Cat Breed Characteristics

Ann Roberts
A British Shorthair Cat
A classic British Shorthair kitten

Cat breed characteristics are determined by the breed standards upheld by notable cat associations. Many cat breeds are the result of the tireless efforts and care of past breeders who worked to create interesting breeds and colors, and then maintain the characteristics of their new breeds. These individuals have worked with the governing cat associations to gain recognition of certain traits and colors that result in the establishment of a new breed.

About Cat Breed Characteristics

Many cat breeds are offshoots of older breeds. Cats like the Himalayan longhair are created from crossbreeding Persians and Siamese felines. To this day, certain cat associations do not recognize the breed as separate from the Persian. In competitions, the Himalayan is shown under a division of Persians, although The International Cat Association has accepted Himalayans as a breed of their own.

Such details in breed history are important to remember because some cats possess characteristics that are close or merely reminiscent of another breed. Many times these similarities are due to crossbreeding efforts in the past. Some breeds like the Siamese have been around since time immemorial, but others are still gaining steam in the cat world.

Breed standards are essential for preserving the traits that make up a particular breed. Some cat associations are more conservative than others and will typically rule out certain coat and eye colors as not representative of a particular breed. In most cases, controversial coat colors eventually obtain recognition as breeders and public opinion wage their efforts against the cat associations. Nevertheless, conservatism definitely has its place in the realm of cat appreciation.

Typical cat breed characteristics include:

  • Coat and eye color
  • Coat length and texture
  • Markings or the absence thereof
  • Body structure specifications
  • Length of ears and muzzle
  • Skull shape

When cats are shown competitively, they receive points in specific breed standard categories. The more points received in each category, the closer the cat is to exemplifying the breed. Cats who win the highest accolades on the show circuit are representative of the breed ideal. Hence, breeders keep these winners in mind when deciding which of their kittens and cats will enter a competition.

Nuances of a Standard

Breed characteristics serve to highlight the distinctions between certain cat breeds. For example, the British Shorthair is known for its round stocky frame and thick short coat. The British Shorthair often appears teddy-bear like in its appearance. The British Shorthair is also best recognized when it features a smoky-blue coat. If it weren't for distinct differences in their facial and body structures, many British Shorthairs would be mistaken for Russian Blues since both breeds possess some superficial similarities. This is just one example of how a breed standard defines the subtle differences between breed characteristics.

Find Cat Breed Standards

You'll find the characteristics of many breeds listed amongst the standards of various cat organizations. Some organizations are held in higher regard than others, but all attempt to offer a description of the ideal cat for each breed.

The Broad Purposes of Breed Standards

Breeders who have spent a great deal of time on the show circuit have had opportunities to view breeds outside of their own expertise. It doesn't take long to familiarize oneself with the many longstanding or exotic cat breeds that fill up the showroom. However, for persons outside the breeding world who may be thinking of purchasing a cat, understanding the characteristics described in a breed standard will help ensure these people that they are purchasing what they have been promised. Occasionally a kitten will emerge within a litter that is not a typical representative of its breed, and an unethical breeder may try to sell that kitten for an unfairly high price to an unwitting customer. Hence, breed standards are not in place merely for the isolated world of breeders. They are present for cat enthusiasts and potential buyers as well.

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Cat Breed Characteristics