There are many different cat breeds, each with their own set of unique qualities.
In addition to differences in personality, disposition, and physical characteristics, various breeds have particular health and care issues as well.
Most house cats, of course, are not purebreds.
In an article on the most popular cat breeds in the Chicago Tribune, pet columnist and certified animal behavior consultant Steve Dale reported that fewer than 10 percent of the 74 million pet cats in the US are pedigreed.
Some say the numbers are even lower. In fact, according to Wikipedia, only three percent of pet cats belong to a breed, and even fewer are qualified to be show cats.
If you're thinking about showing a cat, make sure you understand the commitment and responsibilities, as well as the potential for added stress on your cat.
Here are some considerations when deciding on the ideal breed for you.
Show quality cats have to meet certain standards. Not all cats born under a breeder's care are show quality, and they will often sell pet quality cats at a reduced price. There are variations within the different cat breeds that may result in a pet quality cat vs. a show quality cat.
For example, a cat may be disqualified from show cat status if it doesn't have the right eye color for the breed standard. So, if you want a particular breed as a pet, you can often get a pet quality cat of your desired breed, and it doesn't have to break the bank.
Individuality aside, certain breeds are known for certain traits. For example, the famous animated Siamese cats, Si and Am (originally to be named Nip and Tuck) from the movie Lady and the Tramp are good examples of this.
They are smart, sneaky, and always causing trouble. This represents all the mischievous qualities for which the Siamese cat is famous.
The Ragdoll cat breed is known for being very congenial, getting along well with children, dogs, and other cats. They also have a tendency to go limp in your arms like a child's rag doll, which is where they get their name.
Turkish Van's are known for loving water. In fact, it's been said that if you want to bathe alone, you'd better keep the door closed. Some cat breeds are more affectionate than others, some get along with other animals better, and some cats are more prone to being loners.
Certain feline health problems will crop up within certain bloodlines of the different cat breeds. Reputable cat breeders will screen for these problems, and can tell you about what problems they've seen within the breed you're choosing.
In addition, some breeds permit the occasional outcross with other breeds. Sometimes, these outcrossings will introduce a health problem into the breed that normally exists only in the breed being used for the cross.
The long term health of your purebred cat is, to some degree, determined by its bloodline. Since this is in the hands of your breeder, it's important that you choose a reputable one. Only dealing with reputable breeders also ensures that those who would mistreat cats for profit are not financed.
You may have heard of the "puppy mills" that sometimes supply pet shops with dogs that have been raised in harsh environments. In the cat world, the equivalent operations are called kitty mills. You should do whatever you can to avoid financing these types of operations, as well as those known as "backyard breeders."
When choosing a breeder, you should make sure that the cattery is veterinarian inspected, and that the cats are treated well. Do your homework, and only deal with the best breeders.
The best breeders, in turn, will only want to deal with those who will provide good homes for the cats. If you're dealing with a breeder who is not local, do all the research you can if you can't visit the breeder yourself.
Each breed has unique personality traits, but also each cat is certainly unique within the breed as well. Decide whether you want a show quality or pet quality cat. Take breed specific health issues into consideration, and ensure that you deal only with reputable breeders.