Monday, May 18, 2015

Cat Breeds: Norwegian Forest Cat

Also known as the Skogkatt or Norsk, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed straight out of Viking legend. It is, in fact, mentioned in many Viking myths and is said to have traveled with the Vikings on their ships. Because of the mythology surrounding the Norwegian Forest Cat, we'll probably never know how old this breed really is. We do know they've been around a while and they have adapted to their climate and surroundings quite well. But we don't know how old the breed is.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Norwegian Forest Cat's numbers had declined enough that they were actually in danger of extinction. Several breeding programs were started to try and save the breed, but World War II (WWII) got in the way, causing almost all of the programs to be put on hold.

It wasn't until the 1970s that things got back on track again, particularly in Norway. This elegant breed was declared the official cat of Norway and breeding programs were established to focus just on revitalizing the breed and saving it from extinction. The first breeding pair was imported into the United States in 1979, but the breed wasn't given Championship status with The International Cat Association (TICA) until 1984. Since then, it has slowly gained in popularity. It is still not the most common cat, but at least it no longer faces extinction.

The Appearance of the Norwegian Forest Cat

Though not necessarily as large as the Maine Coon Cat, the Norwegian Forest Cat is still on the large end of domestic cats. He's muscular and strong, but he's also agile and relatively light for his size.

The ears are very large, but they're also quite wide, so wide they resemble an equilateral triangle. Eyes are also large, and are almond shaped, giving him a sweet and expressive face. Eyes often vary in color, but they should be clear and gleaming.

The coat of the Norwegian Forest Cat can come in any color and pattern. It's really the fullness and texture that are important for this breed. Though the outer coat is soft and fluffy, the undercoat should be dense enough to keep the cat warm in the depths of the Scandinavian winters. The coat should also be water resistant. In winter the coat should be long and flowing. In summer it should be shorter, but still water resistant. The tail should be long and flowing, just like the coat.

Though this breed definitely has long hair, the coat isn't as high maintenance as other longhaired cat breeds. You don't really have to groom these guys every day for their coats to maintain their beauty. Instead, a brushing once or twice a week to remove dead hair is generally enough.

The Personality of the Norwegian Forest Cat

A highly intelligent feline, the Norwegian Forest Cat is quite resourceful and is probably one of the most adaptable cats around. They are perfectly happy hunting mice in a country field, but they're just as suited to lazing about on the couch all day while you read a book. Even a cat who is confined to an apartment will find a variety of ways to entertain himself.

This cat really loves toys and games, especially if they involve hanging out with people. He'll run through cat tunnels, chase catnip-filled toy mice, and leap after feathers on sticks. In short, this breed is constant entertainment. He's also great with kids and other pets and will even play with older children if his mood right.

If you're looking for a mild-mannered cat who can cuddle up like a small dog, the Norwegian Forest Cat might be for you. Be prepared for his pranks, though, because this perky cat is always looking for a little bit of nonsense.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cat Breeds: Nebelung

There are many ancient breeds of cats. The Nebelung is not one of them. It was, in fact, not even conceived of before the 1980s. The name 'Nebelung' is derived from the German word 'nebel' (meaning fog). It is also based on the medieval German saga Nibelungenlied, which is said to represent the cat's distinctive blue coat that is as silky and wispy as fog.

Initially developed by Cora Cobb, the first two registered Nebelungs were born in 1984 (Siegfried, a male) and 1985 (Brunhilde, a female). Siegfried's parents were unremarkable, as were Brunhilde's. Still, the two became the foundation of what would become the Nebelung cat breed and had their first litter in 1986. In 1987 Cobb applied to The International Cat Association (TICA) for New Breed status.

Because the coat color is so important for this breed, the Russian Blue was officially designated as an allowed outcross. This encourages the development of the gene pool without compromising the stunning color of the breed. After a decade of breeding, the Nebelung was granted Championship status in 1997.

The Appearance of the Nebelung

The Nebelung is on the larger end of the medium-sized cats. He should be a muscular cat with a long tail and ears that are large but still in proportion to the head. The eyes should be wide set and open. They should be green in color, though a yellowish-green is also acceptable. Gold is too yellow a color the a Nebelung's eyes.

The coat is really what sets these cats apart. Like the Russian Blue, the coat is a silvery blue color. Unlike the Russian Blue, the Nebelung has long hair instead of the shorter hairs so characteristic of the Russian Blue. The hair is silky but quite dense, requiring a good grooming at least twice a week to remove any lose hair and prevent matting. These cats don't like matts at all, so do groom your feline companion well.

The Personality of the Nebelung

This cat breed is on the more sensitive end of the scale when it comes to temperament, so take care when introducing him to new people, children, and other pets. A kitten will need ample time to adjust to a new environment, an adult cat even more so, so be patient with him.

