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The Most Popular Cat Breeds in the Year 2001

By: J. Anne Helgren

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Since 1981, America's owned pet cat population has increased by a staggering 30 million, according to a study conducted by the Pet Food Institute. During the same period, the number of pet dogs grew by 5 million – still a healthy increase, but nothing like the cat's growing popularity. And why shouldn't cats be popular? They more easily fit into our busy lifestyles than do dogs, and while you can't go to the park and play fetch with Fluffy, you don't have to housebreak and walk her each day, either. With their clean, quiet habits and relatively easy care, cats adapt well to apartment and indoor living.

Along with the popularity of random-bred cats, interest in purebred cats has grown as well, although purebred numbers are down from years past. While pedigreed cats have not attained the popularity purebred dogs have, the cat fancy – the term for the group of people involved in showing and breeding pedigreed cats – has an enthusiastic following dedicated to preserving and promoting our beautiful purebreds.

The CFA's Top Ten in 2001

Each year, the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) compiles breed registration totals for each of the 40 pedigreed breeds it recognizes. Since the CFA is the world's largest cat registry, these registration totals are good indicators of overall popularity.

The envelope, please – 2001's top ten cat breeds are:

Persian
  • Most popular longhair
  • Most popular breed overall

    To say the Persian is popular is an understatement. This breed, with its laid-back, affectionate personality and long, lovely locks, has held the number one spot for decades. Despite their special needs – the breed requires daily grooming to keep that long silky fur mat-free – the Persian has been a favorite since the cat fancy began in 1871. Why? Fans say they prize these cats for their sweet personalities. Persians form strong bonds of loyalty and love with their owners. In 2001, 23,362 Persians were registered with CFA, down from 25,524 in 2000, 30,656 in 1999, and 35,490 in 1998. Although numbers have dropped, the Persian's place as top cat is in no danger. In CFA, the Himalayan is considered a division of the Persian breed, and also ranks high in popularity.

    Maine Coon
  • Second most popular longhair
  • Second most popular breed overall

    The made-in-America Maine coon has held the position of second most popular breed since 1992, according to CFA's registration totals. Large, rugged, and hardy, these incredible hulks have hearts to match their size – their gentle, loving temperaments have given this breed its number two spot in the popularity polls. And although they have long fur, their coats don't require as much grooming as the Persian's. With 4,485 registrations in 2001, down from 4,599 in 2000, 4,642 in 1999, and 4,756 in 1998, this breed has nearly twice the number of its next competitor.

    Exotic
  • Most popular shorthair
  • Third most popular breed overall

    Shoving the Siamese out of the coveted position of most popular shorthair, the exotic is third most popular overall with 2,321 cats registered, up from 2,094 in 2000, 2,198 in 1999 and 2,165 in 1998. Called the exotic shorthair by some cat associations, the exotic is essentially a shorthaired Persian and is gaining popularity with people who love the Persian personality and body type but hate the drudgery of daily grooming. The exotic's short, dense coat needs only a twice a week combing.

    Siamese
  • Second most popular shorthair
  • Fourth most popular breed overall

    Arguably the most widely recognized breed in the known universe, the Siamese has enjoyed a long popularity that's showing no sign of waning. The cat's distinctive pointed pattern, trim body, big ears, and gregarious, talkative nature continues to charm cat lovers world wide. Until the upset by the exotic last year, the Siamese had been the most popular shorthair for decades. In 2001, the CFA registered 1,986 Siamese, down from 2,131 in 2000, 2,389 in 1999, and 2,492 in 1998.

    Abyssinian
  • Third most popular shorthair
  • Fifth most popular breed overall

    Prized for her active, people-oriented personality and colorful ticked coat, the Abyssinian has been in the top five for many years. Abys are favorites with folks who like interactive cats that give you more for your entertainment dollar by performing daring high-wire acts and clown-like antics. Allegedly, these cats are the descendants of the felines worshiped in ancient Egypt, although some dispute this. In 2001, 1,609 were registered with CFA, down from 1,683 in 2000, 1,962 in 1999, and 2,012 in 1998.

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