Why No Miniature Cats?

Having just left a household with two cats, and moving into a flat, I was thinking how I’d like a cat, but the flat is a tiny place, and I don’t feel like stinking it up with litter boxes etc. I also got to thinking how in my experience (please no debate), cats don’t like being stuck indoors, and always retain a wild, untamed streak, no matter how friendly they are. Yet certain breeds of dog have been bred to be tiny, and enjoy doing nothing but sit indoors and be pampered.

Why not cats? Cats seem to have been bred every bit as much as dogs into breeds of human fancy, but why haven’t they bred a cat the size of, say, a can of beer, fully grown? One that has had all the mousing and roaming instincts bred out of it, and is more docile and dog-like in its character. With a few large exceptions, cat breeds seem to be of a relatively standard size - cat size. Why have the breeders not pursued this? Too hard? No perceived market?

Small dogs need a lot of outdoor exercise just like big dogs, infact I’ve never been able to tire our little dog out enough to stop him wanting his frisbee thrown again, and again, and again. So a small cat may well be just as outdoorsy as a big cat.

Maybe you should get a rat or something? Yeah I know, it’s just not the same.

I have no clues on your actual question, interesting topic. Maybe there isn’t as much variation in the cat population to start with to allow selective breeding?

What makes you think the big cats — lions, tigers, panthers, et al — are the exceptions? It seems more reasonable to assume that those are the naturally occurring regular size for cats and the domesticated ones are already minuaturized.

I don’t think that’s correct. If you mean that they were bred that way. We didn’t invite tigers into our homes (or more likely, grain storage areas) and then breed then down to a managable size. Small (cat sized) cats were the ones who took up with humans.

And beyond that…I would say it’s because it doesn’t work. We’ve bred dogs into every imaginable shape, but with cats, we’ve tried. But we’re left with long hair vs short hair, wide face vs skinny face, tail vs no tail (which is a birth defect, and dangerous, and one of my pet peeves…or even bete noires :mad: ). It’s apparent we’ve tried , but cats just aren’t as plastic as dog. (Should we be surprised cats can’t be molded to our will :D?)

I’ve heard this has to do with the difference between a puppy and a dog as opposed to a kitten and a cat. Something in the development process that makes one more ameable to breeding differences than the other.

They bred little dogs and big dogs for a purpose. The little terriers weren’t bred so people could have a pet that was happy indoors, it was bred to hunt little animals in their tunnels. Cats have historically been pretty useless, so I guess breeding little cats was more pointless than breeding little dogs.

Lots of cultures saw cats as exalted/holy/whatever anyway. Breeding out their natural instincts would have been seen as abhorrent. Plus things don’t always happen for a reason. I guess there must be people out there who think small cats are a good idea, but if it didn’t happen, it just didn’t happen.

Undoubtedly so, particularly the African wild cat. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia says that is the species from which the common house cat was domesticated, and is approximately the same range of weight as the home version.

I’m just not sure I’d call tigers and lions the exception simply because we have voluntarily flooded the world with our particular variety; if they are an exception it is may be because we have unnaturally made them so.

Could it also be linked to the natural traits of the two animals?

I mean, dogs are social animals who evolved in packs and are arguably more likely to be selected by early humans as hunt-buddies and companions. Perhaps this made them more exposed to human breeding programs and tampering.

How about a “bonsai” kitty?

runs quickly and hides


Cats may not have been used for the sheer variety of types of work that dogs have, but they’ve been far from useless historically. Don’t underestimate the value of a mouser in an era where food preservation and storage weren’t nearly as advanced or rodent-proof as they are now (and they aren’t all that rodent-proof now, if you really want to nitpick).

This article from today’s NY Times addresses your question. It says that cats were domesticated much more recently than dogs, most cats choose their mates, and they may have a genetically smaller range of variation. In regard to size, it says:

My GF’s old boss had a mini kitty. They are bred that way taking smaller than average cats and breeding them over and over. The kitty was the teeniest kitten I had ever seen, the size of a small rat. Once it was full grown she was only 4 lbs. The kitty’s owner said 4-6 was pretty much the maximum weight for minis.
I don’t know how prevalent these are, however.

Heh. That’s pretty coincidental.

Explains a bit too. Thanks!

Domestic cats aren’t far removed from their wild counterparts, and a couple of generations of fending for themselves will turn most normal cat breeds into little feral tigers.

The ‘arrangement’ domestic cats have with humans is outside their normal social structure, but it’s a cosy, safe environment and they’re prepared to be a bit adaptable for an easy life indoors.

Ancient cultures didn’t exalt cats for the fun of it. They exalted cats because cats were (literally) the answer to their prayers.

The Egyptians were among the first peoples to practice large-scale agriculture. Civilization DEPENDS on a society’s ability to grow and store a lot of food.

Well, when you grow and store huge amoiunts of grain, what happens? You get mice. You get rats. You get all kinds of pesky critters that can destroy your crops and eat your food, which could mean starvation and death for your society.

But along come the feral kitty cats, who start killing the rodents. To the Egyptians, the cats seemed like a godsend! These beautiful animals were helping save their society.

Just as the Mormons have always had a certain reverence for seagulls (who saved the early Utah settlers from a potentially devastating locust invasion), thje Egyptians had good reason to honor cats.

Sigh. I really need to choose my words better. What I meant to say was that people have always bred dogs to fit a purpose, but cats not so much. If cats made themselves useful by killing rodents then okay, but they do that naturally anyway. Terriers, on the other hand, kill rodents because they were bred to. Not being required to do anything unusual = no unusual cats.


And on the off chance you haven’t seen the Bonsai Kittens RSSchen was referring to, you should definitely check them out!

A large majority of all the species of cats in the world are relatively small. Offhand, I would say on average cats as a group are slightly larger than a domestic cat. There are only about 8 species of “big cats” (in the loose sense, not just members of the genus Panthera) in the world, depending on where you draw the line.

What would qualify as a miniature? My cat Velcro is only 6 lbs. She is a cute little fluff ball and 13 years old now. When younger she was an excellent shoulder kitty.

A lot of selective breeding results in forms of neonatalism, the maintainence of juvenile traits into adulthood. Compare puppies to dogs, then compare kittens to cats. Puppies are much differently shaped than dogs; kittens are more like miniature cats. For example, puppies tend to have floppy ears; a breeder can select for a breed that keeps them into adulthood.

Like jrfranchiI have a very small cat: Female, seven pounds, less than a foot from nose to base of tail. (I think; she wasn’t co-operating with my attempts to measure her.) She looks like a large kitten, but with adult proportions.

I would guess it would be possible to breed miniature kitties. It’s just that no one has done so, probably since cats are small already.