Cat breeds – take a closer look at some of the UK’s most popular types of cat
Siamese or Bengal? Norwegian Forest or Maine Coon? Ragdoll or Russian Blue? Which breed of cat do you find most captivating? We count down 10 cat breeds that are riding high in the popularity charts, plus one favourite feline that’s not actually a breed at all ...
According to the PDSA's Animal Wellbeing Report 2021, 24% of the UK population have a cat, that’s an astonishing 10.7 million cats! According to Cats Protection Annual Cats Report 2021, 65% of people surveyed said their cats are ‘moggies’ – the affectionate term for a cat of non-pedigree, mixed or unknown heritage – whereas 23% said their cats were pedigree. But which cat breeds are currently riding high in the popularity stakes?
Read on to find out more about:
- The Bengal Cat – sweet natured with leopard-like looks
- The Ragdoll Cat – gentle, playful, alarmingly beautiful attention-seekers
- The Siamese Cat – outgoing extroverts with plenty to say
- The Norwegian Forest Cat – rugged, resourceful and always up for a game
- The Persian Cat – the ultimate glamour puss and creature of habit
- The Maine Coon Cat – intelligent, trainable and always up to antics
- The Burmese Cat – charming, confident, energetic socialites
- The Russian Blue Cat – loyal and affectionate, content with their own company
- The Turkish Van Cat – agile and active with an extraordinary love of heights and water
- The British Shorthair Cat – easy-going, affectionate teddy bears
- The Calico Cat – the ‘just by chance’ cat
For people who want a furry companion, a cat may seem like the ideal choice. However, even though cats are naturally self-contained creatures it doesn’t mean they enjoy being constantly left to their own devices. Find out if you're ready for a cat >>
The Bengal – sweet natured with leopard-like looks
The Bengal cat has only been in the UK for around 20 years but in that time their popularity has skyrocketed. The original objective of the main founder of the breed (Jean S Mill) was to produce a sweet natured pet cat resembling a miniature leopard. This stunning breed has a beautifully clear spotted or marbled coat, and many Bengals are glittered – an effect that’s due to lack of pigment in the tip of the hair resulting in a lustrous appearance of the coat. Bengals come in a variety of colours including brown, snow, silver and blue.
Playful Bengals are very adaptable and are just as happy as a devoted companion to a single human as they are as a family pet. They are highly intelligent, curious and lively and will play like kittens even as they become more senior cats. They have a particular fascination with water and will play for hours with a dripping tap and be enthralled by a flushing toilet!
Bengals are affectionate felines who enjoy human company. And, while not always lap cats, they like curling up beside you and sleeping on the bed. These confident cats like children and cat friendly dogs, so are an ideal family pet.
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The Ragdoll cat – gentle, playful, alarmingly beautiful attention-seekers
The popular Ragdoll got its name because they become so relaxed when they’re held. The breed was developed by Anne Baker, from Riverside, California in the early 1960s. A pure white longhaired cat named Josephine is the matriarch of the breed, along with a seal mitted male named Daddy Warbucks and a solid black cat named Blackie, and first arrived in the UK in 1981.
With a medium length, silky coat, the Ragdoll is a pointed breed, which means that the body is lighter in colour than the points (the face, legs, tail and ears). Recognised colours are seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red and cream, along with the tortoiseshell and tabby patterns. Their most outstanding features are their beautiful blue eyes, endearing retroussé nose and their smile – they have an expression like no other cat. Alan Edwards, former president of The British Ragdoll Cat Club and international judge, deemed them to be ‘alarmingly beautiful’.
Laid-back, gentle and highly affectionate, Ragdolls tend to be more interested in humans than some breeds of cats and are likely to greet you at the door, follow you from room to room like an inquisitive puppy, sleep with you, and generally choose to be wherever you are. Being people-centric, it’s no surprise that many Ragdolls have been taught to come when called and play fetch. They also tend to be floor cats, not jumpers.
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The Siamese – outgoing extroverts with plenty to say
The iconic Siamese originated from Thailand (formerly known as Siam), with the oldest records of the breed found in Thai texts between 1351 and 1767. Legend says that Siamese cats were sacred guards of Buddhist temples and theft of one of the Royal Cats of Siam from the Royal Court was punishable by death. In the 1880s, a group of British people travelling to Siam saw these ‘very exotic’ cats for the first time and decided to bring them back to the UK. All the Siamese that exist today can be traced back to this original group of seal-point Siamese.
