Bobtail has been around for ages, the American Bobtail is a fairly new breed. The parent cat for the breed was a mutation, a bobtailed kitten that an Iowa couple found at a Native American reservation in Arizona.

American Bobtails are stout-bodied cats, with a mottled coat that, along with their short tails, resembles that of the bobcats of the North American woodlands. Unlike the stubby tail of the bobcat, however, American Bobtails have a bushy plume to their tails.

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Bengal

Breeds of spotted cats have become popular in recent years, among them the Bengal, which originated from crossbreeding in the 1980s. Supposedly among the Bengal’s ancestors were some street cats of India, so the name Bengal is at least fairly accurate. Bengals resemble wildcats and are fairly large. The very attractive Snow Bengals are blue-eyed and white, with black spots or marbling.

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La Perm

That’s perm as in permanent wave, which is what these cats appear to have. While the American Wirehair has a wavy but somewhat stiff coat, the fur of La Perm is curly but soft. (As with the Wirehair, a genetic mutation caused this.)

The curly hair extends only up to the neck; the hair on the head looks like that of an American Shorthair. (This looks either odd or appealing, depending on your point of view.) Curiously, La Perm kittens are often bald at birth, but in a few weeks they begin growing their curly coats.

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American Wirehair

kitten born in an American Shorthair litter.

The Wirehairs have proved easy to breed, as wire-haired kittens will be born to a mating of a Wirehair with an ordinary Shorthair. Like the American Shorthair, the Wirehair is found in all colors and patterns and has a distinctive trait—a wiry, wavy coat.

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Manx

The name Manx means “from the isle of Man,” Man being in the sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The Manx people are rather fond of their distinctive tailless native breed, though no one knows for sure where or how the breed first originated. (One colorful legend has it that the cat was late in getting to Noah’s ark, and the tail was cut off as the door shut.)

Manx cats are found as completely tailless (“rumpies”), with a small stubb (“stumpies”) or with a sort of halftail (“longies”), but cat shows are limited to include only rumpies, the truly tailless variety. Manx are agreeable and active pets, delighting their owners with their “bunny-hop” gait, the result of their having back legs that are longer than their front legs.

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Russian Blue

It really did originate in Russia, and was for a while known as the Archangel Blue, after the Russian port city of Archangel. Russian traders brought them to Britain in the 1800s, and no doubt these cats were pleased to live in a locale warmer than Russia (not that Britain is exactly balmy).

The “blue” is, of course, a bluish gray, and Russian Blues give the impression of being deep plush all over with thick fur standing out from the body. These green-eyed cats are shy and quiet and make few demands on their owners.

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Korat

good luck gift at your wedding. This occurred often in the province of Korat in Thailand, which lent its name to this naturally occurring breed.

The Korat is a quiet breed, adapting easily to indoor life and avoiding noisy situations whenever possible. This cat seems to like most humans but not other cats, so the Korat owner is wise to maintain a one-cat household.

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Abyssinian

Abyssinia was the old name for Ethiopia in north-eastern Africa. Soldiers returning from there to Britain in the 1860s brought back some of these handsome cats, which are probably a naturally occurring breed in Africa.

Whether these were the descendants of the ancient Egyptians’ temple cats (as the story goes) can’t be determined, but they do resemble paintings of them. Abyssinians are usually a rich golden brown, with a darker brown “ticking” that gives the coat a plush appearance. These playful cats usually attach themselves to one special person in the home.

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