Just about everyone can spit out a couple of dog breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, or Pit Bulls. In contrast, very few people know about different cat breeds, let alone are they able to identify a cat breed by looking at one.
Although it is much less common to talk about cat breeds, cat breeds do exist, though they are fewer in number. Much like dogs, cat breeds can predict cat personality and common illnesses, though how you raise your cat matters more than anything else.
If you are interested in learning more about cat breeds, keep on reading. In this article, we look at the number of domesticated house cat breeds, wild breeds, and more. Let us hook our claws into this topic to find out more.
How Many Domesticated House Cat Breeds Are There?
Although there are close to around 200 domesticated dog breeds, there are only about 40 to 71 cat breeds, depending on which cat association you look at. These cat associations define breed characteristics and host cat competitions, much like dog breed associations do.
The two most trusted cat associations are the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the International Cat Association. The Cat Fanciers Association only recognizes 42 cat breeds, whereas the International Cat Association recognizes 71. There are also some more experimental breeds that are unrecognized, so it would be safe to say that there are between 42 and 100 cat breeds in the world.
Some of the most popular cat breeds include:
- American Shorthair
- British Shorthair
- Domestic Longhair
- Domestic Shorthair
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Russian Blue
Although the breeds listed above are some of the most popular around the world, there are certainly more breeds, as we already learned. Some of these cats, such as the Maine Coon, are domesticated yet still resemble their wild ancestors. Other cat breeds, on the other hand, simply look like soft snuggly stuffed animals.
What Breed Is My Cat?
Although it is impossible to determine your cat’s breed without inspecting it, it is our best bet that you have domestic long hair or short hair. In the United States, 95% of domestic house cats classify as domestic long hair or short hair breeds.
It is important to note that domestic long hair and short hair cats are distinct breeds from the American Shorthair. Interestingly, the most common cat breed is actually not recognized in terms of pedigree, but it just describes the domesticated cats we are most familiar with.
Can More Breeds Be Added?
The bulk of almost all registered breeds stay the same, but new breeds technically can be accepted. For example, the Cat Fanciers’ Association accepted the Lyokoi and Khao Manee to their registration in 2018.
Still, cats are not added to the registry lightly. Because all cats are bred from a similar line, there is a lot of debate about whether new breeds are actually new breeds or simply a continuation of the older line. This also explains why different registries list different numbers of official cat breeds.
Why Are There Fewer Cat Breeds Than Dog Breeds?
There are fewer cat breeds than dog breeds purely because humans have not taken the time to domesticate them for individual purposes. As you probably know, many dogs were bred specifically for purposes like hunting or herding. For example, Australian Shepherds were bred for herding. This causes there to be quite a few dog breeds to choose from.
Cats, on the other hand, have not been bred for individual purposes like dogs. As a result, they are much more genetically similar to wild cats than dogs are to wolves. It also means that there are way fewer breeds in general.
How Many Wild Cat Breeds Are There?
Even though the cats you have in your house are domesticated, it can be interesting to learn about wild cat breeds. Wild cats are domesticated cats’ long-lost relatives. They have very similar genetics, but their genomes are altered in a way that makes them more suitable to live with humans. This includes more docile natures and memory-making abilities.
As odd as it may sound, there is actually a similar amount of wild cat breeds as there is domesticated breeds. According to multiple wild cat associations, there are about 36 types of wild cats found around the world. This includes the African golden cat, the cheetah, the jaguar, and more.
Just like with domesticated house cats, there is some debate about the exact number of wild cats in the wild. For example, some registries list 40 species, whereas most only list 36. It is interesting that there is much more consistency regarding the number of wild cat breeds than there is domesticated house cat breeds.
Population Distribution of Wild Cats
Wild cats can be found all over the world, though most people associate wild cats with Africa. This is because some of the most notorious wild cats are from Africa, such as lions. Even though Africa is associated most commonly with wild cats, you can find them all across the globe.
You can find wild cats on nearly every continent, including Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia, and Africa. You can even find them in Antarctica and the Arctic. With that being said, many islands, like Australia, only have wild cats because they were brought by humans. In fact, many people wonder if the Americas only have cats due to settlers long ago.
Because of settlers, though, you can find cats everywhere around the globe today. Africa, for example, has some of the oldest cats in the world and they are home to both large and small cat varieties. Similarly, Asia has a very long cat history, and they are home to the largest cats, the Siberian tiger.