The modern style of Siamese differs from the Old Style Siamese, with its classic seal brown points and cream coloured body, which is no longer presented at cat shows – although there’s a small set of dedicated Old-Style Siamese breeders still in the UK. Today, the breed has more wide-set ears and a long, lithe body, along with captivating deep blue, almond-shaped eyes.
As well as its elegant looks, the Siamese is just as well known for its loud vocal personality. Outgoing, extrovert and noisy – they have absolutely no problem demanding attention. Siamese are highly intelligent and need to be kept amused – and so are not an ideal cat for people who are out of the house all day. High energy felines, Siamese cats are renowned for having a mischievous streak, many even exhibiting kleptomaniac tendencies – so be aware that your possessions may mysteriously go missing or turn up in the oddest places. They’ll also happily clamber up curtains, open doors by themselves and be taught to retrieve toys.
CAT CHAT While cats use a range of vocalisations such as yowling, hissing and growling to communicate with each other, meowing isn’t one of them. This is a behaviour they’ve adopted just for humans. But what are they trying to tell us?
The Norwegian Forest – rugged, resourceful and always up for a game
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a robust natural breed that developed over hundreds of years of natural selection in a harsh Scandinavian climate. Referred to as the ‘Skogkatt’ (forest cat), the breed’s distant ancestors even appear in Viking legend and mythology – and today, it’s the National Cat of Norway. With its rugged good looks and friendly nature, this breed enjoys being an is an interactive, playful, loving member of the family
With a sturdy body and thick, water-resistant coat that comes in all manner of colours, this large and athletic cat is a natural climber, often to be found at the highest point they can reach in your home. And, unlike some cats, the Norwegian Forest Cat has no fear about descending trees or other heights headfirst. Thanks to his heritage as a wilderness and farm cat, plus his waterproof coat, it’s not surprising that the Norwegian will happily fish for a meal (not good if you have a koi carp pond). While a lover of the outdoors, this mild-mannered breed adapts easily to its environment and will live very contentedly with humans and other animals, happily playing with anyone who enjoys a game.
Unlike some breeds, the Norwegian Forest Cat does not demand constant attention and petting, often being happy just to be in the same room with people. Intelligent and resourceful, if no one is home, they will entertain themselves. Not much of a lap cat, a tickle between the ears or beneath the chin will be welcome – the attention will be returned with a gentle head butt or cheek rub. This breed communicates with classic Scandinavian restraint, using their quiet voice only when they need something – usually food!
WHY SOME CATS AREN'T CUDDLY When it comes to cats, one thing is certain – no two felines are the same. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to how much physical contact they enjoy with their human companions.
The Persian – the ultimate glamour puss and creature of habit
With their luxurious coats and pansy-like faces that set off their big, round copper, green or blue eyes to perfection, the Persian is the ultimate glamour puss. While the exact origins of this ancient breed from Middle Eastern lands are unknown, the Persian is a classic cat that’s been around for centuries, and the first ever cat shows in the UK included Persian cats.
While the white Persian has long been the pin-up cat of photographers and advertisers, the breed is found in array of colours and patterns. Extremely intelligent, they use their expressive eyes to communicate with you – and will look at you incredulously if, as their designated human, you fail to understand what they’re after and do their bidding.
Thanks to their sweet, gentle nature, Persians blend easily into most household arrangements, although they’re creatures of habit and prefer a calm atmosphere and gentle handling. While happy to be combed (regular grooming is required to keep their coat in good condition) and petted by younger members of the family, they’re unlikely to join in any boisterous activities.
Being a short-legged cat who likes to keep its feet firmly planted on the ground, Persians are not keen on climbing or jumping. And, while happy to bat a toy or two, are just as content to decoratively drape themselves in a sunny spot, where they can watch the world go by. Comfortable in their own homes whether you are there or not – but happy to see you when you return – Persians make excellent family pets.
WHEN IT COMES TO COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CAT, THE EYES HAVE IT ‘How can I communicate with my cat?’ is a question asked by every feline guardian at some point. Well, when it comes to the mysterious task of understanding cat language, focusing on their captivatingly beautiful eyes could be the key.
The Maine Coon – intelligent, trainable and always up to antics
Maine Coon cats, which first appeared in the UK in the 1980s, developed from longhaired cats brought back from foreign parts by North American seafarers in the 1850s. Matings with the local shorthair cats resulted in big, strongly-built cats with semi-long coats, suited to the harsh winters of New England and brush-like tails that resembled the tail of the racoon, hence the name – Maine Coon. With their rugged appearance and shaggy coat, they carry their long tails proudly and, like an Arctic fox, use it to surround themselves for warmth and protection. Their well tufted paws enable them to walk on top of snow, despite their size and weight.
