14 Cat Breeds from Asia with Incredible Histories

·8 min read

Unlike dog breeds, whose origins can often be traced back to specific locales through detailed breeding records, cats are shrouded in some mystery. Fitting, as felines are known for being more discreet than canines. In any case, expert breeders and organizations like The Cat Fanciers Association and The International Cat Association have done some digging to determine the origins of cat breeds around the world. Here, we’re looking at cat breeds from Asia. All of the felines on our list either got their start in Asia or have existed on that continent for so long that we don’t know how or when they first emerged. In many Asian cultures, cats are seen as good luck! Whether you decide to adopt one of these breeds or opt for a waving cat tchotchke (maneki neko in Japanese), we hope you enjoy these kitties.

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1. Birman

Height: 8-10 inches

Weight: 12 pounds

Personality: Quiet, loyal

Coat: Long, single layer

Color: Pointed, cream

Life Expectancy: 9-15 years

Country of Origin: Myanmar (formerly Burma)

Birman cats hail from what was once Burma and is now known as Myanmar. Legends abound about these kitties being raised by Kittah priests in regal temples (this is why their white fur is often associated with purity). Chances are if you meet a Birman today, their ancestry can be traced back to France, where most of the breeding of these gorgeous companion cats began in the 1920s.

2. Burmese

Height: 9-13 inches

Weight: 8-15 pounds

Personality: Outgoing, charming

Coat: Short

Color: Blue, grey, brown, tan

Life Expectancy: 10-17 years

Country of Origin: Myanmar (formerly Burma)/Thailand

A small, sweet brown female cat named Wong Mau is to thank for the Burmese breed. She came to America from an area near the border between Thailand and then-Burma in 1930 (alongside a companion named Dr. Joseph G. Thompson). She was bred with Siamese cats to produce what would eventually become Burmese cats. Though originally only acceptable in a light brown hue, Burmese cats come in a variety of colors.

3. Himalayan

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: 9-12 pounds

Personality: Sweet, friendly

Coat: Long, soft

Color: Variety of colors in pointed pattern

Life Expectancy: 15-18 years

Country of Origin: Iran/Thailand

Himalayan cats are known to be terrific companions for people with anxiety! Their sweet nature and sociability will win you over in no time. They are members of the Persian Breed Group and are often lumped in with Persians and Javanese cats. According to TICA, Himalayans are “one of the oldest cat breeds and can [be] seen depicted in hieroglyphics as early as 1684 B.C.”

4. Japanese Bobtail

Height: 8-9 inches

Weight: 6-10 pounds

Personality: Active, loving

Coat: Shorthair and longhair varieties, bobbed tail

Color: All colors

Life Expectancy: 9-13+ years

Country of Origin: Japan

Say hello to an ancient cat breed almost entirely free of human influence! As far as we can tell, these cats have lived in and around Japan for thousands of years. It’s believed they kept rats away from Buddhist monks around 700 A.D. (a job they still perform today). The Japanese Bobtail’s signature tail is au naturel. These kitties come in both long and short hair varieties and are known to be very dog-like in their antics.

5. Khao Manee

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: 8-10 pounds

Personality: Mischievous, graceful

Coat: Short; white

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Country of Origin: Thailand

Khao Manee cats are not only very rare, but they are also incredibly expensive. They only come in sparkling white with bright, jewel-toned eyes. Like Japanese Bobtails, these stunning cats occurred naturally (no human meddling to generate a specific look). Originally from Thailand, they’re mentioned in the Tamra Maew, a book of poetry from the 14th century. Despite this incredibly regal reputation, Khao Manees are still cats—mischievous, curious and sweet.

6. Korat

Height: 9-13 inches

Weight: 6-12 pounds

Personality: Alert, loyal

Coat: Short; silver blue

Life Expectancy: 12-15+ years

Country of Origin: Thailand

Another rare breed is the Korat. These inquisitive little charmers first appear in artwork from Thailand around 1350. Their signature silver-blue fur and tiny stature give them an irresistibly cute look—one that experts believe has remained largely unaltered since the cats were discovered. Note their heart-shaped heads and alert gaze!

