Rarest Cat Breeds

In the world, the number of established cat breeds varies by organization and is either 44 (Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA)), 49 (Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe)) or 73 (TICA).

The population statistics of particular breeds can be difficult to monitor as that information is not usually released to the public. A large number of rare cat breeds exist, and we based our list on information supplied by the CFA.

The CFA publishes a ranked list of its cat breeds every year, which organizes them by the number of registrations for the year. The number of registrations usually corresponds to the number of cats born in a given year. There are lower birth numbers for the lower ranks, rendering certain cat breeds unusual.

In early 2018, the CFA’s most recent list was published and represents the number of registrations throughout 2017. The following are the rarest cat breeds in the world, based on the CFA’s 2017 rankings:

Table of Contents

1. American Bobtail

American Bobtail
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  • Country of Origin: USA
  •  Price: $600 – $1,000
  • Average Lifespan: 11 – 15 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 34

The American Bobtail was a naturally occurring wild cat, which was not selectively bred until the late 1960s. American Bobtails are famous for their short tails, which can be straight, slightly bent, slightly kinked, or have tail length bumps.

By breeding feral domestic cats that had the signature short tails, breeders in the United States created the American Bobtail.

Eventually, their work gave birth to the first true American Bobtails, which are large and hearty. There have never been any other breeds introduced into the American Bobtail line.

American Bobtails are very healthy and are not regarded as having serious health concerns.

2. European Burmese

European Burmese
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  • Country of Origin: Thai-Burma border (Which is now modern-day Thailand and Myanmar)
  •  Price: $200 – $300
  • Average Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 35

Most cat registries usually do not differentiate between normal Burmese cats and European Burmese cats, but the Cat Fanciers’ Association does. All Burmese cats are believed to have originated from a single cat, Wong Mau, who was brought to the United States in 1930 as the first Burmese.

Wong Mau was mated with a Siamese, and both strong and pointed in color were the kittens born. For more breeding, solid-colored cats were chosen, and the Burmese spread to the United Kingdom.

Since then, different breed standards have been established for the Burmese by the United States and Europe, which has resulted in the distinction.

This makes it fairly uncommon for the European Burmese, although it is more popular for the American Burmese.

3. Chartreux

Chartreux
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  • Country of Origin: France
  •  Price: $1,000 – $1,500
  • Average Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 36

The Chartreux is a rare French breed of cat which is believed to have ancient origins. Research has shown that Chartreux actually originated in ancient Persia and returned from the Crusades to France with knights.

In French monasteries, these first Chartreux were staples and became a significant part of the monk’s life.

The Chartreux were, according to tradition, named after the Carthusian monks with whom they resided. The earliest known history of the Chartreux in France dates back to the early 16th century and does not reflect the distinctive texture and color of the coat of the breed.

The scarcity of Chartreux is illustrated by the average kitten price, ranging from $1,000 to $1,500.

4. Turkish Angora

Turkish Angora
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  • Country of Origin: Turkey
  • Price: $600 – $800
  • Average Lifespan: 15 – 18 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 33

Turkish Angora originates from Ankara (formerly Angora), Turkey, and is known for its distinctive white silky coat. The earliest written documents were referencing the Turkish Angora date from France in the 16th century.

The Turkish Angora was a well-known breed by the beginning of the cat fancy in Europe in the late 1800s/early 1900s. In Persia in the 1900s, some of the earliest breeding programs for the Turkish Angora began but disappeared as a separate breed.

However, the Turkish Angora was bred in its native Turkey at the Ankara Zoo to conserve the special cats. The Ankara Zoo bred cats with white coats and blue eyes, golden eyes, or unusual eyes (one gold and one blue).

The Ankara Zoo authorized an American colonel and his wife to take home a pair of cats in 1962. Following this, Turkish Angoras were given to many other Westerners, and the breed was officially established in the 1970s in North America.

5. Korat

Korat
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  • Country of Origin: Thailand
  • Price: $500 – $700
  • Average Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 37

For a few decades, Korat cats have only been common in the U.S., but their past goes back thousands of years. The breed is originally from Thailand, where it was first documented in ancient 13th-century artifacts.

In the 1800s, because of their strong blue coats, relatively petite bodies, and wide, luminous eyes, they were brought to Europe and became known as “blue Siamese” cats. 

Korats appeared in the U.S. in the 1950s, and by 1966 they were accepted into championship status by the American Cat Fancier’s Association (ACFA).

The Korat cats are an ancient breed from Thailand, and in The Cat-Book of Poems or Smud Khoi of Cats, which was written during the Ayudhya Period of Siamese History (1350-1767). The Korat is one of Thailand’s good-luck cats, according to the book.

