Cats with spotted coats are quite unusual. However, the spotted coat is actually just a rather rare version of the tabby pattern which is so common in all types of cats. But it is quite hard to find in domestic cats, and is highly prized by many people, especially in recent times, for it gives cats a wild look similar to a small leopard which is becoming increasingly popular. Indeed, with a modern trend for developing breeds which look like their wild relatives, spotted cats are becoming more sought after. So here are six breeds which are usually or always spotted, with a short description of each one...
The Egyptian Mau is one of very few breeds to occur naturally with a spotted coat. The breed was developed in Italy after the Second World War, by a breeder who imported some spotted street cats from Cairo. The breeder moved to the USA in 1956 and continued developing the breed, but it took about 20 years for Egyptian Maus to win recognition. In Britain, the breed was not recognised by the GCCF until the beginning of the 21st century, and it still remains fairly rare, although numbers are increasing and it is becoming better known. Maus have green eyes and come in three colours – smoke, silver, and bronze. They have randomly scattered spots and a rather exotic look, though the cats are described as being friendly and family oriented.
The Bengal is a hybrid cat, developed from a mating between a domestic cat and a wild cat. It was deliberately developed to resemble a miniature leopard. The breeding programme started in the 1980s in California, when a domestic cat was mated to an Asian Leopard Cat. The early breeding involved ordinary domestic cats, but breeders soon began to use street cats from India, and also Egyptian Maus, in order to get the spotted coat and also a wild cat look. It took several generations before the resulting cats could really be considered as domestic cats, and TICA began registering Bengals in 1983, finally granting them championship status in 1991. The GCCF and FIFe followed suit, together with registries in Australia and New Zealand. These cats have well defined large spots called rosettes, similar to those found on leopards, jaguars, and ocelots. Bengals now come in a variety of colours, all with black or brown spots. They are steadily increasing in popularity in all countries.
The Ocicat was accidentally developed in the 1960s, from an attempt to create a Siamese cat with Abyssinian coloured points by crossing the two breeds. The unintentional result was a cat with spots, which quickly became known for its unusual appearance, and the new breed was named the Ocicat for its resemblance to an Ocelot. Throughout the 1970s the breed was somewhat slow to develop, but interest gradually increased. By the mid-1980s the Ocicat was recognised by CFA and TICA. It began to spread around the world, and is now accepted by all major registries. The breed originally came in four colours – chocolate, silver, black, and lilac – although many more colours are now accepted. Ocicats are still rather rare, although becoming better known as time goes on.
Pixiebobs are a natural breed, although they were originally thought to be descended from the offspring of matings between barn cats and wild bobcats. However, this is unlikely, although these brown spotted tabby cats do indeed bear some resemblance to wild bobcats. As well as their unusual and interesting spots, these cats have shortened tails and usually more toes than normal cats, ie they are polydactyls. They were formally developed as a breed in the 1980s, and accepted by TICA with Experimental Status in 1994. They soon reached Championship status, but they are not well known or accepted beyond the USA.
The Savannah is another hybrid cat (the Bengal having been the first of these) and was developed from crossing a wild Serval and a domestic cat, the aim being to crfeate a domestic cat with the Servals wild and exotic looks. The breed first appeared at the end of the 20th century, and in 2001 was accepted by TICA. The coat colour of the Savannah depends to a large extent on the domestic cats used for the matings, and early breeders used Bengals and Egyptian Maus to help retain the spotted coat for future generations. Generally these cats come in several colours – silver spotted tabby, brown spotted tabby, black, and black smoke, the last two both having black spots. Savannahs definitely have a wild cat look, emphasised by the all over spotted appearance.
The Serengeti is one of the newest spotted breeds, having been created in the 1990s. Although the breed is totally man made, it does not include any wild cats in its origins, but was developed by crossing Bengals and Oriental Shorthairs. Other breeds were included later on in the programme in order to improve the looks of the new breed. The aim was to create a cat which looked like a wild Serval, but which did not have any wild cat genes in its make-up. Thus Serengeti cats have long ears and long legs like a Serval, and of course the distinctive spots. TICA classifies this cat as an Advanced New Breed.
As described, the cats above almost always have spots; that is their distinguishing feature. They are all rather rare breeds, and you might have difficulty obtaining one of them, or at least getting one at a reasonable price. But there are other more common breeds in which spotted versions can occur. These include British Shorthairs, Exotic Shorthairs, LaPerms, American Bobtails, and several others. So if you simply want a cat with spots, it is probably not necessary to go searching for one of the breeds mentioned above, which could involve you in a great deal of time and expense. There may be a much easier way!