7. Oriental Shorthair

Height: 9-11 inches

Weight: 5-10 pounds

Personality: Smart, Affectionate

Coat: Short

Color: Hundreds of versions, often tortoiseshell or tabby coloration

Life Expectancy: 10-20+ years

Country of Origin: Thailand/England

Oriental Shorthair cats are incredibly smart and unafraid to go after what they want (or climb to the top of your canopy bed just because they can). They are members of the Siamese Breed Group and are actually almost indistinguishable from Siamese cats except for their coloration. However, most of the efforts that went into developing the Oriental Shorthair breed characteristics occurred in England in the 1950s. Either way, these are athletic cats ready to play all day.

8. Persian

Height: 10-15 inches

Weight: 7-12 pounds

Personality: Quiet, sweet

Coat: Long, soft

Color: Variety of colors and patterns

Life Expectancy: 8-11 years

Country of Origin: Iran (formerly Persia)

As the parent breed of the Persian Breed Group, this cat has been around for centuries. Modern Persian cats can almost always trace their ancestry back to long-haired cats imported from the deserts of Asia to Italy and Turkish Angoras. Regardless of their true origins, Persian cats are some of the most loyal and easy-going companion animals around. They’re incredibly popular around the world and come in just about every color and pattern.

9. Siamese

Height: 8-12 inches

Weight: 5-12 pounds

Personality: Social, athletic

Coat: Short

Color: Cream or fawn with brown or black points

Life Expectancy: 10-20+ years

Country of Origin: Thailand (formerly Siam)

Siamese cats are the parent breed for the Siamese Breed Group (duh). While their exact origin is unclear, images of them appear in manuscripts from the 12th century. At that time, Thailand was Siam and these cats were native to the region. Today, they are vocal, social pets who thrive with plenty of human companionship and love.

10. Siberian

Height: 9-11 inches

Weight: 8-17 pounds

Personality: Affectionate, playful

Coat: Long, thick

Color: Variety of colors and patterns

Life Expectancy: 11-18 years

Country of Origin: Russia

Siberian cats have the thick, long coats you’d expect on an animal evolved to handle the Siberian tundra! These cats have been around for hundreds (possibly thousands) of years as rat catchers and loving, loyal companions. They only recently (relatively speaking—it was 1990) made their debut in the United States. If you’re looking for affection, look no further than a Siberian cat.

11. Singapura

Height: 6-8 inches

Weight: 5-8 pounds

Personality: Extroverted, energetic

Coat: Short

Color: Tabby coloration, tans and browns

Life Expectancy: 9-18 years

Country of Origin: Singapore

One of the smallest cat breeds around, the Singapura evolved as a street cat in Singapore. These are highly energetic cats who aren’t afraid to go places and meet people. Their ticked tabby pattern is a signature look for these cats. Singapore made Singapuras a national mascot and you can now view statues of these goofy kitties along the Singapore River.

12. Turkish Angora

Height: 9-14 inches

Weight: 5-15 pounds

Personality: Outgoing, sweet

Coat: Long

Color: White

Life Expectancy: 12-17

Country of Origin: Turkey

The CFA says in all likelihood, Turkish Angora cats hail from Turkey. It’s believed their long, white, silky-soft coats evolved to help protect them during wintertime. In any case, this is a naturally-occurring breed that has been given more focus in the last 100 years or so, to preserve it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a sweeter cat.

13. Turkish Van

Height: 10-14 inches

Weight: 10-20 pounds

Personality: Social, smart

Coat: Medium to long, soft

Color: White with red, cream, black or blue markings on the head and tail

Life Expectancy: 13-17 years

Country of Origin: Turkey

Since the Middle Ages, Turkish Van cats have roamed the mountainous regions of Turkey. Breeders officially took notice in the mid-1950s. Since then, these smart, social cats have been charming people right and left. Don’t mistake these for Turkish Angoras! They are two distinct breeds. Turkish Vans are known for their intelligence and fondness of—gasp!—water.

14. Bengal

Height: Medium to large

Weight: 10.5 pounds

Personality: Adventurous, intelligent

Coat: Short

Color: Spotted, marbled tan and brown

Life Expectancy: 9-15 years

Country of Origin: California (by way of Asia)

We added the Bengal cat here because even though it was officially developed in America, it wouldn’t exist without a specific breed from Asia. In the 1960s, a breeder in California combined domestic house cats with wild Asian Leopard Cats to create this beautiful cat. They were accepted into TICA in 1986, which is incredibly recent compared to many breeds on this list. Though Asian Leopard Cats are known for being somewhat shy, Bengals tend to be adventure-seekers!

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