The word “exotic” can mean simply something strange or unusual, but when it comes to exotic cat breeds, the word generally means that the cat in question is a wild species, or part wild, as is the case with hybrids.
These cats are wild. They are not domestic animals. They may have been raised in a home where several generations have been kept, but they have not had over 9000 years of close contact with human beings, and have not been selectively bred over centuries, for adaption to such a lifestyle, as has been the case with the true domestic cat (felis catus).
Wild cats kept as pets are not breeds of cats. They are separate species of wild animals.
With many of these cats the things we take for granted in our domestic pets may be out of reach. Most of these species are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to litter-box train or house-break. Even if an individual cat cooperates by defecating in a certain area, spraying throughout the house by both males and females is virtually guaranteed.
An outdoor pen is definitely the best cure for the housebreaking issue, but some of these species have such noxious urine spray, that even the pen may become quite odorous.
Even the hybrid species, particularly those F1 and F2 individuals with the highest percentage of wild cat in them, can be very challenging.
The recent popularity of some of Bengals in particular, has led to the necessity for rescue organizations specifically for situations where the owner simply can’t handle the activity level, size and occasionally destructive behavior of cats with limited domestication.
So be cautious when you check these special cats out, and do lots of research.
Enjoy the journey and always remember…….Cats Rule!
Hybrids are crosses between domestic cats and any of a number of species of wild cats.
The two most common hybrids are the Bengal, which has been crossed with an Asian Leopard cat, and the Savannah, which is created by crossing with the African Serval cat.
They are often categorized as F1, F2, F3, F4 and F6, which indicates how many generations they are removed from the original wild individual. These different hybrids generally look and act quite different from eachother, depending on how great a percentage of their bloodline is wild.
A Bengal cat who has a domestic housecat mother and an Asian leopard cat father is 50% Asian leopard cat, 50% domestic cat and is considered “F1”. If it is then bred back to a100% domestic cat, those kittens will only be 25% Asian leopard cat, “F2”, and so on.
Hybrids, particularly of the F1 variety, can be a handful, and some jurisdictions consider them to be wild animals and do not allow them to be kept in private residences.
Think this over carefully, and find a breeder you trust before taking the plunge.
Wild Cat Species
There are several wild cat species that are regularly kept as pets. These are species of cats, not exotic cat breeds, meaning they are a different zoological classification from the domestic cat, and, in most cases, have very little history of close habitation with human beings.
It is the centuries, and sometimes millenniums of co-habitation that create a domestic animal. Domestic animals have developed dependencies on humans for survival and in turn, have lost many of the natural instincts of their wild ancestors.
Predatory, defensive and reproductive drives in domestic animals are greatly reduced, and often the tools that were once used for survival, fangs and claws, will be considerably smaller as well.
Great care should be taken in the consideration of purchasing a wild cat species as a pet, they are not recommend for and are simply not suitable for the average household.
Gorgeous chain-like rosettes and spots blanket the Ocelot, a 25 to 35 pound cat found in the jungles of South America. These cats have a very large head, large eyes and a coral-colored nose. They eat all sorts of prey including fish and bats, and patrol high up in the trees as well as on the ground – just glorious!
The Margay is the ocelots little cousin weighing only about 8 pounds. They have the same reddish nose and beautiful markings, but their eyes are even larger in proportion to the head. Also native to South America they eat small birds and rodents. The Margay is nocturnal and spends most of the time in the trees.
The Rusty-Spotted cat is the smallest of all cat species, with some adults not much larger than 2 pounds. The largest males will top the scales at no more than 4 pounds, and newborn kittens weigh only about 2 ounces!
Rusty-Spotted cats are native to India and Sri Lanka. They are timid and reclusive, hunting only at night, and feeding on rodents, lizards and some insects.
African Wild cat
The African Wild cat is the most likely ancestor of today’s domestic cat. Individuals of this species were domesticated about 10,000 years ago in Africa and the Arabian peninsula.
They average about 9 or 10 pounds, and look very much like a typical tabby cat, and this wildcat and domestic cats can, and do, interbreed.
European Wild cat
European Wild cats are scattered throughout Europe to as far East as Turkey. This species is larger, in general, than domestic cats, with males usually tipping the scales at close to 20 pounds.
They have a pronounced dorsal stripe, and the tail is full, brush-like, and shorter than that of a domestic cat.
This fascinating looking wild cat is also known as the Manul. It was named after a German naturalist named Peter Simon Pallas, who first wrote of them in 1776.
Pallas’s cat is a rugged little animal, the same size as a domestic cat, but with an impressive fur coat that makes it appear larger. They live at high mountain altitudes in Central Asia, where their favorite food is gerbil!
This is a small, South American species of wild cat ranging between 5 and 12 pounds. Geoffroy’s cat has small, evenly spaced black spots across a golden colored coat. They live in more brushy terrain than the jungle, and prefer areas around water where they can hunt frogs, fish and lizards.
The Serval is an African wild cat that can weigh up to 50 pounds. They look very much like cheetahs and have the longest legs percentege wise, of any cat species.
Servals can reach speeds of over 50 miles per hour, but they usually use their long legs for stalking and then pouncing on prey, unlike cheetahs who simply outrun their quarry.
The Serval, crossed with a domestic cat, produces a Savannah cat.
Asian Leopard Cat
The Asian Leopard cat is native to South and Eastern Asia. This is a very small wild cat species, generally smaller and slimmer than the average domestic cat, and usually not reaching more than 7 or 8 pounds as an adult.
The Asian Leopard cat is bred to domestic house cats to produce the spectacular Bengal cat.
The Caracal is also known as the “desert lynx”. It does, indeed, live in very arrid areas of Africa. This is a cat whose size varies with territory and may range from 20 up to 45 pounds.
Caracals are tremendous jumpers and have been recorded leaping vertically up to 10 feet in the air. They use this ability to bat birds right out of the sky!
Their most unique characteristic are their amazing, tufted ears – spectacular!
This little cat species lives in desert regions of Northern Africa. They are the size of a small house cat at about 7 pounds, and they also enjoy a diet of gerbils.
This cat gets all of its moisture requirements through the food it eats, and generally never drinks water. It has specialized, thick, blunt claws for digging through the sand and straight into the burrows of it’s prey.
Lynx are found in the Northern hemisphere, in Europe and North America, and Asia. There are four species of which the bobcat is one. Lynx are powerfully built cats with short tails and turfted ears.
They have wide, heavily furred paws, and spend most of their time on the ground, although they will climb to avoid large predators like wolves and bears, or to lounge on a branch.
The Bobcat is a North American species of wildcat, found throughout southern Canada, most of the United States, and northern Mexico.
This is the smallest Lynx species, but is still a good-sized wildcat, with most individuals weighing well over 20 pounds, and some males closer to 40 pounds.