By Wendy Young
Last Updated March 22, 2021

While many cat owners opt for a pedigree, the vast majority of us own a hybrid cat breed. Indeed, 98% of cats come outside of the purebred population, making identifying breeds particularly difficult. Not only this, but some cats have a way of working their way into our homes and hearts, without ever being formally adopted, or have an adopted cat that is of unknown breeding. However, it can be important to know your cat lineage, for a wide range of reasons, from understanding predisposition to health issues, through to energy and intelligence levels that are standard for specific breeds. If you want to know more about your cat, then read on to discover everything you need to know about how to tell what breed your cat is.

Why Should I Know My Breed Of Cat?

Cat breeds make up an essential part of the kind of cat you’re going to get. It’s not just about their coat patterns and meeting breed standards, but rather about understanding the level of mental and physical stimulation your cat may need – or even what kind of health issues they may be predisposed to. Some cats can be prone to developing joint problems, for example, while other – such as the tortoiseshell – are known for having ‘tortitude’ in how they prefer to handled and treat their owners.

Crossbreeds, of course, are less likely to have these issues – but it’s not uncommon for a cat to have the colors and patterns, as well as the attitude, of their parents. Thanks to genetics, it can be an essential part of adopting or buying a cat, to know their background and help find the right pet for the right parent. For those who aren’t sure, keep reading through our cat breed identifier article, to help you determine what cat breed you currently, or may be looking to, have.

What Breed Is My Cat? – Purebred Cat

Purebred cats can be much easier to identify, due to their defining set of characteristics, as set by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (ICA). These use a breed standard to help identify your cat without needing a DNA test to discover the lineage of your feline friend. Below, we discuss some of the most popular cat breeds, so if you’re wondering “what kind of cat do I have?” check out this section to help you learn how to determine cat breed.

Maine Coon Cats

A very big American maine coon kitten with high ears sitting on a tree on a summer day in the woods.

Maine Coons are one of the most popular breeds for good reason. They’re more dog-like than other cat breeds, with their need to be beside their owner at all times and larger size. Maine Coons have impressive long, fluffy fur, tufted ears, with a square face and body, topped off with large, oval eyes that can come in striking colors. Being extremely muscular, they often require a high protein diet, due to their history as being excellent ratters. They’re also extremely intelligent, and can even be trained to a high standard.

CoatEyes
LilacGold
ChocolateCopper
Siamese PointsGreen
Brown ClassicHeterochrome (different colored eyes)
Mackerel Tabby (with or without markings)
Solid Color (White/Black/Blue/Red/Cream)

Russian Blue Cats

Cute blue russian cat running in nature

Looking smart and elegant, Russian Blues are one of the most desired purebred cats on the market, in the United States. With striking eyes and long or short-haired variants, the Russian Blue domestic cat is one of the most highly-valued kitten breeds, and breed standards are very particular with this cat breed – making them one of the easiest to recognize and identify. In terms of personality, cat lovers appreciate their gentle, sensitive personality traits, while breeders appreciate their quieter nature and easy-to-groom fur.

Russian Blues will only come in various shades of a dark grey/slate colour, with no other markings or patterns. The CFA states that only those with a vivid green eye color can be considered the breed standard, although the IFA notes that younger kittens may have yellow eyes, which can change over time to their distinctive green.

Norwegian Forest Cats

Norwegian Forest Cat in Wilderness

Similar in looks to the Maine Coon, the Norwegian forest cat is a large, domestic long-hair cat with a very friendly nature. Where they differ, however, lies mainly in their fur and coat color and pattern. To start, the Norwegian Forest Cat has a more triangular face when compared to the Maine Coon, and a more even-layered level of fur across the entire body, whereas the latter has a more tufted appearance in key spots around their body.

In terms of coloring and patterns, this breed will most commonly have blue eyes or green eyes, but there is no standard for eye characteristics. They can also come with a wide range of coat pattern types, unlike the Maine Coon who is more limited by their breed. The IFA does not have any restrictions on fur, including patterns and colors. However, the Cat Fanciers are more restrictive, only allowing the following coats and colors:

These can come in a combination of any varieties, however the CFA will not accept any color that hints at hybridization (cross-breeding or mixed breed), which is usually shown in lavender, Himalayan or chocolate – or these colors with white.

