How to Determine Your Cat's Breed

  • 01 of 09

    What Breed is my Cat?

    Bengal kittens on leather sofa indoors
    Purple Collar Pet Photography / Getty Images

    One of the most common questions asked among cat owners is: "What breed is my cat?" The quick answer is, if you don't know already, your cat is likely not of a specific breed, but a domestic cat. An encyclopedia could be written about this topic. However, the most pertinent information related to the question can be summed up for lay people with fewer than a dozen articles.

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  • 02 of 09

    Cat Breeds vs. Cat Color Patterns

    High Angle View Portrait Of Ginger Cat Sitting On Street
    Joseph Guthrie / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Hardly a day passes that I don't receive at least one email with an attached photo, asking me to help identify the "breed" of the cat. The correspondent is sometimes disappointed when my reply is, "Your cat is a beautiful example of a tuxedo DSH," or "What a lovely dilute calico domestic shorthair cat." At other times, they just want to know what to reply to "What kind of cat is that?"

    Most cat breeds allow several different colors or color patterns under their breed standards. However, just...MORE because a particular Persian cat is a calico, it does not fall that all longhair calico cats are Persians. Nor are all ​short hair black cats with golden or copper eyes Bombay cats.

    Because there seems to be such a general fixation on breeds, the purpose of this article is to clarify the difference between cat breeds, and cat colors and color patterns, so that the uninitiated cat lover will have a better understanding of these terms.

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  • 03 of 09

    How to Tell if Your Cat is a Purebred

    Portrait Of Cat
    Axel Bueckert / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The Cat Fanciers Glossary defines purebred as "a cat whose ancestors are all of the same breed, or whose ancestry includes crossbreeding that is allowed in the breed standard. For example, a purebred Bombay may also have Burmese cats in its background." Generally, a cat's pedigree (list of ancestry) must be certified by the registry, before it can rightfully be called a "purebred."

    A good example of breed confusion is the American shorthair cat breed, which originally was called the "domestic...MORE shorthair" breed. Lacking that necessary pedigree, a domestic shorthair cat (DSH) can simply not be referred to as an American shorthair cat. Learn more about How to Tell if Your Cat is a Purebred.

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  • 04 of 09

    Domestic Cats, Mixed Breeds, and "Moggies"

    Phoebe is a Gorgeous DLH Tuxedo Cat
    Phoebe is a Gorgeous DLH Tuxedo Cat. Photo Credit: © Kim Cokley

    Domestic cats are rich in history, and there is no one-size-fits-all description of them. Domestic cats can be large, small, fat, or thin, depending on their genetics, diet and degree of care.

    Their colors and color patterns are myriad, with all the colors of the rainbow, including black, white, gray, red (aka "orange), with all the shades between. Color patterns include tabby, calico, tortoiseshell, and tuxedo, to name a few.

    Far from being "ordinary house cats," domestic cats are by far...MORE the most popular cats in the world. Learn more about Domestic Cats, Mixed Breeds, and "Moggies".

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  • 05 of 09

    Calico Cats Profile

    Laura Stolfi / Stocksy United

    Calico cats comprise a garden of cat colors, either vibrant orange (technically known as "red"), white and black, or more subdued flaxen, blue-gray, and white. In feline genetics, the latter is known as "dilute calico." The various patterns of the calico patches are almost as variable as snowflakes. You'll never see two exactly alike.

    Calicoes are almost all female, and the rare male is always sterile. (So much for the hopes of those thinking of breeding a rare line of cats.)

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  • 06 of 09

    Tabby Cats Profile

    Tabby cat sitting near a piano
    LindaRaymondPhotography / Getty Images

    If domestic cats are the most favored of all, tabby cats are the most popular of the cat color patterns. Tabbies come in stripes, whorls, swirls, dots and dashes, and are also allowed in the breed standards of over two dozen recognized cat breeds. Their colors range from red to cream, to black,blue, silver, brown, and tan.

    One of the most consistent markings of tabby cats is the magnificent "M" centered on their foreheads just above the eyes. This M is the stuff of legends. Kiki, shown...MORE here, has a very distinct "M" on her forehead.

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  • 07 of 09

    Tortoiseshell Cats Profile

    Rebecca Spencer / Stocksy United

    Tortoiseshell cats are basically two colors: red and black, along with variations aka "dilutes" of those colors: lighter shades of red (creams), and lighter shades of black (blues, pale grays), and browns. Torties also come in two types of color patterns: "brindled" (woven) and "patched"(solid patches of red or black, (or dilutes of these colors). To make it even more complex, these patches may also be of the tabby nature, resulting in what is often called...MORE "Torbies." Although there may only be two colors in a brindled tortie, they often shine out as a kaleidoscope of autumn colors. Cinnamon, pictured here, is an excellent example.

    If you're thinking of adopting a tortoiseshell cat, you need to learn more about "tortitude."

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  • 08 of 09

    Tuxedo Cats Profile

    Prince is Wearing the Traditional Tuxedo Garb
    Prince is Wearing the Traditional Tuxedo Garb. Photo Credit: © Wilda L. Duncan

    Tuxedo cats are only one of many, many color patterns of bicolor cats. "Tuxies," as we affectionately refer to them, have a specific pattern in common, along with several variations on the theme.

    The tuxedo pattern is very formal, named by the attire human men wear for formal occasions. Nothing is so dramatic as seeing a "tuxie," dressed in his best bib and tucker. Some tuxies also wear "spats," or white boots. Tuxedo cats are truly the gentlemen of cat color patterns.

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  • 09 of 09

    Talk About Your Cat

    Woman kissing cat
    Rafael Elias / Getty Images

    Now that you know the basic differences between cat breeds and domestic cats or mixed breed cats, you can put your knowledge to work. Do you share your home with a purebred cat, domestic cat, or mixed-breed cat? Do you have special experience with certain cat breeds?