Like most American humans, most American cat breeds are a mish-mash of global culture and history. Also like many Americans, most feline predecessors arrived by boat! Several still-existent cat breeds are native to the continent, but most landed here with their European immigrant companions.
When boats arrived from across the drink, they brought with them ship cats. These cats were often called on board to battle vermin, but were also cherished by certain famous captains as prized companions. When the ships docked, these cats ventured out into the new world, where they mated with native breeds. Many of our naturally occurring cat breeds are the ancestors of these pioneering marauders.
Maine Coon, aka American Longhair
As the official state cat of Maine, Maine Coons are one of the most popular cat breeds in the whole world. Although originally known for their hunting skills, Maine Coons are now known for their gentle personality. Traditionally, they’re brown tabby with long hair and fluffy tails.
Formerly known as the Domestic Shorthair, the American Shorthair is a version of the Domestic with their best evolutionary traits enhanced through breeding. These cats tend to be great companions, sociable, hardy, and healthy.
Entirely unrelated to the more common Japanese Bobtail, both breeds do have one thing in common: a short nubby tail. The tail’s length is the result of a genetic mutation. In American Bobtails, the gene is dominant; meaning all cats in the lineage can expect a short tail. Japanese Bobtails have a similar gene, but it’s recessive; meaning the short tail occurs like a lottery.
So named for ears that arc in toward the center of the head, American Curl Cats have been show cats since the 1980s. American Curls are not especially common as housepets, but if one does come into your life, you should handle their ears with care, and clean them from time to time.
As with the Oriental Shorthair, the California Spangled Cat was bred for aesthetic reasons. Their spotted appearance was intended to imitate wild spotted jungle cats. Originally bred from a cross of a handful of other breeds, the California Spangled fell a bit to the wayside when other spotted cats began to appear in the fancy cat market.
American Polydactyl Cat
Like your standard housecat in most ways, the American Polydactyl has one very special feature: extra toes! Polydactyls can have six or even seven toes on each paw, though mainly the extras are seen in the front paws. The original polydactyls had a mutational “defect,” but some defects are especially loveable, apparently. American Polydactyls are bred specifically to produce cats with extra toes. The polydactyls’ popularity rose due to Ernest Hemingway’s love for the breed. They can come in a variety of colors, and tend to be easygoing and sociable.
This breed sounds like an 80s hair treatment, and with good reason. The LaPerm cat has a fluffy coat of tight, soft curls. Like many cat breeds, the original curly cat was just born that way. People liked it, and eventually attempted to keep the trait alive through breeding. Aside from their coat, LaPerms are known to be all around moderate in temperament, intelligence, and athleticism.
Named for the diminutive characters in The Wizard of Oz, Munchkin Cats are, as you may imagine, little. They have especially short legs. Originally a mutational defect, first observed in Louisiana, the shortness spread through the local feral population. Short legged cats started popping up in the neighborhood, and before long, they were recognized as a breed.
Bred for their good looks, Ocicats look wild, but are of entirely domestic origins. They resemble Siamese cats in bone structure, and wild jungle cats in coat. They’re known for their distinctive spots, and come in a variety of different colors.
More on Cat Breeds
Where Cat Breeds Come From - Infographic
The History of Cats
Wild Cat Breeds for Adventurous Cat Parents