Once your new friends does adjust, however, you will have a loyal and loving companion. They are very people-oriented and need to be around people familiar to them to feel comfortable. This is not a cat you should lock in the back room while you make dinner. He would prefer to sit at your feet instead.

If you want a quiet cat who will shower you with kisses and cuddles, the Nebelung might be for you. They are affectionate cats to those they love, but you will have to be patient with his sensitive breed.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Cat Breeds: Munchkin

The Munchkin is a relatively new breed, having its roots in the early 1980s, but the mutation that resulted in the shorter legs actually appeared sporadically throughout the 20th century. The first reported mutation occurred in Britain in 1944. Dr. HE Williams-Jones wrote an entire paper on four generations of short-legged cats. This line, which may very well have gone on to found an entire breed, was tragically lost during WWII (World War II).

Fortunately for the cat fancy world, the short-legged trait appeared again. Several times, in fact. It could be found in Stalingrad in the 1950s, New England in the 1970s, and Louisiana in the 1980s. It was in 1983 that Sandra Hockenedel found a pregnant cat who happened to have the shortened legs the Munchkin would become famous for. This cat, who she named Blackberry, would become the foundation for the modern Munchkin breed, though several outcrosses would be necessary to establish a diverse gene pool.

After a decade of careful outcrossing, the Munchkin was recognized by TICA (The International Cat Association) in 1994, but only in the New Breed development program. This program ensures that the breed is stable and healthy before championship status is granted. It was during this time that the gene which results in the shorter legs is actually dominant, much like the gene in the Corgi and Dachshund dog breeds. This helped with the breed's stability and in 2003 TICA granted the Munchkin cat breed championship status.

The Appearance of the Munchkin

The Munchkin cat looks very much like most other cat breeds, including the American Shorthair, except for the length of the legs. The mutation that makes these cats so unique shortens the leg bones, but does not affect any other part of the cat. So unlike the Corgi or Dachshund, the Munchkin doesn't have the back problems you might expect to see in a breed with such tiny legs. In fact, this breed has few health problems at all.

A medium-sized cat, the Munchkin typically weighs in between 5 and 9 pounds. Because of the early outcrossings, they can be of any color or pattern, so there is great variety in the Munchkin breed. They come in both longhaired and shorthaired varieties, the only difference between the two being the length of the coat. Shorthaired cats have an all-weather coat that is silky to the touch and requires only light grooming. Longhaired cats have an all-weather coat that is silky to the touch and requires more intensive grooming. Other than this slight difference, they are the same cat.

The Personality of the Munchkin

You might think this cat looks like a lot of fun, and you'd be right. They love to run and jump (though they can't jump as high as cats with longer legs) and will happily dash after whatever toy has been tossed for them. The Munchkin has a lot of energy and rarely slows down unless dinner is on the table.

The Munchkin has a sunny disposition and gets along with everyone from small children to strange dogs. They like everyone and want everyone's attention. A highly curious cat, this breed can sometimes get themselves into trouble with all their exploring, but you'll never want for excitement with this little bundle of energy around.

If you're looking for a cat that is unique and has a great personality, the Munchkin might be for you. They are happy and fun companions for the young and old alike. As long as you don't might a short little cat dashing around your living room at all hours.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cat Breeds: Minskin

Some breeds come about because a breeder wants a specific look. Such was the case in 1998 when Paul McSorley started crossing a Munchkin with a Sphinx. He wanted a breed that had short legs of a Munchkin but fur that is restricted to the points like a Sphinx. This particular combination took two years to achieve, but finally the first Minskin kitten was born in 2000. Because it is so new, this cat does not yet have Championship status. Instead it is classed as a Preliminary new Breed. This means that it can be shown in TICA shows, but cannot yet earn titles. Whether this young breed will advance is yet to be determined.

The Appearance of the Minskin

The body of the Minskin, with its short legs and cobby body, is very like the Munchkin in appearance. The head, however, is more Sphinx-like and features the large eyes and large ears so characteristic of the Sphinx.

The coat is incredibly sparse and just a little coarse. Because there is so little fur, the fur absorbs the heat from the body, making it feel quite warm to the touch. There is little hair, which means little shedding. This makes grooming a breeze. A quick rub with a chamois cloth once a week usually keeps the cat healthy enough. A soft brush can also be used.

The Personality of the Minskin

Most Minskins are quite friendly and enjoy the company of humans. They will follow at your feet and climb on your back if given the slightest encouragement. They tend to want to be the sole focus of a human's attention, so they're not that great with other pets. They do love children, however, though care must be taken as this breed is a little more fragile than some others.

This is a cat that bores easily, and the Minskin can be destructive when bored. A highly intelligent breed, the Minskin needs something to do. Games and stimulate the mind are a good idea, especially if you're going to be away from home. They don't do well on their own if they don't have something to occupy their busy minds.

