Everyone knows how passionate people can be about cats. And those feelings can be twice as intense when it comes to exotic breeds, even (or especially!) if the cats are a little… well… different looking! The kitties on this list certainly stand out from your average neighborhood tabby, whether because of their hair (or lack of it), the size of their limbs, their ears, or simply because they look a little… weird. Yes, the following 10 cats are all rather bizarre – but we think you’ll agree that they’re still totally lovable in their own unique ways.
The Sphynx is probably the best-known bizarre cat there is. And depending on your point of view, it’s either a charmingly exotic or a slightly creepy looking breed. That said, even if you’re not a huge fan, you have to admit that there’s something hypnotic about these felines’ lovely big eyes, which are made even more prominent by the lack of any surrounding fur or eyebrows.
If you’re thinking that their lack of fur makes Sphynx cats low maintenance, think again. They might not shed hair on your sofa, but they can leave greasy marks if they stay in one place for too long. That’s because their skin produces natural oils – so it’s recommended that they get a daily sponge bath. Sphynxes aren’t hypoallergenic, either; in fact, they leave a sometimes sneeze-inducing skin dander (think: dandruff).
The modern, non-Russian Sphynx cat started with a single hairless kitten named Prune, who was born in Canada in 1966. Prune was mated with his mother, and after this rather incestuous beginning, the breed went on to suffer various setbacks. In the 1970s and early ‘80s, more hairless cats were found in the US and Canada, which helped the breeding program. These days Sphynxes are still rare, although the breed is more genetically sound.
9. Ukrainian Levkoy
The Ukrainian Levkoy is similar to the Sphynx in some ways (the most obvious being its lack of fur), but it’s also very different, with folded-over ears and large but narrow eyes. The Ukrainian Levkoy’s profile is angular, and the breed is described as ‘dog-faced’. The smooth-skinned specimen pictured is hairless, but some Levkoys may have patches of hair or be covered in short downy fur.
Levkoys aren’t, however, only valued for their distinctive appearance. They’re also known as friendly, active cats that crave the company of humans and other pets. Oh, and as you can imagine, it’s important for hairless cats to keep warm, which prompts some cat owners to dress them up.
The Ukrainian Levkoy is still relatively new as a breed. The first official specimen was born in January 2004, four years after Russian breeder Elena Vsevolodovna Birjukova began working on the breed. Moreover, there are still only a few hundred around the world, although the breed is gaining popularity internationally.
8. Cornish Rex
This elegant lady has been rather fabulously named ‘Quails Nest Kissing Time of Boska’, or Kissy III for short. The regal moniker is quite appropriate, really, for a kitty with such a beautiful, wavy fur coat – or, to be precise, undercoat. Unlike other cats, the Cornish Rex (for this is our next breed) lacks the two outer layers of hair, known as guard hair and awn hair, respectively. Instead, it’s only protected by a silky down layer. And the Cornish Rex, along with the Devon Rex, has much softer fur than other cats.
As well as their beautiful hair, Cornish Rexes also have other distinguishing features, such as high cheekbones, hollow cheeks, long ‘Roman’ noses, strong chins, small waists, and long legs. It sounds like they were made for the catwalk! And as if that weren’t enough, the breed also flaunts a stylish selection of colors, including lilac, cream, ‘smoke’, tortoiseshell, and ‘tuxedo’.
The ‘Rex’ part of this kitty’s name means ‘king’ in Latin, of course, although what you might not know is that this harks back to a time when King Albert I of Belgium entered some curly-haired rabbits into a show. Since then, it has become tradition to add ‘Rex’ to the moniker of breeds with curly or unusual fur. As the first part of its name implies, the Cornish Rex was first bred in Cornwall. The breed can be traced back to a male cat called Kallibunker; not quite ‘Quails Nest Kissing Time of Boska’, but a sweet name nevertheless.
7. Scottish Fold
Instead of flaunting large upright ears like the Cornish Rex, the Scottish Fold hardly has any ears at all! Well, that’s how it looks anyway. The real story is that the cartilage in this cute breed’s ears is creased, or folded, causing the ear to bend downwards and appear tiny. Some people think this gives the breed an owlish look, which is intensified by the Scottish Fold’s large, round eyes.
Not all members of this loveable-looking breed have the signature ear fold, and kittens born without it are known as ‘Straights’. However, breeders do try to encourage the folded ears, and in some cases they’ve achieved double or even triple folds! Unfortunately, the Scottish Fold can develop undesirable conditions, such as cartilage and bone deformities, which makes it something of a controversial breed.
As you can probably make out looking at this relaxed fellow, Scottish Folds are placid, easy-going animals. They’re also very affectionate – which is just as well, because a cat this adorable is going to be a magnet for cuddles!
6. Exotic Shorthair
This precious little kitten also has a pretty cute name: Fig Newton. She’s an Exotic Shorthair, which is very similar to the Persian breed, except for its short, dense fur. Exotic Shorthairs have round heads with flattened looking faces and small ears. Like their heads, their bodies are also rounded, giving them the appearance of cuddly teddy bears.
Exotic Shorthairs have only been around since the 1960s. They were created when breeders accidentally mated Persians with American Shorthairs – hence their resemblance to their Persian ancestors. Today, they are sometimes still bred with Persians, which results in them occasionally being born with long hair.
