Who’s the rarest cat of all? According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, all pedigreed cats can be considered rare. In fact, the CFA estimates just two to four percent of owned cats have pedigrees.
But while cat lovers can recognize a Siamese with ease, or pick a Persian out of a lineup, the characteristics of more exotic felines elude us. Joan Miller, who chairs the CFA’s Outreach and Education, and who’s judged rare cats at shows nationwide, graciously gave us a crash course highlighting 10 special breeds. “I have judged and known all of these breeds, and feel if they were better known they would be extremely popular as pets,” says Miller. “Each has tremendous beauty as well as appealing personality.”
Described as similar in type and personality to the American Shorthair, with quiet, loving traits, the name says it all—this cat has a unique crimped, coarse coat. But that distinctive wiry fur is rare even in litters from two Wirehair parents. Joan says that only 90 percent of those kittens and just half of any outcross litter will be “wired.” The American Wirehair’s special mutation hasn’t yet been reported in any other country.
They may look wild, but the American Bobtail is a pure domestic cat, with its natural short tail and muscular appearance. Its playful, loving nature and easy-going ways make it a fitting companion for other cats, dogs and humans. American Bobtails reached CFA championship status in 2006. “I have no idea why they are not as well known as Maine Coons or why there are so few breeders in the US,” says Miller. She believes the American Bobtail’s temperament will soon catch on with many American families.
With its sparkly silvery coat and markings resembling eyeliner on its sweetly expressive face, the Burmilla was developed in England. An unplanned mating of a British Chinchilla Longhair (Persian) to a Burmese in 1981 resulted in the breed, which is popular in Great Britain but is still relatively rare in the States. The breed reached CFA Championship Status this year. “Before long, we should see more registrations and recognition because of the consistent elegance and sweetness of these cats,” says Miller.
One of the world’s oldest and rarest, even in the 14th century when they lived in monasteries in the Kingdom of Siam, the Korat cat was considered “good luck” and given only rarely to members of the Thai government or foreign government representatives as a special expression of honor. If you’ve ever spotted one of these beauties, with its shimmering blue coat tipped with silver, consider yourself lucky. They are rarely seen at cat shows. Joan describes the Korat as a “real homebody, not fond of loud noise and extremely sensitive to smells.” The gentle, smart Korat cherishes its owners and familiar surroundings.
A chocolate brown cat with pretty green eyes, this affectionate feline is striking in looks and outgoing in personality. First developed in England, the Havana Brown arrived in the US in 1950. Joan says because the breed is a single color, it began to lose “overall hardiness” by the late 90s. The CFA Breeds and Standards Committee developed, with the help of a geneticist, a plan to increase genetic diversity. Thanks to their work, the Havana Brown has rebounded in the last 15 years.
The Ragamuffin is relatively new to CFA, having been accepted for registration in 2003 and for Championship showing just three years ago. With big eyes and coats as soft as a rabbit’s, Ragamuffins “originated from street cats and are an offshoot of the popular Ragdoll breed with similar characteristics but only in pointed colors,” explains Miller. This breed’s lush coat is surprisingly low-maintenance, not prone to matting or clumping. Noted for its large size, heavy bone and strength, Ragamuffins come in every color.
Nicknamed ‘the swimming cat’ for its love of water, this longhaired beauty sports a cashmere-textured coat that is water-resistant and doesn’t mat. Dating back to the 1800s, the cats were originally seen in the Lake Van region of Eastern Turkey, and were known for the striking auburn red of their tails and heads. The Turkish Van was brought to England in 1955, but didn’t reach American shores until the early 80s. “It was difficult to acquire cats for breeding in the US because, for many years, the Turkish Government started a breeding program to preserve the cats and wouldn’t allow kittens to be taken from their country,” Miller says. Intelligent, curious and agile, the treasured Turkish Van is prized as a lovely companion cat.
With humble beginnings in 1982—the very first LaPerm, named Curly, was a barn cat! This breed’s fur is as soft and wavy as a poodle’s coat. Curly passed along her curls and “marvelous gentle temperament” to her offspring, Joan says. Often bald at birth, LaPerm kittens quickly grow a rippled coat, Joan says. The LaPerm’s unique coat may be either short or long-haired, in virtually every cat color.
Learn more about the LaPerm breed.
The desire to produce a miniature version of the sleek wild panther prompted the hybrid matings of black American Shorthair cats with the sable-color Burmese in the early 1950s. With its sleek ebony body, the Bombay certainly resembles the wild big cat that inspired it. The Bombay reached CFA championship status in 1976, but remains rare, Joan says, because the breed standard and temperament “is almost identical to the Burmese itself except for slightly longer body and leg length and jet black coat.” Playful, affectionate and easily leash-trained, the black beauty Bombay is prized for its rich coppery eye color and congenial ways with people and other pets.
Perhaps familiar because it is the long-haired version of the beloved Siamese, the Balinese sports Siamese-like colorpoint markings and brilliant blue eyes. Joan says the breed remains rare because with the traditional Siamese breed used as an outcross to maintain its distinctive slim, graceful body type, Balinese litters often will not have any long-haired kittens, making it difficult to have cats for showing. With a feathery plume of a tail, the silky-coated Balinese is affectionate, like Siamese cats, but is not quite as vocal.
Kathy Blumenstock is owned by cats, loved by dogs, writes about both, and still longs for a horse.