Some people don’t want to settle for a regular cat breed and are seeking something truly unique. For the more eccentric pet owners in search of a rare cat, there are a few exotic breeds that are considered to be legal to have as a pet.
However, there are certain particularities that you have to take note of before acquiring such a cat:
- Wild cat breeds are quite expensive. Prices can range from 1500$ up to 20000$. Not only that, but the amount of money you would have to spend on proper caring is also higher than the amounts spent on common cat breeds.
- Speaking of prices, these cats require special health care as most vets might not be up to date on these rare breeds. The best choice would be to search for a vet that is specialized in zoo animals as well.
- They should also have their own room and large caged outdoor spaces at their disposal. So don’t even think of acquiring such a breed unless you can provide more than a simple apartment room for them.
- They are illegal in most states and the necessary documents for them can, in most cases, be denied to pet owners. Add to that the fact that they can prevent you from travelling since it is quite hard to find a willing pet sitter.
The most common wildcat in North America, the bobcat is also one of the most appropriate exotic cat breeds to choose as a companion since it develops a strong bond with its owner. They are medium-sized and their coats come in various colors, though generally tan to grayish-brown, with black streaks on the body and dark bars on the forelegs and tail. Though smaller on average than the Canadian lynx, with whom it is related and shares parts of its range, the Bobcat is about twice as large as the domestic cat. The adult bobcat is 47.5 to 125 cm long from the head to the base of the tail, averaging 82.7 cm; the stubby tail adds 9 to 20 cm and its “bobbed” appearance gives the species its name. So though it falls into the category of small exotic cats, it is nowhere near the size of an average domesticated cat breed!
The average bobcat lifespan is 7 years long and rarely exceeds 10 years. This might be important for those of you who were hoping to have a companion for a long period of time. As excellent hunters, bobcats are also accustomed to surviving without food for long periods of time, but they consume extensively when food is abundant. Therefore you should pay great attention to feeding schedule and the amounts of food left at their disposal!
Usually solitary and territorial animals, females never share territory with each other. Quite unusual for cats, males tend to be more tolerant to other bobcats than females of the specie. So keep this in mind before deciding on the desired sex of your bobcat.
They are however friendly with dogs and are very affectionate. As for when they become moody or slightly aggressive, it is imperative to have an outdoor cage at their disposal.
The association of servals with human beings dates back to the time of Ancient Egypt. They were often offered as gifts or traded as objects from Nubia. Nowadays, servals are one of the most popular exotic cat breed found in homes around the US.
The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat; Compared to your average cat, this breed stands to 54 to 62 cm at the shoulder and can weigh up to 18 kg, with females generally lighter than males. They tend to be sedentary, so when kept in captivity it is important to offer them a balanced diet. The head-and-body length is typically between 67 and 100 cm. Its prominent characteristics are the small head, large ears, spotted and striped coat, long legs and a black-tipped tail of 30 cm in length. Actually, the serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size!
The coat is basically golden-yellow to buff and extensively marked with black spots and stripes. The spots show great variation in size. Melanistic servals are also known. In regards to facial features, this breed has brownish or greenish eyes, white whiskers on the snout and near the ears, ears as large as those of a domestic cat (but large relative to the size of the head) and black on the back with a white horizontal band in the middle, whitish chin, and spots and streaks on the cheeks and the forehead.
A solitary animal, there is little social interaction among servals except in the mating season. Aggressive encounters are rare, as servals appear to mutually avoid one another rather than fight and defend their ranges.
Like many cats, the serval is able to purr. It also has a high-pitched chirp, and can hiss, cackle, growl, grunt and meow.
Canadian and Siberian Lynx
The debate continues whether or not the Canadian Lynx is in fact a separate species from the Eurasian (a.k.a. Siberian or Iberian) Lynx, or merely a sub-species. The Canadian Lynx ranges across Canada and into Alaska as well as some parts of the northern United States and extending down the Rocky Mountains to Colorado.
The Canada lynx differs from the bobcat in having longer ear tufts, a greyer and less red coat, less distinct spotting on the coat, a slightly shorter tail completely black on the tip rather than only on the upper side, and larger paws.
Similar to other exotic cat breeds, Canada lynxes are primarily solitary, their social interactions limited, with the exception of the mother-offspring bond. They also tend to be nocturnal. Nevertheless, activity may be observed during daytime. They are known to be good swimmers and efficient climbers. In the wild, they have been observed climbing high up on trees in order to dodge predators.
The Caracal is a medium-sized wild cat that originates in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Chinese emperors used caracals as gifts while in other cultures they were of great religious significance. Paintings and bronze figurines are proof of their importance throughout history, especially in ancient Egypt. Embalmed caracals have even been found in pharaohs’ tombs.
Nowadays, the caracal is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and threatened by anthropogenic mortality and habitat loss.
This exotic cat is a slender, moderately sized creature boasting a short face, long canine teeth, tufted ears, and long legs. It has a robust build reaching nearly 40–50 centimetres at the shoulder with the head-and-body length typically at 78 centimetres for males and 73 centimetres for females. The tan, bushy tail measures 26–34 centimetres and extends to the hocks. While most females weigh around 8 or more kg, a male’s minimum weight is around 12kg, both sexes reaching a peak at nearly 18kg. The specie is sexually dimorphic having most bodily parameters smaller in female caracals than in male caracals.
The caracal is often confused with the lynx, as both cats have tufted ears. However the main distinction between the two is that the lynx is spotted and blotched, while the caracal shows no such markings on its coat.
