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Which Cat Breed Is Right for You?

By Sandy Eckstein
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

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.

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Health Issues with Purebred Cats

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.

Popular Cat Breeds and Their Traits

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.

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