House cat. Alley cat. Felis silvestris cactus. Or, as they say in the UK, moggy. A “mix.” However you refer to them, all of these describe the most common cat in America—the domestic mixed-breed cat.
Mixed-breeds make up 90-95% of the cat population in the U.S., and for good reason. These cats are noble, friendly, and unique, and make the perfect addition to any household.
Mixed breeds come in all colors and personalities, but here is a bit of an overview of their characteristics:
- Height – 8 to 10 inches
- Weight – 8 to 12 pounds
- Length – Approximately 18 inches long
- Lifespan – 15 to 20 years
- Temperament – Sociable, affectionate, bold
- Intelligence – High
- Coat Length – Short, medium, long
- Activity Level – Medium
- Colors – white, black, orange, red, gray,
- Patterns – tabby, tri-color, calico, tortoiseshell, tuxedo
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History of the Breed
What sets these cats apart is that they aren’t actually a recognized cat breed. But just because mixed-breed cats don’t have a pedigree doesn’t mean that they aren’t still beautiful, loving pets with a rich history.
Cats and humans have enjoyed living side by side for thousands of years. All domesticated cats are descended from a Middle Eastern wild cat, the Felis Silvestris. This process began around 12,000 years ago in Asia. Egyptian cats were associated with the gods, and thus revered and immortalized through jewelry, works of art, and mummified and buried in tombs with their human companions.
Cats became extremely useful to humans at a key moment in our development—when we started learning how to store our food. With grain stores came mice, and wild cats delighted in the food source. Humans, pleased with the pest control, allowed the cats to stay indoors, and thus, the domesticated cat was born.
Eventually, the domesticated cat population spread across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe. When European explorers began sailing to new lands, they continued to bring cats along for rodent control, and thus, these felines were introduced to the Americas and Australia.
Fun fact: While mixed breed cats may have a murky lineage, did you know that they do share significant genetic material with panthera tigris? That’s right—a tiger shares 96% of its DNA with a common mixed breed cat!
Biologically, a mixed-breed cat is any feline that is a mix of different breeds. It could be a cross between two different breed purebred cats, a purebred and a mixed-breed, or two mixed-breeds. Because of this incredible variety, dometic mixed-breeds can come in virtually any body size, coat color or coat pattern or length.
For the majority of mixed breed owners, their pet’s lineage is a mystery. But some may have an idea based on their cat’s physical characteristics, such as color, coat pattern, length, eye color, and shape of the face, nose, ears, body shape and size. The other things to note are the cat’s mannerisms, vocalizations, and overall temperament, compared to purebreds.
Some of the most popular mixed-breeds are:
- Tuxedo – Elegant and refined, these mixed breed cats are characterized by their black and white coats and markings that look like a tuxedo. They are the most popular mixed-breed in the world.
- Domestic medium-hair – Medium-sized and muscular, these cats are similar to short-haired breeds but have longer hair. They come in almost every color and coat pattern, and their temperament can range from docile, active, playful, independent, or talkative.
- Tabby – These cats are easily identified by their distinctive lines, stripes, swirls, and dot patterns, and come in a variety of colors. They are usually grey, brown, or orange, with white on the feet and chest.
- Maine Coon Cat mix – These mixed breeds resemble Maine Coon cats, with medium to long hair length, a large body with a short, bushy tail with tabby striping in grey, black, or brown, and black tips at the ears.
- Siamese mix – Popular throughout the world, these are cats who are of unknown origin and breed, but have physical traits and temperament similar to Siamese. The colors may be gray, lilac, blue, or brown, and they have darker shading at the ears, tail, feet, and face, but with lighter body color. They may also be curious, vocal, and demanding.
- Birman mix – A Birman is a highly sought-after breed because of their ideal temperament and distinctive blue eyes. With their semi-longhaired coat, they have a pale tone to their body color, but then darker points on the face, ears, legs, and tail. They’re smaller than average, only weighing between 6 and 10 pounds. They make excellent family pets because of their gentle, quiet nature and affectionate personality.
- Himalayan mix – These cats are popular because of their long, bushy coats. These cats exude opulence and their very appearance makes you want to pamper them. They are affectionate, playful, and loving. There will be frequent shedding, and constant grooming is needed to maintain their long-haired coat.
- Persian mix – Persians are a long-haired breed characterized by its round face and short muzzle. They are constant shedders, and constant grooming is required, but are very loving and affectionate with their owners. The mixes tend to be healthier than their purebred cat counterparts. The colors can be white, black, blue, calico, brown, orange, chinchilla, or golden.
Mixed breed cats have a wide range of personalities, from docile and relaxed to standoffish and even clingy. Many are affectionate with their humans, especially if socialized from a young age. Cats do well around other cats and dogs, as long as they are properly introduced.
Domestic Cat Care
Whether you’ve got a little tuxedo on your hands or a Persian mix, your mixed kitty will need lots of love and care.
Cats spend nearly half of their waking hours diligently primping themselves to furry perfection. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to groom them. Taking the time to brush your kitten daily will help keep their coat clean, reduce matting, and even prevent hairballs.
Cats must have a safe place to get out their urge to scratch. Providing a scratching post is wonderfully helpful for their excess energy and will save your precious furniture. Entice them to use the scratching post by hanging toys and catnip from it. Scratching is also amazing for a cat’s health. It keeps their claws in shape, but is also a good source of exercise and a wonderful way to reduce stress.