Wild cats are native to Europe too, but Europe is only home to modern small cat varieties, such as the Scottish wild cat or Eurasian Lynx. Shockingly, larger cat breeds used to roam Europe as well.
North America and South America, however, have both small and large cat varieties, though their large cats are not as big as those found in Asia or Africa. Still, the largest living cat in the world can be found in Florida. It is a liger named Hercules.
Australia is a very interesting country to look at in terms of cat population. Cats were not native to the continent, but they were brought over by settlers. As a result, many native species are actually endangered because of the explosion of feral cats.
Relation to the Common House Cat
After discussing all this, you might want to know your house cat’s relation to wild cats. As you probably are aware, there are two different classifications of wild cats, big cats and small cats. Initially, all cats evolved from big cats, such as tigers, panthers, and lions.
Some big cats began to evolve into smaller sizes. These cats belong to the Felidae family. Eventually, this family began to separate into a different genus. This is where the domesticated cat comes in. Its genus appeared around 3.4 million years ago. This family includes wild cats, jungle cats, and domesticated cats.
With this in mind, the common house cat has evolved from smaller varieties of wild cats, such as the Scottish wild cat. Even though most domesticated house cats are most like the smaller breed, there are still a lot of similarities between house cats and big cats.
In fact, house cats and tigers tend to share 95.6% of DNA. This is an incredibly shocking fact that most people are excited, and a bit scared, to learn!
History of Feline Domestication
The history of feline domestication goes back many years. In fact, it is believed that the first cats were domesticated around the year 7500 BCE in the Near East. Most scholars believe that the first cats were domesticated in ancient Egypt. Since then, domesticated cats have transformed into the most popular pet around the globe.
Although it is impossible to say exactly why cats were domesticated, many anthropologists and historians speculate that the ancient Egyptians domesticated cats since cats were venerated at this time. For example, many goddesses were even depicted in cat form.
Interestingly, Egypt is not the only country where cats were considered sacred. For example, certain ancient Greek gods and goddesses were connected to the Egyptian gods, causing them to be depicted in cat form as well.
As time went on, cats were still associated with sacred events. For example, many European Middle Age artists actually associated cats with Christianity’s the Virgin Mary and the Holy Family. This suggests that cats were even connected with sacred mythology of the more modern world.
By the time of Christianity, cats were securely domesticated. This means that cats were a common pet by the time of the Middle Ages.
Sailing to the New World
Once you get into the modern era, which roughly aligns with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, cats were not so much associated with sacred rituals and origins in Europe anymore. Nevertheless, domesticated house cats could be found everywhere.
As Europeans started sailing to the New World, so did cats! Since cats killed rodents and mice, they were often brought aboard ships to keep the rodent population at nay. Once the ships landed, these cats escaped and started populating the Americas too.
Domesticated Cats Today
Today, cats are easily one of the most popular pets around the globe. In fact, they are actually the number one pet of choice in the United States. Around 34% of US homes include a furry feline companion. This adds up to about 90 million domesticated cats in total.
Interestingly, the sacred or religious origins of cats have not gone away completely. Although most people do not associate cats with the souls of the undead or gods and goddesses anymore, there are still a lot of superstitions around cats.
Most households, however, simply have cats because they are great companions and easy to take care of. Although many people cite themselves as being dog people over cat people, most houses prefer cats since they do not require as much attention or effort as dogs.
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Even though your furry feline friend is non-aggressive and loves you to death, it has roots connected to wild cats, such as lions, tigers, and pumas…Oh my! This explains why cats are obligate carnivores and like chasing mice.
Still, domesticated cats have evolved throughout the years to be much less aggressive and to develop more memories. This is exactly why you can keep a domesticated cat in your house but not a tiger. Although the domesticated cats from ancient Egypt are very different from the domesticated cats today, you still have the ancient populations to thank for your furry friend.
At the same time, you might wish you could give the ancients a stern lecture. After all, it is likely their religious veneration of cats that has caused all domesticated house cats today to have that sassy and entitled attitude that they are both loved and hated for!
Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock
- How Many Domesticated House Cat Breeds Are There?
- What Breed Is My Cat?
- Can More Breeds Be Added?
- Why Are There Fewer Cat Breeds Than Dog Breeds?
- How Many Wild Cat Breeds Are There?
- Population Distribution of Wild Cats
- Relation to the Common House Cat
- History of Feline Domestication
- Final Thoughts