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What, exactly, is a domestic cat?

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Picture of Domestic Cat Sammie

Picture of Domestic Cat Sammie

Photo Credit: © Donna
Question: What, exactly, is a domestic cat?
I am thoroughly confused about the definition of a "domestic cat." Aren't all cats domesticated these days? What is the difference between a domestic cat and a mixed breed cat?
Answer: I thoroughly understand your confusion, and don't feel alone. Many people feel disappointed or feel that their cat has been slighted by being described as a domestic cat. Yes, the cats we enjoy as pets today are all domesticated, in that they all descend from those original cats in Africa, the Mediterranean and middle east regions.

What is a Mixed Breed Cat?

Cats of unknown origin with body types, coats, and/or color pattern markings similar to one or another breed, may be described as a "mixed breed" cat, or specifically a "Siamese mix," but they should never be identified by that breed, e.g., "a Siamese cat." The key is "unknown origin." No matter how much a given cat resembles a Siamese, without registration and genealogy records, he can't be appropriately called a Siamese, unless an authority, such as a breed rescuer, has identified him as such. Even then, he can't be called a "purebred Siamese," under most circumstances.

An Infinite Variety of Domestic Cats

Domestic cats come in all sizes, shapes, coat lengths, and color patterns. You will find all the solid colors, plus combinations of all of them.

To add to the confusion, domestic cats come with many descriptive names. They also are called "house cats," "alley cats," "moggies (usually in the U.K.), and in cat shows that allow them, they are usually in a class called " Household Pets."

Domestic Cats May Found New Breeds

Most new cat breeds in the past 50 years have been the result of careful breeding programs by experts in feline genetics. Occasionally, however, a litter born of a domestic cat may contain one or two kittens so completely unusual that they may be used as the foundation of a new breed. A few examples:
  • American Bobtail
    The American Bobtail originated in the late 1960s with a male brown tabby kitten with a bobtail found on an Indian reservation in the Southwest U.S.
  • American Curl
    As a result of a serendipitous genetic accident, the first American Curl kittens were born to "Shulasmith," a longhaired black stray with unusual ears, who "adopted" Joe and Grace Ruga in Lakewood, CA in 1981.
  • Cornish Rex
    The Cornish Rex is the oldest of the three Rex cats breeds, originating c 1950 as a spontaneous mutation in a litter of barn cats.
  • Munchkin
    Although in the 1940s, in the U.K., and in 1953, in Stalingrad, short-legged cats were seen, it wasn't until 1983, when a short-legged cat, later named Blackberry, was discovered by by Sandra Hochenedel in Louisiana, that today's Munchkin breed was born.
  • Pixie-Bob
    Carol Ann Brewer, founder of the breed, found a "Legend Cat" through a newspaper ad. The kitten grew up with Brewer's mother, and eventually bred a neighbor's cat (another Legend Cat.) The resultant litter included a beautiful female kitten which Carol Ann named Pixie, and which became the foundation of the breed.

These new breeds of cats may have had to wait many years before acceptance into the major registries.

If you have a domestic cats who has honored you with his or her presence in your home, my best advice is to love your kitty unconditionally, as he will love you. In the long run, it really doesn't matter what his heritage is, the most important thing is that he is home with you where he belongs.

For more helpful information on the differences between cats, please read, Feline Breeds, Domestic Cats, and Color Patterns

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