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Seven Rare Cat Breeds You May Not Know

Jul 12, 2014 · Updated Apr 20, 2017 · ·
  1. Anne
    Getting a new breed of cat to be counted among the "regular" championship breeds can be a long process. Breeders work long and hard to achieve a certain look and establish that as the standard for a new breed. TICA - The International Cat Association - has special official categories for these new breeds, and they can be shown while technically they are still being developed.

    Here are seven new breeds recognized by TICA which you may not have heard of before.

    Let us know in the comments which of these you've already heard of -

    Khao Manee

    A native of Thailand, this is one of the naturally-occurring breeds which was first imported into the US in 1999. Kaho Manees, sometimes referred to as Khaomanees (one word), are completely white cats. They are famous for being odd-eyed cats, but while this is indeed a preferred trait, even-eyed cats still meet the breed standard, and eyes can be of any color. A couple of dozen of these cats have been imported from Thailand into the US, where a group of breeders is working together towards creating a breed with moderate SE Asian type head and body. To that end, crossing with Thai-born cats of other colors is allowed at this time.
    Photo by Odyssey Khao Manee - Welcome to Odyssey

    Napoleon (and Napoleon Longhair)

    Munchkins were the original dwarf cats, developed from a random mutation discovered in the 1980s. Deliberate mating of Munchkins with other breeds created several new dwarf breeds, one of them being the Napoleon. Napoleons were created by mating Munchkins with cats of the Persian breed group, which included Persians, Himalayans and Exotic Short Hairs.

    The result is a new breed with short legs (though some cats do not display this trait) and a characteristic round face with big round eyes, similar to that of a doll-faced Persian. The Napoleon has a round body, too, a lot like that of a Persian cat, only it usually has the short legs of a Munchkin. Their coat may be long, but it is more manageable than the coat of a Persian.
    Picture by Blue Skies Cats - Blue Skies Cattery Home


    This breed was developed from a single rescued cat in Russia, in a city called Rostov-on-Don (hence the name). The cat was at first thought to suffer from a rare skin disorder, but eventually this was found to be a new mutation for hairlessness.​

    This mutation is unrelated to the better-known Canadian Sphynx, although the breed is sometimes called Don Sphynx. Donskoys don't have to be entirely bald. They sometimes sport very short coats of various textures which may only be present during the cat's early years of life. These cats are strong and muscular, with large ears and almond-shaped eyes.
    Picture by KathrynEden, DonEden Cattery - Home


    The Minskin is the result of a deliberate breeding program developed around the turn of the century to meet the vision of one breeder, Paul McSorley.

    McSorely sought to create a short-legged cat with a unique coat pattern where hair would grow only on the body's extremities. After several generations, he finally met his challenge and the Minskin was created.

    Munchkin and Sphynx cats were used in the program, but also Devon Rex and Burmese cats. The end result is a dwarf cat with a short velvety coat on the head, legs and tail and a relatively bald body.
    Picture by sweet as candy - Sweet Minskin cats and kittens

    The Highlander

    Highlander cats are large and friendly. They have a very distinct look, with ears that are firm, yet softly curl at the tip and short tails.

    This unique look is the result of deliberate breeding of two hybrid breeds back in the 1990's: the Desert lynx And the Jungle Curl. The resulting cats were at first known as the Highland Lynx, but the name was later changed to the Highlander.

    The breed standard also calls for an average to large body and an overall athletic body build. Highlander cats can be tabbies or colorpoint, but they cannot be bi-colors.
    Picture by The The Wild in Heart Cattery and The Home of the Highlander - wildathearthighlanders.com - Home

    The Serengeti

    With a clearly exotic "wild" look, you might think the Serengeti was a hybrid cat (in hybrids, wild cats are used to introduce unique traits to the domestic cat genetic pool).

    However, this majestic feline is entirely domestic. It's the result of deliberately crossing Bengal cats with Oriental shorthairs, initiated by the founder of the breed: Karen Sausman of Kingsmark Cattery in California.

