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Home > Cats > Cat Breeds > Chinese Dragon Li (Chinese Li Hua Cat): Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Chinese Dragon Li (Chinese Li Hua Cat): Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Chinese Dragon Li Cat

The Chinese Dragon Li cat, also known as the Chinese Li Hua, is a gorgeous short-haired cat originally from the area we associate with modern China. These adorable felines tend to be fantastic hunters and are often used as ratters! But they’re also known for being extremely friendly and quite loving.

Breed Overview


10–14 inches


9–12 pounds


12–15 years


Tabby, gold, black, brown

Suitable for:

Active families, including those with children and other pets


Sweet, loyal, smart, and fun

The ancestry of the Li Hua cat is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but recent evidence suggests the cats may be descendants of wild felines that essentially domesticated themselves around 5,300 years ago in southwestern China. Others claim the kitty descended from the Chinese Mountain cat. As a  natural breed, Chinese Dragon Li cats come by their characteristics the old-fashioned way—natural selection, as they’ve never been bred by humans. Chinese Dragon Li cats are extremely rare outside of China.


Chinese Dragon Li

little Chinese Dragon Li kitten
Image By: Robert Way, Shutterstock

Chinese Dragon Li Cat Characteristics

High-energy cat will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy cats require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a cat to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train cats are more willing and skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Cats that are harder to train are usually more stubborn and will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some cat breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds' potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other animals. More social cats have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches, while less social cats shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to lots of different situations.

Because cats are so rare outside of China, you might have problems finding one through a breeder or in a shelter. A few people who’ve had their hearts set on adopting Li Hua kitties have ultimately decided to purchase their cats directly from a breeder in China. If you do find a cattery in the United States willing to sell you one of these cats, chances are you’ll be waiting for a while before your new companion comes home with you.

If you decide to purchase a Chinese Li Hua cat, do your homework to ensure you’re working with a reputable breeder; veterinarians can often send you in the right direction. Make sure the breeder can provide documentation regarding the cat’s lineage and health. Because these cats resemble domestic tabby cats, it’s usually a good idea to meet at least one of your potential feline companion’s parents so you can judge things for yourself.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Chinese Dragon Li

Chinese Dragon Li Cat
Image Credit: Robert Way, Shutterstock

Chinese Li Hua cats are known as friendly and affectionate, and they typically get along well with people, including children. They’re usually social and are known for enjoying quality time with their favorite humans.

Chinese Li Hua cats are also considered super intelligent, so make sure to have lots of interactive toys on hand if you decide to adopt one! Because of intelligence and sociability, Chinese Dragon Li cats don’t always make great companions for singles who spend long hours at work, and they often suffer from separation anxiety, which can lead to an unhappy cat and destructive behavior.

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

Absolutely. The Chinese Li Hua is highly social and enjoys being in the middle of activities surrounded by their favorite humans. They typically get along well with children and aren’t known to be shy or retiring. Because they’re so active, the cats do best in relatively spacious homes. They don’t do well in apartments and small spaces since they need plenty of room to explore and lots of mental and physical stimulation.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

These adorable short-haired cats typically get along quite well with other pets, including both cats and dogs. While they sometimes take a while to warm up to people and other animals, they often form strong bonds with their canine housemates over time. Given their reputation as hunters and long-standing use as working cats in China, it’s probably best to consider another breed if you have small mammals such as gerbils, mice, or dwarf rabbits at home.


Things to Know When Owning a Chinese Dragon Li Cat:

The Chinese Dragon Li doesn’t typically require special food or medical care. Nevertheless, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring your pet is happy, healthy, and able to thrive.

Food & Diet Requirements

Chinese Li cats, like all of their feline brothers and sisters, are carnivores and, as such, require meat to be healthy. Neither domesticated nor wild cats do well on vegetable-based diets, as their digestive tracts cannot absorb the nutrients cats need to thrive from grains and vegetables.

To put it simply, cats must have meat to be healthy. Their diets should consist of at least 26% crude protein. In addition, look for high-quality cat food that provides protein from duck, chicken, beef, or some other easily recognizable meat.

