Did you know that cats have been domesticated for nearly 10,000 years? Since Ancient Egyptian times, cats have been holding a special spot in the heart of humans far and wide. We love them for many reasons, and although there are over 70 recognized breeds of cats to date, there are a select few that hold the title of the oldest cat breeds to date.
Check out our fun list of 9 of oldest cat breeds still around today…
1. The Abyssinian
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my first Abyssinian cat when I was around 12 years old. Her name was Cinnamon and her coat was, and still is, one of the most captivatingly beautiful coats I have ever seen. A friend of mine had one. I’d secretly come to visit her regularly, pretending to be her “best” friend. It was just so I could get my hands on this lovely feline. (Sorry not sorry!)
The Abyssinian is a sight to behold, dazzling green eyes and a ticked coat. It gives them a distinct look that is instantly recognizable to all cat lovers. Although the exact history of this lovely copper-colored cat is uncertain, it’s been speculated that their roots date back to Ancient Egypt:
“In appearance, Abyssinians resemble the paintings and sculptures of ancient Egyptian cats which portray an elegant feline with a muscular body, beautiful arched neck, large ears and almond shaped eyes,” according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association.
Geneticists have been able to trace back ancestors to the Abyssinian cat breed to the coast of the Indian Ocean, along with other areas of Southeast Asia, but their “official” written reference didn’t occur until the late 1800’s.
And although they look as if they could have some wild cat DNA in them, they actually do not. A little known fact: the Abyssinian might be most recognized for its trademark orange-copper coat, but they are actually recognized as having four coat color options.
The four main Abyssinian colors recognized by TICA and other cat registration organizations are: ruddy (rich dark brown also known as usual or tawny), blue (the dilute of ruddy, a slate blue-gray), cinnamon (rich deep cinnamon-red also called sorrel or red), and fawn (the dilute of cinnamon, a pale tan).
2. Maine Coon
The Maine Coon cat is a popular breed with many. It’s instantly recognized for its trademark big-boned stature, majestic fluff, ear tufts, and giant walrus-like whiskers. This cat breed is actually the first original cat breed of the United States. They originally hailed from the tiny–and typically frigid–state of Maine.
It’s fur coat, superior climbing and hunting abilities and ultimate survival skills allowed for it to adapt to the state’s harsh winter elements, although the Maine Coon cats of today find themselves indoors as spoiled housepets.
These cats are adored by many for their trills and chirps, laid-back personalities and charming good looks. The first documentation of the Maine coon wasn’t until 1861, though the cats already were known to many, especially as excellent mousers.
3. Japanese Bobtail
The Japanese Bobtail is a smaller cat with a bobtail as a result of a genetic mutation and their body is entirely white excluding dainty black or orange patches.
“A tricolored cat with a beckoning paw and a bobbed tail is a symbol of good fortune in Japan, and the Bobtail has been depicted in art and described in writing in that country for at least 1,000 years,” according to VetStreet.
Their origins date back to Buddhist monks in 600-700 A.D., where they found their place and purpose by keeping the rats out of the rice paper scrolls in the temples. By the 1600’s, the silk trade found itself in jeopardy due to rats, and the Japanese Bobtail was pressed into service and thus became the street cat that it is today in Japan.
This gorgeous gray cat with stunning gold eyes has a large frame and has been in existence for several centuries:
“Recent research has proven that the origin of these cats was in ancient Persia,” according to the CFA. “They probably arrived at the French monasteries with knights returning from the Crusades.”
This rare domestic cat from France is very affectionate and sweet by nature, and praised by many for their instinctual desire to be curled up right in their human’s lap–aww! They possess a thick double coat and and a muscular frame, so their appearance is round and solid. Fun fact about the Chartreux: in the winter, their coat becomes much longer and thicker. Tres chic!
The Persian cat is well-known for its appearance, from its puffy, cotton ball-like coat to its saucer eyes and signature flat face. It’s suspected that ancient desert caravans traveling with spices and jewels sometimes carried a familiar longhaired cat in the time when the lands were known as Mesopotamia.
This cat breed is known for its quiet and sweet nature. As any Persian cat owner knows, heavy grooming is a requirement to keep these cats looking their best. The Persian is as sweet as it is soft, and a favorite choice of cat breed among many cat lovers worldwide.
Fun fact: Until the late 19th century, any longhaired cat from Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan were simply referred to as “Asiatic” cats and were often bred together.
These blue-eyed beauties are the ballerinas of the cat world. They are well-known for their striking face-masks, chatty nature, and lovely disposition. According to the Cat Fancier Association, it is believed that these cute cats are descended from “the sacred temple cats in Siam, now called Thailand.”
These cats are curious by nature, very vocal, and even a bit demanding their owners often claim. The Siamese has a distinctive “pointed” coat: a light-colored background with darker points on the ears, mask, legs and tail in seal, lilac, chocolate and blue. Other point colors include tabby, red, cream, silver and smoke. An international favorite, these cats can live rather long lives. They do so right by their human’s side–likely meowing their ear off!
7. Russian Blue
These beautiful “blue” coat beauties with mesmerizing bright green eyes are one of my personal favorites. Renowned for their superior hunting abilities, they were a favorite among the great czars of Russia many centuries ago.
“Born just south of the Arctic Circle in the Russian port city of Archangel, the Russian Blue was an intrepid explorer who legend says rode with Cossacks and frequently made his way to other climes as a ship’s cat,” according to VetStreet.
Fun fact about the Russian Blue for those allergic to cats. Most people are allergic to the protein in a cat’s saliva. The protein is spread across their fur as they groom themselves. But this cat breed is known to produce significantly less, making them “technically” a hypoallergenic cat breed.
These big and beautiful cats might be confused as a Maine Coon at first glance. But there are notable differences among the two large cat breeds. Given their name, it’s no surprise that these lovely long-haired cats are originally from Russia.
They’re the official cat breed of their motherland, and in Russian fairy tales, “magical cats protect children and open gateways to unseen realms.” Sweet with an adventurous spirit, this large cat breed possesses a thick double coat–that gets even grander in the cold winter months–protecting them from the Russian climate and harsh elements. Their neck “ruff” is one of their trademark looks that distinguishes them among other cat breeds. Also, their narrower head sets them apart from the American Maine Coon cat breed.
9. Turkish Angora
The Turkish Angora has a soft and silky coat with a fluffy tail to match. A naturally occurring cat breed from the country of Turkey, these cats have been on record since the 16th century when it was documented that they were a prized trade to the people of France.
In terms of their personality, they may look beautiful and sophisticated, but underneath that elegant exterior they are tricksters with a wicked sense of humor. These cats can come in a variety of colors and coat patterns. Those which are white often have one blue eye and one green eye.
Something else super cool about these cats from Turkey? They are known by many for not only liking water, but also swimming! Yes, a cat breed that not only likes water, but even swims in it! Who knew!?
Fun fact (and likely well-known to CAM buffs): Cole is thought to have some Turkish Angora DNA!
Got another breed you’d like to share? Leave us a comment and let us know! Please remember that these special “breeds” are available in shelters too. There are many “pure-bred” rescue organizations that take in disposed “breeder” cats. You don’t need to pay big money for a specialty cat from a breeder. You can rescue them from a life of being used for profit and give them the love they deserve.
REMEMBER: ADOPT, DON’T SHOP; FOSTERING SAVES LIVES & SPAY AND NEUTER!