Which Cat Breed Is Right for You?

Medically Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S on March 02, 2011
4 min read

When people think about getting a dog, many consider a purebred pup. But when people consider getting a cat, relatively few think of purebred cats, even though there are 40 cat breeds recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). Cat breeds range from the commonly known Persians and Siamese to the less familiar breeds like the Ocicat and the Turkish van.

Joan Miller, vice president of the CFA, which sanctions cat shows in the U.S. and abroad, says there are advantages to getting a purebred cat. “For one thing, they have a predictable personality and look. So if you want a high-energy cat, or a laid-back cat, or a longhaired or shorthaired cat, you can get that,” Miller says.

Elyse Kent, DVM, ABVP, owner of Westside Hospital for Cats in Los Angeles, says that while purebred cats have more predictable personalities and looks, they also have more health problems than mixed breed cats. “There’s a lot of inbreeding in purebreds to get the look they want,” Kent says. “Just like in any gene pool, the more diversity you have, the healthier the stock is going to be.”

Letrisa Miller, DVM, owner of the Cat Clinic of Norman in Oklahoma, says people looking at purebred cats should ask the breeder about common health issues with the breed and if any of those problems run in the breeder’s line. There also are genetic tests available for some health problems, she says.

If you are thinking about getting a purebred cat, below is a list of the six cat breeds the CFA says were the most popular in 2009. The list includes information about their personality traits, grooming needs, energy levels, and health issues. The list is compiled from interviews with CFA’s Joan Miller and Drs. Kent and Miller.

1. Persian. The most popular breed for years, the Persian is known for its long hair, flat face, and laid-back nature. Happy as indoor lap cats, Persians are quiet, people-oriented, and sweet. Daily grooming is a must or they quickly become matted, which is very painful for them.

Kidney and heart problems are prevalent in some lines, and their flattened faces can cause breathing and eating problems as well as eye and teeth issues. “The shorter the nose, the more problems they have,” Letrisa Miller says.

Joan Miller says that although Persians shed, they don’t shed as much as some shorthaired breeds because their coats are made up of three different types of hairs.

2. Exotic. The Exotic is often called a shorthaired Persian. It has the same body build as the Persian, but with a short, dense coat that makes grooming much easier. Like the Persian, it has a quiet personality, is low-energy, and likes to be around people.

Because the Exotic has the same facial build, it can have many of the same problems caused by a flat face, including breathing and eating problems as well as eye and dental issues. They also shed a bit more than Persians.

3. Maine Coon. This large breed of cat is growing in popularity and could soon replace the Persian as the most popular breed. The Maine Coon tends to be larger than most breeds, with males sometimes topping 20 pounds. A one-time barn cat, they are known to be friendly, outgoing, playful but not hyper, smart, and easily trained. People-oriented, Maine Coons usually do well even with young children and dogs. They’re also known for the odd, almost chirping sound they make.

Because they are longhaired, Maine Coons should be groomed weekly, and they do shed quite a bit. Common health problems include heart disease and hip dysplasia.

4. Siamese. One of the oldest breeds, Siamese cats are long, lean, and athletic and have a high energy level. They love to climb and observe the world from high places, so perches or cat trees are a must. They are the talkers of the cat world, often carrying on conversations with their owners.

A very demanding cat in need of constant attention, they do best when kept with other Siamese cats. They like interacting with people and often become attached to one person over others.

Health issues include teeth and eye problems, but they tend to be healthy and long-lived, the veterinarians say.

5. Ragdoll. These large, semi-longhaired cats are calm and gentle with a strong need for human contact. They are good with children and train easily, including learning tricks and walking on a leash. Grooming is necessary, but not as much as with a Persian. And although they shed, they aren’t considered heavy shedders. Ragdolls are a healthy breed that can live well into their teens.

6. Abyssinian. Abys are very high-energy cats that need room to run and climb. They are intelligent and high-strung, and although people-oriented, they aren’t lap cats. Abys may not be the best pet for younger children, but they do need others cats or pets as company. Their sleek, short coats mean little grooming is needed, but they do shed. Health problems include some dental and ear problems.

With all the choices available, Kent says you should take your time and choose your new pet based on how its personality and needs will fit into your lifestyle. “People so often choose a cat based on its looks without checking to find out what the cat is really like,” Kent says. “That can lead to real problems. But with a little research, people can find the perfect cat for their home and family.”