Conformation: Muscle and bone are what designs the conformation. The 244 bones in the feline skeleton lend support and substance to a cat's body while protecting its internal organs. In some breeds bone is sturdy as an oak; in others it is very delicate. In every breed bone is decorated in wreaths of muscle. By conducting an electrical impulse, and then through a series of chemical transformations, converting that impulse into contractions, muscle produces movement and, ultimately, the gracefulness that characterizes the cat.
Ears: A cat's ears are decorative as well as functional. They make statements in addition to receiving them. There is no mistaking the message intended by a cat when its ears are pinned back. The upper limit of a cat's hearing is higher than a dog's and almost two octaves higher than ours. From a distance of three feet, cats can discriminate between sources of sound that are as little as three inches apart.
Eyes: Round, almond shaped, or in between, the cat's eye reflects a mysterious luster. Cats are the most efficient gleaners of light. Their pupils can dilate to a soulful, ½ inch width or narrow to the most inscrutable slit. Cats cannot see in absolute darkness, nor are they absolutely color blind though they can see red only in the emotional sense. They are, in addition, somewhat farsighted. Their depth of field is in sharpest focus between seven and twenty feet.
Size: The difference between the largest breed of cat, the Ragdoll, and the smallest, the Singapura, is a little more than a dozen pounds and less than one square foot at the extreme; while the difference between the longest and the shortest facial profiles is about two inches. Most other breeds fall into the one-size-fits-all category. Yet within these limits, more than forty breeds have been defined.
Length of coat: There are twenty-seven shorthaired breeds and seventeen longhaired ones. Seven pair of breeds are separated by the gene for coat length: Abyssinian/ Somali, Colorpoint Shorthair/Javanese, Exotic Shorthair/Persian, Manx/Cymric, Oriental Shorthair/ Oriental Longhair, Scottish Fold/Scottish Fold Longhair, Siamese/Balinese. Coat length also relegates cats into shorthair or longhair specialty rings at shows, except in the Cat Fanciers' Association, where specialty rings are determined by facial type and body conformation.
Type of coat: Hair grows from tiny pits in the skin called follicles. Primary or guard hairs, the longest ones in a cat's coat, grow from individual follicles. Secondary hairs, usually classified as awn hairs (bristly tipped and medium in length) or down hairs (fine, crinkled, and short in length) grow in groups from single openings. Grooming needs are determined not so much by coat length as by coat type. Breeds with thick undercoats (awn and down hairs) are more likely to mat, hence require more attention than breeds with less profuse undercoats.
Tail: Cats' tails range from long, thin, and whip-like to short, thick, and plume-like. The Siamese' tail ends somewhere over the rainbow, while the Manx' tail stops before it begins. The Japanese Bobtail's tail is curled, corkscrewed, and looks like a pom-pom. Cats use their tails as balancing poles and to keep their noses warm when they sleep.