Japanese Bobtail Cats

Japanese bobtail black cat walking in the plantation

The Japanese Bobtail can come as a domestic long hair, medium or short hair cat. No matter the length, their fur is always silky smooth, despite having low grooming needs. They can come with a wide ranging of different patterns and colors, but have a major distinctive feature that sets them apart from other cat breeds – their namesake bobtail, which more closely resembles a rabbit tail than a cat.

They are recognized by both the IFA and CFA, among others, in the following:

ColorPatterns
BlackSolid
WhiteTabby
RedBicolor
BrownTricolor/Calico
TortoiseshellSmoke
BlueShaded
Cream
Silver

American Shorthair Cats

American Shorthair cat lying on white bed

The distinct fur of this cat’s breed make the American Shorthair cat stand out from others, particularly when combined with their adaptable but close nature. This is a cat that wants companionship and can easily become an affectionate lap-cat. With close, wirehair that was believed to be a result of a genetic mutation – rather than one naturally gifted by their family in years past – any cat with the correct markings and patterns, but lacking the wirehair, will automatically be withheld by registered associations.

This very close, crimped fur is what makes the American shorthair cat the breed standard, regardless of other characteristics, including eye color. They can, however, come in a wide range of colors with a solid base coloring of silver, brown, black, white, cream or blue – with streaking or stripes of a darker shade in line with their base, giving them the look of tabby patterning.

Turkish Van Cats

Junior the Turkish Van Cat

Extremely active, with a high physical tolerance for games and training, the Turkish Van cat breed have unique patterns that are often referred to as the “Van Pattern”. They are usually light in color around the main body – but hold darker colors around the head and tail (although pure white can also be accepted).

Despite having longer coats, these playful cats are easy to groom, with weekly brushing often being enough to ensure they don’t malt all over the furniture. They’re also rather large, and can easily become mixed up with other domestic longhaired cat breeds – with their personality distinguishing them from others.

Siamese Cats

Siamese cat resting on the floor.

Svelte and sophisticated, the Siamese cat is one of the most recognizable cat breeds. With a triangular face, large ears and vivid blue eyes, it’s easy to spot even a mixed breed cat with these characteristics. A purebred cat, however, will usually have easily noticeable coat colors – usually in fawn or cream colors with darker legs, ears and tail, referred to as a seal point. It should be noted that the IFA allows for a greater variety of patterns beyond this, however, with grey and white or even tabby points being allowed within the breed.

While this list doesn’t mention all of the purebred cats, these are some of the most common house cats in the United States – and therefore the most likely to be parents of mixed breeds cats. Of course, being able to track and trace your cat’s breed can be important to register whether your cats are predisposed to underlying conditions, and another good reason as to why spaying and neutering your feline friends is so important.

How to Use Search Engines to Identify Breeds of Cats

Learning to identify cat breeds can become quite laborious unless you’re able to utilize the same key focal points that breeders use, in order to distinguish the cat breeds. In order to accurately identify what breed your cat is, it’s worth using search engines with key focus points, to help narrow down the search for the lineage of your crossbreed cats, including:

  • Coloring and patterns
  • Length of fur
  • Body type and build
  • Behavior

For example, if your cats are long-haired with a tuxedo pattern, vocal, playful cat, then it’s very likely that there’ll be some Turkish Van in their bloodline. Of course, it’s hard to get accurately tell for exactly every cat, what breed they may be without getting a DNA test or asking the seller, if you’re buying a kitten. That said, it’s always nice to be able to confidently guess at their mixed breeds and brag to your friend about your newfound knowledge.

Cat Colors

A mixed-breed cat can be much more difficult to pin down than their purebred counterparts, due to the level of dominant genes often resulting in similar coat colors and patterns, regardless of their family. Unlike dog breeds, who can usually stick with the coloring and patterned parents, a crossbred cat will usually come under a limited range of coat patterns. That said, if you’re wondering “what breed is my cat?” with no other knowledge than your kitten companion’s coat patterns, you’ll be pleased to know that you can still give your cat a name based on their markings.

