In our hearts, every cat is the most beautiful feline on the planet. But going strictly by visible good looks and unique traits, some exceptionally pretty purebreds will always entice us to say, “Hello gorgeous!”
“‘Beautiful’ is a subjective. That makes judging cats extremely challenging,” says Joan Miller of the Cat Fanciers Association, who has spent years as a cat show judge. She adds that while “beautiful” can range from “attractive” to “dazzling,” the most beautiful cats have to be glamorous and/or breathtaking.
Here are Miller’s picks for the breeds most likely to cause ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s among cat fans.
Distinguished by a full neck ruff, silky coat, long full tail and tufted ears, the longhaired Turkish Angora is “elegant and graceful with a fascinating history,” says Miller.
The long-haired cats from both Persia and Armenia (Eastern Turkey) came to 16th century Europe. An illustration of the breed appeared in Buffon’s Histoure Naturell in 1756, looking much as it does today, and the breed came to the U.S. in the late 1700s. Initially, Persians and Angoras were bred together. In the 1900s, the Turkish government established a breeding program at the Ankara Zoo to preserve the pure white Angoras. Americans bought cats directly from the zoo in the 1960s, and the breed’s popularity grew in this country.
That pale blue, silver-tipped double coat, plush as a teddy bear’s, gives the Russian Blue its elegance and style, according to MIller. “This is a graceful cat with a slender body—fine-boned but muscular,” she says.
Brilliant emerald green eyes accent the Russian Blue’s smooth, wedge-shaped head. Originally from northern Russia, the breed nearly became extinct in England after World War II. But in the late 1960s, American breeders imported cats from Scandinavia and began a 30-year effort that succeeded in recapturing the Russian Blue’s original appearance. Now Blues possess an unmistakable beauty, enhanced by the breed’s intelligence and playfulness.
“This breed is the epitome of ethereal beauty,” says MIller. “A white Persian with brilliant, clear copper eyes, a sweet expression and a full, flowing coat, without a spot of yellowing is particularly magnificent.”
Prized in 1800s England for their stocky builds and long coats, Persians were pampered pets, refined over time by breeders to the breed we know today. Modern Persian cats have a defined shapely body with massive shoulders, heavy bone structure and short legs. A certain ‘fancy’ cat food brand stars a shimmery white Persian in its ads, but the CFA’s Best Cat of 2014 was a calico Persian.
The most recognized feline beauty—even non-cat people can spot a Siamese!—the highly vocal, satin-coated Siamese is what Miller calls “the essence of balance and refinement.” With sleek, tubular builds, large pointy ears and a true triangular head, Siamese ‘color points’ were the cats of royalty in ancient Siam (now Thailand), working as palace guards.
In 1871 the earliest Seal Point Siamese appeared at England’s first National Crystal Palace Show, where a journalist commented on this “unnatural, nightmare kind of cat.” But the cat caused a sensation among show goers, accustomed to British Shorthairs.
Animal prints, anyone? This gentle spotted gem looks like a jungle cat but is, as Miller explains, “an example of a breed established through a hybrid mixture.”
The Ocicat came about as a surprise in 1964 when an individual bred a Siamese to an Abyssinian hoping for a ticked tabby-pointed result. The kitten, Tonga, was born with a bold golden spotted pattern, and after 23 years and the addition of a few American Shorthairs to add silver colors, the fully developed Ocicat achieved CFA Championship status in 1987. A graceful, muscled athlete with an arched neck, the true Ocicat has dark thumbprint spots “scattered over a lighter color coat with the suggestion of a classic tabby, rather than ‘mackerel’, pattern,” Miller says.
With its “marcel waved” coat, and slender, leggy build, the Cornish Rex may resemble a ballet dancer—all straight posture and arches. But its fragile elegance masks a muscular body. “The Cornish Rex is considered to be the raciest beauty of all the cat breeds,” says Miller, “and it always seems to be in motion.”
The Cornish Rex’s extremely soft fur—like a bunny or lamb-has no “guard hairs,” and the cats have natural warmth about their bodies, making them “good shoulder and lap cats,” according to Joan. The breed’s high cheekbones, prominent nose, oval eyes and huge ears combine for its charming look. Loved for its kittenish antics and a coat that begs to be caressed, the Cornish Rex is a standout at any beauty pageant.
Like the Ocicat, the Bombay resembles a jungle cat, a breed that resulted from the vision of one individual in 1958 who wanted a cat that looked like a miniature black panther.
Bombays are relatively rare and originated from crossing the Burmese breed, with its short muscular body, and a black American Shorthair with deep copper eyes. With a medium-length, muscular build and short muzzle on its round head, the Bombay really does look like a mini-panther, whose midnight coat emphasizes every ripple of his panther-like movements.
Size, structure and that gorgeous fluffy coat of the Maine Coon never fail to “draw a gasping sound of awe from an audience at a show,” says Miller. ”The males are especially gorgeous, large cats—some over 20 pounds—with a rectangular body form and a huge full tail.”
The Maine Coon’s functional beauty reflects its history as a New England barn cat. Its coat combines shaggy draping guard hairs to repel snow and rain, and an undercoat of soft, dense awn hairs. “Short dense down hair, close to the skin, resists abrasion, while ear and toe tufts kept ears warm and paw pads comfortable,” says Miller. The huge tail wraps around for added sleeping warmth. In more than 70 colors, the intelligent, devoted Maine Coon wears his practical beauty lightly, and those magnificent coats require surprisingly minimal care.
One of the oldest breeds, the stunning Abyssinian wears a silky, textured coat, huge expressive eyes and lovely coloring accented by ‘ticking,’ not stripes or tabby markings.
“The Ruddy Abyssinian is my favorite, with rich, orange brown color and black ticking, a combination that gives the coat an iridescent radiance unmatched in any other cat,” says Miller, who adds that Aby colors recognized by the CFA are rich shades of red, fawn and blue.
The energetic Aby is lean and muscular, and closely resembles the felines in paintings and sculptures of ancient Egypt’s cats. A cat that loves people, the Aby is not content to sit on laps and be admired; he wants to be in on the action.
A silky cat with snowy mitts and mesmerizing blue eyes, the Birman wears a shimmering medium length coat that doesn’t mat. “A wonderful detail is that white gloving which also appears on the hind paws, extending in a V-shape up the back of the hock,” says Miller.
Softer than a cashmere sweater, the Birman’s coat is one length, with a slightly longer neck ruff and a lush, fluffy tail. Stocky but elongated, Birmans are born white, then later gain their color-point shades—seal, blue, chocolate and lilac are the traditional ones but the CFA also accepts tabby, red and dilute-cream points. With its sweet expression and irresistible coat, the Birman spells beauty in every color.
Kathy Blumenstock is owned by cats, loved by dogs, writes about both, and still longs for a horse.