Portrait of Aegean cat breed
Aegean cat on a chair
Close up of Aegean cat breed
Close up of Aegean cat breed on a windowsill
Native to the Greek islands known as the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, these are natural cats, meaning they developed without humans getting involved in their breeding. As a breed, Aegean Cats are rare, although they are numerous on their home islands.If you have ever vacationed on the Greek islands of Andros, Delos, Mykonos, Naxos or Santorini, you may have noticed these medium-sized, semilonghaired cats hanging around fishing boats, resting in the shade of a cafe chair or sunning themselves on a balcony.

The Aegean Cat, named for the surrounding sea, is thought to be one of the oldest types of domesticated cats. He can be a pet in his home country, but some live a feral life, existing on their own hunting prowess or handouts from fishermen.

These cats are not yet recognized by any cat registries, so it’s unlikely you will find them being bred as pets. Most people in North America who have one probably brought their pet back from a Greek vacation.

Other Quick Facts

  • Aegean Cats have a lean, muscular body covered with a bicolor or tricolor coat that is white with black, red, blue or cream. Some have tabby markings.
  • The Aegean has almond-shaped, green eyes.

The History of Aegean Cats

Aegean Cats likely go back many millennia. Archaeologists have found evidence that early domesticated cats lived on the island of Cyprus, a neighbor of Greece, some 10,000 years ago. It seems reasonable that over the years, some of those cats migrated to Greece on fishing or trading vessels, where they were no doubt welcomed for their mousing ability. Aegeans may also be related to Turkish cat breeds such as the Angora.

The cats, common in their homeland, have been recognized as a distinct breed only in the past couple of decades. Some consider them a Greek national treasure. So far, they have not been recognized by any cat registries such as The Cat Fanciers Association or The International Cat Association.    

Aegean Cat Temperament and Personality

Aegean Cats tend to be smart and lively, with good communication skills. They are generally friendly toward people and can be excellent cats for families with children.

True to their heritage as island cats, Aegeans don’t disdain water and may even go fishing for themselves. Consider this cat if you’ve always wanted a feline fishing buddy. If you have an aquarium or koi pond, however, you might want to make sure its denizens are protected from a curious cat with a grasping paw.

The Aegean Cat usually likes being part of the family and is well suited to most types of homes. He’ll appreciate having an enclosed outdoor area where he can climb or lie out in the sun, but he shouldn’t be allowed to roam.    

What You Need to Know About Aegean Cat Health

All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on her kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

That said, Aegean Cats are generally healthy. Because they are not products of selective breeding, they may be less likely to carry genetic diseases. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to choose a breeder who provides a written health guarantee against genetic disease in the first two years of the cat’s life.

Remember that after you take a new kitten into your home, you have the power to help protect him from one of the most common feline health problems: obesity. Keeping an Aegean Cat at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to protect his overall health.    

The Basics of Aegean Cat Grooming

The Aegean Cat has a semilonghaired coat. In spring, he typically sheds excess hair for a cool, summer hairdo. Cats who live indoors, however, tend to shed some year-round. That’s because they live in artificial light conditions, which affects the growth cycle of their fur. Brush your Aegean Cat weekly with a wire slicker brush to remove dead hair.

The only other grooming the Aegean Cat requires is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning. Brush his teeth often at home with a vet-approved pet toothpaste, and schedule veterinary dental cleanings as needed. Start brushing, nail trimming and teeth brushing early, so your kitten accepts these activities.    

Finding an Aegean Cat

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your cat from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing an Aegean Cat Breeder

Probably the best way to acquire an Aegean Cat is to go to Greece and bring one home with you. It’s unlikely that you will find anyone in North America (or Greece, for that matter) who actually breeds the cats. If you are bringing a cat or kitten back from Greece, he will need to have an International Health Certificate from a veterinarian stating that he is healthy and in good condition to be transported by air. This form is not required for entry into the U.S., but may be required by the airline or by certain states. The cat may also need a valid rabies vaccination certificate unless he is from an area that is considered to be free of rabies, is younger than 4 months or is traveling to a state that does not require the vaccination. The vaccine should be given at least 30 days before departure. With the exception of Hawaii and Guam, there is no quarantine for pets arriving in the U.S. from overseas. You may be required to fill out a form or present your paperwork at customs before departing with your cat. Your cat may also be inspected on entry and can be refused if he shows signs of infectious disease or other illness.

On the other hand, if you do happen to run across a breeder, put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It can save you money and frustration in the long run.

A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in her home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store or another source, don’t forget the adage “let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals) and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization or other reliable source for healthy kittens.

Be patient. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to become available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.

Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Aegean Cat might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.

Adopting a Cat From an Aegean Cat Rescue Group or Shelter

The Aegean is not your everyday shelter cat, but sometimes a cat ends up at a shelter or in a foster home after losing his home due to an owner’s death, divorce or change in economic situation. 

Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an Aegean Cat in your area in no time. These sites allow you to be very specific in your requests (housebreaking status, for example) or very general (all the Aegean Cats available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page or Twitter feed that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with pet pros in your area about your desire for an Aegean Cat. That includes vets, cat sitters and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask his or her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescues

Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Aegean Cats love all Aegean Cats. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. You can also search online for Aegean Cat rescues in your area.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with the staff at a shelter or rescue group before you bring home a cat. These include:

  • What is his energy level like?
  • How is he around other animals?
  • How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
  • What is his personality like?
  • What is his age?
  • Is he litterbox-trained?
  • Has he ever bitten or scratched anyone?
  • Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Aegean Cat, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopter’s Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a cat from a shelter. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.

Kitten or adult, take your Aegean Cat to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and work with you to set up a preventive regimen that can help you avoid many health issues.