10 Cat Breeds That Originated In Cold Climates
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10 Cat Breeds That Originated In Cold Climates

Est. read time: 5 min.

January has arrived, and with it icy temperatures. Before cats became snug indoor pets, the majority of them had to brave the chill winds and harsh realities of winter. (Sadly, many strays and ferals still must—learn how to care for outdoor cats in the winter.) Today we’re looking at 10 natural cat breeds that originated in cold climates, and the physical traits that they adapted to survive.

Common traits of cold-climate cat breeds

Unsurprisingly, a dense fur coat is an essential shared trait among cat breeds that originated in cold climates. That doesn’t necessarily mean a long fur coat, however. Although many of the breeds on our list are long-haired, several sport short-haired double coats or even curly-haired coats in order to keep warm. 

A more interesting fact may be that several of these cat breeds have water-resistant fur, allowing them to traverse especially harsh conditions.

Last but not least, these cats tend to be lithe and muscular, regardless of size. Some of these breeds grow quite large, while others are small and athletic. 

10 cat breeds that originated in cold climates

Kurilian Bobtail

Kurilian Bobtail cat in snow - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
© TRUE KURILIANS / CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Kurilian Bobtail is a natural breed that was found on Russia’s Sakhalin island and Kuril archipelago. With a bobtail and long hind legs, this cat could be mistaken for a lynx in cold climates. The Kurilian Bobtail is known for his hunting abilities, as well as his love of water. Today they are popular as a domesticated feline in Russia for their mousing abilities.

Maine Coon

Maine Coon cat on couch - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
Photo by Sergei Wing on Unsplash

There is some debate as to where the popular Maine Coon cat originated. Most breeders believe the breed is a result of matings between pre-existing short-haired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps introduced by New England seamen or even Vikings). Regardless, the heavy, water-resistant coat and large, muscular body makes the Maine Coon cat suited for harsh New England winters.

Norwegian Forest Cat

Norwegian Forest Cat with Freya collar tag - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
Photo by John Tecuceanu on Unsplash

The Norwegian Forest Cat has a water-resistant, semi-long coat with a dense undercoat developed to help the cat survive in the cold climates of Scandinavia. During winter, their ruff is full and the dense woolly undercoat thickens to protect them from the cold. This cat is strong and sturdy, and has been included in Viking legend and mythology. (Norse goddess Freya’s chariot is pulled by two cats!)

Russian Blue

Russian Blue in front of houseplant - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
Photo by Katharina Gloth on Unsplash

Russian Blue cats originated on the Russian port of Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. This graceful cat breed keeps warm with their hallmark double coat, which is short, dense, and blue tipped with silver. According to some legends, the Russian Blue was at one time the target of hunters who “likened their luxuriant fur to the fur of seals.”

Siberian

Siberian - cat breeds that originated in cold climates

The Siberian cat’s coat actually varies by season: In the winter, they will have a thick, rich, full, triple coat that would have protected them from their native Russia’s cold climate. In the summer, they shed the heavy winter coat for a shorter, less dense coat. Siberians are one of the oldest cat breeds. They may even be the ancestors to other long-haired cats, including the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon!

Turkish Angora & Turkish Van

Turkish Angora - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
Photo by Kanashi on Unsplash

The Turkish Angora and Turkish Van cats originated in Turkey. Breeders believe that “the harsh landscape of the mountains and the region’s cold climate likely contributed to the development of their extremely soft coats and solidly built bodies.” These cats also love to play in water; the Turkish Van is even known as the “Swimming Cat.”

Selkirk Rex

Selkirk Rex - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
© Leinwand / CC-BY-SA-3.0 

One of the newest natural breeds, the Selkirk Rex originated from a housecat in mountainous Montana. This naturally curly-coated cat can sport either short and long hair: the shorthairs have a dense, plush curl similar to a teddy bear, while the longhairs have a tousled look that is similar to a woolly sheep. These cats are medium to large in size, as well as muscular. They’re also easygoing and cuddly.

Scottish Fold

Scottish Fold - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
© Psihopat / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The first Scottish Fold was a barn cat named Susie that lived in cool, wet Scotland. Scottish Folds have plush, dense fur that can be either short or long. These sweet, chill cats have a sturdy body covered with padding. Fun fact: All Scottish Fold kittens are born with straight ears; 18 to 24 days after birth, their ears will fold in about 50% of the litter. 

Manx

Manx cat - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
© Michelle Weigold / CC-BY-SA-4.0

The tail-free Manx originated on the Isle of Man, an island between Great Britain and Ireland with a wet, cool climate. In addition to the conspicuous lack of tail, the Manx features a thick coat and a solid body. These cats are successful mousers known for their hunting skills; yet as a family pet they are affectionate, mellow, and highly people-oriented.

Aphrodite

Aphrodite cat in grass - cat breeds that originated in cold climates
© Apanag10 / CC-BY-SA-4.0

This little-known cat breed can be found exclusively on the island of Cyprus. The Mediterranean may not strike you as an especially cold climate; but because the Aphrodite breed originated in the island’s mountainous regions, these cats grow thick, luxurious coats to survive wintery conditions. They also have uniquely long hind legs, allowing them to climb steep slopes with ease.

Fortunately, today many of the cats belonging to the breeds that originated in cold climates no longer need to worry about surviving the hard, cold winters of their homeland.

Cover photo by Dominic Sansotta on Unsplash

Long-haired white cat walking through snow - 10 cat breeds that originated in cold climates

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