At first glance, it’s easy to toss cats into the “small pet” category. While there are many small cat breeds, the large cat breeds on this list make a very good case for adding felines to the “big pet” category. They certainly aren’t lion-sized, but many are larger than the petite wild cats found around the world. While all domesticated cats retain and display plenty of their wild cat instincts, the kitties on this list actually make excellent pets. (Though we will note that the cat will likely see you as the pet, not the other way around.)
Domesticated vs. Wild Cats
Pet cats are only domesticated to a certain degree. This is perhaps the most important fact to remember when deciding on a breed or considering owning a cat as a pet. In fact, domesticated cat DNA is shockingly similar to wild cat DNA.
In his book Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life, John Gray writes that cats essentially joined human society “on their own terms” thousands of years ago. Even after all that time with cats and people living and working together, domesticated felines remain largely untamed in their behavior and instincts. They hunt, they eat meat, they adapt to changing environments and they don’t adhere to hierarchies. Lions are the only big cats known to live in groups. Since felines prefer solo lifestyles, they aren’t programmed to establish a leader like canines are. This is why it’s hard to teach a cat to respond to commands; they literally don’t respect you as their alpha leader. Humbling, isn’t it?
Owning a Large Cat Breed
Large cat breeds may require more attention than small cat breeds, simply because they need more space to meet their wild cat impulses. This gets tricky if you plan to keep the cat indoors and you live in a confined space. But don’t rush to introduce your cat to the great outdoors just yet.
The National Wildlife Federation says controversy is a-brewin’ over allowing domesticated cats to be outdoor cats. Cats are natural hunters, so (duh) they hunt when outside. Conservation groups argue that house cat hunting habits have decimated local bird and wildlife populations. Organizations and shelters, especially those operating in urban areas, often advise against letting pet cats roam free. This has more to do with the many dangers a cat encounters in a city (broken glass, excessive traffic, garbage rats) than local wildlife, but is still a good case for keeping cats inside.
If you go the indoor cat route with any sized breed, you essentially have to recreate outdoor activities inside. Breeds predisposed to climb trees will need tall cat towers with perches as high as possible. Scratching posts are necessary to keep nails trim, expel energy and mark territory. Interactive toys will be crucial to mimicking hunts and keeping your kitty’s brain sharp. Pro tip: Using a laser pointer can be a fun way to send your cat on a thrilling hunting expedition; just make sure you set up rewards along the way.
When it comes to grooming, less is more. Cats groom themselves. While brushing long-haired cats is wise to ensure they don’t develop mats or tangles, bathing cats isn’t necessary unless they’re covered in something nasty. Pay attention to your cat’s body language during the grooming process (and on an everyday basis) to monitor their health and happiness. They’ll let you know if you’ve overstepped your boundaries.
Joint issues tend to plague large cats more so than their small breed counterparts. If your cat has difficulty walking or jumping, ask your vet to perform an x-ray. Symptoms like these could mean hip dysplasia or luxating patella, a kneecap disorder.
Another trait unique to many large cat breeds is how slowly they reach full maturity. Most of the cats on our list don’t fully mature until three years old; some won’t be there until their fifth birthday. If you’re really in the market for the biggest cat possible, choose a male cat, since males are notably bigger than females both in height and weight.
Finally, choose a breed ideal for your lifestyle. Everyone wants something different when it comes to a pet. Large cat breeds vary widely in terms of temperament, activity level, personality and size. Research the breed before welcoming them home—otherwise you could find yourself experiencing more lion behavior than you bargained for.
1. BRITISH SHORTHAIR
Height: 12-14 inches
Weight: 7-12 pounds (females), 9-17 pounds (males)
Coat: Short, dense
Color: Various (known for blue-grey)
Life expectancy: 12-20 years
Personality: Adaptable, affectionate
The British Shorthair is a calm breed, unafraid of showing affection and very fond of cuddling. They make excellent pets for families with kids who want a live teddy bear or seniors who want an easy-going companion. More often than not, you’ll find a British Shorthair in a blue-grey coat, but they do come in a variety of colors and patterns. Invest in more cushy beds than cat condos with this nap-friendly breed at home.
Height: 13-17 inches
Weight: 8-13 pounds (females), 13-19 pounds (males)
Coat: Short, dense
Color: Brown, tan
Life Expectancy: 12-18 years
Personality: Smart, adventurous
Be sure to provide plenty of nooks and crannies for a Chausie to explore if you bring one home. These smarty cats like learning (which is impressive), so don’t be afraid to teach tricks or harness train them for adventures outdoors. Since Chausies are very active, they may need to consume more calories than, say, the sedentary British Shorthair. They’re like little cougars exploring their kingdoms!
