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Hybrid Cat Breeds
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Hybrid Cat Breeds

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Breed Facts

It was once believed that domestic cats mated with local wild felines across the globe, and that this accounted for regional variations of type in the domestic cats. For a time, some people also believed that the domestic cat was a hybrid descendant of the African wildcat and the jungle cat. But genetic analysis has proved that neither of these is true. However, breeders are now doing what nature did not, and creating experimental hybrids. The Bengal is well known and has been completely accepted and become very popular, but there are some other hybrid breeds too...

The Bengal Cat

This is the first and most widely accepted of the hybrid cats. However, it was originally created not for looks or as a show cat, but to investigate immunity. In the 1960s there was an accidental mating between an Asian leopard cat and a black shorthaired domestic cat at the home of breeder Jean Sugden in California. At the time she made no attempt to develop the hybrid offspring, but in the early 1970s she received several more hybrids which had been bred as part of a research project aimed at determining whether the leopard cat's immunity to feline leukaemia could be transferred to the domestic cat. It turned out that it could not, but these hybrids were now used to form the basis of an entirely new breed. This was the first intentional hybrid cat to seek recognition.

The early breeding programme involved ordinary domestic cats, but to develop the spotted coat, breeders began to use street cats from India, chosen for their coat patterns, and Egyptian Maus. The aim was to replicate the look of the wild ancestry, while developing the temperament of a domestic pet. Early attempts to gain recognition failed, as the early cats were not really domestic.

However, in 1983 TICA began registering the cats, finally granting them championship status in 1991. The GCCF and FIFe followed suit, along with the registries in Australia and New Zealand. But no further crossing back to the wild species was allowed.

Domestic Bengals are not as large as the foundation hybrids. but are still relatively large and substantial in appearance. Originally all of them had a spotted coat, but over time newer coat patterns have emerged. In temperament they are said to be friendly and people-orientated, and mix well with other pets and children. But they can also be mischievous, boisterous, and very active, perhaps due to their wild origins. Nevertheless, they are becoming extremely popular, and also do well on the show bench.

Read our Bengal Cat Breed Profile.

The Toyger

The Toyger is a designer breed, deliberately created to resemble a tiger. In the late 1980s, Judy Sugden, daughter of the original Bengal breeder, noticed two small spots of tabby markings on the temple of one of her cats, an area usually free of darker colouring. She and a few like-minded breeders set out to develop this look and create a tiger in miniature.

TICA began to register the cats in 1993, and accepted them for showing from 2000. In 2007 the breed finally achieved Championship status. It is now becoming more popular worldwide. It is essentially a descendant of the Bengal, with a similar temperament. Note that it has no recent wild cat origins, but is descended from the Bengal.

Read ourToyger Cat BreedProfile.

The Chausie

Occasional natural hybrids of the jungle cat and the domestic cat have been reported, but DNA research has shown that the jungle cat was not part of the domestic cat's origins. However, in the 1990s breeders began working with deliberately created hybrids of domestic cats and jungle cats to make a new breed. Some of the early hybrids were known as Nile Cats, but the name Chaussie eventually won. So far the only registry to recognise these cats is TICA, which began registering them in 1995. The GCCF has said it wants no more hybrids, so it is not clear if other registries will follow suit. The cats are assertive, very active, and it is said that some are not reliably housetrained, so owning one will require a lot of time and energy.

Read ourChausie Cat BreedProfile.

The Savannah

Savannah cats were created by crossing domestic cats with the African Serval. In 1986 a Bengal breeder crossed a Serval with a Siamese cat to produce the first Savannah, which she named 'Savannah'. The new breed gained in popularity in the 1990s, was recognised by TICA in 2001, and given Championship status in 2012. They have a very exotic look inherited from the Serval: large ears, long legs, and a spotted coat. They are reported to be very friendly, and are gaining in popularity as pets.

Read our SavannahCat BreedProfile.

The Ashera Cat

A lot of controversy surrounds this 'breed'. It was supposed to be a type of hybrid cat marketed by the Californian company 'Lifestyle Pets', and was launched in 2007. The hybrid cat was allegedly a cross between the African serval, the Asian leopard cat, and a domestic cat. The truth though, discovered with the aid of DNA testing, was that the so-called Ashera cats were simply Savannah cats which were bought from a different breeder and then resold. Some of the Ashera cats sold for ridiculous prices – as much as $125,000 (or £100,000 gbp) ! Savannah cats sold for much less, so it looked as though Lifestyle pets was simply buying Savannahs and then selling them on as Ashera cats. The results of DNA testing on some so-called Ashera kittens in 2008 confirmed that they were indeed Savannah cats. After the DNA test results were released, the owner of Lifestyle pets apparently adopted a new identity and set up a new company.

The Cheetoh

These cats were created to look like cheetahs, but breeding Bengals to Ocicats. Like the Toyger, they have no recent wild ancestors, but the Bengal ancestry provides the wild cat genetics.

The Pixie Bob

This is not a hybrid created by breeders, but a result of natural breeding between domestic cats and bob cats in Washington, USA. One woman was intrigued by the cats, and bred them to more domestic cats. In this way the breed has been kept alive since 1985.

Other hybrid breeds are occasionally mentioned in cat literature. However, it does not appear that any others have achieved recognition or much in the way of popularity.

Read our Pixie BobCat BreedProfile.

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