15 American Cat Breeds

Meet these cats that hail from the 50 states

Maine coon cat breed portrait

 Carrigphotos / Getty Images

American cat breeds might be more exotic and abundant than you think. Over a dozen breeds have originated throughout the 50 states and have brought some unique and beautiful cat breeds into existence.

Some cat breeds developed in the United States were the result of genetic mutations, like the Lykoi or the Selkirk Rex. Others, such as the Ocicat or Bengal, were breed to resemble cats of the wild. Still others, such as the Exotic shorthair, Balinese, or Ragdoll were the result of careful breeding to achieve a certain coat type, look, or personality.

Read on to learn more about American cat breeds that have become popular with cat fanciers the world over.

  • 01 of 15

    American Shorthair

    american shorthair

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    The American shorthair is a medium-sized cat with short, dense fur and a round, somewhat flat face. These cats come in a seemingly endless variety of colors and have a relaxed, friendly personality that makes them popular family pets. Unlike the domestic shorthair, which refers to any mixed-breed shorthair cat, the American shorthair has a pedigree stretching back to the days of early American history.

    This breed’s claim to fame is their famed voyage on the Mayflower. It’s believed that pilgrims on the brought skilled mousers from Europe to keep rodents under control on the transatlantic voyage to America. Once settled in their new homeland, these early ancestors of the breed as we know it today continued to keep on the prowl against rodents and eventually came to be known as the American shorthair. The breed received official recognition in 1966. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 10 inches

    Weight: 10 to 15 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Athletic build; short, dense coat

  • 02 of 15

    American Curl

    American curl cat breed portrait

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    One glance at the backwards-curled ears of this American cat breed, and you’ll understand how it got its name. These cats have a natural gene mutation that results in the peculiar ear shape. At the same time, the trait doesn’t affect their hearing or health.

    The gene mutation was first discovered in the early 1980’s in the United States, and efforts quickly got underway to understand the genetic code and selectively breed for the trait. Unlike some other gene mutations, this one is a dominant gene—meaning just one parent needs to have the gene for the trait to appear.

    The American curl is a friendly, playful cat but isn’t known to be a lap kitty. Despite this, they enjoy spending time with people and may become lonely without sufficient play time and interaction.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 5 to 8 inches

    Weight: Up to 6 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Prominent ears and alert expression; short or long coat in many different colors, including black, white, fawn, blue and more

  • 03 of 15

    Bengal

    Bengal cat breed portrait

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    One of the more ‘wild’ American cat breeds, the Bengal cat was developed in the 1970s. The breed got its start when an African leopard cat was successfully crossed with a domestic cat. The Abyssinian, American shorthair, and Egyptian mau are all said to have been early contributors to the breeding program. Third-generation Bengals generally exhibit the personality of a domestic house cat, but retain the striking spotting and marbling of a leopard.

    Today, the breed is well-established and most Bengals are bred from other Bengals. The breed has benefited from official recognition as early as 1993, and no special licenses are generally required to have this American cat breed as a pet.  

    Breed Overview

    HEIGHT: 8 to 10 inches

    WEIGHT: 15 pounds

    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Sleek, muscular body; striped and spotted coat

  • 04 of 15

    Exotic Shorthair

    Exotic shorthair cat breed portrait

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    At a quick glance, the exotic shorthair looks to be a Persian with a haircut. However, this American cat has been deliberately bred to have a short, plush coat with the distinctive round, flat face of the Persian.

    Often referred to as the ‘lazy man’s Persian’ these cats share similar traits and are held to the same breed standards as their longhair counterparts. The biggest difference is the much easier maintenance associated with the Exotic shorthair. The coat is short, plush, and soft and only requires brushing once or twice a week.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 10 to 12 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short legs; rounded body; short nose

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  • 05 of 15

    Maine Coon

    Maine coon kitten portrait

     Allison Achauer / Getty Images

    The Maine coon boasts a big personality and a big heart. In fact, everything about this American cat breed is big—they’re known as the ‘gentle giant’ of the cat world and routinely reach more than three feet in length from nose to tail. Despite their large size, they’re relatively low-maintenance and enjoy playing with toys and human interaction but are not overly clingy.