    The result is an elongated cat with large ears and large round eyes. The coat has a distinctly spotted tabby pattern. The coat can be black or even silver, but if any pattern comes through, it should show spots.

    The Sokoke

    Relatively new to the Cat Fancy world, this is in fact an "old breed", naturally occurring in a specific area in Kenya, Africa. The founding cats of the Sokoke breed were imported from Africa into Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, with a second, separate wave of imports bringing "new blood" into the lines in the first decade of the 21st century.

    Recent genetic studies have shown the Sokoke to be related to the Asian Cats group, which could help explain its lithe elegant silhouette. These cats are strong and muscular, with a dense brown tabby pattern.

    Sokokes are friendly and social cats, yet independent. Being a natural breed, they have no known hereditary diseases. They shed very little since they hardly have any undercoat.
    Picture by Kadzonzo Cattery - SOKOKE, Sokokekatter, SOKOKE katt, kattras
    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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  1. abyeb
    I've heard of all of these breeds before. I'd just like to say that the reason for choosing a pedigreed cat should because you're in love with it's purr-sonality, not its looks. 
  2. puddykat
    Ny neighbor has two Khao Manee females. The most loving cats I have ever had the chance to interact with. One of then has  different colored eyes. Very active cats as well.
  3. felinluvr
    How very interesting!  They're all interesting, but the Serengeti and the Highlander are my favorites.  Since I'm "shopping" for a breed, I will definitely look into these.  (Although, if they are that rare they're probably cost-prohibitive.)
  4. segelkatt
    If you look and know what a purebred looks like you will be able to find even those or a look-alike at a shelter. Thus I got a 7 months old Birman (or at least one that looks like a classic sealpoint) in the parking lot of the County Shelter from someone who was bringing her in as a stray who was hanging around her yard, and a Persian from somebody who could not keep her anymore for various reason and did not want to bring her to the shelter because she was 12 years old and he thought she would be "put down" because of her age. Both of these cats are now 16 years old and doing well. Do I have papers on either? No, don't need them, they are both spayed. I also have a black DSH and a black DMH, no prejudice here unless it is in favor of black cats.  
  5. yomamab
    I agree. Why keep coming up with these new cat breeds for people to buy when there are sooooo many in shelters just waiting for someone to come along and adopt them.  I only adopt rescue cats and don't need a "purebred".  I love my little "mongrels".  :)
  6. segelkatt
    Do  we really need new cat breeds when there are so many beautiful moggies around??  Just saying-----------
  7. katskats
    Love my Napoleons, Scottish Kilts and Lambkins! Such wonderful and personable kitties!
  8. Kat0121
    The Donskoy is featured in the current issue of Catster (formerly known as Cat Fancy). I think they are gorgeous, but then again, all cats are 
  9. cwagne13
    Enjoyed the artical very much. Love learning new cat things.
  10. jill-e
    Of all the ones listed here, I know only of the Serengeti. If I were to ever get a purebred cat, I think I'd go for one of them, or maybe a Sokoke. I'm not interested in hairless cats... they remind me too much of rats, and I can't understand how they'd keep warm.
  11. lunariris
    As a side note, something I noticed here is for Serengeti it says "entirely domestic". However, if it is mixed with Bengal, that is not true, as Bengals are domestic hybrids themselves, mixed with Asian Leopard cats. 
  12. midwestmary
    I'm glad to see that you included the Highlander in your list.  We have 3 and are always delighted with their personalities and their willingness to learn.  We're training two of them to walk on a leash and all 3 of them play fetch.  I hope that more people will find the breed through your article and there are a few facebook groups about Highlanders too.
  13. mservant
    Interesting to see photographs of such rare cats and hear about their history.  The Sokoke and Khao Manee are stunning examples of some of the wonders the natural cat world holds.  Thank you.
  14. Anne
    These are all purebred cats. There are purebred rescues (and we'll be publishing an article about one very soon!) but I doubt you'll find any of these breeds there. They are really very rare.
  15. plan
    I love the look of the Serengeti, and the Sokoke and Khao have awesome, distinctive looks as well. Are these cats you can rescue, or are they the type that breeders sell?
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