Guide to Cat Breeder Terminology

persian cat
Persian Cat, Heikki Siltala,

The following are some words that anyone who is interested in breeding or showing cats should know.

Cat Breeding Terminology

Allowable Outcross

An allowable outcross is a domestic or purebred cat that may be bred to a different purebred to enhance desired characteristics and increase genetic diversity. Such allowable outcrosses may differ from one cat association to the next.


The bloodline is a cat’s ancestry.

Breed True

To breed true is to produce offspring that have similar characteristics to their parents.


A congenital trait is one that is present at birth.


A crossbreed is a breed that originated through mating two or more different domestic breeds (such as the Bombay, Peterbald, Snowshoe, and Tonkinese), or a domestic cat and a wild cat (such as the Bengal,Chausie, and Savannah).


The F1 is the first generation of offspring. The abbreviation, which is derived from “filial” (pertaining to “son” or “daughter” in Latin), is most commonly used for wild-cat hybrids such as the Savannah. The second generation is F2, the third F3, and so on.

Foundation Cat(s)

The foundation cat or cats are the felines used to start a new breed.

Line Breeding

Line breeding involves breeding cats that are of the same bloodline but only distantly related (often breeding a younger cat to a member of an earlier generation of its family). It’s done to increase the desired traits of a given breed but reduce the risk of concentrating negative traits as with inbreeding of close relatives


Outcrossing involves breeding unrelated cats to increase genetic diversity or develop new breeds.


The pedigree is the official record proving a cat’s ancestry.


Either term can be used for a breeding female.


A random-bred or domestic is a cat of unknown ancestry.


The sire is the father of a litter or an individual kitten.


A stud is a male cat used for a breeding program.

Cat Genetics


A dominant gene masks the effects of its recessive counterpart. For example, the shorthair gene is dominant and the longhair gene recessive, so a cat that inherits a shorthair gene from either parent will have short hair. To have long hair, a cat must have two longhair genes, which means that each parent must contribute one longhair gene.


The genotype is the cat’s internal genetic make-up. It can be likened to a pattern or design template.


A heterozygous cat has two different types of a gene for a given trait. In such cases, the dominant gene will be expressed.


A hybrid is the offspring of two or more breeds. Hyrid breeds include the American Bobtail, the California Spangled Cat, and the Oriental Shorthair.

Hybrid Vigour

This refers to the robust health and overall genetic superiority that can be achieved by introducing unrelated genetic material into the breeding pool (as with outcrossing).

Inbreeding Depression

Inbreeding depression is the reduced health of offspring due to the concentration of negative genetic traits that results from mating close relatives.


A mutation is a spontaneous alteration of a gene that gives rise to a new characteristic which may be inherited by future generations. Traits that arose via mutation include curled or folded ears (American Curl, Scottish Fold), curly-coats (Cornish Rex, LaPerm), taillessness or stub tails (Pixie-Bob, Manx), and hairlessness (Sphynx).


The phenotype comprises all observable traits and characteristics that have been genetically inherited. The phenotype is the expression of the genotype.


A recessive gene can only be expressed if the cat inherits a copy from each parent.


A sex-linked gene is associated with one of the chromosomes that determines gender. For example, aspects of cat coat colour are linked to the X chromosome. Because females have two X chromosomes and males an X and a Y, certain patterns don’t normally appear in males. This is why males can only be calico or tortoiseshell if they have a genetic defect resulting in an extra X chromosome.

Terminology for Showing Purebred Cats

Breeding Quality

A breeding quality purebred cat doesn’t conform to the breed standard well enough to compete for championship status, but does conform sufficiently to be used in a breeding program.


Champions are purebred cats that have received sufficient points at cat shows to be awarded the title. What is required to earn this title varies from one cat association to the next.

Pet Quality

A pet quality cat is a purebred cat that doesn’t conform to its breed standard closely enough to compete for championship status or be part of a breeding program. Pet quality purebreds are sold for less than show or breeder quality cats, and breeders usually require that the new owners agree to have them spayed or neutered.


A registry is a cat association through which cats must be registered to compete in cat shows.

Show Quality

A show quality purebred cat conforms very closely or exactly to its breed standard.

Descriptive Words for Purebred Cats

Breed Standard

The breed standard comprises the attributes that have been established as perfect for a given breed.


Conformation encompasses a cat’s overall physical type, including bone structure, face shape, body type, colour, and pattern.

Ground Colour

Ground colour comprises the lighter background markings under a tabby’s darker patterns, or the colour of the section of the hair shaft closest to the skin.


Points are the darker markings on the extremities (face, ears, legs, and tail) of breeds such as the Siamese, Himalayan, and Ragdoll. Pointed kittens are born white or off-white and their point markings come in over time, with their final colouring depending on the environmental temperature. Lighter points develop in warmer temperatures and darker points in colder environments.

For more cat breed articles, visit the main Cat Breeds page. For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.

For more information on cat genetics, see Hilary Helmrich’s “Basic Genetics for the Cat Breeder.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.