3. MAINE COON
Height: 10-16 inches
Weight: 12-15 pounds (females), 18-25 pounds (males)
Coat: Long, silky
Life expectancy: 12-20 years
Personality: Sweet, smart
Maine Coons are sturdy, furry cats built to weather harsh winters in the American Northeast. Despite their domineering appearance, including big ears and lengthy tails, Maine Coons are some of the best cats for kids. Their playful, friendly dispositions and desire to be included in all activities make them sociable pets.
4. NORWEGIAN FOREST
Height: 9-12 inches
Weight: 8-12 pounds (females), 12-18 pounds (males)
Coat: Long, double coat, coarse
Color: Various (known for white and tabby mix)
Life Expectancy: 13-20 years
Personality: Independent, loving
The Cat Fanciers Association says having scratching posts and climbing towers for Norwegian Forest Cats is a must. It’s said these cats roamed Viking ships to keep rodents away. Today, they are loving family members who need a space to call their own. When they’re in the mood, they’ll snuggle, but don’t force it. Just enjoy their company (because they’ll probably follow you everywhere).
Height: 9-13 inches
Weight: 9-11 pounds (females), 11-14 pounds (males)
Coat: Thick double coat, Long- and short-haired varieties
Color: Brown, tan, tabby
Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
Personality: Active, loyal
Pixiebob cats do well in households with kids and other pets. Their sense of adventure and willingness to join in the fun make them excellent playmates. With bobbed tails and thick double coats, Pixiebobs need extra attention in the grooming department—brush regularly to keep their coats mat-free.
Height: 10-15 inches
Weight: 8-13 pounds (females), 14-20 pounds (males)
Coat: Medium to long, soft, dense
Life expectancy: 12-16 years
Personality: Patient, doting
Another cat that gels well with kiddos is the Ragamuffin. Similar to British Shorthairs, Ragamuffins make great companions for introverts and seniors. These kitties are cuddlers and enjoy lots of playtime with their favorite person, so invest in toys. Due to their tendency to love and trust easily, it’s strongly advised to keep Ragamuffins as indoor cats.
Height: 9-11 inches
Weight: 10-15 pounds (females), 15-20 pounds (males)
Coat: Long, soft
Color: White bodies, pointed markings
Life expectancy: 13-18 years
Personality: Sweet, patient
As one of the most affectionate cat breeds out there, Ragdolls are ideal for folks with children or those who are in need of a loving therapy cat. Unlike British Shorthairs, these felines enjoy (or at least tolerate) being picked up and carried around. To avoid obesity in Ragdolls, engage them in interactive playtime. Bright blue eyes are a stunning feature of these big cats.
Height: 10-17 inches
Weight: 11-20 pounds (females), 13-23 pounds (males)
Coat: Short- to medium-length, coarse
Color: Black and brown spotted
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Personality: Energetic, outgoing
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the three most recent Tallest Domestic Cat winners have been Savannahs. While many large cat breeds on our list are known for their weight, these felines are long and lanky. Bred by combining domestic cats with wild African servals, it’s no wonder these bold animals have energy to spare. They’re also not legal in all 50 U.S. states due to their ancestry. Savannahs value high perches and new adventures.
Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: 12-20 pounds
Coat: Long, triple-layered
Color: Various colors and patterns
Life expectancy: 10-18 years
Personality: Intelligent, mellow
Touted for their physical strength, these cats are also big softies. Native to Russia, their long, triple-layered coats provide warmth and protection. (Some folks with cat allergies have found Siberians to be hypoallergenic, though this can vary person to person.) Mellow and gentle, Siberian cats enjoy regular playtime with their families. Their intelligence also makes them sneaky little devils who can figure out a way into any space they want.
10. TURKISH VAN
Height: 10-14 inches
Weight: 10-20 pounds
Coat: Medium to long, soft
Color: White with red, cream, black or blue markings on the head and tail
Life expectancy: 13-17 years
Personality: Social, smart
Turkish Van cats have lots of personality. These active felines are constantly on the move, looking for their next adventure. Any toys with a mental challenge component help Turkish Vans avoid boredom. Get ready to spot them on top of bookshelves, as they love heights. These gorgeous cats are fairly rare, so count your blessings if you meet (or adopt!) one.