Korats come in only one color, defined as blue with a silver twist. It is assumed that in the 1800s, Korats were first seen in England but were introduced as strong Siamese blue cats.

In 1959, the first known pair of Korats in the West was introduced into the United States.

6. Burmilla

Burmilla
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  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom
  • Price: $500 – $700
  • Average Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 39

The Burmilla emerged in 1981 in the United Kingdom when a male Chinchilla Persian accidentally had kittens with a female Lilac Burmese.

The Chinchilla Persian was bought as a gift for her husband by Baroness Miranda Von Kirchberg. He had briefly fled from the house and impregnated the Lilac Burmese before the Baroness could get the Chinchilla Persian neutered.

The kittens developed by the accidental encounter were so beautiful that the newly formed Burmillas had a breeding program established. With very few Burmilla breeders in the world, the breed remains rare in the United States.

7. LaPerm

LaPerm
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  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Price: $400 – $600
  • Average Lifespan: 10 – 14 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 40

All the cats on this list of unusual cats have special characteristics, and LaPerm is no exception. LaPerms is known for its very curly hair, which is available in a number of colors and patterns. The coats of the breed can vary from wavy to tight ringlets or long curls with a corkscrew.

LaPerm was a random genetic mutation in a normal litter of tabby cats, as a couple of the other breeds on this list. The first LaPerm kitten was born on an Oregon farm owned by Linda Koehl in 1982. Koehl did not attempt to breed this unusual curly-haired cat during the next decade selectively, but more of them were born on the farm.

Koehl finally agreed to isolate some of the cats and found out that the curly gene was dominant in both parents. Koehl named the new breed LaPerm after its unique curly/wavy hair.

8. Turkish Van

Turkish Van
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  • Country of Origin: Eastern Anatolia (modern-day Iraq, Iran, southwest Soviet Union, and eastern Turkey)
  •  Price: $400 – $600
  • Average Lifespan: 12 – 17 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 41

Not only is the Turkish Van one of the rarest cat breeds, but it is also one of the most ancient ones. Since at least the Middle Ages in the Eastern Anatolia region (modern-day Iraq, Iran, the southwestern Soviet Union, and eastern Turkey), the breed has existed.

It is believed that the breed’s isolation helped retain its distinctive characteristics. Turkish Vans have jackets that make them waterproof and enjoy swimming with semi-longhair.

When two British women, Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday, were on holiday in Turkey, they bought and carried the first Turkish Vans to the West in 1955. They brought back to England a male and female kitten and started marketing the Turkish Van as a special breed.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association registers approximately 100 Turkish Vans a year, and all registered Turkish Vans can trace their ancestry to the original cats brought to England in 1955.

9. Havana Brown

Havana Brown cat
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  • Country of Origin: England
  • Price: $600 – $1,200
  • Average Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 38

A group of British cat fanciers intentionally produced Havana Browns in England in the early 1950s. In order to produce the chocolate brown Havanas, the group bred chocolate point and seal points Siamese cats with black domestic shorthairs. Russian Blues were added to the breeding stock early on in the breeding program.

The Havana Brown was first recognized in 1958 by the Cat Fancy (GCCF) Governing Council as an official breed. The breed was initially named the Chestnut International Shorthair, and its name was changed in 1970 to Havana Brown.

A group of British cat fanciers intentionally produced Havana Browns in England in the early 1950s. In order to produce the chocolate brown Havanas, the group bred chocolate point and seal points Siamese cats with black domestic shorthairs. Russian Blues were added to the breeding stock early on in the breeding program.

The Havana Brown was first recognized in 1958 by the Cat Fancy (GCCF) Governing Council as an official breed. The breed was initially named the Chestnut International Shorthair, and its name was changed in 1970 to Havana Brown.

10. American Wirehair

American Wirehair
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  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Price: $800 – $1,200
  • Average Lifespan: 14 – 18 years
  • Cat Fanciers’ Association Rank Number as of 2017: No. 42

In a litter of six domestic shorthair kittens born on Council Rock Farm in Verona, New York, the American Wirehair is a rare breed that started as a spontaneous mutation.

A sparse, wiry coat ended up with one of the kittens and also had crimped whiskers. The genetic mutation is so rare that it has not spontaneously arisen in any other nation so far.

American Wirehairs were first approved in 1967 for registration with the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and the breed has appeared at the bottom of the Cat Fanciers’ Association registration list every year since then.

The chronically low number of registered American Wirehairs makes it the world’s rarest breed of cat.

Rarest Cat Breeds
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