Research has shown that around half of a cat’s observable personality traits, such as aggression, friendliness, extraversion, and energy level are genetically determined and highly influenced by their particular breed.
Many cat lovers have a favorite breed or two, and usually, this is because of a combination of the breed’s appearance and personality. But how and why does a cat’s breed influence their temperament? Also, what kind of personalities do certain breeds have?
Of course, genetics can’t explain all of your cat’s behaviors, as their upbringing and environment also play a large role in their overall disposition.
Still, your cat’s breed influences a significant portion of its innate characteristics. Read on to learn more about cat breeds, their histories, and their specific personalities.
Cat Breeding For Desirable Traits
Selective cat breeding, or the process of breeding animals with certain desirable traits to produce more animals with those traits, has been used for centuries to alter our pets’ appearances and personalities.
The vast majority of cat and dog breeds today are living results of this process, and new breeds are still being manufactured using this technique today.
In short, selective breeding is done by identifying certain characteristics that should be passed on to new animals (or even plants), finding parent animals that prominently display those traits, and breeding them together to produce the next generation of that animal.
When this process is repeated dozens of times over the course of many years, it is possible to create unique breeds of animals – cats, in this case – and make the species more diverse.
Cat Breed Personalities
Initially, traits were selected and bred for their functionality. For example, breeding animals that could produce more meat or fur was a common practice.
In more recent years, however, selective breeding has become more of a process used to influence physical appearance and personality rather than the animal’s functionality or usefulness to humans.
Interestingly, the Cat Fanciers’ Association now recognizes 45 specific cat breeds that have been developed over time thanks to selective breeding.
Talk to the Animals
And if that is not enough to convince you that cat breeds personality is a big deal consider animal communicator Libby Brittain.
This lady claims to have the unique ability to actually communicate with animals (including cats) and uses this skill to help people cope with issues in their lives.
How to Talk to a Cat
Most Popular Cat Breed
Even though only about half of a cat’s traits are genetically influenced, breeders still have lots of room to carefully and selectively breed cats to display certain characteristics.
Just a few prominent examples of these unique cat breed traits include:
- Longer, softer fur, like in the Persian and Ragdoll breeds
- Shorter fur or no fur at all, such as the Sphynx and Cornish Rex breeds
- More playful temperaments, like the Bombay and American Curl
- Larger, more expressive eyes, as seen in the Scottish Fold and Exotic Shorthair breeds
- More slender, athletic bodies, like the Abyssinian and Siamese
- Elaborate fur patterns, observable in the Oriental, Bengal, and Ocicat breeds
Cat Breed Unique Characteristics
These are just a few general examples of traits in cats that have been created primarily through the process of selective breeding.
Let’s break down some of the most popular cat varieties and the personality traits they have been carefully bred to display over the past few centuries.
A tall, slender cat with a shiny, short coat, the Abyssinian breed originated in southeast Asia in the mid-1800s before being brought to the UK. Here, the breed was further refined to develop many of the characteristics it is known for today.
This type of cat is known for its outgoing, people-loving personality and highly playful, active lifestyle. They are curious yet intelligent, so they aren’t very destructive or reckless.
Abyssinian cats love developing close bonds with their owners and do well with families.
American Curl Cat
The American Curl, named for its native country and distinctive ears that curl backward, is a fascinating breed that was developed fairly recently. These cats were originally bred in the early 1980s in the United States by a small group of breeders.
Today, this cat is highly popular and with families because of its calm, friendly, and youthful nature. The breed fares particularly well with young children and retains its kitten-like curiosity throughout adulthood.
American Shorthair Cat
American Shorthair cats originated in the United States and are one of the most common and widespread cat breeds in the entire world. They actually originated in Europe, but they arrived in North America after being brought over on cargo ships with early settlers to protect the ships’ supplies from rat infestations.
These cats are known for their short, easy-to-maintain coats of fur that come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and their warm, easygoing personalities.
They are among the most low-maintenance cat breeds and are incredibly popular as good family pets with small children because of their affectionate and calm dispositions.
