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Birman, Himalayan, Korat, and Siamese. These breeds vary significantly in appearance, size, personality, and temperament. What do they have in common? They’re all Asian cat breeds.
Asia is home to many unique breeds. It claims the Singapura, one of the world’s smallest feline breeds. It’s the birthplace of the Khao Manee, aka the diamond eye cat. Even the famous Bengal breed can be traced back to Asia.
Here are 20 fantastic Asian cat breeds.
While developed in California, the Bengal has roots in Asia. Breeder Jean Mill developed the Bengal in the 1960s by crossing domestic shorthair felines with wild Asian leopard cats. The result was a hybrid kitty with a wild cat’s exotic-looking coat and a domestic feline’s temperament.
Today, feline enthusiasts love the Bengal breed for its intelligence, curiosity, and energy. These kitties are always ready to play and have a higher-than-average prey drive. The leopard-like coat of the Bengal comes in three recognized colors: brown, silver, and snow.
Also known as the “Sacred Cat of Burma,” the Birman breed received its name from its origin country of Burma, now known as Myanmar. Legends say these felines were temple cats and received their coloring from the blue-eyed goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. Physically, the Birman is a medium-sized feline with a colorpoint coat, medium-to-long fur, a round face, and soulful blue eyes. Like all colorpoint cats, the Birman is born all white and develops their colors as they mature. A unique feature of the Birman is their adorable white paws.
Because of their tolerant, sweet nature, the Birman is easy to handle and good with children and other pets. These felines are gentle, quiet, loving, and companionable. They love to be with people and desire lots of attention.
Experts believe the Burmese cat originated from an ancient breed in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Thailand; however, the breed was not officially developed until it arrived in North America. In 1930, Dr. Joseph Thompson of San Francisco imported a small walnut-brown female cat named Wong Mau from Burma. Wong Mau was bred with a seal point Siamese.
Through additional selective breeding, the unique brown coat of the Burmese, referred to as sable, was isolated. Today, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) recognizes four colors of Burmese: sable, a rich dark brown; champagne, a warm beige; blue, a gray shade; and platinum, a pale gray with fawn undertones.
Burmese are very playful felines, displaying kitten-like behaviors well into adulthood. They are confident, friendly, and affectionate pets who enjoy playtime. As people-oriented felines, they will follow you from room to room, seeking a warm lap and gentle pets.
While not well known outside of its native area, the Dragon Li has ancient roots, potentially dating back to the Xiang Dynasty. Also called Chinese Li Hua or China Li Hua, this Chinese breed is believed to be self-domesticated by way of the Chinese mountain cat.
The Dragon Li is a medium-sized feline with a cobby, round body covered in short, thick fur. Their coat is golden-brown with a mackerel tabby pattern and rings around the tail and legs. Experts describe these felines as independent and intelligent.
The Himalayan is a crossbreed of the Persian and Siamese cat. This cat has the colorpoint coloring and bright blue eyes of the Siamese with the build and coat of the Persian. Many cat registries classify the Himalayan as a colorpoint division of the Persian.
Himalayans are loving, gentle, and affectionate. These sweet felines enjoy socializing with their family and gentle play.
The Japanese Bobtail’s naturally short pom-pom tail is the breed’s most recognizable characteristic. This bunny-like tail results from a natural genetic mutation and is unique to each cat. It may contain curves or kinks and may be up to three inches long. Another notable physical feature of this breed is its slightly longer back legs that give the feline a muscular appearance.
The Japanese Bobtail is energetic and enjoys active play, such as chasing, climbing, retrieving, and playing in water. They make excellent travel companions and adapt well to new situations and places.
Thailand’s Khao Manee is a pure white cat with vibrant, gem-colored eyes in any shade of green, blue, gold, or odd (complete heterochromia, two different colored eyes). The cat’s name even means “white gem.” Like other felines native to Thailand, the Khao Manee has characteristics suited to a tropical climate, including a lithe body and short, smooth coat.
The Khao Manee is the most expensive domestic Asian cat, with kittens costing as much as $11,000. While this ancient breed is generally healthy, these cats are prone to congenital deafness in one or both ears.
