Cats are beloved for their grace, agility, and mysterious nature. While there are many different cat breeds in the world, some stand out for their elegantly long legs that give them a distinctive look. Long legged cats seem to glide as they walk, jump higher than average, and their physiques convey a sense of power and speed.
For cat lovers interested in adopting one of these eye-catching felines, it helps to understand their backgrounds, characteristics, care needs, and which breeds have the longest legs.
An Overview of Long Legged Cats
Most long legged cat breeds originated from cross-breeding wild cats, like the African Serval, with domestic cat breeds. Wild cats naturally have longer legs that help them hunt prey and survive in the wild, so crossing them with domestic cats introduced the long-legged trait.
The length of the legs compared to their bodies gives these cats some key advantages:
- Increased running speed – Their elongated limbs let them cover more ground with each stride. Some long legged breeds like the Egyptian Mau can run over 30 mph.
- Powerful jumping – Having taller rear legs with greater strength allows them to leap high up onto trees, furniture, fences, etc.
- Agility – Their lean and flexible bodies paired with lengthier legs makes them very agile. They can swiftly dodge, weave, and climb.
So why were these wild-domestic cat crosses bred in the first place? Mostly for their exotic appearance, but also to create cats with more speed, power, and agility compared to the average house cat.
Key Takeaway: Long legged cats originated from crossing wild cats with domestic breeds. Their long limbs equip them for speed and agility.
History of Long Legged Cats
Cats have been bred for certain traits for centuries. While some breeds can be traced back over 1,000 years, most modern long legged cat breeds originated more recently. Let’s look at some of the origins.
In the 1980s, a Siamese cat was crossed with an African Serval to produce the first Savannah kitten in 1986. This wild-domestic breed combines the Serval’s long legs with a domestic cat’s friendlier temperament. The breed was named after that first kitten and was later registered by TICA in 2001.
Bengal cats were developed in the 1960s and 70s by breeding Asian Leopard Cats with domestic shorthairs. The Leopard Cat lent the Bengal its long legs, muscular build, and vivid coat patterns.
This breed descended from the ancestral Siamese. It was recognized as a stand-alone breed in the 20th century. The Oriental preserved the elegant, flexible body on long legs of the Siamese.
A newer hybrid breed first developed in the 1990s, the Serengeti combines the Bengal and Oriental Shorthair. It was bred to have the look of wild cats while acting like a domestic.
This natural landrace breed originated in Egypt. It is one of the few naturally spotted domestic breeds. The Mau’s long legs served it well historically for hunting ducks along the Nile river.
So while not all long legged cats were artificially created by breeders, many were developed fairly recently by crossing wild and domestic cats.
Top Long Legged Cat Breeds
Now that we’ve covered some background on these uniquely leggy cats, let’s look at specific long legged cat breeds and their characteristics.
- Origins: Serval x domestic shorthair (1980s)
- Size: 14-22 inches tall
- Appearance: Tall, long-legged, spotted or marbled coat
- Temperament: Active, social, dog-like
The Savannah Cat holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest domestic cat breed. With its long Serval legs, large ears, and exotic coat, the Savannah is one of the most striking of the long legged breeds.
It is an active, intelligent, and social breed often described as “dog-like”. Savannahs require lots of exercise and interactive play daily. Their wild heritage also means they may become bored and destructive if under-stimulated.
- Origins: Natural landrace breed
- Size: 12-16 inches tall
- Appearance: Slender legs, ticked coat in ruddy/reddish hues
- Temperament: Active, social, vocal
The Abyssinian is a moderately sized cat but has noticeably long legs for its body size. It has a distinctly ticked coat and fox-like face.
This is one of the most active and athletic breeds. Abyssinians love heights and need cat trees or high perches. They thrive when they can run, jump, and play. This social breed enjoys being involved in family activities.
- Origins: Asian Leopard Cat x domestic shorthair (1960s)
- Size: 10-16 inches tall
- Appearance: Muscular, vividly spotted/marbled coat
- Temperament: Energetic, confident, needs mental stimulation
With its wild cat looks and strong, athletic build, the Bengal pulls off the “long legs” look very well.
A highly intelligent and active breed, Bengals needs interactive play and puzzle toys to be happy. They also require a home that can provide lots of vertical space for climbing and perching up high.
This breed bonds closely with its family but tends to choose a favorite human. Bengals also often get along well with dogs.
- Origins: Siamese ancestry
- Size: 8-14 inches tall
- Appearance: Long, tubular body; large ears; variety of coat colors
- Temperament: Intelligent, vocal, affectionate
The elegant and flexible Oriental Shorthair cut a distinct silhouette with its long, tubular body supported by lengthy legs.
While an energetic and athletic breed, Orientals also love cuddling in laps when playtime is over. Their affectionate nature and intelligence means they thrive when kept engaged mentally and physically.