Black American Shorthair Cats
Many people assume that black cats are a certain breed of cat. This is not correct as black cats show up in many different breeds of domestic cats.
The Black American Shorthair cat is one of the most common black cats that you will find though. The Cat Fanciers’ Association actually lists 22 separate cat breeds that may have all black fur.
The Balinese cat is another breed with a fairly short history, as they originated in America in the 1940s after a genetic mutation affected a litter of Siamese cats, causing them to have long hair.
The breed’s name is inspired by the graceful, athletic dancers in Balinese temples.
Similar to the Siamese, this breed is very vocal and extremely curious. They require lots of stimulation in the form of toys and enrichment activities to stay happy and healthy.
The Balinese is a slightly higher maintenance breed than most, but its outgoing and entertaining personality makes the extra level of care worth it.
Bengal cats are known primarily for their striking, beautifully patterned coats with leopard-like spots known as rosettes, but they are also quite popular due to their confident, athletic, and vocal personalities.
The modern iteration of the Bengal cat was developed in the United States in the 1970s. Today, they are an expensive breed but are greatly admired by enthusiasts for their intelligence and ability to learn tricks.
They also enjoy swimming and are quite fond of exercise in general.
The Bengal cat may cause notice by some people because it looks like a little leopard or wild cat but it can also be sweet and loving. Due to their nature being full of energy they can seem a bit aggressive at times while playing.
Interestingly, the Birman cat’s history is not very well-researched. While we do know they originated in Burma and were first documented in France in the 1920s, no actual detailed record of their origin exists.
Today, the Birman is known for its striking blue eyes, long, thick fur, and quiet, gentle demeanor. Its personality is defined by a warm, playful curiosity and desire to always be near its owner.
If you’ve ever wanted to own a miniature panther, look no further than the Bombay cat. This hybrid breed originated in Thailand but was refined in the US by a lone breeder in Kentucky in the late 1950s.
Its sleek, black coat and vivid yellow eyes are not its only striking traits. Bombay cats are mischievous, outgoing, and very intelligent.
In general, they get along well with people and are even known to be receptive to leash training. Although, some say they can be strong-willed and show some aggressiveness at times.
British Shorthair Cat
British Shorthairs are among the oldest breeds of English cats. The existence of this breed can be traced all the way back to the Roman empire and was popular thanks to its strong, hardy nature and proficiency in hunting prey.
These cats have long lifespans and calm, quiet, and very laid-back temperaments. They are frequently used in television, movies, and advertisements due to their high level of trainability and adaptability.
A popular, well-known cat, the British Shorthair makes an excellent pet for a variety of households.
Named for its country of origin, Burma, the Burmese cat was introduced to America in the 1930s and bred with the Siamese cat. Over time, the breed was refined through the process of selective breeding.
Burmese cats are bright, playful, and highly confident. They get along very well with people, including young children, and are known to learn tricks and play games with their owners.
They are also quite vocal and attention-seeking.
Cornish Rex Cat
This particular breed is the result of a genetic mutation affecting a litter of kittens in the 1950s in Cornwall, UK. One of the kittens had a distinctive, short, curly coat and was the first known Cornish Rex in existence.
The breed was further developed over the years to have large ears and a long, thin body.
These cats are extremely athletic and agile and have kitten-like demeanors well into adulthood. They are highly intelligent and greatly enjoy playing and interacting with people.
Devon Rex Cat
The Devon Rex’s are highly intelligent cats and a very affectionate breed making them a great choice for families that have older children.
A playful cat that also likes a good cuddle with you at nighttime, they also tend to be a bit talkative and meow often. The Devon Rex has tall ears, short hair, and has its origins in England.
Domestic Shorthair Cat
Domestic Shorthair cats are known for their awesome personality. This is a mixed-breed cat that is very social and likes to be the center of attention.
The Domestic Shorthair is a playful cat and makes for an affectionate companion. One thing to keep in mind is that they are active cats due to their natural hunting instincts so be prepared to have a feline friend that requires some regular exercise and attention.