    As the name suggests, the modern history of this American cat breed begins in Maine. The medium-length fur with a prominent ruff on the chest and tufts of fur on the ears and feet no doubt helped the cat weather the harsh Northeastern weather. They’re surprisingly easy-keepers and only require weekly grooming.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 16 inches 

    Weight: 10 to 25 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; thick, heavy coat

     

  • 06 of 15

    Ragdoll

    Ragdoll cat breed portrait

    Ngoc Thao Nguyen / 500px / Getty Images

    The Ragdoll is a California original; this American cat breed was developed on the west coast in the 1960’s. Today, these cats are known for their friendly and affectionate nature and sport a semi-longhair coat in one of three patterns but with many possible color combinations. Unlike many cat breeds that tend to be selective about when and how they’ll be carried or held, the ragdoll breed generally seems to enjoy any type of human interaction and has a tendency to go limp when being held or carried.

    In 1993, the breed achieved official breed recognition with the CFA and its popularity has continued to climb. For 2019, these cats were the most popular breed registered by the organization.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 11 inches

    Weight: 8 to 20 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Blue eyes; semi-longhaired coat

  • 07 of 15

    Balinese

    Balinese cat breed portrait

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    The Balinese cat breed shares many traits with the Siamese, but sports a luxurious longhaired coat that sets this breed apart. Originally occurring as a natural gene mutation in a litter of Siamese cats, the Balinese was initially referred to as a longhaired Siamese. However, enthusiasts of the breed worked to selectively breed and develop cats with the traits that today define this American cat breed.

    Contrary to what the name indicates, the Balinese doesn’t have its origins in Bali. Instead, the long, graceful body and silky, long coat of these cats earned them comparisons to the beautiful Balinese temple dancers. These cats exhibit great intelligence to match their beauty and make inquisitive and engaging pets.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 6 to 7 inches

    Weight: 8 to 12 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Wedge-shaped head; slender body with long hair and tail plume; blue eyes

  • 08 of 15

    Selkirk Rex

    Selkirk rex cat portrait

    Thomas Leirikh / Getty Images

    The Selkirk Rex is another American cat breed that came about as the result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation. The breed may have short or long hair, and in a single litter both straight and curly coats can appear. Of course, curly coats are what the breed is most recognized for.

    The Selkirk Rex has been developed with the help of Persian, British shorthair, and exotic shorthair out-crosses, though the window for such development is closing. In 2025, all Selkirk Rex cats will be bred exclusively from parents of the same breed. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 11 inches

    Weight: 11 to 16 pounds (males); 6 to 12 pounds (females)

    Physical Characteristics: Medium build with short or long fur; fur is thick and loosely curled

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  • 09 of 15

    Bombay

    Bombay American cat breed portrait

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    This American cat breed was intentionally bred to look like a small black panther, but fortunately it proves to be a much more affectionate and sociable house companion! Originally developed in Kentucky in the 1970's, the Bombay developed from breeding stock of black American shorthair cats and sable-colored Burmese cats to produce a cat that has the look of a ‘parlor panther.’ At the same time, these cats are sociable and affectionate, and love to be in your lap—or on your shoulder.

    Everything about the Bombay cat is black—black fur, black nose, black paw pads—with the exception of the eyes, which are gleaming gold or copper.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 10 inches

    Weight: 8 to 15 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular body; rounded head; black, shiny coat

  • 10 of 15

    Pixie-bob

    Pixie-bob cat breed portrait

    Nynke van Holten / Getty Images

     

    The Pixie-bob is a smaller, look-alike version to a larger wild cat—the bobcat. Despite the similarities in coloring, body shape, and the bobbed tail, the Pixie-bob is a domesticated American cat breed, said to have originated as the result of a cross-breeding between a wild bobcat and domesticated cat.

    The breed was first registered by the International Cat Association in 1995. It’s considered a native new breed, which means that genetically similar cats from within a geographical area served as the basis for this new breed. While they might look wild and are larger than the average house cat, the Pixie-bob is known to be both playful and affectionate.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 11 to 22 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Bobcat-like appearance; shorthaired to shaggy coat; various tail lengths

  • 11 of 15

    LaPerm

    LaPerm American cat breed portrait

    Mark Liddell / Getty Images

    A soft coat of curls characterizes this American cat breed, which is also known as the Dalles LaPerm. Like other curly-coated cats, the LaPerm is the result of a natural gene mutation that caught the eye of cat fanciers. Originating in Oregon from a tabby barn cat in the early 1980's, the LaPerm breed was first shown at a cat show in 1992. Now, this cat is recognized is by three of the most prominent cat registries: The International Cat Association (TICA), the American Cat Fancier’s Association, and the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA).

