13 Rare Cat Breeds That Make Extra-Special Companions
Cats have been around since the foundation of the most ancient civilizations and are still trusty companions today. But some cat breeds are few and far between, considered rare when compared to their other feline friends.
What makes cats rare really depends on the breed, according to Teresa Keiger of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), and the rationale may trace all the way back to the foundation of the breed, whether ancient or brand new.
"Several of these breeds began with just a few cats, and unless the breed outcrosses for genetic diversity, it's difficult for it to grow," Keiger explained.
Some rare breeds are also quite young, so not enough time has gone by for them to become prominent and accepted by the CFA for breed recognition.
Similarly, a cat breed might be rare due to lack of breeder availability. Without breeders who are dedicated to helping the breed stay established, the breed can't grow. And we can't forget about the people's court of opinion. Some rare breeds became rare due to other breeds being more popular with the public.
"All breeds have their own unique attributes. But does the public know about them and desire them?" Keiger says.
No matter the reason, this group of 13 cats breeds may be more scarce in numbers, but they're still the cat's meow.
What's more American than New York? That's where the American wirehair originated—spontaneously, we might add. That's right. All it took was a couple of New York farm cats ... and boom! A new breed was born in 1966, a descendent of the American shorthair.
The American wirehair may have a coarse, wiry coat, but they are a friendly and laid-back companion. They love to play with their humans and enjoy toys. But take heed: their unique curly coat, despite its awry appearance, does not need a lot of grooming. In fact, their coat can be damaged by grooming. So, let it grow! Let it grow!
This breed was only recently accepted by the Cat Fanciers' Association, earning them their rare distinction. Not only is the American bobtail rare, but they've got quite a unique appearance. Let's start with the obvious: their backside. While the short, flexible tail can vary in appearance—no two tails are the same—their overall appearance resembles that of the bobtail wildcat. Roar!
While the American bobtail is a typically large cat, it takes them 2-3 years to reach their full size. Slow and steady wins the race! Once full-grown, they are strong and healthy cats with no predisposition to major health problems.
This Central Asian feline was not typically spotted outside of Turkey until the 1950s and didn't make its way to the U.S. until the 1970s. The Turkish van is a muscular large cat breed but also elegant, thanks to their semi-long-haired coats. To keep this coat looking pristine, daily grooming is required.
While the Turkish Van isn't a particularly vocal breed, they let their large, expressive eyes do the talking. To keep these inquisitive and highly active cats happy, make sure to keep them engaged with interactive toys, enrichment activities, and a perch to look outdoors at the world around them.
This rare kitty originated in Thailand, and even in Thailand, the Korat is rare, usually only given as a gift to bring good luck. In that case, we all want one!
Korat cats are one of the only breeds that can only be found in one color—a silvery blue hue. And you can count on admiring their coat for a long while—it's not uncommon for Korats to live for 18-19 years.
That being said, Korats can sometimes suffer from a disease called gangliosidosis, which can cause paralysis. Luckily, a test for this ailment exists, so be sure to ask your breeder or shelter if this test has been administered. After you bring your cat home, you can expect an intelligent, sweet companion to remain by your side.
Another cat from Turkey this way comes! Turkish Angora cats are known as a national treasure in their country of origin. If you took one look at their classic gleaming white coat, you'd understand why!
This rare cat breed goes way back. In fact, there's written history that dates the Turkish Angora back to 16th-century France. And their long-haired coat most likely comes from the need to adapt to cold winters in Turkish mountain ranges. Très intéressant! Today, the Turkish Angora is known for their loveable and adaptable nature, readily accepting other household pets (even dogs), though they still prefer to be large and in charge.
The Singapura cat is a relatively new breed, which explains their scarcity in numbers. They were first found in Singapore, hence the name, and imported to the United States around the 1970s by expatriates.
If you're in the mood for a consistent companion, then a Singapura may be the right cat for you. Their disposition has been described as one of a "pesky people cat," always wanting to accompany their humans wherever they go. They love their person, even as they age.
Appearance-wise, these kitties are cuties. Singapura cats are small, short-haired cats with larger-than-life eyes and ears. Full-grown, they will weigh between 5-8 pounds depending on gender. The perfect size to be held!
