How Many Domestic Cat Breeds Are There?
The official number of domestic cat breeds today largely depends on the criteria used. Different federations argue there are between 15 and 71 total breeds.
Without a doubt, cat owners around the world have wondered how many domestic cat breeds there are. However, because of clashing classification criteria, the answer isn’t so simple.
We should emphasize that this article only examines information pertaining to the domestic cat (Felis catus). In other words, we won’t discuss wild cat breeds. Even still, the variety of domestic cat breeds will surely still surprise you.
Domesticating the cat
It’s suggested that cat domestication was the result of a sort of symbiosis: humans needed to get rid of pests and rodents, and cats needed to eat. Thus, over time, cats and humans developed a relationship that has lasted for thousands of years.
Although it was believed that feline domestication began in Egypt in 2000 CE, more recent evidence refutes this idea. In 2004, on the island of Cyprus, archaeologists found the remains of a cat and a human in the same grave. Incredible as it is, these remains dated back 9,500 years.
This discovery laid the foundation for the now-accepted fact that the African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica) is the common ancestor to all the breeds of domestic felines known today.
Diverse cat breeds have emerged over the years with specific morphological traits that are the product of human involvement and a selective breeding process. It should be noted that, no matter how different they might look externally, distinct breeds of cats can reproduce with each other and are, therefore, considered to be the same species.
How many breeds of cats are there?
As we’ve said before, there’s no agreed upon number of existing cat breeds. Official statistics will vary depending on where you look. Here are some indicative numbers:
- The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes 71 standardized breeds
- The Cat Fanciers’ Association (FCA) places this number at 44
- The Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) recognizes 43 breeds
- Finally, the Encyclopedia Britannica recognizes the lowest number of 15 official domestic cat breeds
As we can see, there’s a wide disparity between these organizations. This numerical chaos is because each association relies on different classification criteria. For example, some of these entities don’t recognize breeds that don’t have a distinct pedigree, that is, an effectively documented lineage.
In other cases, some organizations choose to include several types of felines in the same breed. An example of this is some colorpoint cats (extremities one color, rest of the body another color), which can be classified separately by origin or in the same “mega-breed.”
It’s important to note that characteristics such as “short hair” or “long hair” don’t constitute breeds in themselves, since they’re merely criteria for classification considering the external appearance of the feline.
Are there new breeds of cats?
The answer to this question is a clear and resounding “yes.” In 2018, the FCA introduced two new breeds: the Lykoi cat and the Khao Manee cat.
Even so, classification systems have remained unchanged for years. This is because these federations require compelling evidence in order to recognize a new domestic cat breed.
This sparse variety also has to do with pet protections and achieving above-average animal welfare. Because many breeds of domestic cats share genetic traits, there’s a lot of potential for genetic diseases to spread.
That’s why the above associations are very careful when promoting cross-breeding and selective breeding as a way to create different breeds of cats. We must remember that animal welfare is most important of all.
As we’ve seen, there’s no official number of cat breeds around the world. This is because different associations have distinct classification criteria when deciding if a cat should be its own breed. Despite all of this, we can confidently say that the number of cat breeds is much lower than that of dogs, which includes around 350 different breeds.