    The breed’s early origins are rooted in barn cat breeding that introduced a wide variety of coat and eye colors, giving the breed variety and beauty. Although the coat is somewhat long, it doesn’t shed much and requires a quick comb a few times a week to reduce mats and tangles. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 6 to 12 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized with a sturdy build and tightly curled hair around the neck, ears, and tail; can come in all colors and patterns, but are commonly seen in tortoiseshell, calico, and tabby

  • 12 of 15

    American Wirehair

    American wirehair cat breed portrait

    Maria Fedotova / Getty Images

    Closely related to the American shorthair, this cat breed was originally developed in New York. Today, it remains rare but stands out for its coarse, wiry coat and whiskers. The gene responsible for this cat breed’s unique coat is a spontaneous, but dominant mutation. It’s worth noting that, so far, this cat breed remains unique to the United States. No other instances of this spontaneous genetic mutation have been noted in other countries.

    While you might be tempted to think that the wirehair coat is all that separates this breed from the American shorthair, it’s been noted that this breed also has a different facial structure with higher cheekbones. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 10 inches

    Weight: 3 to 8 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-short coat that is straight with a wiry but soft texture, round face with high cheekbones

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  • 13 of 15

    American Bobtail

    American bobtail cat breed portrait

    Michael Kloth / Getty Images 

    The American Bobtail stands out for its tail—or lack thereof. Instead of the long, flicking tail familiar to most cat-lovers, this American cat breed has a tail that is significantly shorter. It can be straight, curved, or kinked. While no exact length is set forth by the breed standard, it shouldn’t extend past the cat’s outstretched hind hock.

    Moving beyond the tail, these cats are known to be healthy, lovable pets. Bred from a wide range of breeds, the American bobtail has a deep pool of genetic diversity and isn’t plagued with many common health problems.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 10 inches

    Weight: Between 7 and 16 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Shortened tail that may be straight or curved; short to long coat that is typically shaggy and comes in many colors or patterns

  • 14 of 15

    Ocicat

    Ocicat kittens portrait

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    There’s no doubt this American cat breed is another example of domestic cats intentionally bred to resemble a cat of the wild. The Ocicat’s spots, stripes, and large expressive eyes bring to mind the ocelot. In fact, the breed’s name is a hybrid of the first syllable of ‘ocelot’ and the word ‘cat’—the end result is Ocicat.

    Originally an unintentional creation, the early version of the Ocicat was intended to be a Siamese cat with the coloring of the Abyssinian breed. Several crosses of this type produced a cat with both stripes and spots that resembled an ocelot. Cat fanciers took an interest in this wild-looking but docile and interactive domestic cat and began development of the breed as we know it today.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 11 inches

    Weight: 9 to 15 pounds (males); 6 to 9 pounds (females)

    Physical Characteristics: Athletic with long tail; short-haired tabby coat with various shades of spotting including blue, brown, lavender, fawn, and silver

  • 15 of 15

    Lykoi

    Lykoi cat breed portrait

    Nynke van Holten / Getty Images

     

    One of the most unusual-looking American cat breeds, the Lykoi has often drawn comparisons to a creature of myths—the werewolf. The sparse coat and bright copper eyes make it easy to see how this breed, which hails from Vonore, Tennessee, is often called ‘the werewolf cat.’

    However there is nothing spooky about this cat’s origin or personality. The breed’s unique appearance is the result of a natural genetic mutation. It was only observed as recently as 2010, but the breed quickly gained traction and by 2011 was recognized as a designated breed. Known to be playful and intelligent, these cats make excellent pets. They lack an undercoat for protection against the elements, so they should be kept as an indoor cat. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 10 inches

    Weight: 4 to 7 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Partially hairless (sparse on face and legs); short tail; black-gray coat