The Korat is another feline originating from Thailand. It is considered one of the rarest breeds and is rarely seen outside its homeland. The signature coloring of these felines—silver-tipped blue—gives them a shimmering, shiny appearance. Their coats are short and close-lying. These cats have semi-coby bodies, heart-shaped heads, and peridot green eyes.
People describe the temperament of the Korat as gentle and laid back. They are fond of cuddling and enjoy socializing with their family.
The Mekong Bobtail—formerly known as the Thai Bobtail—is a breed that occurred naturally throughout Southeast Asia, though it wasn’t formally developed until it was imported to Russia. (You’ll also find the Mekong Bobtail in our list of Russian cat breeds.)
If it wasn’t for their short tail, people might mistake the Mekong Bobtail for the Applehead Siamese. It is a medium-sized cat with a muscular body and short, colorpoint coat. The cat’s bobbed tail contains at least three vertebrae; however, it won’t exceed a quarter of the body length.
While the Oriental breed was developed in the UK, it is effectively the Siamese cat in additional colors, patterns, and coat lengths. When the Siamese cat was imported from Siam (present-day Thailand) to the UK, cross-breeding led to cats displaying other prints and colors. According to the CFA, the Oriental breed category represents over 600 color, pattern, and coat-length combinations with their foundation in the Siamese breed.
The Oriental looks physically similar to the Siamese. They have long bodies, wedge-shaped heads, and large ears. The appearance of the Oriental may vary. Some registries include the Oriental Shorthair, Oriental Longhair, Balinese (long-haired Siamese), Javanese (also called a Colorpoint Longhair), and Seychellois (crossbreed of bicolor Persians and Siamese and Orientals) in the Oriental class. Other registries, like The International Cat Association (TICA), classify these Asian cat breeds as part of the Siamese breed group.
Like the Siamese, the Oriental is a chatty, social cat that enjoys being with their family throughout the day.
As the breed’s name suggests, the Persian cat originates from Persia (modern-day Iran). These medium-sized cats have long, silky fur in various colors and patterns. Their beauty, along with their sweet personalities, make them famous pedigreed felines in the United States.
While adorable, the Persian is a super shedder and requires lots of grooming. They are not hypoallergenic, so steer clear if you have cat allergies. Please view our list of the 13 worst cats for allergies for other breeds to avoid.
The Raas cat is a native animal of Raas Island in Indonesia. Also known as the Busok, Buso Madura, or Madura cat, the Raas is an isolated breed that’s extremely rare. If you want to find a Raas, you’ll have to travel to their place of origin.
Raas felines have large bodies with short fur and black, blue, chocolate, brown, or colorpoint coloring. They have striking green eyes and bent tails that are common among Asian breeds. Raas cats are energetic and playful but have strong personalities bordering on aggressive. They are suspicious of new people and require lots of training and a patient owner.
The Siamese is an iconic breed known for their lithe bodies, triangular heads, colorpoint coat, and almond-shaped blue eyes. These cats originated in Thailand and have experienced extreme appearance changes over the years due to selective breeding. So, a movement is now taking place to bring back the “Old-Style Siamese” under a new breed name (Thai).
The CFA recognizes the Siamese breed in four colors: seal point, chocolate point, blue point, and lilac point. All other colors and patterns are categorized as Oriental instead of Siamese, according to the CFA.
Singapura is the Malaysian word for Singapore, which is where this breed originates. This a smaller-than-average feline, with adult females weighing five to six pounds and males six to eight pounds. The breed has a short, fine coat. Cat registries recognize the Singapura in only one color, sepia agouti, described as a warm ivory ground color with dark brown ticking. They have noticeably large eyes and ears.
The Singapura is extroverted and playful. This is a curious and intelligent breed that remains kitten-like into old age.
While often confused with the sable Burmese and Havana Brown, the Suphalak is an entirely different breed. Also called the Thong Daeng, the Suphalak is a solid brown cat that appears reddish-brown in the sunshine and chocolate in low light. Thai manuscripts described the cat as the “color of copper glinting.”
Unless you’ve visited their native Thailand, it’s unlikely that you’ve seen a Suphalak cat. The copper-colored cat is so rare that, at one time, it was believed to be almost extinct. Today, The International Maew Boran Association (TIMBA) is working to preserve the breed and other felines of Thai origin.
