There are quite a number of cat breeds which originated in the USA, which right from the early days of cat breeding has had many people interested in new breeds, and breeders who were happy to try to create them. Here are five typically American breeds, so American that all of them except one have this as part of their breed name. And that one, the Maine Coon, is probably the best known American cat.
The Maine Coon is the oldest, best known and most popular of the American cats, and is extremely popular even outside the USA. It may well have roamed free in the state of Maine in the early days of its history. There are numerous legends as to its origins, but it is probable that the forebears of the breed were robust American farm cats, which mated with long haired cats brought to Maine by sailors and traders from Europe. The breed was first shown as early as 1860, but then its popularity decreased as Persians were introduced to the USA. But its fortunes revived again in the 1950s, and since then it has never looked back. It has Championship status with all major registries.
These are large cats, the gentle giant of the cat world. They have long, well-muscled bodies, and large ears, with distinctive 'lynx tips' at the ends. Maine Coons are friendly, companionable cats, and talk to their owners with a variety of sounds, the best known being a quiet 'chirrup'. They need plenty of space, but cope well with being indoor cats so long as they have plenty of toys and places to climb. They have an inherited tendency to heart trouble, but responsible breeders are gradually trying to eliminate this.
One of the earliest of the American breeds, the modern American Shorthair was developed in the early 20th century by selective breeding from non-pedigree cats, and established by a cross with a British Shorthair in 1904. When the CFA was established at about this time, the Domestic Shorthair, as it was then called, was one of just five recognised breeds. It was renamed the American Shorthair in 1966, and remains in the top ten breeds in the USA. Overseas, however, the breed is virtually unknown.
The American Shorthair is a tough working cat, a fine controller of rodents which also makes a good family pet. The body of these cats is more powerful, sturdier, yet leaner than those of its British or European relations, with a breed standard that calls for no part' so exaggerated as to foster weakness'. So this is a robust, sturdy cat. In character it is alert, intelligent, and friendly, enjoying quiet companionship with its owner. It is amenable and adaptable, and not prone to any problems, either physical or behavioural.
The American Bobtail breed began with Yodi, a short-tailed, brown tabby male adopted in the 1960s by John and Brenda Saunders from Iowa. They attempted to produce a short-tailed version of the Snowshoe. But the line largely died out. However, work by breeders in the 1980s and 1990s saw the breed accepted, with a look based on Yodi's original appearance. It now has Championship status with TICA and CFA.
The American Bobtail is a medium to large cat with a short of bobbed tail, a rolling gait, deep-set eyes, and tufted ears. It has a strong, , wild appearance, and appears to be a healthy breed without the problems associated with the Manx. They are reputed to be laidback cats, good companions for children, and good travellers.
The American Curl can be distinguished by its unique ears, which curl backwards, giving the cat an alert, slightly quizzical look. The breed dates back to the summer of 1981, when two stray kittens were taken in by a couple in Lakewood, California. Both these kittens had strangely curled ears. One of the kittens soon went off, but the female stayed with the couple, and she became the foundation female of the breed, producing her own curly-eared litter later that year. American Curls were shown for the first time in 1983, and the gene for the curl was established to be a simple dominant. The breed had Championship status in TICA by 1987, and CFA by 1993. It is not accepted by FIFe of the GCCF, whose policies exclude any new breeds with skeletal or cartilage deformities.
The kittens have straight ears when they are born, and the curl develops later. Curl-to-Curl breedings began in 1984, and there are now many homozygous American Curls. These cats seem to suffer no health problems, unlike the Scottish Fold, so the mutation producing the curled ears appears to have no harmful side effects.
This is certainly a breed for those who want something different and remarkable. Aside from their ears, however, American Curls are quite normal cats, healthy and robust, with no breed-specific problems. These are lively cats, fond of play, and always ready to spend time with their owners.
The American Wirehair is North America's first home-grown Rex cat. The first Wirehair was a red and white male, the only survivor of a litter of barn cats in Verona, New York, in 1966. The Cornish Rex was already a Championship breed, so this had raised the profile of unusual coats. The curly-coated male was bred was bred to a straight-coated female, and the resulting kittens all had curly hair, showing the mutation to be dominant. Wirehairs were first accepted for CFA registration in 1967, and achieved Championship status in 1978. they are also recognised by TICA. However, not that many cats are registered each year, and they are very rare outside the USA.
The standard of the Wirehair is similar to to the American Shorthair, the curled coat being the main distinguishing feature. Coats may be anything from slightly wavy to tightly crimped. Generally the coat is low maintenance, and best without grooming. However, Wirehairs can be prone to skin allergies and heavy production of earwax, so regular cleaning and bathing may be necessary. Other than this the breed is generally hardy and healthy. In personality these cats are playful and friendly, but generally quiet and laidback.