Dragon Li Cat Breed Profile: Care, Traits, Facts & More

Known for remarkable intelligence and trainability, the Dragon Li cat is a rare feline breed with ancient ancestry. Our comprehensive breed profile discusses breed history, appearance, care, and more.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: October 12, 2023 | 6 min read

Dragon Li Cat looking angry laying down

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The Dragon Li cat is a playful feline breed with a rich history that can be traced back to the Xiang Dynasty. Considered an ancient breed, the Dragon Li is hard to find but impossible to forget. There is a lot that prospective owners need to know when considering this breed.

Every cat is a commitment, regardless of breed. Understanding the specific characteristics of a breed and where they came from can prepare owners to be the best pet parents possible. The Dragon Li breed has an intriguing past, as well as a bold personality, making them highly sought after in their native land.

This working cat loves to be active and would make a memorable addition to a busy household. Let’s learn more about the Dragon Li cat breed history, temperament, health, and more.

Dragon Li Cat
    • weight iconWeight9 - 15 pounds
    • height iconHeight10 - 14 Inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12 - 15 Years
    • color iconColorsGolden-Brown Mackerel
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Exercise
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Kitten Costs

Breed History

The Dragon Li cat breed, also called Li Hua Mao or Chinese Li Hua, originated in China. The breed has the distinction of being one of the earliest known domestic cats. This ancient purebred is a direct descendant of the Chinese mountain cat, a wild cat native to China, and is said to have self-domesticated. This means there was no human involvement or purposeful breeding done to create the breed.

Nicknamed the Chinese Flower Cat, the Dragon Li is considered the unofficial national cat of China. While the name Li Hua Mao is the most prevalent name for this cat in China, the name Dragon Li is favored internationally.

The Li Hua is found throughout China, but it is still unique to find this cat outside of their homeland. This breed was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in February 2010, when it was shown in the miscellaneous class. The CFA does not currently recognize the Dragon Li cat as one of its 45 pedigreed breeds. Thus, this Chinese Flower Cat is not eligible for championship status. The Dragon Li is recognized by the Cat Aficionado Association (CAA) of China.

Personality & Temperament

The lively Dragon Li has an adventurous spirit and an active daily schedule. This is not a lap cat; you can expect your Dragon Li to enjoy their solo time. When your Dragon Li wants human interaction, get ready to play. The Dragon Li enjoys time outside and is an excellent hunter.

This is an intelligent breed that loves to explore and play. Daily mental stimulation is important for this feline, so be ready for regular playtime. The Dragon Li is said to have a good memory and learns quickly. Chinese lore claims that one owner trained his Dragon Li to fetch the morning paper!

While your furry companion may not retrieve the mail, you can expect this breed to learn basic tricks. This is a cat that requires an attentive family and space to explore. The Dragon Li is a social feline that fits into a multi-pet household, but this kitty also has an independent streak and requires a quiet, safe space for privacy. They can form close bonds with caregivers and seek companionship but are not clingy.

Size & Appearance

Dragon Li Cat laying down
The coat of the Dragon Li is golden-brown with a mackerel tabby pattern.

The Dragon Li is a medium-sized cat weighing nine to 12 pounds on average with a maximum weight of 15 pounds. This feline is 10 to 14 inches tall with a rounded body and a strong, broad chest. The Dragon Li has a short, thick coat.

The Dragon Li may display rings around the tail and legs. The cat’s legs and tail are well-proportioned to the body. The tail is usually medium length and tapers towards the end.

The Dragon Li’s head is large and round, with big almond-shaped eyes that may be green, gold, or brown. This cat often displays an “M” marking on its forehead and small black spots near the corner of their lips. The Dragon Li has ears proportionate to their head. Their ears have rounded tips with black points.


The Dragon Li is a lovable ball of energy. This cat is friendly and loves to be active. Find plenty of ways to keep your Dragon Li active, and you’ll have one happy cat. Consider cat trees and exercise wheels that encourage them to climb and move. Purchase interactive toys to keep your Dragon Li moving and puzzle games to keep them mentally stimulated and out of trouble.