As cute as they are, flat-faced breeds are often susceptible to problems, such as overflowing tears that can stain their faces. They are also prone to sinusitis (inflammation of the paranasal sinuses). More seriously, Exotic Shorthairs have a 40 to 50 percent chance of developing feline PKD (polycystic kidney disease), for which there is no cure. PKD would be a sad end indeed for the lovely kitty pictured.
When the Munchkin breed first arrived on the scene in 1994, it was met with controversy. One veteran show judge resigned in disgust, and several cat registries still refuse to recognize the breed. The problem is the Munchkin’s short little legs. Many were concerned that the mutant gene responsible would leave the cats with the kind of crippling problems that affect short-legged dogs like Corgis and Dachshunds.
So far, there have been no signs that the breed is more susceptible to spine, hip or leg problems than other cats. There have been cases of curved spines and hollow chests, but it is not known how common this is among these cats. Munchkin owners and breeders claim that their cats are healthy, and they recommend them to people with small homes.
Although these cats’ legs may be short, Munchkin fans claim that this doesn’t hamper their beloved kitties in any way. They are still able to jump around and keep up with their long-legged friends. And the controversy surrounding them has actually added to their appeal. That said, if you want a Munchkin of your own, be warned: waiting lists can be long!
The Peterbald is another often – but not always – hairless breed of cat. These cats are known for their long, lean bodies, large pointed ears, and big, almond-shaped eyes. And as you can see from this photo, they also have a rather unusual characteristic for cats: webbed feet! Very bizarre… Although they are able to use those flexible-looking toes to grasp objects and even open door latches.
Peterbalds became a registered breed in 1997. They originate from Russia, where the breed’s lineage can be traced back to a rescued kitten named Varvara. The skin of Peterbalds is described as warm and soft, and the completely bald examples may be sticky to the touch. Chamois, or Flock, Peterbalds are 90 percent hairless and smooth, while 70 percent-hairless Peterbalds, referred to as Velour, possess 1-mm (0.04-inch) long coats.
Peterbalds, along with other hairless cats, should not be left in direct sunlight too long, as they can get sunburned. And like Sphynx cats, Peterbalds require bathing or sponging to keep their skin free of oil build-ups. Still, although this might make them a high-maintenance breed, their owners are rewarded with loyalty, affection, and intelligence.
3. Savannah Cat
With its exotic stripes, this cat looks like it belongs in the wild rather than a family home. Actually, the Savannah cat is a hybrid of a domestic cat and an African wild cat known as the Serval. Traces of their wild heritage include the ‘ocelli’, or eye-like spots, on the backs of their ears, and the ‘cheetah tear’ markings next to their noses.
The Savannah cat is one of the biggest breeds of pet cats in the world. In fact, a 17.1-inch (measured from shoulder to toe) Savannah named ‘Scarlett’s Magic’ recently got into the Guinness World Records as the tallest domesticated cat in the world!
As far as temperament goes, Savannah cats may be ideal for dog people, as they are described as having more canine-like personalities. For example, they are loyal, will walk on a leash, and can even be trained to fetch. Another trait many Savannahs share with dogs is their love of water. Some will even jump in the shower with their owners!
Looking at this cat’s long, wavy hair, it may come as no surprise to learn that the breed is known as LaPerm. The fur of these cats is made up of short, tight curls, long, corkscrew ringlets, and even straight hair. Curiously, many LaPerms are born bald, while others lose their hair and replace it – sometimes several times over the course of their lives.
This breed has quite an interesting history. The first LaPerm was born in a barn and was described as “without a doubt, the ugliest kitten in the world, having no hair, large wide-spaced ears and a blueprint pattern on her skin that mimicked a classic tabby pattern.” In classic ugly duckling fashion, Curly, as the kitten was named, soon grew up to have beautiful, soft, curly hair, and she gave birth to a number of curly-haired kittens during her lifetime.
The farm in The Dalles, Oregon, where the breed originated from, is in a territory sacred to the Chinook-speaking Wishram tribe. LaPerms have therefore been closely associated with Native American culture. It’s said that the breed was created under the watchful eye of goddess ‘Tsagaglalal’, to whom many rock carvings around the area are dedicated. For this reason, LaPerms are often given Native American names.
1. Elf Cat
If this isn’t a bizarre cat breed, we don’t know what is. The creation of American breeders Karen Nelson and Kristen Leedom, Elf cats are a very new addition to the cat world. These strange looking kitties are the result of a cross between the Sphynx and the American Curl (that’s where they get those amazing ears from!).
Like the Sphynx, the Elf cat is mostly hairless. Elf cats are said to be highly intelligent and very social animals that are adaptable to different kinds of homes as well as other pets.
Another positive result of the crossbreeding in this case is that the addition of American Curl genes to the Sphynx makeup may have made Elf cats hardier. See, American Curls are believed to be free of many of the genetic problems from which other purebred cats suffer. So if you’ve ever wanted a pet that looks like it’s been bred with a pixie, this may be the animal for you!
There are definitely some fascinating cats and equally fascinating histories on this list. And we hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the strangest and most bizarre-looking cat breeds in the world. If anything, it’s proof that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.