The Chartreux cat is known as the beloved blue cat of France, equipped with a blue-grey shorthaired coat to show off to spectators. Breeders have worked hard to keep the Chartreux around, especially in the United States. Because of its French origin, breeding was significantly impacted by World War II.
One look at their endearing eyes, and how could you not work around the clock to revitalize the breed? The breed was brought to the United States and established in an effort largely led by Helen and John Gamon after they visited some friends in Europe and inquired about the breed. The North American Chartreux bloodlines can be directly traced back to their efforts!
In 2019, the Manx breed was the 31st most-popular cat breed in CFA registration numbers, two places behind the Singapura. What makes this breed so special? The Manx gene is tailless, even more so than our friend the American bobtail. In addition to commonly being found without a tail, these round kitties are playful and intelligent, almost dog-like. So if you're looking to make the switch from dog person to cat person, the Manx may be your very best friend.
Anyhow, the first litter of Burmilla kittens was born in 1981—all of a black-shaded silver color. They resemble their Burmese ancestors, but have a slightly sweeter appearance, thanks to their more expressive faces.
Burmilla cats detest the label of age, exhibiting many "kitten-like" characteristics well into adulthood. You can count on them to be a mischievous housemate like the Burmese and display the laid-back nature of the Chinchilla Persian. A perfect mix!
The Havana Brown was first bred by English breeders in an effort to create a solid brown Siamese cat, and the first Havana brown in North America came from England in the 1950s. According to the Cat Fanciers' Association, every Havana brown cat in North America can be traced back to this one cat! What a lineage. While they are still around today, they were on the brink of extinction in the late 90s. But we're glad this kitty has stuck around!
In addition to their unique chocolate brown coat, Havana brown cats are also distinguished by their puppy-like demeanor, following you all around your home to satisfy their curiosity. They are not ones to take life seriously, except when it comes to dinnertime (same).
The Egyptian Mau is a lean, athletic cat whose history dates back at least 3,000 years. Much of the ancient Egyptian artwork featuring spotted cats is thought to portray ancestors of today's Egyptian mau, according to The Egyptian Mau Club, however, DNA studies reveal the breed we know today is actually mostly of European and North American origin.
While these green-eyed and spotted kitties are little lovebugs who adore their families, they are a rare breed. Only about 7,000 Egyptian maus are registered with the CFA, with around 200 kittens registered each year.
A Tonkinese cat is a mix of the Siamese and Burmese breeds, and a purebred Tonkinese is quite rare. If you do find one, be prepared to pay between $600-$1,200 from a reputable breeder. The Tonkinese have a striking appearance, especially with those aqua-hued eyes.
Besides their unique look, these kitties were born to be a companion breed. They love to play, give affection to their people, and relish in their role as a lap cat at the end of the day. Thanks to their Siamese ancestors, Tonkinese are smart and love to be challenged—try your hand at training your Tonk and giving them plenty of toys.
The Devon rex has an unusual appearance, including a wavy coat, tall ears, and wide eyes. They are super social cats who love making friends and need engaged owners with lots of time and attention to give (they don't do well if left alone for long periods). This cat is a fairly rare breed with an interesting backstory.
The breed began in the 1950s in Devon, England. A wavy-coated kitten named Kirlee was born, and her owner knew of the conservation effort to preserve the already-discovered Cornish rex cat's curly-coated gene. She reached out to the program offering Kirlee to help in the preservation efforts. During this process, it was discovered that Kirlee had a different wavy-haired gene than the Cornish rex—and the Devon rex was officially discovered. All Devon rex cats today can be traced back to Kirlee, who died in the '70s.
Other Types of Rare Cats
Disappointed to not see your favorite rare cat on our list? Perhaps the cat you have in mind is more unique than rare. For example, Russian blue cats, who display a striking combination of blue-grey fur and green eyes. They are relatively popular in the United States, ranking 15th in number of registered cats in 2019.
Calico cats, who aren't confined to a particular breed, are unique because they are almost always female due to their unique chromosome pairings. That makes male calico cats very rare. So much so that male calico kitties are thought to be good luck in the U.S. and U.K, according to the ASPCA.
Other rare colors include solid shades of brown, like chocolate or cinnamon, and unique color patterns like colorpoint and rosette.
Whether they're rare or not, we're thankful for all of our feline friends.