Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Dragon Li Cat (Chinese Li Hua): Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Dragon Li cat sitting and looking straight

Height: 10 – 14 inches
Weight: 9 – 12 pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Colors: Golden brown tabby
Suitable for: Families with children or other pets, owners with time and space
Temperament: Social, playful, friendly, intelligent

China is home to many ancient and beautiful treasures, you’ll agree that none of them compare to the Dragon Li cat. This breed has only gained global recognition in the past few years, making it one of the rarest cat breeds in the United States.

But these golden-brown cats are already earning a reputation for themselves because of their gentle, playful personalities. They love spending time with humans and are highly social cats, but they usually prefer active socializing to be a lap cat. That makes them perfect for getting along with families with children and other pets, but these cats aren’t for everyone—they need a lot of space, so unless you have a spacious house or the time to take them on regular walks, the Dragon Li might not be for you.

Dragon Li Kittens

Dragon Li Kitten
Image Credit: Monika Stawowy, PxHere

Dragon Li cats are some of the rarest in the United States, so it can be difficult to find a breeder who works with them.

Remember to do your research of any possible breeder you find. Reputable breeders should be able to show you breed pedigrees and veterinary records for cats in their care.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Dragon Li Cat

1. These Cats Have Legendary Origins

Locals have often claimed that the Dragon Li’s ancestors have been in China forever—in fact, they say that these cats aren’t descended from the African Wildcat like other domestic cats, but from its close relative the Chinese Mountain Cat. Recent DNA studies have shown that’s pretty unlikely, with genetic markers suggesting that they’re descended from domestic cats brought in from other parts of the world. But a few unique DNA markers suggest that these cats have interbred with Chinese Mountain Cats in the past—so there may be some truth to the legend after all.

2. Their Chinese Name Means “Fox Flower”

Although the official English name of the breed is the Dragon Li, in China, they are associated with foxes. The Chinese name for the breed, Li Hua, means “Fox Flower.” They are probably associated with foxes because of their rust-colored fur and their triangular heads. The flower in their Chinese name comes because their spotted and striped coats can be interpreted as a vaguely floral pattern.

3. They’re a New Breed with Ancient Roots

Cats just like the Dragon Li have lived in China for centuries or even longer, but it wasn’t until recently that anyone considered making them into a standardized breed. These cats were first included in a cat show in China in 2004, and in 2010 they were accepted as a breed by the Cat Fanciers’ Association.

Dragon Li cat sitting with sunshine
Image Credit: Muzaffer şengül, PxHere

Temperament & Intelligence of the Dragon Li

The Dragon Li Cat is generally social, friendly, and energetic. They love spending time outdoors with proper precautions and enjoy playing with humans. They don’t usually love to be cuddled or picked up, but they will enjoy spending time with you.

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

The Dragon Li is often good for families with children because it enjoys social stimulation, and it is known to be gentle with young children. These cats love to play games with their owners, so giving your child a wand toy is a great way to help them bond with your cat. Young children should always be supervised around cats to make sure that they don’t cause discomfort to your cat. Aside from the cat’s happiness, even patient cats can have their limits. You know that your child is ready to spend unsupervised time with a cat when they are old enough to play gently and give the cat space when needed.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

This cat is also often a good choice for multi-pet households. The Dragon Li cat is a fairly social and outgoing breed, and they are usually bold enough to stand their ground around other cats or dogs. However, cats with a very shy or reclusive personality aren’t the best choice of companions for this breed as the Dragon Li can be too social or overbearing towards other cats, even when meaning well.

This breed shouldn’t be allowed contact with small pets such as fish, reptiles, small birds, or small mammals. If you choose to have small pets in the household, make sure they are in a secured tank or cage where your cat can’t get to them.

Things to Know When Owning a Dragon Li Cat:

Food & Diet Requirements 🐡

These cats require a healthy, high-quality diet but don’t have any specific dietary needs. The amount of food given depends on the age, size, and activity levels of the cat. Kittens should be given “growth formula” or kitten food while still growing. Adult cats will generally require less food than older kittens, and as they age and their metabolism slows, a healthy serving size will decrease.

Exercise 🐈

One of the biggest needs of a Dragon Li cat is space to exercise. These cats prefer to have access to outdoor spaces, however, because of their rarity it isn’t recommended to give them unsupervised outdoor access. Instead, many owners leash train their cats or build enclosed “catio” style spaces where their cat can spend time outdoors without being exposed to dangers. Alternatively, many owners with larger homes keep their cats fully indoors and give plenty of access to climbing trees, space to play, and friendly playmates, human or animal. It’s not recommended to keep this cat in a small apartment.

Training 🧶

These cats can be stubborn, but overall, they are relatively trainable cats. Behavior training usually is fairly easy as long as it is consistent and patient. Many Dragon Li cats also do well with other types of training like leash training. They are playful and eager for company, so finding a way to make training a game and rewarding your cat with lots of praise will help training go smoothly. Some of these cats are even known to play fetch!

Grooming ✂️

These cats have short, dense coats that don’t require much help grooming. Some cats benefit from an occasional brush to keep shed fur down, but their own grooming is usually more than sufficient for their coats. It is important to give your cat proper dental care to avoid dental issues and mouth pain in your cat. Some owners also opt to trim their cat’s claws regularly to minimize damage to surfaces.

Health and Conditions 🏥

This cat is a fairly healthy breed because it is a natural breed drawn from a wide gene pool. This means that there aren’t any known genetic conditions linked to this breed. However, there are some minor conditions including hip dysplasia and gingivitis that are commonly found in this breed.

Minor Conditions
Serious Conditions
  • None known

Male vs Female

Both male and female Dragon Li cats are happiest and healthiest when spayed or neutered. When fixed, both sexes have very similar personalities and there is not much difference between one and the other. Unaltered males are more likely to be territorial and aggressive towards other animals. They also have a greater incidence of behavior issues such as spraying to scent mark.

Unspayed female cats are more high-strung and anxious. They also go through heat cycles every three to four weeks that can cause discomfort, behavior problems, and unwanted male attention. It’s recommended to spay or neuter your cats if possible in order to help your cats be healthy and relaxed.

Final Thoughts

The Dragon Li cat is a new cat breed, but we hope you can see why cat fanciers are eager to bring this cat out of obscurity. Between their beautiful golden-brown coats, their dazzling green eyes, and their charming personalities, these cats have it all. Their intelligence and beauty has made them highly respected in China, and now the rest of the world gets to experience it too. Although this breed doesn’t make the ideal pet for everyone, if you are lucky enough to own a Dragon Li cat you’ll be able to see right away what makes this cat stand out.

Featured Image Credit: Phichak, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database