And it goes without saying that no matter what type of cat you adopt, you’ll need to ensure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times. As long as your cat is otherwise healthy and you’re giving them high-quality, protein-rich food, you shouldn’t have to worry about adding dietary supplements.

Exercise 🐈

Chinese Li Hua are active cats and require a ton of exercise to be mentally and physically healthy. They developed naturally over millennia to be super hunters, so don’t be surprised if your Chinese Dragon Li requires more exercise than your average feline companion. Given the high exercise needs of these cats, they don’t make great companions for apartment dwellers.

If you decide to welcome one of these affectionate cats into your home, be prepared to provide them with plenty of space and opportunities for exercise. Scratching posts and toys are the absolute basics. You’ll need to spend a fair amount of time every day engaging with your cat physically.

Chinese Dragon Li cat
Image Credit: Jilin Su, Shutterstock

Training 🧶

Chinese Dragon Li cats are generally considered a smart breed, making them easy to teach and train. Remember that cats respond best to reward-based training, and many owners have had success with positive-reinforcement based clicker training. Build a strong, loving bond with your cat, and your companion will do their furry best to make you happy.

Grooming ✂️

Chinese Li Hua are hearty, healthy, short-haired kitties without genetic issues, so they really don’t require any special grooming. While it’s not strictly necessary, brushing your cat can cut down on hairballs. And it’s a great bonding activity if your cat enjoys it.

Dental hygiene is vital for all cats, so consider giving your companion’s teeth a good brush on a regular basis. Three times a week should be sufficient unless you hear differently from your vet. Just make sure to use a toothpaste specifically developed for cats, as the fluoride in human toothpaste is toxic to them. It’s also wise to invest in a pain-free nail clipper to keep your kitty’s claws under control.

Other than that, these healthy cats don’t require much when it comes to grooming. Most short-haired cats only need baths on rare occasions: mostly when they’ve gotten into something messy or particularly harmful. Excessive bathing often results in feline skin problems.

Chinese Dragon Li cat on the counter top
Image By: X.TIAN, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

Chinese Dragon Li cats tend to be healthy and aren’t known to suffer from any significant genetic illnesses. As a natural breed that hasn’t been subjected to breeding and trait selection, it’s most likely free of the genetic issues most often found in purebred cats. Unfortunately, due to the limited numbers of these kitties outside of China, it’s difficult to gather enough data to make an unequivocal statement about the Chinese Dragon Li’s health.

Minor Conditions
  • Hip and joint problems
  • Gum disease
  • Ringworm
Serious Conditions
  • None

Male vs Female

Because Chinese Li Hua are so rare outside of China, little information exists about possible gender-based differences in this cat’s behavior, temperament, or medical needs. It appears that the differences between male and female Dragon Li cats are minimal at best.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Chinese Dragon Li Cat

1. They’re known as Li Hua Mao (Fox Flower cats) in China

How these kitties came to be called Fox Flower cats is not known. However, we can say is that they’re called Fox Flower Cats in China and Chinese Li Hua and Dragon Li cats elsewhere. There’s some suggestion that the latter two names are somehow linked to the importance of dragon symbolism in Chinese culture.

2. They’re late bloomers

While most cats reach maturity around 6 months of age, Chinese Li Hua cats often don’t hit that stage until much later. These skilled hunters aren’t fully grown until they are 3 years old or so.

3. They’re considered the unofficial cat of China

Chinese Li Hua cats are incredibly popular in China, and they’ve reached the status of the unofficial national cat.

Chinese Dragon Li Cat
Image Credit: Robert Way, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

Chinese Dragon Li cats are beautiful, loyal, super smart, and friendly. In short, they make fantastic companions. If you’re looking for a cat you can train to do fun things like fetch and walk on a leash, look no further than this ancient breed. And as a natural breed, these cats tend to be healthy because they haven’t been subjected to selective breeding.

They’re great cats for families, and they’re relatively mellow when it comes to interacting with people. However, they might not be the best choice if you’re interested in adopting a lap cat, as they generally don’t enjoy being picked up and cuddled.

The biggest drawback of this breed is its limited availability they’re not common outside of China. So you might have problems finding one through a reputable breeder in the United States, but you can sometimes adopt them directly from China.

Featured Image Credit: Robert Way, Shutterstock

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