Photo by Jackie O
What is a rare cat breed? There is no simple answer to this question. We will assume that a rare cat breed is a breed that fits at least one of the following criteria:

1) it has a rare colour combination or pattern;
2) it is difficult to find the breeder (you may not even find one in your country);
3) it's a newly recognized cat breed.

Rare breeds face many issues and challenges, such as the management of small gene pools, inbreeding avoidance, the necessity to import new blood lines from different countries, investigating health issues, promotion of the breeds and so on.

It's important to realize that a breed rare in one part of the world may be more common in another part.

Here's a list of some rare cat breeds. Have you heard of them?

Aegean cat - a medium size cat with predominantly white coat, native to Greece.
American Bobtail - a relatively new breed with a stubby tail, which is about a third to half the length of a normal cat's tail.
American Wirehair - a medium to large size cat with a dense, coarse wavy coat. Less demanding than other curly haired cat breeds.
American Curl - a cat recognized by its curled ears, which is a result of a natural genetic mutation.
American Keuda - a new breed whose name is acronym for "Kitten Evaluation Under Direct Assessment".
Australian Mist - a cross between Burmese, Abyssinian, and Domestic Shorthaired cats.
Balinese - a cat with the same physical characteristics as the Siamese, with the difference in coat length (Balinese cats are longhair).
British Semi-Longhair (Lowlander) - a semi-longhair variety of the British Shorthair cat.
Burmilla - a new breed, a cross between the Chinchilla Persian and the Burmese.
California Spangled cat - a cat that looks like a small leopard but that has no wild blood in its ancestry.
Chantilly-Tiffany cat - a longhair cat with a very silky coat that comes in black (the rarest), chocolate (the most common), blue, cinnamon, lilac, and fawn colours.
Chartreux - a cat with very prominent whisker pads that make you think it is smiling.
Chausie - a large cat with a wild look that is a result of breeding a domestic cat with a Jungle Cat (Felis chaus).
Cheetoh - a cross between the Bengal and Ocicat.
Cornish Rex - a relatively new breed with a unique curly coat that has no guard hair.
Cymric cat - a longhair variety of the Manx cat.
Dragon Li - a natural self-domesticating breed from the wildcat subspecies of the Chinese Mountain Cat.
German Rex - a cat with a curly coat that is shorter and more spiky than that of the Cornish Rex.
Japanese Bobtail - a cat with a stubby tail that should not exceed three inches from the body.
Javanese cat - a cat similar to the Balinese but with different coat colours allowed.
Korat - a green eyed cat native to Thailand.
Kurilian Bobtail - a cat that comes from Russia and has a short, bushy tail shaped like a whisk, a spiral, or a snag.
LaPerm - a curly haired cat that can be both shorthair and longhair.
Manx - a medium to large tailless cat breed that comes from Isle of Man (Great Britain).
Munchkin - a small to medium cat with short legs as its most distinctive feature.
Nebelung - a cat that resembles the Russian Blue but comes in a longer coat.
Ojos Azules - a black cat with bright blue eyes.
Oriental Longhair - a muscular but graceful breed with Oriental Shorthair, Balinese and Siamese heritage.
Peterbald - a cat that is born with hair but that loses its coat as it matures.
Pixie-Bob - a cat with a short tail that does not carry any Bobcat genes; the only breed which standards allow polydactyly.
Ragamuffin - a cat that resembles the Ragdoll but comes in any coat colour and pattern.
Russian White, Black and Tabby - cats with the same physical characteristics as the Russian Blue but with different coat colours.
Savannah - a cross between a domestic cat and a Serval - a medium-sized, large-eared wild African cat.
Selkirk Rex - a curly haired breed native to the USA.
Serengeti cat - a cross between the Bengal and the Oriental Shorthair.
Singapura - one of the smallest cat breeds in the world.
Skookum - a cross between the LaPerm and Munchkin.
Snowshoe - a cross between the Siamese and the American Shorthair cat. Snowshoes are sometimes considered a shorthair version of the Ragdoll cat.
Sokoke - a wild looking cat native to Kenya.
Tiffanie - a semi-longhair Asian cat.
Toyger - a cross between a striped Domestic Shorthaired Cat and a Standard Bengal Tabby.
Turkish Van - a large longhair cat native to Turkey.
Ukrainian Levkoy - a hairless cat with folded ears just like those in the Scottish Fold.
Ussuri - a wild looking cat native to Russia.

The rarest cat breeds include Highlander Cat, Elf cat, and Lambkin Dwarf.
The Highlander cat has ears that are folded backwards. The breed has been in development since 2004. It descends from the Highland Lynx, the Desert Lynx and the Jungle Curl. All of them are wild cat hybrids, mixes of wild and domestic cats.
The Elf cat has ears curled backwards, too, but Elf cats are hairless.
The Lambkin Dwarf is a lamb-looking cross between the Munchkin and the Selkirk Rex.