Top Cat Breeds for 2003

Who's the fairest cat of all? According to the Cat Fancier's Association (CFA), there are at least ten fair cats. Each year the CFA compiles breed registration totals for each of the 41 pedigreed breeds it recognizes. Since the CFA is the world's largest cat registry, these registration totals are good indicators of overall popularity.

Today, the cat is the most popular pet in the United States and in some parts of Europe. 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 your kitty, 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.

Since 1981, America's owned pet population has increased by a staggering 30 million, according to a study conducted by the Pet Food Institute. Interest in purebred cats has grown as well. While pedigreed cats have not attained the same popularity as purebred dogs, a total of 44,774 pedigreed cats were registered in 2003.

Drum Roll Please

According to registration totals, The CFA's top ten most popular cat breeds in 2003 are:

Number One: Persian

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. Fans say they prize these cats for their sweet personalities. Persians form strong bonds of loyalty and love with their owners. In 2003, 20,431 Persians were registered with CFA, down from 21,978 in 2002 and 23,362 in 2001. Although numbers have dropped, the Persian's place as top cat is in no danger.

Number Two: Maine Coon

The made-in-America Maine coon has held the position of second most popular breed since 1992. Large, rugged, and hardy, these incredible hulks have hearts to match their size – their gentle, loving temperaments keep this breed high in the popularity polls. And although they have long fur, their coats don't require as much grooming as the Persian's. With 4,385 registrations in 2003, slightly down from 4,604 in 2002, this breed has nearly twice the number of its next competitor.

Number Three: Exotic

Called the exotic shorthair by some cat associations, the exotic is often considered 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. But the exotic has its own history, personality and growing group of devoted fans that swear by the plush, cherub-faced, solid-as-a-brick feline. The exotic is third most popular overall with 2,720 cats registered, up from 2,447 in 2002.

Number Four: Siamese

Arguably the most widely recognized breed in the known universe, the Siamese has enjoyed a long popularity that's showing no sign of waning. This cat's distinctive pointed pattern, trim body, big ears, and gregarious, talkative nature continues to charm cat lovers world wide. Their "painted on" coats are very short and close-lying with no noticeable undercoat. Their favorite grooming tool is your hand, applied gently down their backs. The Siamese had been the most popular shorthair for decades. In 2003, the CFA registered 1,921 Siamese, down from 2,036 in 2002.

Number Five: Abyssinian

Prized for her active, people-oriented personality and colorful ticked coat, the Abyssinian has been in the top five for many years. The Aby is popular with cat lovers who enjoy busy, active, playful cats. Fanciers claim that you won't find finer home entertainment than one of these dynamic couch cougars. Allegedly, these cats are the descendants of the felines worshiped in ancient Egypt, although some dispute this. In 2003, 1,417 were registered with CFA, down from 1,507 in 2002.

Number Six: Birman

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. The Birman changed rank in the top 10 from the 2002 numbers, moving up from number seven to number six. In 2003, 1,057 were registered with CFA, up from 954 in 2002.

Number Seven: Oriental

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 952 registrations in 2003, slighly down from 1,016 in 2002, the Oriental ranks seventh overall.

Number Eight: American Shorthair

The American shorthair (ASH), 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. The numbers have held study from 2002, with 874 in both years. The ASH has continued to hold her place in the top ten since 1988.

Number Nine: Tonkinese

The Tonkinese, or 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. 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. Last year the Tonk was tied with the American shorthair with 874 registrations which is slightly lower in 2002 with 864. The Tonk enjoys her third straight year in the top ten.

Number Ten: Burmese

Known as one of the most devoted and affectionate cat breeds, the Burmese is popular 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. Although prior to 1992 the Burmese ranked in the top five, she has never lost a place in the top ten. In 2003, 772 Burmese were registered, down from 839 in 2002.