Tuxedo Cats

Black and white domestic cat lying on modern kitchen counter

Easily one of the most common cat breeds, the tuxedo cat is a black and white cat that doesn’t belong to any particular breed. The name of the tuxedo cats’ coloring comes from – you guessed it – their markings, which give them the rather dashing appearance of wearing a tiny tux. These house cats can be long or short-haired, which can usually give a good indication of their mixed breeds.

Interestingly, these cats are often more likely to be male, as it’s generally thought that their black and white coat is tied into the same genes as their sex, with the results being that a larger proportion are born as male cats (though females are still possible).

Tabby Cats

Beautiful ginger tabby cat with screwed-up eyes is lying on the wooden floor.

Contrary to popular belief, tabby cats are a mixed breed of cat with distinctive stripes across the eyes, head and body, rather than a standalone breed. Indeed, they can be shown in long-haired and domestic shorthair cats. Most noticeably, unlike the Tuxedo cats, a cat’s breed can often encompass tabby markings and are included as the standard for many different organizations. On top of this, if your cat is a ginger tabby, they’re more likely to be male – suggesting that you can find their pet parents more easily through the father and finding breeds with a corresponding ginger gene.

Calico Cat

Portrait of a magnificent domestic calico cat, sitting on grey background and looking straight to the camera.

A calico cat is, again, not distinguished by a cat’s breed and can be found on a variety of different breed types. In other words, a calico cat is any breed which has tri-colour coats with distinguishable patches of different colors. This can include any domestic shorthair breeds – although, interestingly, they are almost always female, due to the genetics of the color in your kitten being tied to the sex gene. This means that the mother of your kitten will likely be the breed that holds this coat pattern, which can sometimes help you whittle down the breeds to sift through!

Tortoiseshell Cat

Cat, tortoiseshell, on a rocky wall, Cyclades

Tortoiseshell cats are one of the most beloved cat breeds, despite not being linked to one specific breed of cats! They are often regarded as having ‘tortitude’ and it is potentially very likely that vivacious nature of tortoiseshell cats is tied to the genes. On top of this, torties are also more likely to be female, due to the ginger gene being carried on the sex gene. This tidbit of info, if you’ve been paying attention, means you’re more likely to find the breed of the mother through these characteristics than other mixed breeds.

If, however, you’re looking for more than coat patterns, then read on to discover how to best discover your kitten’s family based on multiple other attributes, and uncover what breed your cat is.

Fur Length

One of the most easily recognizable traits in cats which makes their breed easier to track is their fur length. Long-haired cats such as the Norwegian Forest or the Ragdoll cat are much more rare and easy to find, as they will often come from professional breeders, who keep track of offspring (especially if they are registered with one of the major cat associations). However, even when this is not the case, you can usually narrow down the breed lineage if your kitten has longer hair.

Body Type and Build

Another great way to check the background of your cat is to compare their body type and build. Even everyday domestic gray and white, or black cats can usually have their genetics narrowed down by looking at the shape of their head, muzzle and body type. For example, a more svelte cat with an angular face is more likely to share some genes with a Siamese than they might with a Maine Coon. When using a search engine, be sure to include their overall body type and build before hitting the search button, for more accurate results.

Behavior

If you’ve been reading through so far but haven’t found a way to help distinguish as their markings haven’t come up yet (for example the commonly underestimated black cat or gray and white cat), then the next best thing to look-up is their behavior. In the opinion of this author, behavior is likely to be the biggest indicator of your cat’s background. For example, a very playful cat who can be extremely vocal holds the same traits as a Tonkinese, or an Ocicat! At the same time, a quiet, more reserved puss could be more closely related to the American Shorthair.

If you aren’t entirely sure what breed your cat is, try not to fret – as any purebred cat bought from a responsible seller will have all the necessary health checks done, prior to breeding their cats, and any crossbreed is less likely to suffer with genetic health issues. However, if you want to know your pet’s past purely out of interest, then utilize all of the above methods together, to get the best idea of what breed your cat might be. Now, if you don’t mind, this author is off to try and discover her cat’s breed!

A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.

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