Meet the most expensive cat breeds in America

The most expensive cat breeds were created through decades, sometimes centuries, of breeding for specific traits. Today, you can find a cat with leopard spots or with the size and temperament of a small, friendly dog.

Bobby Flay's cat love

These cats are pricey, but the good news is that part of the expense includes extensive health screening and selective breeding of the healthiest animals of each litter.

After purchase, the annual costs of owning one of these pricey felines mainly come from food, toys and yearly vet examinations. Annually, those costs start at $360 and increase if you're buying extra toys or pricier food.

And despite their expense, it's also possible to find purebred cats at your local shelter or ASPCA.

Cat breeder Anthony Hutcherson, the incoming chair of the International Cat Association's Bengal cat breed committee, offered his insights to CBS MoneyWatch on pricing, temperament and looks for the most high-end cat breeds.

Read on to see America's most expensive cat breeds.

Maine Coon

If you want a cat the size and temperament of a small dog -- one that even wags its tail with excitement every time you get home -- consider a Maine Coon. It's "the gentle giant of domestic cats," says Hutcherson.

Maine Coons can grow to up to 25 pounds. The breed was developed from longhair tabby barn cats in the state of Maine, Hutcherson says. The longest cat in the world is a Maine Coon.

Expect to pay between $1,500 and $4,000 for a kitten. Since cats are double the size of the average domestic cat, expect to pay a minimum of $200 annually to feed them -- but it can be twice that or more for higher-end food.

If you don't want to do your own grooming, expect to pay around $320 for quarterly bathing, brushing and nail clipping. Total yearly maintenance, including food and a few toys and excluding grooming servives: $980.

Toyger

The toyger, designed and bred to look like a mini tiger, was created by a woman who hoped to inspire preservation of tigers in the wild. Judy Sugden, daughter of the breeder who created Bengal cats (another pricey breed that resembles a mini leopard) bred the first toygers in the 1980s.

This breed is so docile and loving that a toyger is essentially a rag doll in its owner's arms. Breeders in three continents can't keep up with the demand for toyger kittens. For that reason, kittens may cost up to $5,000 but tend to start at $1,500.

Toygers are a short-haired breed and only require their owners to clip their nails. Do this yourself, or expect to pay $15 to $20 at the vet's office.

Total yearly maintenance: $500.

Sphynx

If you have allergies but always wanted a cat, the Sphynx -- an almost hairless cat with wrinkly skin -- may be ideal. Sphynxes are very cuddly because, lacking fur, they gravitate toward warmth from humans. Despite the breed's Egyptian-sounding name, it has no link to the region and is found all over the world.

Kitten prices range from $1,500 to $6,000. On the plus side, there's really no grooming cost, unless owners want to get their cat's nails clipped for $15 to $20. Sphynxes' skin should be wiped and their ears cleaned weekly.

Total yearly maintenance: $500.

Savannah

Have you ever really wanted to own a tiger or leopard, but think it might violate the terms of your lease or homeowner's association bylaws? Get a Savannah, one of the longest and tallest of domestic cats. Well, partly domestic, at least: Savannahs are bred by mating a wild cat with a housecat.

"Early hybrid generations can be over 25 pounds and reach heights of 30 inches, but require owners willing to make sacrifices required for their special needs," Hutcherson says. The more domestic versions can weigh up to 20 pounds and are quite tall with big ears.

In some parts of the U.S., permits or licenses are required to own these cats.

This is an active cat who loves to play with you, so always get them plenty to toys to choose from and at least one cat tree. Prices for kittens range from $1,500 to $7,000. They generally don't have health problems, Hutcherson says.

Total yearly maintenance: $500.

Bengal

The Bengal breed, originally developed from crosses between Asian leopard cats and domestic shorthairs, dates from the 1960s. It's a medium-to-large cat, weighing 6 to 15 pounds, and has a distinctive spotted coat.

"My Bengal cat, Jungletrax Justified Prestige, is regal, with his leopard-rosetted coat that it has taken me 24 years of selective breeding to create," Hutcherson says. "He is the International Cat Association's best shorthair cat in the world, Best cat in America and highest-scoring Bengal Cat in the breed's 25-year history."

Recently, Hutcherson cloned Jungletrax for a woman who adored the feline. Cloning is a pricey pet option, running a potential cat owner $25,000 or more. So it's one you probably won't choose -- unless you happen to be an executive fat cat.