The talkative Oriental will carry on whole conversations in a loud, raspy voice. If left alone frequently, these social cats may become destructive.
- Origins: Bengal x Oriental Shorthair (1990s)
- Size: 8-10 inches tall
- Appearance: Long neck and legs, short coat with spots/marbling
- Temperament: Active, vocal, seeks attention
This hybrid cat was bred to resemble the African Serval’s exotic looks by combining a Bengal and Oriental Shorthair. The mix created a medium-sized cat with a long, muscular body perched on notably lengthy legs.
Serengetis love climbing to high spots and running – fast! Owners of this active breed need to provide ample playtime and interactive toys daily. These ultra-social cats do best in a home where someone is frequently around to give them attention.
- Origins: Natural landrace breed of Egypt
- Size: 8-13 inches tall
- Appearance: Spotted coat, cowlicks on shoulders
- Temperament: Active, loyal, sensitive to cold
The Egyptian Mau’s claim to fame is being the fastest domestic cat. Its longer hind legs paired with its flexible spine and shoulders allow it to reach recorded speeds over 30 mph when running.
This breed makes a devoted companion but demands your attention – Maus don’t do well left alone for long periods. Since they dislike cold, Maus are best suited to temperate or warmer climates if kept as indoor/outdoor cats.
- Origins: Jungle cat x Abyssinian (1990s)
- Size: 14-15 inches tall
- Appearance: Solid brown, ticked tabby, or black coats
- Temperament: Energetic, intelligent, sometimes wary with strangers
Bred from a jungle cat hybrid, the Chausie inherited its wild parent’s long legs and muscled body. This large cat needs lots of activity and plenty of environmental enrichment.
Chausies thrive when given access to outdoor enclosed spaces for climbing and roaming. Though energetic and athletic, they can be reserved initially around new people but are very devoted and loyal once bonds have formed.
- Origins: Natural mutation (1950s)
- Size: 8-10 inches tall
- Appearance: Curly coat, slender long-legged body
- Temperament: Playful, adventurous, loves people
The Cornish Rex sports a lean but sturdy long-legged body covered in a short, velvety soft curly coat. This breed looks like a miniature Greyhound.
These cats stay playful and kittenish their entire lives. Cornish Rexes form strong bonds with their families and hate being ignored – they even play fetch! This adventurous breed stays on the go and loves to explore high up spots.
Unique Attributes of Long Legged Cats
Beyond just looks, long legged breeds share some traits and characteristics in common:
- Agility – Their legs allow for greater freedom of movement and agility. They often enjoy leaping, climbing, running, etc.
- Athleticism – Most long legged breeds are highly active and benefit from daily exercise and playtime. Interactive toys are ideal.
- Intelligence – Many of these breeds are quite smart and can learn tricks or even walk on leashes. Mental stimulation is key.
- Outgoing Personalities – While individual personalities vary, most of these cats are highly social, form close bonds, and don’t like to be frequently alone.
- Prone to Weight Gain – Leggy cats are built for speed and activity. Overfeeding can be detrimental as their legs are not meant for excess weight.
So if considering one of these breeds, be prepared for an intelligent, energetic, and athletic cat that thrives on lots of interaction and activity! A sedentary home is not recommended for most long legged cats.
Caring for Long Legged Cats
While their longer legs don’t lead to many specialized care needs, some things to keep in mind when living with these cats include:
- Large scratching posts and cat trees, preferably ceiling height, to fully stretch and scratch
- Baby gates on stairs in homes with multiple levels to prevent falls (until they learn)
- Daily interactive play sessions – wand toys and fetch are great activities
- Puzzle toys to keep their agile minds engaged when alone
- Weight management – avoid free-feeding and overtreats
- For exotic hybrids like Savannahs and Bengals, cat-proofing your home of valuables and securing wires
- Access to a screened porch or outdoor enclosure for fresh air and watching birds
Otherwise standard high-quality cat care applies to these breeds – regular vet visits, vaccines, parasite prevention, a balanced diet, grooming, etc. Ultimately, adapting a home to meet their high activity needs is key to keeping these athletic cats happy.
Are Long Legged Cats Right for You?
Before getting one of these eye-catching felines, reflect on your lifestyle and home to see if they make a good match. Some key considerations:
- Home Size – Larger spaces allow for more running, climbing, and playing
- Activity Level – These breeds need engaged owners willing to provide daily interaction and playtime
- Time – Most long legged cats thrive on companionship and don’t like being frequently left alone
- Existing Pets – Proper introductions are key, some can live peacefully with cat-friendly dogs
- Children – Most do great with gentle kids but supervision is always advised with any pet
- Expenses – Some hybrid breeds like Savannahs and Bengals have higher upfront costs and care expenses
If you lead an active lifestyle, enjoy interacting and playing with pets daily, and can cat-proof dangers in your home, a long legged cat may be an excellent fit! Their elegance and energetic spirit will bring new life to any home.
