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The Most Popular Cat Breeds in the Year 2001

By: J. Anne Helgren

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Oriental
  • Sixth most popular shorthair
  • Sixth most popular breed overall

    The Oriental has the body type and personality of the Siamese but
    comes dressed in two hair lengths and virtually every color and pattern in the cat spectrum. This breed is popular with those who love the Siamese but who crave creative packaging options. The colorful exterior and the pleasing personality have earned the breed an enthusiastic following. With 988 registrations in 2001, the Oriental ranks sixth overall. However, since both Oriental shorthairs and longhairs are included in that total (with shorthairs numbering 927 and longhairs numbering 61), the Oriental ranks as the sixth most popular shorthair, with the American shorthair taking fourth place and the Burmese taking fifth. As with many breeds, the Oriental numbers have dropped in recent years, down from 1,085 in 2000, 1,210 in 1999, and 1,305 in 1998.

    American Shorthair
  • Fourth most popular shorthair
  • Seventh most popular breed overall

    The American shorthair moved up a notch in 2001 from eighth to seventh most popular breed with 968 registrations, up from 885 in 2000, and down from 986 in 1999 and 1,001 in 1998. This breed, whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower (or so the story goes), is a national treasure that's as all American as the Fourth of July. The ASH is popular for her comfortably familiar, middle-of-the-road body style and laid back, affectionate personality. However, while the ASH may look a little like your average random-bred feline, she has a long history of selective breeding and is just as pure bred as any other pedigreed cat.

    Burmese
  • Fifth most popular shorthair
  • Eighth most popular breed overall

    The Burmese boldly went from tenth place up to eighth in 2001. Known as one of the most devoted and affectionate cat breeds, the Burmese is increasing in popularity because of her loving and playful temperament and attractive exterior. The Burmese is solidly built and has a short, glossy, easy-care coat that comes in four decorator colors. In 2001, 933 Burmese were registered with CFA, up from 846 in 2000, 923 in 1999, and 844 in 1998. The CFA also recognizes the European Burmese, which possesses the more moderate head and body type that some fanciers prefer, but this variety is rare, ranking 35th out of 40 breeds in 2001.

    Birman
  • Third most popular longhair
  • Ninth most popular breed overall

    The Birman, on the other hand, slipped a bit in 2001. She went from seventh most popular to ninth, with 878 registrations, down from 998 in 2000, 1017 in 1999, and 896 in 1998. Nevertheless, the Birman has many devoted fans. Also called the sacred cat of Burma, the Birman is arguably one of the most beautiful breeds. Her body style strikes a happy medium between the Siamese and the Persian, and her face is moderate and sweet. Long, silky fur, the pointed pattern, blue eyes, and a matching set of white boots add to the breed's beauty. The colorful legends that surround the breed only serve to make the Birman even more appealing to the fanciers of this breed.

    Tonkinese
  • Seventh most popular shorthair
  • Tenth most popular breed overall

    Booting out the Scottish fold, the Tonkinese took over as tenth most popular breed for 2001. The Tonk, as she is affectionately called, is growing in popularity because of her silky mink-soft coat, middle-of-the-road styling, and gregarious, fun-loving, affectionate personality. The Tonkinese rose from twelfth to tenth place last year with 830 registrations in 2001, up from 803 in 2000, and down from 867 in 1999 and 871 in 1998, when she also made the top ten. Originally created by a deliberate crossing of the Burmese and the Siamese, the Tonk is a hybrid designed to possess the best qualities of both parent breeds. The Tonkinese is a happy medium – neither streamlined like the Siamese nor stocky like the Burmese. This breed often appeals to cat lovers who favor the moderate body and head type of the traditional Siamese.

    Runners up include the Cornish rex, number 11 with 794 registrations in 2001, the Scottish fold, number 12 with 785, the Devon rex, number 13 with 734, and the ocicat, number 14 with 646. The Bengal, a breed originally created by crossing domestic cats with Asian leopard cats, also has a large and enthusiastic following and could very well fall into the top ten if statistics were available. However, since the breed is not accepted by CFA -- they do not accept any breed with wildcat blood -- no registration figures exist to rate popularity. The other major associations like The International Cat Association (TICA) and the American Cat Fanciers' Association (ACFA) do not compile breed registration totals.

    Most Popular by a Mile

    Of course, when it comes to sheer numbers, the random-bred American domestic takes first prize for popularity. According to the 2001-2002 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), 89 percent of the 73,000,000 owned cats in the United States are random-bred domestics. The random-bred cat is not considered a breed as such by the cat associations, but considering that all of our purebred breeds sprang from the random-bred gene pool if you go back far enough, the "ordinary" American domestic deserves as much love and respect as the finest purebred. Non-pedigreed Feline-Americans, say many cat lovers, will always be best in show in U.S. homes and hearts.

    Dropping Numbers

    In 1991, CFA registered 75,525 pedigreed cats. Just ten years later, in 2001, CFA registered only 47,135. Why the decrease? Fanciers cite numerous reasons, the two most important being the increasing costs of breeding and showing cats, and legislation that restricts breeding. While reducing the number of cats euthanized is vital (The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 4 to 5 million cats and dogs are euthanized yearly, although some claim this estimate is high), limiting purebred breeding will not solve the problem, assert fanciers. According to CFA, breeding ordinances, possession limits, cat licensing and breeder permit laws are ineffective and misdirected, since the majority of cats that end up in shelters are the offspring of unowned ferals and unaltered random-bred cats. Rather than passing legislation, CFA supports educational programs, low cost altering, and feral cat colony management, so purebreds will be around to delight the next generation of fanciers.

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