Egyptian Mau Cat
The Egyptian Mau is widely acclaimed for its spotted coat and well-defined muscular body. In fact, they are the only domesticated cat that has a spotted coat.
This unique cat breed is definitely one that enjoys human contact but also has an independent streak. The Egyptian Mau will form strong bonds with the family members that it likes being near the most.
Due to this strong bonding and protect nature they may not take well to strangers. They sometimes may react with a level of aggression if something is taken away from them that they want.
Exotic Shorthair Cat
An offshoot of the Persian breed, the Exotic Shorthair was developed in the 1960s as a short-haired alternative to the high-maintenance Persian. They are very similar in both appearance and demeanor to their predecessor.
Exotic Shorthairs are known to be quiet, calm, and affectionate. They are not highly attention-seeking, but they still enjoy being close to their owners. These cats are playful, yet laid-back, and are very gentle creatures.
Maine Coon Cat
Maine Coon cats are one of the oldest breeds in the United States and are named for the state in which they were originally bred and developed, Maine. A hardy, substantial cat, they are excellent hunters and do well in cold, harsh environments.
The Maine Coons personality characteristics are a playful, yet gentle disposition and dog-like behaviors. Often called gentle giants, they have a sweet personality in spite of their enormous size and are affectionate cats.
This cat is mostly known for a distinctive look having no tail. Quick note, some Manx cats have a tail!
While not one of the most popular cat breeds, the Manx cat is definitely one of the friendliest cat breeds. They get along very well with people and are known to happily greet strangers with a friendly demeanor.
Norwegian Forest Cat
Native to northern Europe and originally known as the Skogkatt, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a hefty breed with a long, thick, water-resistant coat.
Even though it is relatively new to the United States, it has a rich history in Norway that potentially dates all the way back to the 900s.
Affectionate yet highly individualistic, these cats live life on their own terms and mostly keep to themselves. Still, they like being around people and can develop close bonds with their owners as long as they are given space to be alone from time to time.
They are highly adaptable but are less active than most breeds, preferring to relax for long periods of time after experiencing occasional short bursts of energy.
Oriental Shorthair Cat
The Oriental Shorthair, commonly known as the ‘Oriental’, was developed as an offshoot to the Siamese breed. They exist in a variety of colors and patterns and have short hair, large ears, and a long, slender body.
This breed has an excitable and curious personality and loves to be closely and constantly involved in its owner’s life. Oriental cats need plenty of interaction and stimulation to stay happy due to their kitten-like energy levels.
An elegant, striking breed native to Persia and Iran, the Persian cat is well-loved for its unique appearance.
With long, thick fur, large, round eyes, and a flat face, these cats are instantly recognizable and highly popular despite being very high maintenance in terms of their coat and breed-specific health issues.
Aside from their distinctive physical traits, Persian cats are universally loved for their calm, gentle, and somewhat shy personalities. Once they warm up to their owner, they are incredibly loving, affectionate, and adaptable.
The Himalayan cat is a hybrid (cross of a Persian with the Siamese) and is virtually identical to the Persian cat except that it has blue eyes and pointed colors. Pointed colors simply mean having the colors on the ‘points’ or extremities of the body.
Their personality is similar to the Persian and Siamese.
Another large, fluffy, and handsome breed, the Ragdoll was primarily developed in California in the mid-1960s. They currently exist in a variety of colors and patterns and have round, sweet faces that complement their unique blue eyes.
Ragdoll cats are commonly referred to as dog-like or puppy-like because of their curious and docile demeanors. They love to play and explore but are very gentle in nature. Ragdolls enjoy human interaction and love to bond with their owners far more than most other breeds.
Russian Blue Cat
Named for its country of origin, the Russian Blue is a beautiful cat with short, blue-grey fur and large, expressive eyes. They have been carefully and selectively bred over the years to have their distinctive appearance.
A curious, gentle, and somewhat shy breed, Russian Blue cats are affectionate towards people they have developed a close bond with. They are quiet and individualistic but still very kind and warm in nature.