Interesting Facts About Long Legged Cats
- The ancestor of many long legged breeds is the African Serval, a wild cat with the longest legs relative to its size of any feline
- Savannah cats hold the Guinness World Record for tallest domestic cat, measuring up to 22 inches at the shoulder
- The Egyptian Mau can run over 30 mph, swifter than any other domesticated cat
- Bengal cats are able to jump to heights of 8 feet or more thanks to their muscular legs
- Having longer rear legs improves jumping power while longer front legs increases running speed
- Leggy cats are built to run – their long tails aid balance and their flexible spines allow their legs to move farther on each stride
- Abyssinians and other ticked tabby breeds contract their leg muscles faster allowing them to spring higher
- The bodies of flexible long legged cats can fit through surprisingly small spaces given their height
- Wild cat hybrids like the Savannah and Bengal are illegal to own in some regions without permits
- Longer legs don’t necessarily make a breed larger overall – leggy cats come in small to large sizes
Observing these agile cats leap, run, climb, and play reveals why their leggy builds give them physical advantages. When paired with their energetic and social personalities, long legged cats make for fascinating companions.
Unique Health Considerations
For the most part, long legged breeds are robust with few additional health concerns attributed specifically to their longer legs. Some considerations:
- Leg and paw injuries – Their narrow ankles and small paws are vulnerable if they jump down from heights over 4 feet. Kittens should be supervised.
- Hip dysplasia – Issues with the hip socket can crop up in some lines since longer legs alter hip geometry and biomechanics. Reputable breeders screen for this.
- Patellar luxation – Loose kneecaps are occasionally seen in some individuals, likely from genetic causes. Mild cases often don’t require treatment.
- Hereditary myopathy – Muscle disorders have been documented in some breed lines, causing pain and difficulty moving. Working with responsible breeders minimizes risks.
With proper care and precautions, most long legged cats enjoy excellent mobility and joint health into their senior years. But owners should be aware of signs of injuries or pain requiring veterinary attention.
Choosing a Long Legged Cat
For those set on sharing their home with one of these graceful, regal cats there are steps to take:
- Research breeds to find the best temperament, activity level, and size for your lifestyle
- Contact reputable breeders or rescue groups and ask questions to confirm kittens and cats come from healthy lines
- Arrange a veterinary exam for new arrivals to establish a baseline of health for your records
- Cat-proof potential hazards in your home and install perches or shelving for climbing prior to adoption
- Thoroughly introduce existing pets and teach children how to properly handle cats
- Commit to providing daily exercise, playtime, affection, proper nutrition, and routine veterinary care
Following these best practices helps set the stage for an enjoyable, lifelong relationship with your new long legged friend.
Are all long legged cats large breeds?
No, while some long legged breeds like the Savannah and Maine Coon are quite large, others like the Cornish Rex and Singapura are smaller cats. Leg length seems independent overall size and small cats can also have fashionably long legs.
Do long legged cats have health problems?
Most long legged breeds are not predisposed to issues specifically due to leg length. Responsible breeding minimizes joint disorders. Kittens shouldn’t be allowed to jump from heights over 4 feet to avoid injuries. Proper nutrition and exercising also promotes joint health.
What’s the best cat tree for long legged cats?
Tall cat trees around 6 feet let long legged cats fully stretch and scratch. Large platforms allow room for lounging. Sturdy posts wrapped in sisal or other textures give scratching surfaces. Indoor trees with multiple tiers keep them occupied for hours.
Are long legged cats fast?
Yes, breeds like the Egyptian Mau, Savannah, and Bengal can run 30 mph or more. Having longer legs leads to both faster sprinting and greater endurance at distance. Their wildcat ancestors needed speed to catch prey on expansive African plains and grasslands.
Are long legged cats good jumpers?
Absolutely! Longer rear legs contain bigger muscles to power upward leaps. Bengal cats can jump over 8 feet high. Having springy, strong back legs lets them easily jump onto high ledges and perches. Front leg length influences jumping less.
Do long legged cats need outdoor access?
Access to an enclosed patio or yard provides welcome extra space for zoomy cats to run and climb safely. But leggy cats can get all the activity they need indoors with interactive play, cat trees, and catios. Outdoor access is optional – focus more on meeting their daily exercise needs.
The elegantly long-limbed cat breeds profiled here exemplify feline grace and agility. Their histories trace back to wild ancestors like the lightning-fast African Serval. By crossing these wild cats with domestic breeds.
Long legged hybrids like the Savannah, Bengal, and others emerged. Beyond aesthetics, their lengthy legs grant them superior speed and jumping compared to average cats.
Yet despite athletic talents, these breeds still seek human companionship once exercise needs are met. For people able to provide vigorous daily activity and environmental enrichment, sharing life with one of these cats could lead to a wonderfully enriching relationship.