The Thai cat is a newly classified cat but an old breed. According to TICA, the Thai breed is an attempt to preserve the native pointed cat of Thailand. While related to the modern-style Siamese cat, the Thai breed reflects the original appearance of the Siamese cat: moderately long and rounded, short-haired, and color-pointed with blue eyes. Instead of the extreme wedge-shaped head and tubular body of the modern Siamese, the Thai cat has a round head and a stockier, muscular body.
The Thai has many names: Wichienmaat, Classic Siamese, Old-Style Siamese, Traditional Siamese, and Applehead Siamese. Like the modern Siamese, the Thai cat is intelligent, curious, and active. They are very friendly and loving.
The Tonkinese is a crossbreed of two Asian cat breeds: the Siamese and the Burmese. According to the Thai Cat Center—a Bangkok cattery dedicated to preserving Thai cat breeds—these cats were common around Thailand. However, it did not become an established breed until the 1960s, when North American breeders sought to make a “moderate” Siamese. Interestingly, experts later discovered through DNA testing that Wong Mau, the cat used to develop the Burmese breed in the 1930s, was actually a Tonkinese—though the breed wasn’t recognized at that time.
Tonkinese felines have firm, muscular bodies that are long and lean. These cats have a very short, fine coat that is silky to the touch. Tonkinese display various coat colors with a pointed, solid, or mink pattern. Like both parent Asian cat breeds, Tonkinese felines are known for being intelligent, active, and people-oriented.
The Turkish Angora is a natural breed from Turkey. According to Basepaws pet genetics, it is believed that the mutation for white coat color and long hair in domestic cats originated with the Turkish Angora. These felines are fine-boned and appear smaller than many breeds. Their coats are medium-length and silky-soft. They are available in various colors and patterns.
Personality-wise, the Turkish Angora is affectionate and outgoing. They are highly energetic and adaptable, making them excellent pets for families with young children.
The Turkish Van breed originated in central and southwest Asia in what is now occupied by Iran, Iraq, the southwest Soviet Union, and eastern Turkey. These cats were brought to England in 1955, where they were initially identified only as “Turkish” cats. The breed’s name was changed to Turkish Van to avoid confusing it with the Turkish Angora.
People recognize these cats by their white, semi-long-haired coats with color markings on the tail and head. The breed’s coat has a unique cashmere-like texture that is water resistant. These felines are athletic, energetic, and extremely playful. They sleep far less than most cat breeds and require mental stimulation to avoid destruction due to boredom.
The Wila Krungthep, or Bangkok Cat, is a recently discovered natural breed in Thailand. Breeders describe the Wila Krungthep as intelligent, loving, and social. These felines have a genetic mutation that causes their coat to appear mocha. Their eyes appear as a pale, aquamarine color.
When tested initially, it was discovered that the Bangkok Cat possessed a color gene that gave it a false black reading on color panel tests. This diluted coat has since been labeled as part of the albino series, given the symbol “cm” for temperature-sensitive mocha color restriction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have follow-up questions about these Asian cat breeds? We’ve covered a couple of the most frequently asked questions. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments.
What Is The Smallest Asian Cat Breed?
The Singapura is not only the smallest Asian cat breed but also one of the most miniature breeds in the world. (The only breed to out-kitten the Singapura is the Toybob—a relatively new Russian cat breed.) The Singapura is half the size of the average adult cat, weighing four to eight pounds and reaching six to eight inches high. In contrast, Asia’s largest cat breed—the Bengal—can weigh 15 to 18 pounds and reach eight to 10 inches tall.
Which Asian Country Do The Most Breeds Originate?
Thailand has the distinction of having the most original breeds. All of these breeds can trace their ancestry to Thailand:
- Khao Manee
- Mekong Bobtail
- Oriental Shorthair
- Wila Krung Thep
Other Cat Breed Origins
If you’re curious about the origin of other cat breeds, check out our articles on German cat breeds and Russian cat breeds. You can also read about other unique breeds, including the Cheetoh, Kinkalow, Sokoke, and Ojos Azules.