How many cat breeds are there? I would love to be able to answer that question, but I can’t. Nobody can really do that. Everything depends on the criteria that we take into account when separating a cat of the breed, and these criteria depend on the organization that we use to classify it.
Which phelinological organization is right?
The problem with determining the number of breeds is that there is no single worldwide list of breeds that is accepted by all cattery clubs. On the contrary, the individual felinological organisations have their own lists of cat breeds that only partially overlap.
There are cats of breeds that are recognised by all cat associations. Such breeds include, for example, Abyssinian cats that are accepted by ACFA, ACF, CCA-AFC, CCC of A, CFA, CFF, FFE, FIFe, GCCF, LOOF, NZCF, SACC, TICA and WCF. In contrast, Savannah cats, for example, can be found on the list of only a few organizations: CCA-AFC, LOOF and TICA.
Can we assume that a breed exists if it is accepted by most associations, or is it enough that only one of them recognizes it? What if the race has not yet been accepted by any club? Doesn’t it exist?
Cat breed or color variety?
Persian cats come in many types and colours of coat, including the so-called point coat (lighter back and darker muzzle, ears, paws and tail). For FIFe, point covered persimmas are still persimmas, but already according to TICA they are Himalayan cats. That’s the problem! Which one of these organisations is right?
Until the end of 2015 the mentioned FIFe had short-haired Seychelles cats in its list of breeds. There were animals that differed from the Siamese cats only by their colour: siamese are the colour of the point, and the Seychelles are colour of the point with the white. Since January 1st, 2016 Seychelles cats have disappeared from the list of breeds, but Siamese cats with point and white coat have appeared.
One breed, different names?
The confusion around cat breeds is further aggravated by the incoherence of the names used in the felinological world. For genetic reasons, normal ears are used in Scottish folds (cats with drooping ears). Some felinological organisations such as ACF call these cats Scottish Shorthair, others such as TICA – Scottish Straight.
Similar examples can be multiplied. You may already understand why it is so difficult to make a list of existing cats (what I’m trying to do here). Personally, I would prefer it if there were some top-down, binding guidelines for all organisations in the felinological world on this issue, although perhaps some of you might find the current situation more interesting.