Many individuals who have purchased a cat from a shelter or simply taken in a stray animal will find themselves wondering from time to time: "Which kind of cat do I have?" This quandary can become more intense when visitors continue to come by and throw out suggestions such as: "That kitty sure looks like a Bengal…", or "Do you think Mittens is a Scottish Fold?"
The Job of a Breeder
Numerous people have a difficult time understanding the role of a cat breeder. Essentially, you will never have to ask the question, "Which kind of cat do I have?" when you buy from a quality breeder. Now although this question is hardly a priority considering the millions of animals that are abandoned and adopted by shelters and are in desperate need of homes, cat breeders work diligently to preserve the standard traits of certain breeds.
Good breeders are typically affiliated with at least one cat association such as TICA (The International Cat Association) or the long-time king of associations, the CFA (Cat Fancier's Association). A breeder registers her purebred animals within a cat association and displays the animals in the show circuit to award points to her breeding studs and queens. The higher the awards won by these animals, the better a representative these cats are of the breed standard.
Why is this important? In the world of cat enthusiasts, breeders are essentially the individuals who preserve cat breeds. They are the reason why Bengals and Scottish Folds have not mated with other breeds to the point where no distinction can be made. When a good breeder sells a kitten that is registered within a cat association, a buyer can request something called a "proof of pedigree" where the lineage of a particular cat is recorded. This proof of pedigree shows the buyer the ancestry of a cat, typically at least three to five generations back and possibly even further.
So, Which Kind of Cat Do I Have?
The truth is, unless you have purchased your cat from a breeder, it is highly unlikely you can know the precise breed of the animal. Yes, many breeds have obvious traits that translate into your cat's physical appearance, so if the animal has folded ears, it's somewhat clear that the cat has some recent Scottish Fold lineage in its genes. However, not all traits are so obvious. There are many breeds that feature large ears similar to the Abyssinian, and because interbreeding almost always occurs in uncontrolled environments, it is impossible to ascertain whether or not your cat is a purebred without a proof of pedigree.
If you are not interested in determining whether or not your cat is a purebred, what you can do is find directories of cat breeds and scroll through the breeds to see which animals seem a close match to your own cat. Breed List is a good place to start your search.
Most cats found in shelters or animal rescue units are not purebred animals. This is because most breeders keep a close eye on their animals, and it is very rare that a Triple Grand Champion will wander from its breeding palace. Yet, for most pet owners, owning a purebred is not a priority. Purebred animals are the priority of individuals who are simply fans of a particular breed, or, perhaps, these individuals are looking to show their animals on the circuit.
However, some pet owners may feel a bit left out because their cat is not a purebred and therefore ineligible for registration with a cat association. After all, breeding a household pet is already considered practically a high crime by cat associations since the latter are all too aware of the number of homeless animals that populate the earth. This is why TICA decided to form a "Household Pet" category within their show circuit. Thus, proud owners of a remarkably good looking pet could still participate in cat shows. In addition, the advantage of taking your animal to a cat show is that you will get to be around judges who are experienced in recognizing cat traits. If you're still interested in learning about your cat's lineage, a judge may be able to detect the physical nuances that correspond with certain breeds, and will likely be able to do this far better than most owners.