What is a Pedigree or Purebred Cat?

What is a pedigree cat?

A pedigree cat is a type of cat whose parents are the same breed and who is registered with a recognised cat association. Pedigree cats are bred to meet a specific physical characteristic outlined by a breed standard. The lineage of a pedigree cat is recorded on its pedigree.

It is not enough to mate two cats who are the same breed and produce a litter of kittens. The cat breeder must also be registered with a recognised cat association, and all breeding cats registered, and have pedigree papers to prove their ancestry. The registered cat breeder must comply with rules set out by the cat registrar they are affiliated. Failure to comply will result in expulsion.

An unregistered cat breeder who breeds a litter (or more) of kittens with purebred or mixed-breed cats is known as a backyard breeder. The cats are not bred to a standard, and will not be registered as purebred with a cat association. There are also fewer protections when obtaining a cat from a backyard breeder compared to a registered breeder who is bound by a code of ethics and follows the rules laid out by the relevant cat association.

What is a cat association?

Also known as a cat council or cat registrar, a cat association is a professional registering body for cat breeders. Each breeder has a breeder prefix (cattery name) with the cat association and registers their litters with the cat association. The cat association issue a pedigree for each kitten which is similar to a birth certificate,  but contains information of several generations, not just the sire and dam (father and mother).

Cat associations issue a breed standard for each breed, which outlines characteristics such as head and body shape, eye shape and colour, coat colour and length. Show judges evaluate cats on the show bench and issue titles to the best cats who meet the breed standard.

Some of the better-known cat associations include the Cat Fanciers Association, The International Cat Association and Fédération Internationale Féline.

How did pedigree cats develop?

  • Selective development of random-bred cats to meet a particular trait, such as the chunky British shorthair or the large Maine coon.
  • Development of a spontaneous mutation that occasionally occur in a random-bred cat such as an unusual coat or unusual ears, which breeders selectively develop into a new breed. The Cornish rex, Devon rex, sphynx, American curlmunchkin and Scottish fold all arose this way.
  • Certain isolated populations developed unique characteristics to that region such as the Siamese, Russian blue and Norwegian forest cat.
  • Man-made breeds are cat breeds developed to meet a particular characteristic or personality trait. The Bengal was created by crossing an Asian Leopard Cat to domestic cats to create a breed with a wild appearance, but the personality of a domesticated cat. Other breeds have been established in non-traditional colours, such as the Oriental cat which has the Siamese type, but in non-pointed colours. Burmilla cats came about by accident when a Persian cat mated with a Burmese. The difference between these cats and mixed breed cats (listed above), is that they became a part of a breeding programme to establish a new breed. You can’t cross two individual breeds and establish a new breed unless it is under the approval of the cat associations.

How much does a pedigree cat cost? 

The cost of a pedigree cat depends on the breed and the quality. A breeding or show-quality cat will cost more than a peg-quality purebred. Pet-quality cats may not perfectly fit the breed standard, due to a minor ‘fault’ such as a white locket of hair, incorrect eye colour or a tail kink.

The cost of popular and well-established breeds can range from $1,000 to $2,500. Less common breeds can cost between $1,500 and $2000 or more.

What is the difference between a pedigree and a mixed breed cat? 

The term mixed breed is often incorrectly used to describe a random-bred (moggy) cat. Strictly speaking, a mixed breed (or cross-breed) is a combination of two breeds, for example, a Siamese x Persian cross could be described as a mixed breed. The parents may be registered purebred cats, but unless a mating between two breeds of pedigree cats is a part of a breeding programme, the offspring are defined as non-pedigree/mixed-breed.

Are pedigree cats rare? 

While pedigree cats are less common than random breed cats, they are not rare. The most popular breeds of pedigree cat include Burmese, Siamese, Bengal, Maine coon, Ragdoll, British shorthair, Abyssinian, Devon rex and Cornish rex. Less common breeds include the Singapura, Korat, Toyger, Lykoi, Khao Manee.

What is a non-pedigree cat?

non-pedigree cat is a cat is one with unknown origins. This differs from a crossbreed which is a mix of two known breeds that may or may not be a part of a breeding program. You may better know non-pedigree cats as:

  • Domestic long hair
  • Domestic medium hair
  • Domestic short hair
  • Domestic
  • Mixed breed
  • Moggy or moggie
  • Random breed

Why is pedigree important for cats?

Knowing the lineage of a cat can provide important information about a cat’s personality, needs, and medical concerns. While all cats have the potential to develop health problems, breeders screen and attempt to “breed out” cognitive medical issues while some breeding traits predispose cats to medical conditions. For those showing cats, a pedigree cat ensures the specific traits and characteristics a judge is looking for.

Is health insurance for a pedigree cat more expensive?

