Photo by © Bonni Taylor

Highlander - Breed Profile:

Origin: United States
Colors: Any
Size: Medium to large
Coat Type(s): Shorthair and longhair
Grooming: Weekly
Talkativeness: Quiet
Activity Level: High
Attention Requirement: High
Overall: Moderately docile

The entire look of the Highlander is very striking and can easily steal your heart. But the treats you will most probably notice first are its curled ears and its short tail.

Physical characteristics

The Highlander is a medium to large cat with a powerful body, medium boning, and very good musculature. The body appears rectangular in shape, with the back legs being slightly longer than the front legs. The feet are large, with prominent knuckles. Longhair Highlanders have toe tufts. Some individuals can have polydactyl feet, but this feature is disqualifying for show cats. The full muzzle looks a bit boxy. The large whisker pads rest on the deep and strong chin. The forehead is long and sloping. The head appears longer than wide. The medium to large eyes are set well apart. Their colour doesn't usually depend on the coat colour.
The top third of the ears has a loose relaxed curl directed slightly backwards. According to the TICA breed standard, the tips of the ears to be clearly visible in a frontal view, ie they should not fold back into a tight curl. Kittens, however, may have a greater degree of the ear curl.
The tail is another distinctive feature of Highlanders. It is naturally short and thick; the bone length should be 2 inches at minimum (in adults), but it should not exceed past the hock. It can be perfectly straight or have twists and kinks.
The Highlander tends to be confused with the American Curl. Roughly speaking, the short tail is the main feature to look at when you want to distinguish the two breeds. Besides, the Highlander's ears have more of a vertical crimp rather than a horizontal one. Having this vertical crimp makes the ears stand tall and open.
The average weight of Highlander cats is 14 pounds. Males are proportionally larger than females.


Highlanders are known to be very loving, adaptable, and devoted cats. They are pretty clownish, so they will often make you smile with their antics. Relatively quiet, they nonetheless have a high energy level that needs to be drained daily with active games such as chasing. Make sure there's a good toy supply in a house with a Highlander. Highlanders thrive on human attention and interaction, they love being the center of attention and greet everyone at the door. This breed usually gets on well with children and other pets.

Coat and grooming

Highlanders can be both short haired and long haired. The texture of the coat depends on its colour. It is usually dense and resilient in the short haired variety and a little shaggy in the long haired variety. In longhairs, the hair on the tummy is slightly longer than that on the rest of the body. Weekly brushing is necessary to keep the coat in a good condition. Longhairs need to be brushed more frequently.


The breed is still very new, so more research should be done to determine possible health issues. However, so far the breeders have been reporting that the mutated gene that produces the curled ears does not bring any other unwanted physical characteristics (defects). The ears should be cleaned once a week.
The average lifespan of Highlander cats is 10 to 15 years.

Other interesting facts

The breed was started in 2004 in the United States. Its ancestors include the Highland Lynx, the Desert Lynx and the Jungle Curl, all being wild cat hybrids (mixes of wild and domestic cats). The breeders tried to create a domestic cat with a powerful "big cat" look. In 2005, the name Highlander was settled on and breeders focused on defining the breed's characteristics. The breed is currently recognized by TICA. It is a very rare breed.