Big and friendly, often dubbed the ‘gentle giant’ of the cat world, they’re especially good with children and other pets, and are noted for the delightful quiet chirping sound they make, often talking back to their owners. Known for being loyal to their family but with an air of independence, Maine Coon cats are playful throughout their lives and thrive on company, so do not cope well as an only pet or with owners who are out at work all day.
Maine Coons are known for their intelligence and kindly disposition – after all, back in the day, what these resourceful rural felines couldn’t obtain themselves, they could always get by charming a nearby human. Affectionate and clownish at times, they’ll want to be part of everything. Often described as ‘dog like’, they’re also very intelligent and can be taught to fetch, walk on leads and open doors. Most Maine Coon Cats also have a fondness of water – to be in it, watch it, wash their food in it, or just play in it – so you may have an uninvited guest appear in your shower or to assist you with washing the dishes in the kitchen sink.
PLAY WITH THIS – NOT THAT! HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST CAT TOYS Cats love stalking things, chasing things, and exploring things with their paws and teeth, which can sometimes lead to a whole mess of trouble. Introducing a selection of feline-friendly toys will keep your pet entertained while ensuring they won’t come to any harm.
The Burmese – charming, confident, energetic socialites
Playful, energetic, acrobatic and highly intelligent, the Burmese cat is the extrovert of the cat world. The name ‘Burmese’ originates from the country of Burma (now known as Myanmar) where Wong Mau, considered to be the mother of the breed, came from. According to folklore, Burmese ancestors were kept as sacred animals in the temples and monasteries of Burma and even had personal servants. The breed was officially recognised in 1952.
Strong, athletic and elegant cats with a close, even coat with a glossy, almost polished quality, Burmese come in an array of colours – brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, cream, brown tortie, blue tortie, chocolate tortie and lilac tortie, with large, lustrous, golden yellow eyes. Cuddly, confident and sociable, Burmese cats adore human company and are very good with children, other cats and dogs.
Despite their very sweet expression, and charming ways – the Burmese has a soft, sweet voice and will enjoy a conversation with you – they are very mischievous. If you enjoy the quiet life, an active and fun-loving Burmese probably isn’t for you. They don’t like to feel left out of anything and are always willing to lend a helping paw to everyday activities. They are very playful and will appreciate an assortment of toys and games in which you will need to fully immerse yourself.
HOW TO PLAY GAMES WITH CATS OF ALL AGES Like all baby animals, kittens love to play. As well as being lots of fun, play teaches young cats about the world around them, aids their physical development and hones their fabulous feline skills. As cats get older, play is a great way to keep fit, lean and healthy.
The Russian Blue – loyal, affectionate and content with their own company
The Russian Blue (one of three colours, the others being Russian Black and Russian White) is a most regal and intelligent cat, with dense blue fur that almost looks like glistening silver as they slink past. With its long legs, lithe, muscular body, large, pointed ears and wide, high cheekbones framing vivid emerald eyes, this is a most elegant cat with an unmistakable aristocratic expression.
Russian Blues are also known as the Archangel cats – the name is after their point of origin – the Russian port of Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. From this location, cats joined sailors aboard boats and came to other parts of Europe. The first cat shows in England in the 1880s included Russian Blues.
With a keen intellect that makes them a charming companion, a Russian Blue will observe and assess before committing to engaging with you – and are sometimes considered shy or aloof. However, once a Russian Blue has deemed you worthy of their affection, they’ll be incredibly loyal and will expect you to attend to all their needs. They’re great family pets because although friendly and playful, they’re equally content with their own company when you’re not around but will be delighted to spend time playing or curled up in your lap when you get home.
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The Turkish Van – agile and active with an extraordinary love of heights and water
The Turkish Van is an ancient breed from the Middle East, which were kept as domestic pets for hundreds of years. Originating in the Lake Van region of Turkey, this breed first made an appearance in the UK in the 1950s when a pair of Turkish Vans were brought back by a holidaying couple.
Large and muscular cat, the Turkish Van comes in a number of colours from the traditional white with auburn through to white with cream, black, blue, tortoiseshell, blue tortie, brown tabby, blue tabby, tortie tabby or blue tortie tabby. With long soft and silky fur, Turkish Vans combine eye-catching looks with great character and are renowned for their loyal and affectionate nature.
