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What breed is my cat? How to identify any breed

what breed is my cat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Have you ever wondered, ‘what breed is my cat?’ If you originally had your cat from a breeder as a kitten, you probably know what breed of cat they are. Or, if your cat gave birth to a litter of kittens, then you can be pretty sure of at least some of their parentage!

But, what if your cat was a rescue or a stray? Does that mean you can never find out for sure which breed they are? And if they’re a mixed breed, is there any way to know which breeds are in the mix, so to speak? Here are some of the methods you might use to find out your cat’s breed.

Identifying breed using physical traits 

Cats come in all shapes and sizes, but certain aspects of their appearance can give you clues about what breed they might be. The shape of their face, size of their ears, their coloring, coat length, and their general build are particularly useful physical traits when it comes to identifying your cat’s breed.  

Coat color and pattern 

Different breeds have different coat colors and patterns. For instance, a Bengal can be spotted or marbled.  

bengal cat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some cat breeds, including Siamese, Exotic Shorthairs, Ragdolls, and British Shorthairs, are color pointed. Their paws, face, ears, and tail are a different shade to their body. The colours of their points can vary from shades of grey or brown to red and lilac.

Ragdoll cat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Size 

Some cat breeds, like the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon, are larger compared to other breeds. So, if your cat has a lean, muscular build, an angular face, dark brown points, and large ears, it’s likely to be a Siamese. Whereas if your cat is a large build and has a long coat, square jaw, and large ears with little tufts of hair on them, it’s probably a Maine Coon.

Maine Coon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mixed breeds 

If you have a mixed breed, you might expect it to look like a mixture of its parents’ breeds. However, kittens don’t always look like their parents. In fact, it’s not uncommon to have a litter of kittens where no two kittens are the same! So, you probably won’t be able to use appearance alone to determine which breeds contribute to your mixed breed cat. 

Breed clues from your cat’s behavior 

Cats are all individuals, so although different breeds have different personality attributes, it’s not a reliable way to determine your cat’s breed. Even so, certain behaviors and personality types might make a particular breed more likely. 

For instance, there’s no mistaking the unique sound of a Siamese cat’s meow! Similarly, Ragdolls were given their name for good reason – their tolerant temperament and cuddly nature make them great snuggle buddies. 

Siamese cat laying in grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

At-home tools for cat breed identification

Apps 

If you’re keen to have a go at working out what breed your cat is, you might decide to try an app. There are a few apps available that claim to be able to identify your cat’s breed. Of course, it’s easier for them to identify a pedigree cat breed. But they’re also able to make some suggestions about which breeds make up your mixed breed cat. 

One of the most positively reviewed apps is Cat Scanner (opens in new tab), by Silawu Software. It allows you to use your IOS or Android smartphone to have some fun and help you answer the question ‘what breed is my cat?’ Remember, though, there are limitations to any breed identification app, and the answers are not guaranteed to be reliable.

Online quizzes 

There are a few online quizzes out there for finding out what breed your cat is. However, these are only really good at identifying pure breed cats. Most are meant as a fun pastime rather than being particularly reliable.

After all, a quiz meant to identify your mixed breed cat would have to have so many questions and possible answers that it would be near impossible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun finding out which cat breed your cat shares traits with. You can even find out which cat breed is most like you! 

DNA testing 

The most reliable and accurate way to find out more about your cat’s ancestry is to do a genetic test. A DNA test usually involves taking a cheek swab from your cat. Occasionally a test might require a blood sample, in which case you’ll need the help of your veterinarian. 

The strange thing is, although cats of different breeds can look completely different, they actually share most of the same genes. This means that genetic testing doesn’t usually give you a list of exact breeds. However, it can still give you some interesting information about your cat companion. 

DNA testing can give you an idea of which part of the world your cat’s ancestors originated in. It can also be used to determine if your cat has any gene markers for specific health conditions. However, if your cat’s DNA test result shows that they have a gene marker for a health condition, that doesn’t mean your cat will definitely develop the condition, so there’s no need to panic.

Conclusion

Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out exactly which cat breeds your cat has in their ancestry? Sadly, none of the methods above are 100% accurate – even genetic testing only claims to be 95% accurate. As long as you accept that you need to take the results with a pinch of salt, you can find out some interesting information about your feline friend and have some fun at the same time! 

Dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet with a love of dentistry and soft tissue surgery. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and their two cats.