A solitary and territorial cat, the Caracal prefers its own company over that of other animals. They are efficient climbers, known for their speed and agility that make them skilled hunters. They are also notorious for attacking livestock, yet they seldom attack human beings.
The Ocelot, also called the ‘dwarf leopard’, is a wild cat originating in South America. As with the Caracal, The Ocelot is now listed as Least Concern on the IUCN due to the killings of hundreds of thousands of ocelots. They have once been considered particularly valuable because of their fur and were extensively hunted for it.
The ocelot is a medium-sized spotted cat, with similar physical proportions to those of the bobcat. Its fur is very smooth, but short in length and the colors on its back vary: it is basically creamy, tawny, yellowish, reddish grey or grey, while the neck and underside are white. The ocelot is between 55 and 100 centimetres in head-and-body length and weighs between 8 and 16 kilograms. They have a thin tail that can reach up to 45 centimetres in length and that is ringed or striped and is shorter than the hindlimbs. Compared to similar exotic cats, their ears are round and are marked with a bright white spot that contrasts with the black background. Their brown eyes gleam golden when exposed to light similar to those of a jaguar.
The jungle cat, also known as a reed cat or swamp cat, is a large, long-legged cat native to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and southern China. It is the most common small wild cat in India.
Compared to the other exotic cats mentioned so far it is also the breed that weighs the most, a mature jungle cat being able to reach 18 kg. Its coat displays a lovely sandy, reddish-brown hue and it is uniformly colored and without spots.
The jungle cat is a diurnal animal, but as with most exotic felines it prefers its own company. It is not the best choice for a pet as it quite difficult to be domesticated and is not a big fan of people.
A small number of jungle cats have been found among the cat mummies of Ancient Egypt, dating to 3700 Bc. However, they are never truly domesticated.
As the name indicates, the fishing cat is a professional swimmer and it takes great pleasure in playing in water. Of course, one of the main reasons for this is that they do not focus on hunting terrestrial creatures and prefer fish instead. They also dine on other prey found in the water such as frogs, crabs and crayfish.
Their aspect is characterized by coarse fur which ranges in color from olive-grey to ashy-grey with darker stripes on the shoulder and oval-shaped spots on the flanks and sides. In comparison to other cat breeds, their ears are short and rounded and they are set low on the head; the back of the ears have a white spot.
Not much is known about fishing cats in the wild, but it is surmised that they have no natural predators with the exception of humans. Fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands and declined severely over the last decade. The breed has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as of 2016.
The Geoffroy’s cat was identified as a distinct species in the 19th century. The man to do so was the French naturalist Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire and that is why they have this rather unusual name.
Geoffroy’s cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) is a wild cat that can be found in southern and central regions of South America. It is about the size of a domestic cat. While the species is relatively common in many areas, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List because it is widespread and abundant over most of its range.
Similar in size to a domestic cat, Geoffroy’s cat have 60 centimetres in average, their tail being relatively short at 31 centimetres (12 in). There are also similar to regular domestic cats in weight, varying from 2 to 5 kilograms, although individuals that reach up to 7.8 kilograms (17 lb) have been reported. Unfortunately, their beautiful fur makes them one of the most hunted wildcat species in South America. As many as 150,000 pelts are traded each year.
Unusual among cats, Geoffroy’s cats have been observed to stand up on their hind legs to scan the surrounding landscape, using their tail as a support. A similar posture is seen in weasels, meerkats and prairie dogs, but not generally in felines.
Geoffroy’s can be trained to use a litter tray or even walk on the leash, but you have to start early. They are very energetic and mobile creatures which will spend a lot of their waking time running and jumping – most often at full speed (which is very fast) and without the slightest care for the obstacles in their path. Therefore you will have to make a few house improvements, avoiding to leave breakable items at hand or padding the furniture so the cat can’t get hurt when hurtling into it.
A domesticated Geoffroy’s can get attached to humans, but they never bond with more than one or two persons. They can be quite difficult with guests as well. Even when a visitor is being as unthreatening as possible, the Geoffroy’s will at least spend the visit growling ferociously from underneath the table and in worse case can get even more aggressive.
Asian Leopard Cat
The Asian Leopard Cat is a wild cat who has roots in South, Southeast and East Asia. Archaeological evidence from China indicates that they are one of the first cat to be domesticated.
This specie is similar in size to a domestic cat, but it is overall more slender, with longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes. A particular trait of the Leopard cat is its small head marked with two prominent dark stripes and its short and narrow white muzzle.
They look adorable, but they make poor pets as they are not very keen of human company. They are solitary creatures and even avoid their own kind except during breeding season. They are known to be agile climbers, often choosing to hide or rest in trees.
Thanks to a Leopard cat that had been mated with a domestic cat in the 1960s in order to produce hybrid offspring the Bengal cat breed was created.
There are also some other hybrid cats that are worth mentioning:
- Bengal cat (it’s a mix between an Asian leopard cat and a domesticated cat)
- Jungle bob (it’s a mix between a Jungle cat and a pixie bob, which is a domesticated cat breed)
- Chausie (it’s a mix between a Jungle cat and a regular domesticated cat)
- Safari cat (it’s a mix between a Geoffroy’s cat and a domesticated cat, usually Egyptian Mau or ocicat)
- Savannah cat or Ashera cat (it’s a mix between a serval and a domesticated cat)
Hybrid cats are often compared to dogs due to their energetic and lively behavior and while most can be great pets they are more challenging than other cat breeds.