9 of the rarest cat breeds in the world

One of the rarest cat breeds, a British Shorthair Kitten lying down looking at camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re a cat lover you’re probably already familiar with popular breeds like the Persian and Siamese, but did you know that some of the rarest cat breeds in the world have some unique characteristics that might just make them worthy of becoming your new forever feline friend?

These breeds may not get as much cover time as some of their more popular brothers and sisters, but as far as we’re concerned, their charming natures make them the cat’s meow. Take a look at the list below and get acquainted with some of the world’s rarest cat breeds…

1) Turkish Angora

One of the rarest cat breeds, a Turkish Angora cat scratching on a post indoors

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The sweet and quiet personality of the Turkish Angora coupled with their loyal and affectionate natures makes these gentle sweethearts ideal companions for children, seniors, and everyone in between.

One of the older rarest cat breeds that dates back to the 16th century, the Turkish Angora almost became extinct in the 20th century before caretakers in their home country of Turkey began collecting them for breeding and preservation, initially housing them within a zoo. 

Medium in size with a long and svelte body and a soft and silky coat, these gorgeous and graceful kitties are smart and intelligent, and bond deeply with their humans. This breed loves to chat and like the Tonkinese, it’s super vocal. 

While highly sociable, the Turkish Angora likes their independence and won’t tolerate being held for more than a few minutes, so they're not the best choice if you’re after a cuddly lap cat

2) American Bobtail

Referred to as the Golden Retriever of cat breeds, the affectionate and friendly American Bobtail has a playful personality and a loving heart that makes them a joy to be around.

Their rarity means they can cost up to $1,200 from a reputable breeder, but many pet parents feel their sweet natures make the price tag well worth it. Happy to be picked up and friendly to just about everyone, the American Bobtail fits easily into any home.

Laidback and docile these kitties aren’t high energy,  but will happily whip around the room after one of the best cat toys a few times a day. This is a feline that loves to be loved and dishes out ample love in return. So fond are they of their families that many can be easily leash trained and will happily accompany you on a walk around your neighborhood. 

3) Chartreux

One of the rarest cat breeds, the Chartreux sat outside on a wall

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A sturdy little creature, the shorthaired Chartreux hails from France where it was bred as far back as the 1500s for its hunting prowess. It arrived in the United States in the 1970s and while rare, many fall in love with its exotic appearance and excellent mousing skills.

Often referred to as the smiling cat, the result of a rounded head that tapers to a narrow muzzle, the Chartreux has expressive eyes and will often communicate with their owners through small chirping noises. In fact, this breed is so quiet that legend has it French monks bred them specifically so they could have a cat that wouldn’t interrupt their meditation sessions! 

Calm and affectionate, this breed is loyal and always up for a cuddle. Curious and social, this feline loves napping the day away or following its humans around the house. With a well-developed sense of humor, they’re not averse to enjoying a joke at their owner’s expense and do best with constant companionship. 

4) Turkish Van

Rare and beautiful, the Turkish Van has been around for centuries and its athletic prowess in the water has earned it the nickname ‘The Swimming Cat’. That’s right, a kitty that loves to swim! While it’s rare to find a feline that loves frolicking in the water, the Turkish Van has a water-resistant coat that allows it to emerge almost dry after taking a dip.

Energetic, playful, and fun-loving, the Turkish Van requires lots of attention so she’s best suited to homes with pet parents who have lots of time to indulge her. They’re not always an ideal choice for children, as although loving, they like to be held and cuddled on their own terms.

Their high intelligence levels and need for exercise and play means they can be prone to getting into mischief when left unattended for long periods of time. DIY cat toys that you can make at home or some good interactive cat toys are well worth it for this breed who loves to have fun. 

5) American Wirehair

One of the rarest cat breeds, close up shot of the American Wirehair indoors

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While once almost completely unheard of, the American Wirehair is enjoying a surge in popularity and it’s not hard to see why. Easy going and placid with a loving nature that sees it attach to every family member, this breed makes a wonderful companion.

A robust and powerful cat, the American Wirehair loves to play but don’t worry, one of the great things about this breed is that they’re equally happy playing with people as they are playing alone and are more than capable of amusing themselves for long periods of time.

Active without being hyper and affectionate without being clingy, they’re mild-mannered and sociable while also having a strong independent streak, helping them to fit in just about anywhere – one of the most accessible of the rarest cat breeds. 

6) British Shorthair

British Shorthair in long grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With a name like British Shorthair, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these cats originated in, well, Britain! But they actually began their lives in ancient Rome before being introduced to England in the 1870s.

Their round face and dense furry coat often see them affectionately labeled as ‘teddy bears’ and it turns out that it’s a label that’s more than skin deep. Calm, quiet, even-tempered, and undemanding, the British Shorthair and while they love affection and attention, they’ll happily wait patiently for it.

Extremely loyal and faithful companions, these forever friends talk in squeaks rather than meows, a comical trait that sits in paradox to their burly bodies, but they have loud purrs that kick into high gear the more they’re petted.

7) Norwegian Forest Cat

One of the rarest cat breeds, shot of two Norwegian Forest Cats stood side by side indoors

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With large almond-shaped eyes, muscular bodies, and an equilateral triangle-shaped head, the ruggedly beautiful Norwegian Forest Cat is a sight to behold. 

Natural athletes who love perching on top of their cat scratching post or clambering to the top of their cat tree, the Norwegian Forest Cat arrived in Norway from Europe and isn’t a descendent of any wild or feral breed. 

Believed to have existed as far back as Norse mythology, this ancient breed has a fun-loving spirit and unlike their name suggests, far prefers being inside with their humans than hunting in the great outdoors.

Outgoing and gregarious, this breed will bond equally with everyone in the family and is happiest when perched beside their favorite people. Quiet and intelligent, this breed learns quickly and makes a charming addition to the family.

8) LaPerm

Joining the feline ranks by complete accident in 1982, the LaPerm is the result of a spontaneous mutation in a kitten that was born bald on an Oregon farm but who went on to grow soft and curly hair.

This kitty named Curly went on to mother many kittens that shared her unusual coat and before long, the LaPerm was officially recognized as a breed in and of itself. And thank goodness because this friendly feline has a wonderful nature that makes them joyous companions.

Inquisitive and determined to always be in on all the action, this curious kitty is fond of riding on shoulders and scaling new heights to survey all the goings-on in their household. This cute ball of curly fluff loves to exercise, so having a few fun games to play with cats up your sleeve can help them burn off their excess energy. 

9) Sphynx

One of the rarest cat breeds, close up of a Sphynx

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, the hairless Sphinx is definitely not for everyone but this little kitty is keen to spread the message that bald can be beautiful. While they look like they’d have an ancient story to tell, the Sphinx is a relatively new breed, the result of a genetic mutation that began in the 1960s – one of the more recent rarest cat breeds.

With the skin texture of a soft peach, the Sphinx is lively and sweet-tempered and known to wag its tail while following its owners from room to room. Mischievous and lovable, they demand the full attention of their humans and are extremely friendly, outgoing, and intelligent.

Lovers of the limelight, the Sphinx is a real show pony, often faking clumsiness to get attention. Although they love being active, this breed needs to be kept indoors unless supervised due to safety reasons. While not for everyone this adorable alien-like kitty has a charming temperament that will bring their owners years of joy.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.