The typical domesticated cat weighs around ten pounds, making it dramatically smaller than tigers which can comfortably weigh nearly 700 pounds in the wild. But some domesticated cats are significantly smaller still. Either thanks to hormones, the environment, or specialized breeding, these cats possess conditions that make them much smaller than their traditional domesticated counterparts.
Dwarf cats have a genetic mutation that can be identified by their particularly stubby legs, while miniature and teacup cats tend to be more proportionally similar to a typical breed, merely smaller. If you want cats that stay small like a kitten, these breeds offer an option.
There’s some controversy surrounding the breeding of both dwarf and teacup cats, and many alleged breeders who promise teacup cats are simply looking to sell the runt of the litter or are using inhumane practices to breed the smallest cats possible. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you know the facts surrounding the tiniest cats in the world and perform due diligence to make sure you’re using an ethical breeder. But many of these tiny cats are also some of the cutest, and not all of them are rooted in dubious practices.
Here are eight of the tiniest cats in the world along with the circumstances that cause them to become so small in the first place.
8. Genetta: The Smallest Cat Breed Still in the Prototype Phase
The Bengal cat was first bred in 1963 as an attempt to create a domestic breed with the markings and facial structure resembling a wildcat — but this relatively recent breed is already in the process of creating a miniaturized version of this cat. But to make things even more confusing, the aesthetic point of reference for this breed is a genet, which technically isn’t even a cat at all. Despite that, the genetics for the Genetta is a purely feline combination of munchkins, Bengals, and savannahs.
The first member of the breed was born in 2006, and it has yet to be recognized by any of the major Cat Fanciers associations. As one of the newest designer breeds to be introduced, the genetta is both one of the rarest and one of the most expensive cats that stay small available today.
7. Rusty-Spotted Cat: The Tiniest Cats in the Wild
Most of the tiniest cats in the world are a result of conscious human intervention, but sometimes natural selection prefers the petite. Typically weighing less than four pounds and measuring less than a foot and a half in length, the rusty-spotted cat is an arboreal hunter who prowls the canopies of wet forests throughout India and Sri Lanka. They hide from predators in the high branches and nest inside hollow logs during the day, and they do their hunting on the ground during the day. Extraordinary eyesight allows these animals to serve as ambush predators feeding on mice and small frogs. While once thought to be extremely rare, it’s now believed that their prodigious skills at hiding and elusive natures have potentially masked larger population numbers.
6. Manx: The Cat With the Smallest Tail
As a medium-sized and particularly stocky bobtail breed, the Manx doesn’t seem like a natural fit for this smallest cat breeds list, but their tails — or more accurately, their lack of one — help them stand apart from the other popular breeds. Manxes can be born with one of two types of tails. Rumpies have no tail at all, while stumpies have a slight stump where their tail should be. This breed’s lack of a tail is likely due to a random genetic defect rather than a conscious attempt at breeding, but it’s a quirk that’s proven to have value in nature as well. Bobcats and lynxes have both flourished for generations without tails thanks to the fact that they’re ground hunters who don’t need improved balance, and their lack of tail might help them avoid alerting the prey.
5. Dwelf: The Strangest Tiny Cats on the Planet
The name “dwelf” is a portmanteau of dwarf and elf — a reference to both its dwarfish stature and its bizarrely elfin features. Its large eyes, unique facial features, and hairless body come from its sphynx ancestors, while it gets its small demeanor from the munchkin cat. The typical dwelt stands at only half a foot tall and weighs less than ten pounds. But these animals wouldn’t be who they are without their strangely twisted ears, a result of mixing the American curl into the breeding pool. To add even more confusion to this strange mix of characteristics, the dwelf is known for having a big and vibrant personality that’s often compared to the friendliness of a dog. And since these are a breed that doesn’t shed, you don’t need to worry about a dwelt triggering your allergies.
4. Himalayan (Persian): The Cat Breed With the Tiniest Member in History
It’s debatable whether or not the Himalayan is a distinct breed in its own right or simply a variation of the consistently popular Persian breed. But what’s not debatable is that Himalayans are normally medium-sized cats with dense and heavy builds. Despite that, the smallest domesticated cat in history is a Himalayan. As the runt of his litter, Tinker Toy was less than three inches tall and under eight inches long fully grown — and he weighed only about a pound and a half. His record-setting small size was rare but unintended, merely a result of a genetic abnormality rather than a trait intentionally nurtured in the family line. Tinkertoy lived to be six years old and stands as a reminder that the traits we selectively breed play an important role in the process of natural selection.
3. Munchkin: The World’s First Dwarf Cat Breed
There are now countless breeds of dwarf cats, but all of them can trace their unique size and strangely adorable proportions to the munchkin cat. A rare genetic mutation is the source of their uniquely stubby legs — and while these traits have occasionally been seen in art throughout history, it wasn’t until 1983 that it was harnessed for the sake of birthing a new breed. Still, the munchkin has been controversial and breeding it can be tricky. The gene causing the condition is dominant, but breeding two cats with short legs lead to almost 100% mortality rates. But the dominance of that gene also makes interbreeding munchkins with other cats easy, and they’ve been used in the siring of numerous other munchkin breeds.
2. Devon Rex: The Small Cat Breed For People With Cat Allergies
If you like the dwelf in theory but want something a little larger, the Devon Rex ranks among the cutest cat breeds as well as those that don’t shed much. Despite being a medium-sized cat, the Devon Rex’s fine features and delicate angles make it feel significantly smaller than it is. Devon Rex females tend to be significantly smaller than their male counterparts, making them an exceptional choice if you want a cat that more closely resembles a kitten. Slightly taller but generally leaner than the average cat, the Devon Rex is both very playful and incredibly curious. The Devon Rex likes to climb, eat, and nap in the sun with more or less comparable interest. That means that keeping your Devon Rex healthy and svelte might require you to monitor their feeding habits carefully.
1. Singapura: The Smallest Cat Breed in the World
An average female Singapura weighs only four pounds and stands only half a foot tall. That makes them the number one breed of cats that stay small, but they’d rank among the cutest breeds even without their petite figures. Incredibly lively and active, these cats are known for retaining the personality of a kitten well into adulthood. Small doesn’t necessarily mean fragile, and Singapuras are known for their propensity to climb on anything and engage in daredevil heroics both to sate their curiosity and entertain their human companions. The Singapura is also one of the breeds that don’t shed much at all. Tiny but rare, these cats can cost between $1,200 and $1,500.
Our research shows that the top eight tiniest cats are as follows:
- Rusty-Sptted Cat
- Himalayan (Persian)
- Devon Rex