Scottish Fold Cat
A highly popular breed loved for its strangely inward-folded ears, the Scottish Fold was developed in Scotland following the discovery of a cat with a genetic mutation that affected the cartilage in its ears.
They have a unique appearance that is often described as owl or teddy bear-like.
Scottish Fold cats are hardy and adaptable and farewell in a variety of households. They are a quieter breed, but they love human companionship and are quite playful. This breed is also admired because it is fairly low-maintenance and healthy aside from occasional ear issues.
Native to Thailand, formerly known as the Siam region, the Siamese cat is a very old breed that was exported to countries all around the world starting in the 1800s.
They have a distinctive appearance with long, thin bodies, narrow faces, and broad noses. Their bright blue eyes and large, attentive ears are a striking sight.
Siamese cats are perhaps best known for their loud, frequent vocalizations. They love to “talk” to anyone around them and are very playful and inquisitive. The breed is highly emotional and intelligent.
They can also be territorial in nature and shows signs of anger in certain circumstances such as being in a different environment, around strangers (animals or humans), being hungry, or feeling like they need attention.
The Siberian cat is well-known and admired in Russia and has a rich history dating back hundreds of years. They were first exported to the United States in the 1990s and are now popular all over the world.
The breed’s most prominent physical qualities are its large size, strength, and sweet facial expression.
These cats are extremely hardy and outgoing. They love interacting with people and do very well in busy, active households. Siberian cats are fairly quiet, preferring to express themselves with adorable chirps and purrs that complement their playful and curious temperaments.
Originally a result of a genetic mutation in 1966, the Sphynx cat has one of the most unique appearances of any cat breed. With its thin, hairless body, large ears, and bulbous eyes, this breed is incredibly popular despite its intense look and very specific high-maintenance care requirements.
The breed is outgoing, lovable, and playful, tending to seek attention with its goofy antics. Sphynx cats are highly energetic and lovable and get along well with other cats and even dogs.
Sometimes their high energy, unique look, and desire to be the center of attention can be perceived as being aggressive or mean but usually, that is not the case.
Turkish Angora Cat
This cat gets its namesake from its country of origin, Turkey, and is a somewhat rare and expensive breed. Their existence dates back to the 1600s.
The Turkish Angora was one of the first cats ever domesticated in the Fertile Crescent region in the Middle East. They have a distinctive appearance with tall, alert ears and a long, white coat.
Turkish Angora cats are outgoing and dominant in nature. They are known to develop a close bond with their owners and are quite protective. These cats enjoy interacting with anyone around them and are very lively and playful.
Related Cat Personality Questions
Tabby Cat Personality
Tabby cats are not a breed. It is a reference to a collection of cats based on their color and/or coat pattern.
Having said that, Tabby’s are smart cats, offer great personalities, and make good household pets.
Most Affectionate Cat Breeds
This is a subject question and has many different answers based on the person being asked. In general, these are all affectionate cat breeds:
- American Shorthair
- British Shorthair
- Devon Rex
- Maine Coon
Meanest Cat Breeds
I won’t go as far as to say any domestic cat is mean but some may be less friendly than others. Again, that is purely subjective to each person being asked.
- Egyptian Mau
Black Cat Personality Traits
People have distinct opinions about black cats. How many of you have heard that it is bad luck if a black cat crosses your path? On the other hand, black cats are considered good luck in many Asian cultures.
A black cat is going to have the same range of personality traits as any cat would have.
Best Cat For Me
I am often asked by friends, “what is the best cat for me?“ It is a great question and something that you should think about before you get a cat. Choosing a cat with the right personality for you matters!
Cat Personality Test
Luckily there are many cat personality tests available online that can provide some insight and guidance for you.
One fun cat personality test I have used is the Meet Your Match (MYM) survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Check it out and have fun choosing the right personality cat for you!
Selective breeding has highly influenced the emergence of different cat breeds all over the world and plays a huge role in your cat’s personality traits as well as their physical appearance.
There are a whopping 45 unique breeds in existence, with many more currently being developed.
While we don’t cover all cats and their personalities here the International Cat Association has a wealth of information on different breeds and I highly recommend you check them out.