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7 incredible rare cat breeds you may never have heard of

These breeds are worth researching before adopting a new cat

Young Kurilian Bobtails
cynoclub / Shutterstock

You probably remember the singing animated Siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp, and almost everyone has seen a stereotypical black cat at least once in life. These iconic kitties are as cute as can be, but they’re also extremely recognizable. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Domestic shorthairs and mixed-breed street cats are just as lovable as your fanciest purebred friends, but it’s time to give rarer cat breeds their time in the spotlight.

These seven rare cat breeds are as unique as they come, and most of them we’ve never heard of before. From exotic-looking ancient breeds to relatively new hybrids, these kitties truly are one in a million. Who knew you could learn something new while looking at adorable cats? It’s a win-win for everybody.

Chartreux cats are the national cats of France

A Chartreux cat with orange eyes
Camille / Unsplash

This surprisingly recognizable French feline is often mistaken for a British Shorthair or Russian Blue, but there are several key differences between them. Chartreux cats are more muscular and round than their Russian cousins, though the most obvious difference is in their eyes. Russian Blues have beautiful light green eyes, while Chartreux cats have bright orange eyes. There’s no forgetting these cats once you see them.

These felines may be the national cat of France, but they’re nearly unheard of in America. Still, breeders and fans of these “smiling” kitties are popping up more and more often.

The Egyptian Mau is one of the oldest cat breeds

An Egyptian Mau cat lies on a cement pilar
Ravi Kant / Pexels

In this case, “mau” isn’t just a sound that cats make; it also means both “cat” and “sun” in the Egyptian language. As it happens, “Mau” is also the name of an ancient domestic cat breed. Egyptian Maus are the only domestic cats that have naturally spotted coats, and they’re often mistaken for exotic cat breeds like ocelots and Bengals.

Rest assured — these domestic cats are well suited as pets and companions. VCA Animal Hospitals compares their affection to that of devoted pet dogs, though these kitties are sometimes better off as the only pets in the home. Despite taking time to build relationships, these spotted companions are as loyal as they come.

Korat cats are said to represent good luck

A Korat cat lies on a windowsill
Jenna Hamra / Pexels

Although these gray/blue/silver cats have been around for nearly a millennia, they are rarely recognized outside of their home country: Thailand. According to ASPCA Pet Insurance, the earliest record of this cat breed occurred in an ancient Thai text, Tamra Maew (Cat Book Poems), as early as 1350 A.D. These cats were often gifted to a bride on her wedding day, and they were always considered to be good omens.

It’s the Korat’s endearing personality that will truly win you over, though. These cats often pick their “person” and bond especially close with them as often as possible. If you’re looking for a true BFF, a Korat could be the cat for you.

Kurilian Bobtail cats are naturally duel citizens

Kurilian Bobtail cat
Vershinin89 / Shutterstock

These fluffy cats get their name from the Kuril Islands they call home. At one point in time, these felines could be found roaming the chilly, volcanic islands owned by Russia and Japan, but now they are most often found as show cats and household companions. They are much more common in Europe than they are in the West.

As the “bobtail” name implies, these felines’ stubby tails are caused by a harmless gene mutation. Each Kurilian Bobtail’s tail is unique, however, and can even have a different number of vertebrae than their littermates’ or parents’ tails.

LaPerms are adorable, curly-haired cats

Brown and white LaPerm cat, rare breed
Nils Jacobi / Shutterstcok

As silly as this cat breed’s name might sound, it’s also incredibly accurate. LaPerm cats appear as if they’ve had a perm done at the salon. They are covered in tight, wispy curls from nose to tail, though the thickest coils can be found near their throat and behind.

Despite an athletic build and curious personality, a LaPerm will likely prefer to spend time on your lap than exploring a cat tower. These cats are adored for their friendly personalities and easy-going natures, though their curls are sure to stand out.

The Sokoke may be the rarest cat breed in the world

Sokoke cat on gray background
COULANGES / Shutterstock

If you’ve never heard of the Sokoke, you’re certainly not alone. This domestic cat breed is also known as the African Shorthair, and it hails from the coastal Arabuko-Sokoke Forest of Kenya. These cats used to be found naturally occurring in the wild, but are mostly maintained thanks to human intervention these days.

The Sokoke cat’s unique ticked coat isn’t to be confused with a tabby cat’s stripes, though it can easily be mistaken for that at first. In reality, these “check marks” help camouflage these hunters in their natural environments, even though that’s not necessary anymore.

Turkish Van cats have been around for thousands of years

A Turkish Van cat lies on a desk
Анна Кухарчук / Pexels

This adventurous and curious cat breed is a great fit for owners who can give them lots of space to climb and play. They are smart and social and can even be fond of swimming (though this often doesn’t translate to a tolerance of bath time). But the most interesting thing about this ancient breed just might be its history.

Experts estimate that this breed is at least 5,000 years old, based on records from the regions of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and the former Soviet Union. Their rarity is thanks to their isolation within their home regions, as no one brought these cats to any other area of the world until the mid-20th century. Turkish Vans are still difficult to locate, but they are highly treasured everywhere they go.

No matter what kind of feline personality you’re looking for, be sure not to discount lesser-known breeds like these. While you’re not likely to find them in animal shelters, you never know where you’ll meet one!

Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
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