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12 Rare Cat Breeds You Probably Don’t Know About

Get ready to swoon over these unique and adorable cats you’ll want to add to your family.

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devon rex cat rare cat breedsThomas Leirikh/Getty Images

Where have these cats been all your life?

Although these cats are part of the 42 pedigree breeds that the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) recognizes, chances are slim that you’ve seen them around unless you’re a regular at cat shows. That’s because there aren’t that many of them in the United States. Plus, because they’re generally show cats, you won’t see them sunning themselves on the front porch or stalking birds in the backyard. But it’s not impossible to add a rare cat to your family. The wait may be long, but the CFA offers a list of breeders to start your search, once you decide which kitty is right for you. That said, no matter which breed you welcome into your family, avoid these dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make.

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american bobtail catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

American Bobtail

American Bobtails are loving and incredibly intelligent cats possessing a distinctive wild appearance,” says Teresa Keiger, a judge with the CFA who has lived with and shown several cat breeds. “They are extremely interactive cats that bond with their human family with great devotion.” They will beckon you to play games with them and dazzle you by catching toys (or bugs!) in mid-air. They’re pretty closed-mouthed except for the times they chirp or click when something excites them. Super fluffy and cuddly, they are warm companions on stand-by. They pick up walking on a leash quickly and generally make new friends (with two feet or four paws) when introduced. Here’s how to train your cat to walk on a leash and do some other life-changing things.

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bombay catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association


The black leopard of India inspired Kentucky breeder Nikki Horner to create this black beauty in the 1950s. “Nikki Horner originally crossed a sable Burmese with a Black American Shorthair to create the Bombay,” says Keiger. “It has the friendly, outgoing attributes of both of its parent breeds.” Bombays can be leash-trained, and they enjoy playing fetch—though they’re not dependent on their human to toss a toy over and over again. They are keen on creating their own fun and entertainment. Bombay cats inherited their robust nature and easygoing temperament from their American Shorthair genes and their outgoing, curious, and lap-loving side from the Burmese side of the family. If you’re a true cat aficionado (and even if you’re not), you won’t want to miss these pictures of the cutest cat breeds as kittens.

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ocicat catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association


The Ocicat was the delightful and unexpected result of experimental breeding to produce an Abypoint Siamese. The parents, an Abyssinian and Siamese, gave birth to the striking breed known as the Ocicat. The breeder’s daughter named it Ocicat because of its resemblance to the ocelot, a wild cat with a stunning dappled coat. Muscular and agile, Ocicats are among the standout athletes of the feline world, Keiger says. It’s not uncommon to see them make giant leaps to capture toys. They also relish lively conversations with their family and have an outgoing disposition. They’re even capable of learning basic obedience commands. One thing you don’t have to teach them is how to get used to water for bathing. They like it and might try to join you in the shower! Most cats, however, hate water. Here’s why.

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japanese bobtail cat Courtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

Japanese Bobtail

Keiger says that we can thank the Japanese Bobtail for saving Japan’s silk industry back in the 1600s. “The emperor demanded that the geishas and other high-ranking officials release their pets to hunt the rats that were eating the silkworms,” she explains. It makes sense, as Japanese Bobtails are masters of the pounce and exceptionally good at fetch and carrying things in their mouth. Today, catching toy mice and practicing their feline agility skills by jumping over hurdles and leaping through hoops are their favorite activities. What about that tail? It’s not only unique to the breed but also unique to each individual cat, varying in shape and length but not measuring more than three inches long.

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egyptian mau catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

Egyptian Mau

“The Egyptian Mau is probably our oldest known breed. You can see images of them in murals in the pyramids, hunting birds with hunters,” says Keiger. Once worshiped by pharaohs and kings, this breed is exotic, enchanting, and just as athletic today as they were long ago. But not in a rough and tumble way—they’re more like fearless and curious prima ballerinas. Egyptian Mau are fiercely devoted to their families, yet usually single out one person as their favorite. Still, they are decidedly deliberate about who can approach them and when. Maybe that’s why they seek me-time high atop bookshelves and refrigerators. These are the sure signs your cat really trusts you.

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american wirehair catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

American Wirehair

The American Wirehair breed has a natural mutation that makes it truly one of the rarest, and most of these cats are kept for breeding or for show. “Each hair is crimped, and the coat feels like a soft Brillo pad,” says Keiger. “The hair shaft is fragile and prone to breakage, so it needs a gentle touch while grooming.” Even the whiskers are crimped. It’s an entirely unique experience to pet one, as the coat springs back when touched. Personality-wise, they’re affectionate and good-natured, and a delayed maturity means that playful kitten antics continue well into their third year. Though their coat is easy to care for, some of these cats have sensitive or oily skin, so a monthly bath may be in order. Speaking of which, here’s how to bathe a cat without getting scratched.