As a cat owner, it is important that you check your cat’s claws every few weeks. If your cat is primarily indoors, then you may need to trim their claws to prevent ingrown claws, which are painful and can cause infection.
Outdoor cats need their claws for climbing and self-protection, so it’s unlikely your cat’s claws will need trimming if they spend a lot of time outdoors.
Dental care is also extremely important, as periodontal disease affects more than 50% of domestic cats. Start brushing your cat’s teeth when they are young so it can become part of their regular routine, or regular dental cleanings at the vet may become necessary.
Cats also need an indoor litter box or two in quiet, secluded areas of the home. Scoop out the box daily, and replace soiled litter as needed. It’s important to completely clean the box at least once per week, and disinfect it when you do so. Use mild soap and water, or a water and vinegar solution. Don’t use bleach, commercial disinfectants, or other harsh chemicals, as these can be harmful to your pet.
Exercise and Play
It’s really important for cats to stay active to keep them healthy and well into their golden years. In the wild, a cat’s exercise would mostly come from hunting. For indoor cats, being a good cat parent means playing with your cat to exercise them. They love to chase and pounce. Play will also keep your cat from getting bored. A bored cat could get depressed and put on weight. Obesity in cats is a very real health concern. Two sessions of 15-20 minutes of playtime each day is ideal.
Diet and Nutrition
Regardless of your cat’s breed, to live a long, healthy life, your fur baby needs proper nutrition. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they rely on nutrients only found in animal products. Cats are hunters that consume prey with high amounts of protein, a moderate amount of fat, and minimum carbohydrates, which is the diet they still require today. They also need other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and plenty of water.
Commercial cat foods are formulated as dry, semi-moist, and wet, and usually, a combination of each type is required for a balanced diet.
Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food contains ingredients such as:
- Meat and/or meat byproducts
- Poultry and/or poultry byproducts
- Grains and/or grain byproducts
- Fish meal
- Fiber sources
- Milk products
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
Dry cat food is relatively inexpensive and has a long shelf-life. This type of food may be less palatable to your cat than semi-moist or wet food, however, and could be less digestible. If you do use dry food, store it in a cool, dry place in an airtight container to prevent nutrient deterioration and maintain flavor. Do not feed your cat food that has expired.
Semi-Moist Cat Food
Meat and meat byproducts are the primary ingredients in this type of cat food, which contains about 35% moisture. Other fillers, including soybean meal, cereals, grain byproducts, and preservatives are added to make the final product.
Wet cat food, or food from a can, contains on average 75% water and is a good source of hydration for your cat. This is generally the most expensive type of cat food, but is highly palatable for cats. Canned cat food has the longest shelf life as long as it is unopened. Any unused portion should be refrigerated to keep it from spoiling. Canned cat food features meat, such as kidney or liver, and meat byproducts.
Check the labels on the packages of cat food and make sure your pet is getting a balanced diet. Once you’ve determined the food will satisfy their nutritional needs, you can give them what they like based on their preference.
Common Health Problems
Mixed cat breeds rank among the healthiest of cats. Unlike pure breeds that often have specific health problems that are genetically passed down through the generations, mixed breed cats are often healthier. But they are still susceptible to some health issues.
Spay or neuter your pet by age 5 months if you don’t intend to breed them. Stay up-to-date on vaccinations and veterinary visits in order to prevent serious health problems.
The top conditions that affect cats most often are:
- Vomiting – A very common problem, with a multitude of causes. It could be from eating something poisonous or inedible (like strands of carpet), hairballs, a urinary tract infection, or diabetes.
- Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) – Both male and female cats are susceptible, and it often occurs in cats who are overweight or who only eat dry food. Stress can raise the risk of FLUTD. Symptoms include: drinking to excess, straining to urinate, bloody urine, crying when urinating, or urinating in unusual places, licking around the urinary area due to pain, dehydration, lack of appetite, vomiting, and depression.
- Fleas – Fleas are a very common health problem, especially for cats with exposure to the outdoors. Signs your cat has fleas include: constant scratching, hair loss, irritated skin, licking, skin infections, and black dots on fur (fleas). Fortunately, they’re relatively easy to treat with topical treatments, oral medication, powders, and foam.
- Tapeworms – These parasites live inside your cat and are caused by swallowing a flea. Symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. The easiest way to check for worms is to look at your cat’s anus and in their bedding. Treatment options are available from a veterinarian and include injections, oral, or topical medication.
- Diarrhea – As with vomiting, there are many different causes of diarrhea in cats, such as internal parasites, spoiled food, infection, internal disease, cancer, and more. Symptoms are a loose, watery stool. Offer your pet lots of water to prevent dehydration, and remove their food for no longer than 12 hours. Take your cat to the vet if they have bloody stool, fever, vomiting, lethargy, or loss of appetite.
- Eye Problems – Eye disease in cats can be caused by conjunctivitis, a corneal ulcer, cataracts, glaucoma, trauma, viruses, inflammation, and retinal disease. Symptoms of eye trouble include watery eyes, damp fur, cloudiness, redness, discharge in the corner of the eyes, squinting, pawing the eye, or a visible third eyelid. Call your veterinarian immediately if any of these occur.
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Smithsonian Magazine. A Brief History of House Cats. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-house-cats-158390681/
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Mixed Breed Cat Facts. https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/mixed-breed-cat/
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Feeding Your Cat. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feeding-your-cat
Web MD. “6 Most Common Cat Health Problems.” https://pets.webmd.com/cats/6-most-common-cat-health-problems#1