Insurance plans will vary from company to company, but a purebred or pedigree cat can be more expensive to cover than a mixed breed, or non-pedigree cat. This is because purebred and pedigree cats are more likely to have breed-inherited medical conditions. Before adopting or purchasing a specific breed of cat, it’s recommended to research common medical issues among the breeds.

How does a cat become pedigree?

A cat is pedigree if they have been bred by a registered breeder and are registered as a pedigree cat. New breeds of cats will be recognized as breeds only after approval by the cat associations.

How can you tell if a cat is purebred?

While your cat may have all the characteristics of a Maine coon, you don’t know if they are purebred without documentation of their sire and dam. You can tell if a cat is purebred, therefore, if they have documented known origins and ancestors of a particular breed.

About cat pedigree testing

DNA testing has come a long way, and it’s no longer just for humans. With just a swab of kitty DNA, a cat’s lineage, dominant and recessive traits, and some health conditions are at a pet parent’s fingertips. While a DNA test might get you closer to determining your cat’s breed and ancestral traits, it’s not enough to deem a cat as a pedigree cat.

A DNA test showing your cat’s lineage is not sufficient for obtaining pedigree documentation, Cat Fanciers’ Associations tells Cat World. To be a pedigree cat, official documentation from the registered breeder must be obtained.

Where can I get a pedigree rescue cat?

If you’re hoping to adopt a surrendered or rescued pedigree cat, it may take time and dedication to find one. A good place to start is the numerous rescue organizations around the county dedicated to purebred and rare breed cats. Some of these organizations include:

Frequently asked questions

Why are pedigree cats so expensive? 

Pedigree cats are expensive for cat breeders to purchase and a lot of money goes into providing the best possible care for the cats including registration fees (council and cat association), premium food, stud fees, genetic testing, veterinary expenses, show expenses and the cost of caring for a litter of kittens, including vaccinations, parasite control, microchipping and desexing.

Breeders desex kittens going to pet homes to prevent backyard breeding. The cost of desexing, vaccinating, microchipping and routine parasite treatment can run into several hundred dollars.

Is my cat a pedigree? 

Unless you have purchased your cat from a registered breeder, the chances are the cat is not a pedigree. Many random-bred cats share common characteristics with purebred cats, for example, grey coats are associated with the British shorthair, korat, chartreux, Russian blue and nebelung, but it can also be found in random-bred cats. The same goes for the pointed (Himalayan) gene, it may have originated in the Asian breeds, but is now in random-bred cat populations too.

Most breeders desex their cats before they go to their new home, and it is rare (not impossible) for a purebred cat to find itself in a shelter, and when they do, they are quickly snapped up.

Are pedigree cats worth the money? 

That depends on what you are looking for in a cat. Random-bred cats are every bit as loving as pedigree cats. Some people like a certain look, or physical characteristic which is why they would prefer a pedigree cat.

Do pedigree cats have health problems?

Almost all purebred cats have the potential to have health problems, but so do random-bred cats.  Most breeders screen breeding cats. When choosing a purebred cat, it is always recommended potential buyers look up genetic diseases known to occur in certain breeds and find out if the breeder has tested for these. Further information can be found in our article DNA tests for cats.

What is the most popular pedigree cat?

For the third consecutive year, The Cat Fanciers’ Association has named the Ragdoll as the world’s most popular Pedigree cat.

What percentage of all cats are pedigree?

Pedigree cats make up a small percentage of cats. 79 million cats are owned in the US by 45.3 million households. Of these cats, approximately 16 to 18 percent are pedigree cats. In the United Kingdom, there are 11.1 million pet cats with eight to 11 percent of those cats being pedigree cat.

Are pedigree cats healthier than mixed-breed cats? Are pedigree cats prone to illness?

All cats can be born with or develop medical conditions. When it comes to pedigree versus mixed-breed cats, pedigree cats are more prone to inherited disorders that can cause illness. This is due to the inbreeding and selective breeding of a pedigree cat, especially for those breeds that have characteristics based on an inherited disorder. In some pedigree breeds, like Persians, breeders screen for genetic diseases including polycystic kidney disease and choose not to breed those cats with the disease. The general health of a cat varies from cat to cat and breed by breed. Before purchasing or adopting, talk to your vet about common illnesses among breeds.

Can pedigree cats go outside?

Yes, pedigree cats can go outside. Like all cats, before going outside a pedigree cat should be up to date on all vaccines and preventive like flea and tick medication. To avoid injuries, predation, or getting lost, a cat should be trained on a harness and leash or have access to a safe and secure catio. When done safely, outdoor enrichment is great stimulation and exercise for cats.

Related content: Choosing a pedigree cat

Author

  • Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio