How many cat breeds do you know? The first that come to my mind are Persian, Siamese, British Shorthair, and Maine Coon, but this is where it usually stops, simply because there are not as many cat breeds as there are dog breeds. So, how many cat breeds are there?
It is not easy to answer this question, because there are quite a few organizations that weigh in on recognizing (or not recognizing) new cat breeds. Most of you have likely heard of a cat breed being recognized for the first time; though this may sound weird, these are institutions that develop cat breed standards, make rules for cat show competitions, and oversee the breeding of pedigreed cats. The two largest organizations are the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), which operates mostly in North America, and its European counterpart, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe).
- CFA recognizes 44 cat breeds at present. The newest additions are the Khao Manee and Lykoi, which are both allowed to compete in cat shows starting in 2018.
- FIFe recognizes 49 cat breeds.
These differing numbers do not mean that FIFe recognizes five more breeds than CFA does. There are quite a few breeds that are unique to each organization; for example, the German Rex is one that FIFe acknowledges, while only the CFA recognizes the Ragamuffin. In general, Europeans seem to be more open to recognizing short- and long-haired versions as different breeds, such as long- and short-haired American curls and Selkirk Rexes, while the CFA says that these are two versions of the same breed.
The total number of distinct breeds recognized by either or both the CFA and FIFe is 63.
Another large body, The International Cat Association (TICA), currently recognizes 73 cat breeds as eligible to compete for the championship title in its shows. In addition, TICA has placed six more breeds on a waiting list of sorts. That is, they are at different stages in the recognition process.
One final large, international cat registry organization is the World Cat Federation, which recognizes 40 cat breeds.
The above gives an rough insight into the number of cat breeds. Many national and regional organizations exist, and the number of breeds they recognize can differ, but most acknowledge between 40 and 80. The more intriguing question is, how has this number changed over time?
Will we see new cat breeds in the future?
It is certain that we will see new cat breeds in the future, but not many. In the five years since we last updated this article, the above-mentioned organizations have recognized, on average, about five new breeds each—not that many, really.
If we take a look at the history of cat breeds, we notice that the vast majority of them were recognized in the 1980s or 1990s; we have been less likely to find more newcomers each year since then, and there is a good reason for that.
The CFA argues that potential new breeds should have valid, long-term breeding programs (so they do not register and then disappear), and it requires that all potential new breeds must be a valuable addition to the list of cat breeds. In short, the CFA will not register a new breed “just because.”
Overall, the breed recognition process is slowing down, but there are many breeders and enthusiasts working hard to select new breeds. Even without official recognition, they still believe their cats should be seen as distinctive breeds. Where appropriate, it is just a matter of time before some of these are, in fact, recognized officially.
Despite the above, it will likely take many centuries (if ever) before we see as much variety in cat breeds as we do in dogs.