As with any new feline, it’s important to “cat-proof” your home, especially with the curious Dragon Li. Check for potential dangers in your house, including toxic plants and cleaners, and move them to a safe location where your cat can’t reach.

Dragon Li appreciates the outdoors and absolutely loves exploring. Consider a catio as a way to keep your cat safe while also giving them outdoor time. You can also train your Dragon Li to walk on a leash to give it some much-needed room to roam.


While the Dragon Li has no specific dietary needs, it is essential to provide your cat with high-quality cat food from diverse sources. Like all cats, the Dragon Li is a carnivore. This cat thrives on a high-protein diet for growth and energy. A mix of dry, wet, and fresh cat food will provide nutrition and flavor variety.

Along with quality food, provide your Dragon Li with fresh water at all times. A water fountain is a great way to boost your cat’s water intake. Cats are naturally attracted to running water. The constant water flow inhibits bacteria growth, and the fountain’s filter will purify the water to remove bad taste and odor that may deter your cat from drinking.

If you do not have a fountain, make sure to change your cat’s water daily to prevent it from getting stale and dirty. cats do not have a high thirst drive, so can become dehydrated quickly. A water fountain and multiple sources of fresh, clean water help encourage them to drink.


This intelligent breed is highly trainable and loves learning. They are said to be smarter than most other domestic breeds. Training your Dragon Li will keep your cat alert and happy in their indoor space. Training can also be a bonding tool for you and your feline. Make sure to reward your kitty with treats and praise for a completed trick.

The Dragon Li is happy to please and catches on quickly. Consider clicker training for this smart breed. With patience, you can treat your cat to high-five, come, sit, lay down, and fetch.


The Dragon Li has a short coat and no thick undercoat. Your Dragon Li will do a great job self-grooming, but weekly brushing will help prevent hairballs and give your kitty’s coat a beautiful shine. When brushing your cat, pay attention to symptoms like redness, scabs, and dryness that may signal an underlying health problem.

Trim your cat’s nails regularly, especially for a sedentary or older cat who isn’t using their claws daily. Overgrown nails can catch on surfaces and lead to injury. Check your cat’s ears for signs of debris and clean or treat them as needed. Regular teeth cleaning and dental treats will prevent most oral health issues.

Health & Lifespan

Dragon Li Cat sitting looking confused
You can expect your Dragon Li to live from 12 to 15 years on average.

This breed is generally healthy, but some do develop hip dysplasia. A healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper preventative veterinary visits will keep them healthy for much longer. Do not overlook dental care, as gingivitis, dental decay, and periodontal disease can occur in any cat and cause long-term health issues.


Expect to pay between $400 to $1,000 for a Dragon Li cat. This breed is rare, and you are unlikely to find a Dragon Li at a shelter. Be sure to ask for a clean health certificate for any kitten or adult kitty you may want to adopt. Because the breed is so healthy, any kind of disease or genetic issue is something to watch out for.

As Family Pets

The Dragon Li loves an active household and would make a great family pet. They are gentle enough for families with small children. Just remember that the Dragon Li enjoys alone time and requires private space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Dragon Li Cats Shed?

While all cats shed, the Dragon Li has a short coat. They will not shed as much as a long-haired breed, and you are less likely to notice hair around the home. While no cat is completely hypoallergenic, the Dragon Li would be a great option for someone looking for a low-shed breed.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

The Dragon Li gets along very well with dogs, maybe more than other felines. The breed is famous for its hunting abilities, so keep this kitty out of homes with small animals.

Is Dragon Li A Tabby Cat?

Yes, this breed has a tabby coat and the signature capital “M” marking on the face of a tabby cat. The body often has what is called a mackerel tabby pattern.

Final Thoughts

The Dragon Li is an amazing breed that would make a wonderful addition to an active home. This feline is known for its intelligence and requires an owner with time to keep them entertained. The Dragon Li is very rare outside of the breed’s home country of China, but if you do find one, you will have a loving companion for years to come.

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