How to choose your ideal cat breed

Choosing the right breed of cat or kitten is about so much more than how cute and cuddly they appear. Here's everything you need to consider. 

Choosing the right breed of cat or kitten is an exciting time for every prospective owner. Owning a cat is very rewarding, whilst being a big responsibility. There are many breeds to choose from, and whilst some people have a specific choice in mind, others will want to take some time to look at their options.

Key aspects to include in your decision making are nutrition, health and behaviour. The potential possibilities may be overwhelming for some so, to help, we asked Dr Jessica May, lead vet at video vet service, FirstVet, to put together some factors for you to consider before you make your choice.

Read more: Proof cats are good for your health

 

Pedigree breed or moggie?

Cute cat being stroked by owner

From a typical "moggie’" (domestic shorthair or DSH) to a pure-bred there are many breeds to choose from. Just like dogs, when looking for a cat, you should be aware of typical breed characteristics, which are outlined below. Certain character traits will make some breeds more suitable for your needs than others. In addition, it is important to note which breeds carry certain genetic traits.

Over generations, a number of natural genetic mutations occur and selective breeding has been used to isolate these to produce the various pedigree breeds we know today. Mapping of the feline genome has identified the genes that control coat, colour and pattern, body size, shape and conformation, as well as those which control a cat’s predisposition to diseases and structural abnormalities.

 

1. Behaviour

cat begging

Different breeds of cats have very different characters. Your choice may depend on factors such as your lifestyle, your family members and their personalities.

All cats are independent, natural hunters. However, some breeds are much more active than others, for example, an Abyssinian or Devon rex. Other cats are very people-orientated and sociable, such as la perms or American wirehairs, whereas savannah or Korat breeds are much more independent. Siamese or Tonkinese cats are known for being very vocal or talkative, whilst British shorthairs or Turkish vans have a quiet nature.

The nature of pets in the home is a key consideration for people who have children or young relatives who may visit from time to time. Ragdoll or Maine coon breeds, amongst many others, have a gentle nature and are therefore a great choice for a family cat.

 

2. Appearance

maine coon

While there are many beautiful combinations of coat and eye colours that you like, grooming is a significant part of owning a cat. Long-haired breeds will need more regular maintenance than short hair breeds. There is always the risk of hairballs, but long-haired breeds are naturally at higher risk.

Most cats will need brushing at least once a week. Not only will this help your cat to avoid matted fur that can be sore and difficult to remove, but it will also enable you to bond with your cat, and reduce loose hair around the home.

Examples of short-haired cats include Burmese or Egyptian Mau, or very fine downy hair, such as the Sphynx. Fluffy breeds include chinchillas or Birmans. The size of some breeds may also influence your choice; some breeds are much bigger in stature than others, for example, Maine coons (above) or Norwegian forest cats. However, you may prefer a smaller breed, such as a Khao Manee or Ocicat, which may be better suited to your lifestyle.

Read more: What your cat isn’t telling you

 

3. Environment

a ginger cat

You will need to plan whether your cat will be an indoor-only cat, or have access to the outdoors, and how often. The size and layout of your home, and the surrounding environment, may influence your decision.

Cats that are suited to being exclusively indoors are the Scottish fold or Sphynx. In comparison, Bengal or Somali breeds are more suited to being allowed free access to outside spaces.

 

4. Allergies

black cat

It may surprise you to know that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat. Many people who suffer from a cat allergy may have given up hope of owning a cat. However, do you know that there are some breeds that are less allergenic than others?

It is thought that many people are allergic to the Fel d 1 protein found on cat hair, skin, saliva and dander. All cats produce this protein; male cats actually produce more than females, especially if they’re not neutered.

Breeds considered to be hypoallergenic include the Sphynx, Balinese, Cornish rex or Devon rex, Russian blue and the Siberian forest cat. These breeds might not provoke an allergic reaction for some allergy sufferers and may enable those people to own a cat. Because every person has a different immune system, we would recommend spending time with your chosen breed, prior to purchase, to see if they trigger your allergies or not.

cat sneezing

Recent positive news for allergy sufferers is the results of a scientific study in 2019, which were published in the journal Immunity, Inflammation and Disease. This study showed that changing a cat’s diet may reduce the amount of Fel d 1 protein that cats produce. By taking advantage of natural allergen-antibody interactions, it was discovered that Fel d1 in hair and dander could be neutralised by binding it to an anti‐Fel d1 antibody found in chicken eggs. Therefore, the amount of Fel d 1 protein released into the environment by grooming would be significantly reduced.

Unfortunately, this antibody does not occur naturally in chicken eggs unless the chicken has been exposed to the Fel d 1 protein, so it is not possible simply to feed a cat chicken eggs. Instead, a possible solution has just been made widely available in the form of Purina’s Pro Plan LiveClear diet, which was launched in April 2020. Vets across the world are eagerly awaiting feedback from those cat owners with allergies to see if it has helped them!

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