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12 Rare Cat Breeds That Are Equally Cute and Fascinating

Get ready to swoon over these adorable rare cat breeds you’ll want to add to your family

devon rex cat rare cat breeds
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Where have these rare cat breeds been all your life?

Although these cats are part of the 45 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. Good news, though—there are pictures of these kitties, so you can admire the beauty of rare cat breeds!

Below, you’ll find 12 of the rarest cat breeds in all their cute glory, from the small and the large breeds to the black and longhaired kitties. Enjoy!

American bobtail cat
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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 one of the rare cat breeds that 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.

Breed overview American Bobtail
Height 9–10 inches
Weight 9–20 pounds
Life expectancy 13–15 years

Black cat snugly lying on a plaid stretching its paws
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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 ways from the Burmese side of the family.

Breed overview Bombay
Height 9–13 inches
Weight 6–11 pounds
Life expectancy 12–16 years

ocicat cat
Courtesy 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!

Breed overview Ocicat
Height 9–11 inches
Weight 12–15 pounds
Life expectancy 14–18 years

Japanese Bobtail
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Japanese Bobtail

Keiger says 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 this fluffy cat breed but also unique to each individual cat, varying in shape and length but not measuring more than three inches long.

Breed overview Japanese Bobtail
Height 8–9 inches
Weight 6–10 pounds
Life expectancy 15–18 years

Crouching Cat
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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 gray cat 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’re one of the rare cat breeds that seek me-time high atop bookshelves and refrigerators.

Breed overview Egyptian Mau
Height 7–11 inches
Weight 8–12 pounds
Life expectancy 9–13 years

American Wirehair
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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.

Breed overview American Wirehair
Height 10–13 inches
Weight 8–12 pounds
Life expectancy 10–15 years

Cornish rex cat
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Cornish Rex

A cat with tight curly hair is rare, indeed! These cats are Cornish, meaning 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! This rare cat breed is also canine-like in that it’s very affectionate and people-oriented. They love to be part of the family and won’t ignore you when you come home.

Breed overview Cornish Rex
Height 8–14 inches
Weight 5–10 pounds
Life expectancy 11–15 years

GCCF Shropshire Cat Club Championship Show
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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 as 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 when 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.

Breed overview Selkirk Rex
Height 9–11 inches
Weight 6–16 pounds
Life expectancy 13–15 years

Korat Cat Resting
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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. They’re one of the sweetest rare cat breeds on this list!

Breed overview Korat
Height 9–13 inches
Weight 6–10 pounds
Life expectancy 10–15 years

Closeup Singapura Cat Looking in Camera on purple
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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 5 to 6 pounds, and males aren’t that much heavier at 6 to 8 pounds. While it takes about 15 to 24 months for them to reach maturity, they preserve their kitten-like disposition 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.

Breed overview Singapura
Height 6–8 inches
Weight 5–8 pounds
Life expectancy 10–15 years

Havana Brown Domestic Cat
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Havana Brown

Though you might think 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.

Breed overview Havana Brown
Height 9–11 inches
Weight 8–12 pounds
Life expectancy 8–13 years

White Devon Rex fine art portrait
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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.

Breed overview Devon Rex
Height 10–12 inches
Weight 5–9 pounds
Life expectancy 9–15 years

Now that you’ve become familiar with these rare cat breeds, read up on these common false “facts” about cats.


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.