I think it’s safe to say that the majority of cat owners find their friends at shelters, rescue organizations, or through word-of-mouth. However, there are quite a few designer cat breeds out there if you’re looking for a unique companion (for a price).
Designer cats are similar to designer dogs, in that they are hybrids of two or more breeds. Some of the designer kitties on our list even have some wildcat mixed in.
Bengals look wild, and once upon a time they were. In the 1950s, when the Asian Leopard cat was actually sold in pet stores, a breeder named Jean Mill was accidentally responsible for the first cross with a domestic shorthair; she had a female leopard cat that liked to spend time with Mill’s tomcat, and to her surprise, a litter was born.
Bengals are known to be highly intelligent and active, and they love the water—watch out if you have an aquarium. Coloring varies, but many have rosettes like you find on leopards and ocelots. If you’re hoping to get your hands on one of these gorgeous creatures, it should be one that’s at least four generations removed from anything wild.
In the late 1960s in England, a Siamese and Abyssinian were crossbred to create the Oriental Shorthair. They are slender, talkative kitties who are typically very close to their human companions. Highly intelligent, these beautiful animals need a lot of stimulation—they aren’t good at being loners. Most Oriental Shorthairs have green eyes, and all have angular faces with ears that just won’t quit, but they come in all of the colors imaginable.
They certainly look wild, but these beauties actually have no wild cat DNA. The ocicat is the result of selective breeding between the Abyssinian, Siamese, and American Shorthair.
An Abyssinian and a Siamese were bred, and the first generation of kittens appeared Abyssinian, but the second generation produced a spotted cat the breeder’s daughter named “ocicat” for its resemblance to an ocelot. The ocicat can be found in twelve colors and are highly sociable, making them good family pets.
The Chausie (pronounced “chow-see”) originated in the 1960s when the Jungle Cat of the Middle East and Asia was bred with a domesticated shorthair. Jungle Cats have a long history or being revered by the ancient Egyptians, and the result of breeding the wild cat with a domesticated one has produced a lithe, active, and personable cat that still looks like its wild cousin.
It should be noted that the Chausie is rather larger, with males weighing up to 25 pounds. They are very social creatures and shouldn’t be left alone too often.
The Toyger came about in the 1980s when breeder Judy Sudgen wanted to breed a “mini tiger” to raise awareness about the plight of the endangered tigers. Selectively bred from domestic shorthair tabbys, the Toyger is known for being particularly docile and features prominent broken vertical stripes reminiscent of a tiger.
These cuties are considered some of the most popular designer cats in the country, but since there are so few breeders, a kitten can put a big dent in your wallet.
English cat fanciers in the 1950s desired a self-brown (or solid colored brown) cat and bred a Siamese and a shorthaired black cat. The only connection this kitty has to Cuba is the color resemblance of that of a fine Cuban cigar. Havana Browns are related to the Oriental Shorthair and are known for being very loving felines who play hard and nap hard.
The Tonkinese came about as the result of crossbreeding the Siamese and the Burmese, leading to a charismatic cat who loves attention in all its forms. They come in many colors and have soft shorthaired coats. Though they are moderately sized, they feel surprisingly heavy when picked up, and their coat has been compared to that of a mink. This gorgeous cat is great for families and has even been known to play fetch. A Tonkinese was the mother to the largest litter of kittens ever recorded—19!
The spotted Savannah cat is a crossbreed of a Siamese and a serval, a wild African cat with large ears. Depending on how many generations removed from the serval you go will affect the size and coloring of the cat, though the breed standard desires spots over rosettes and other markings that can come from the domestic side. The Savannah cat can be a challenge to live with, as they require a lot of attention.
The Cheetoh is an adorable spotted cat that’s a relative newcomer in terms of breeding. The breed is a cross between an Ocicat and specific registered Bengals, and the resulting spots, along with its Asian Leopard Cat ancestry, give the cat a wild look. They are very large, with males weighing as much as 23 pounds. Cheetohs are highly active and do well in a busy home with a lot of stimulation. They are notoriously easy to train, and once you have one in your home, you’ll have a playful companion for life.
Similar to the Savannah cat, Asheras come with a hefty price tag and a lot of maintenance. For one, these big kitties can grow up to 30 pounds and stretch up to four feet when standing on their hind legs. Size aside, these beauties are a mix of serval, Asian Leopard cat, and the domestic housecat. Everything about their look says wild, but their temperament is suited for the whole family.
If you’re in the market for an exotic kitty and you have the budget for it, make sure you find a reputable breeder. It’s always best to meet mom and dad to get a feel for their temperament, if possible. There are many breeders who are only looking out for their own welfare, and not that of the kitties. Do your research before you make any final decisions.