Interest in purebred cats is at an all time high. Historically, people were attracted to purebred cats solely for their looks, from the flat faced, fluffy and noble Pekingese puppy look of Persians to the wildcat appearance of American short hair cats. Breeders paid less attention to temperament than to aesthetics.
Originally cat breeders didn’t need to worry about attitude, as dog breeders who bred for abilities in the field as pointers and/or retrievers, as herding dogs and/or as protectors of family and property. After all, any cat that could sit on a lap and catch an occasional mouse was thought to have a suitable disposition – but that’s all changed.
Cat breeders are paying attention to perpetuating their breed’s own individual temperament. Indeed, today, the personality of a sassy Abyssinian is totally different than the dainty Scottish fold.
“”The look of a cat is going to be what initially attracts a perspective buyer, but people need to make a decision based on a breed’s temperament,”” adds Darrell Newkirk, of Fairview Heights, Ill., former president of the American Cat Fanciers’ Association and an all-breed CFA judge for three years.
That decision isn’t an easy one to make. Relinquishment studies confirm that thousands with purebred dogs ultimately drop their pooches at shelters because they’ve chosen the wrong breed to match their lifestyles, making their decision to buy based on impulse, the dog’s looks or faulty research. “”Of course, we don’t want this happening in the cat world,”” says Joan Miller, of Napa Valley, Calif., an all-breed Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) Judge for 17 years, representing the largest registry of purebred cats. “”The problem is learning about each breed’s individual characteristics – there aren’t entire books or articles on the subject, as there are for dog breeds,”” she says.
So, with assistance from Newkirk and Miller, here’s the truth about the five most popular Cat Fanciers Association cat breeds (starting with the most popular cat breed):
“”If you don’t enjoy the grooming, Persians aren’t for you,”” says Newkirk. “”They require a lot of grooming, and enjoy being fussed over.””
Recognized in about 50 colors and patterns, these glamour cats are all about their legendary flowing coats – and they seem to know it. The exact origin of this breed is debatable, but hieroglyphic references date to 1684 B.C.
“”Persians are sweet, gentle, placid and adaptable,”” adds Miller. “”They’re not destructive and they don’t seem to have much energy.”” These cats easily become couch potatoes. While this breed is fine when raised with children, young children should be warned not to pull on their hair.
2) Maine coon cat:
The Mark McGuire of cats, a large and powerful feline. One of the few all-American cat breeds, this cat was originally bred for function (mouse catching in barns) rather than form. Still, all the while, Maine coons developed a close bond with their people, atypical of barn cats. In fact, it might be best described that Maine coons insisted on being domesticated. To this day, they adore their people.
“”They’re truly the serene gentle giants of the cat world,”” says Newkirk. “”And they’re exceedingly patient, even relishing the company of children.”” With strangers, Maine coons may be timid.
Here’s a breed that’s so loving and dependent on people, some suffer separation anxiety. “”They love to follow their people from room to room,”” explains Newkirk. “”If you think this is too clingy, a Siamese may not be for you. You can lessen the chances of separation anxiety by getting a second Siamese.””
If you don’t want to hear your cat’s opinion, forget about the Siamese. This breed will tell you exactly what he’s thinking. The diverse intonations of Siamese meows have been documented, and some even claim Siamese in various parts of the country have different dialects.
Originally introduced by the royal family of Siam (now Thailand), these color pointed cats with the wedge-shaped heads may look elegant – but they love their playtime.
“”These are active cats with an active mind,”” says Miller. “”This isn’t a breed content to sit in the corner and watch the world go by. They’ll toss items off a dresser just to watch them fall, or they’ll dump a garbage pail, finding great joy in watching the contents fall out.””
The combination of their cunning, climbing ability and love of food makes Abbys among the best counter surfers. “”This doesn’t mean they can’t be trained to stay off the counters,”” says Miller. “”You better teach them where they can climb, or they’ll be scampering up your drapes.”” Cat trees and/or other appropriate places to climb are a necessity.
When raised with dogs, any cat can enjoy canine companionship, but Abyssinians actually prefer roughhousing with dogs much larger than themselves to playing with more laid-back felines.
The Egyptians once worshiped these sleek cats with the golden lion coat, although you can’t help but think how they stood still long enough to be idolized. Miller says, “”Dealing with one Abyssinian is kind of fun, having two can be a chore, three is a real challenge, and four is downright impossible.””
This is a lazy man’s Persian. Developed from both Persians and shorthaired breeds, Exotics are essentially Persians with short hair. While some brushing is required, there’s nowhere near the painstaking effort involved as in Persian coat care.
“”This adaptable cat has a personality strikingly similar to Persians, though many are a touch more active,”” says Newkirk. “”Exotics – who are like round, soft and fluffy Teddy Bear cats – are sweet, gentle and good to travel with.””
Here are comments on lesser-known pure bred cats:
British short hair:
Very dignified, even proper, but what would you expect any less from a British cat? This is the oldest of English breeds, but it wasn’t seen as a CFA show cat until 1980. The breed’s supporters tout the intelligence of the British short hair, and proudly refer to examples of the breed that perform in TV commercials.
Their fine, curly coat is like a poodle’s, and there’s no shedding. While many people with allergies can tolerate a Cornish (or for that matter a Devon rex), some cannot. However, this isn’t this active breed’s only attribute. “”These cats adore their people, and they have a wonderful sense of humor,”” says Newkirk. “”I’m convinced they do things to make us laugh. When well socialized, Cornish rex are especially adaptable and sociable; they enjoy children and other pets.””
Even rare in Thailand, their country of origin, this little cat with the big eyes is totally devoted to its people. “”We’re talking about devotion equal to any dog,”” says Miller. Korats should be exposed to loud noises and buzzing activity from a young age, or they may become fearful. Still, lots of screaming kids can be too much for a Korat to deal with.
Brushing is required to maintain their beautiful silky coat. “”They’re alert, playful, and constant companions to their people.”” Miller says. They can be shy around people they don’t know.
For a free brochure about any CFA breed, write Cat Fanciers’ Association, 1805 Atlantic Avenue, P.O. Box 1005 Manasquan, NJ 08736.