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cornish rex catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

Cornish Rex

A cat with tight curly hair is rare, indeed! These cats are Cornish, meaning that they originate from Cornwall, England, and “the ‘Rex’ is from the rabbit fancy, where it denotes a curly-coated rabbit,” says Keiger. “Their body is often compared to a greyhound’s, with their wasp-waisted tuck-up at the hips and high arch of the back.” Contrary to their dainty physique, Cornish Rexes actually have voracious appetites, Keiger says. Their bat ears remind you of the ears on a French Bulldog. And like dogs, they love to play fetch and catch. Yes, catch! And their agile paws are even ideal for throwing balls back! The Rex is also canine-like in that it’s very affectionate and people-orientated. They love to be a part of the family and won’t ignore you when you come home. If you can’t get enough kitty cuddles, check out these cat breeds that experts say have the friendliest personalities.

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selk rex catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

Selkirk Rex

So much soft, snuggly goodness! You’ll just want to bury your face in all those wonderful curls. Even better—the Selkirk Rex comes in two coat lengths, so you’re probably going to want one of each! Keiger says the shorthair’s coat feels as soft a lamb’s, and the longhair’s has a looser and longer hair that gives it a delightfully unkempt appearance. Surprisingly, the Selkirk doesn’t need to be brushed very often. Curly-hair kitties know that too much brushing gives you the frizzies. These heavy-boned cats feel substantial in cradled in your arms, and they are notably patient, tolerant, and loving family members. Kids adore their lively and energetic nature, and the Selkirk is happy to be their playmate. They also don’t mind living with other cats and cat-friendly dogs. On the other hand, if you put these pet combos together, you’re asking for trouble.

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korat catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association


Dubbed one of the “good luck” cats in Thailand, the Korat is a rare beauty for a number of fascinating reasons. For starters, it is one of just three breeds that sport blue coats; the others are the Chartreux and the Russian Blue. Thai farmers considered them to be lucky because their coats resembled a thunderstorm, so when rain was needed, they placed Korats around their fields. And that’s not all that’s special about them. “If you look closely at a Korat, you’ll see a series of hearts within the body,” says Keiger. They have a heart-shaped head and nose, as well as another heart in the muscular area of the chest. If that weren’t enough, Korats are playful, and when recess is over, they love to squeeze in close for cuddling. Check out another 12 of the most affectionate cat breeds.

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singapura catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association


The Singapura gets its name from the Malaysian word for Singapore. While the cat originates from the streets of Singapore, Keiger says that if it hadn’t been for Tommy and Hal Meadows, expatriates who moved back to the United States in the early 1970s, we wouldn’t have these tiny little cuties here. Females weigh around five to six pounds, and males aren’t that much heavier at six to eight pounds. While it takes about 15 to 24 months for them to reach maturity, they preserve their kitten-like disposition for their entire lives. These cats are extroverts and love to be where their human is, and because they are extremely bright, they love to help you in any way they can.

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havana brown catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

Havana Brown

Though you might think that the Havana Brown originates from Cuba because of its name, it was actually first bred in England. This cat is the result of breeding a Siamese and domestic black cat. “Its coat color is that of rich chocolate, but its head is one of the more distinctive types in the cat fancy,” says Keiger. “Its muzzle is strong and rounded and appears almost separate from the head. I’ve had breeders describe it to me as ‘a stuck on corncob’ or ‘a light bulb.'” The curious Havana uses more than its nose to investigate. It uses its paws to touch and feel objects of interest—including its humans. How cute would it be to get a furry touch on the cheek? But don’t expect to get the last word with a Havana. These cats have a charming and flirty way that renders humans speechless. By the way, this is why your cat meows.

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devon rex catCourtesy Larry Johnson/Cat Fanciers’ Association

Devon Rex

Named for their place of origin (Devonshire, England), this cutie has an incredibly unique look. Keiger says the Devon Rex looks like a curly-coated elf or Yoda. And just so you know, humans don’t own Devons. Devons own humans. “They love to be with their owners—actually, they rather insist on it,” says Keiger. “It’s hard to resist that whimsical face with those large eyes and ears.” If they’re not eating or playing, you can bet they will be on your lap, cradled in your arms, or under your covers. Devons love kids and rarely turn down a game of hide-and-seek or fetch, and they easily learn tricks. Next, read up on these common “facts” about cats that are actually false.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.