Naturally active cats, most Turkish Vans spend little time on the ground. Most have a passion for heights and can often be found on the highest point in a room, even if that’s just the top of a door. Quick and agile, they love playing games with balls or scrunched up paper, which they will retrieve endlessly. But be aware, their fast-moving, playful ways can wreak havoc amongst ornaments on your mantelpiece or sideboard.
With their water-resistant coats, Turkish Vans enjoy having fun with the wet stuff. You may spot them drinking from dripping taps, dunking their toys in water bowls or a sink, and even joining you when you take a bath or shower. They can also be quite dog-like and will likely take to following you around the house. They also get on very well with canines too. Once they’ve decided to trust in you, a Turkish Van will be your totally devoted companion.
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The British Shorthair – easy-going, affectionate teddy bears
Likely to be the oldest English breed of cat, the British Shorthair can trace its ancestry back to the domestic cats of Rome. The accepted date of origin of the British Shorthair in the UK as we know it today is 1870. These are large, sturdy, dense-coated, purring, teddy bear cats with big round eyes and a sweet expression. Most often thought of as being ‘blue’ cats, they actually come in a number of colours and patterns. Their coat is a defining feature, with more fur per square inch than any other breed.
A patient, relaxed soulmate, that forms strong bonds with human companions of all ages and is tolerant of other pets such as dogs, the British Shorthair will take a great interest in day-to-day family routines and will always be on hand to ensure things are done to their liking.
The British Shorthair’s personality is just like their appearance – strong and stable. Although unlikely to roam far from home, they should be supervised when outside as their trusting nature may leave them vulnerable to mishap. A wonderfully adaptable, confident cat, the British Shorthair makes a fabulous family companion.
HOW CAT FRIENDLY IS YOUR HOME? There’s no place like home. For most of us, it’s the place where we can close the door on the world and happily relax in our own, comfortable space. Yet, while our human-centric homes may suit us just fine, what would our cats have to say on the matter?
The Calico – the ‘just by chance’ cat
Calicos aren’t actually a breed at all. In fact, a Calico cat is a domestic cat of any breed with a tri-colour coat, most commonly orange, black, and white. Its name refers to the colour pattern of its fur, taken from colourful printed Calico fabric. Other names include brindle, tricolour cat, mikeneko (Japanese for ‘triple fur cat’) and lapjeskat (Dutch for ‘patches cat’).
Calicos are almost exclusively female, due to genetics. Because the genetic determination of coat colours is linked to the X chromosome, calicos are nearly always female with one colour linked to the maternal X chromosome and a second colour linked to the paternal X chromosome. In most cases, males are only one colour, as they have only one X chromosome. Male Calicos can occur when a male cat has two X chromosomes, but they’re generally sterile, which is why you can’t breed a Calico cat – they happen just by chance.
Because Calico cats occur randomly across so many cat breeds, you’ll never know what you’ll get – a laid-back, mellow cat that wants to be your loyal companion, or an aloof, high-maintenance feline with attitude, although many Calico owners report that their cats share a similar personality with tortoiseshell cats. Torties are known for being sassy and independent, so it’s a good chance that many Calicos share these characteristics.
Quite possibly because of the random way they ‘appear’, Calicos are often considered lucky charms. In the 1870s, Calico cats were declared an official symbol of fortune in Japan and became the official state cat of Maryland, USA, in 2001.
GIRLS V BOYS – FELINE MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS Do male and female cats act differently because of their gender? Are generalisations about laid back, lap-loving boys and aloof, independent girls simply myths – or is there any truth to them?
Thinking of getting a feline friend? Where will you get your new cat from?
If you’re thinking of getting a pedigree kitten, choose from a breed club breeder who’s a member of The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, which is the UK’s premier registration body. Leading animal welfare charity rehoming centres such as: Cats Protection, Blue Cross, Battersea, Wood Green and RSPCA always have all sorts of cats looking for loving homes, including pedigree cats, available at locations around the country. Reputable welfare organisations will health check their cats and many do ‘temperament testing’ to try match the most suitable cat to your home and lifestyle. They’ll also offer plenty of helpful advice on caring for your new cat and provide you with post-adoption support. Find out more about adopting a cat >>
At Burgess, all our cat food is made using premium ingredients and is high in protein, to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your cat of whatever breed happy and healthy – from kitten, to adult and mature and our award-winning variety for neutered cats.
CARE MORE Find out more about caring for your cat from the pet experts >>
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