There are a number of fascinating cat varieties which you may not be able to see in many places.
The African Wild Cat comes from the open woodlands of Africa and south-east Asia. It has tabby markings, its basic colour ranging from grey to tawny yellow. It stands 35 cm (14 in) high at the shoulder, which is rather larger than most domestic cats. It appears that this variety was successfully tamed by the Ancient Egyptians, as its mummified remains have been found. Other small, wild cats, all of which are closely related, include the Black-footed Cat from South Africa, the Chinese Desert cat, the Jungle Cat of southern Asia, the Sand Cat from North Africa and the Leopard Cat from western Asia.
The American Short-hair has longer legs and nose than the British type; its muzzle is more square and its fur of harsher texture and of a wider colour range. Incidentally, the colour tortoiseshell-and-white is, in the USA, referred to as calico.
In 1966 a chance mutation produced a kitten with coarse, wiry hair in the litter of an American farmyard cat. By selective breeding this was introduced into American Short-hair types from which the breed differs only in coat texture.
This is an American breed. It is jet black and was produced by crossing American Short-hairs with the Burmese.
This is a long-haired variety of Manx cat produced by chance mutations. It is tail-less.
European Wild Cat
Rarely seen these days, except perhaps in the Highlands of Scotland. It has large, tabby markings and is distinguishable from the domestic cat by its larger skull and teeth and its tail which is rounded at the tip.
Fascinating cats with tiger marking, bred artificially to resemble the cats of the Ancient Egyptians. The Americans recognize the breed in silver and bronze. In Britain, it has been developed from Siamese and has evolved of more foreign type, with a scarab-type (beetle-shaped) mark on the forehead.
Not altogether an unusual species, because it is a domestic cat, turned wild. Feral cats are distinguishable from the European Wild Cat by their pointed tail-tip and smaller head. Most domestic cats could fend for themselves if called upon to do so and, after several, generations of living wild, would tend to revert to tabby coat patterns.
This is an ancient Japanese variety, unlike any other. Its tail is approximately 10-12 cm (4-5 in) in length, but is held curled so that it tends to look much shorter. Its back legs, which are long, are generally bent, which gives the back a level appearance. The Japanese Bobtail is tri-coloured, red, black and white, (some other colours are accepted in the USA). This cat is said to shed less of its hair than other varieties.
Maine Coon cat
Probably evolved through crossings between the short-haired cats of settlers and Angoras brought by sailors from the east. Requires less grooming than most long-hairs.
This is a breed of long-hair, recognized only in the USA, and developed from Red Self and Tabby Long-hairs with heavy jowls. It is unusual in that the nose resembles that of a Pekingese dog. However, as it can lead to breathing problems and trouble with tear ducts (as indeed suffered by the Pekinese), there is some controversy as to whether this type should be perpetuated.
This mutation developed in California from a Persian whose kittens, quite remarkably, seemed impervious to any form of danger, or pain. They are sensitive and extremely vulnerable cats, very loving and like the Birman in appearance.
This mutation has the disapproval of a number of feline authorities. It has drop ears and was developed from a kitten of this type born in Scotland. Think of a tabby with the ears of a British boxer dog – but in proportion to head size of course!