If you're looking for a cat that's a little unique, the Minskin might be for you. This cat is amusing and entertaining, making him a great companion for the right person.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cat Breeds: Manx and Cymric

Though some people believe that the Manx cat lost its tail when Noah closed the Ark doors a little too quickly, history tells a different tale. The Manx originated on the Isle of Man, but its ancestors probably arrived by ship from England, Wales, or even Scotland. The genetic mutation that created the unique tail of the Manx occurred on the Isle of Man at least as early as 1810, but there is some evidence to suggest that the tailless cats were running around as early as 1750. We may never really know for sure.

The mutation that caused kittens to be born without the vertebrae of a normal tail is likely the result of inbreeding. The Isle of Man is fairly small, after all, and there were relatively few cats for the breed to develop. In time, some of these tailless cats grew long hair, others remained shorthaired. The shorthaired kittens were labeled Manx, while the longhaired ones received the name of Cymric. The only difference between these two breeds is the length of hair.

The International Cat Association (TICA) recognized both the Manx and the Cymric, granting them championship status, in June of 1979.

The Appearance of the Manx and Cymric

Since the two cats are identical except for coat length, there is little point in describing the same characteristics twice. Both cats are found in all patterns and colors, some more desirable than others. Bold colors and dramatic markings are best, but any color or pattern is acceptable in this versatile breed.

Both versions of this cat have thick coats, giving them a round appearance. The Manx has a short, glossy coat with a glossy appearance. The Cymric should have longer hair that is both silky and plush. A neck ruff and fluffy breeches are required in the longhaired Cymric.

The Cymric and the Manx are both medium in size with a rounded body and head. They resemble furry little bowling bowls and are often referred to as such with great affection. Though they may appear large with their fluffy fur, they are typically no more than 10 pounds.

Despite their reputation for having no tails, these breeds are not all tailless. The tail may be stubby and may even have a slight curl. Even cats with no tails at all have all the nerve endings of a tail, so take care when handling the hindquarters of either breed.

The Personality of the Manx and Cymric

Both the Cymric and the Manx are gentle cats with a sweet and playful disposition. Because these cats are affectionate and quite dependent on people for company, they should not be left alone for long periods. They're not cats you can leave for a week while you go off on vacation, so take this into account.

These cats are not generally great with children and other pets cause of their sensitive tail area. They are amusing for adults, however, and will indulge in a game of fetch if properly enticed. You might even find your Manx or Cymric burying their toys rather like a dog. Neither breed is overly loud, but they will engage you in conversation with a soft thrilling sound if you listen long enough.

If you're looking for a quiet cat who will crave your company, the Manx or the Cymric may be for you. Both breeds require little grooming, just a weekly brushing to keep the coat soft and healthy, so the maintenance are nearly identical.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Characteristics of the Maine Coon

The origin of the Maine Coon is surrounded by mystery and legend. Though once considered a result of raccoons and cats breeding, we know now that this is not the case. Well, most of us know. There are still some people who believe it, crazy as it might sound. The truth is probably that cats from Europe wandered freely and bred, creating a breed that is strong, healthy, prolific, and naturally occurring. There was probably more interest in them Maine, hence the addition of 'Maine' to the Coon Cat title the cat had earned.

The Appearance of the Maine Coon

The Maine Coon has a semi-long coat. This coat is water-resistant and incredibly heavy. Some way the cat is all fluff and no substance. Nonsense, of course. The hair is shorter on the back and neck, but much longer on the ruff, stomach, and britches of the cat. Despite its length, the coat is smooth and requires little maintenance. A weekly brushing does it. The bushy tail sets the Maine Coon apart from most other breeds. All in all, a stunning example of a feline.

This large cat, which weighs in at up to 18 pounds, comes in almost all colors and patterns, though the brown classic or mackerel tabby is the most common. All colors and patterns may have white markings. The eyes should be large, expressive, and range in color from gold to green. They should shine with an inner light.

The Personality of the Maine Coon

There are few cats in the world more laid back than the Maine Coon. This breed will get along well with children and other pets. He'll also show great affection and will play with people a great deal. It's not unusual to see a Maine Coon playing with children, adults, or even dogs if he happens to be bored.

Despite all this, he is not too dependent and can't really be described as a lap cat. When you're home, expect him to hang around, but if you're not he can entertain himself well enough. Though you may not like the activities he chooses...still, he's not destructive and will generally behave himself.

Typically a quiet cat, expect the Maine Coon to communicate in soft thrills and little chirps. Pay attention to these sounds and he'll speak more often. Ignore them and he'll either ignore you or find another way to get your attention.

If you're looking for a large breed sturdy enough to play alongside kids and dogs, the Maine Coon cat may be the cat for you. Expect your cat to romp through the house, and to make a little noise doing so. He is among the heaviest of domestic cats, after all.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cat Breeds: LaPerm

Sometimes a new breed just shows up out of the blue. On a cherry orchard in March of 1982 a brown tabby gave birth to a little of six kittens. One of these kittens, a small female, was not like the others. She was a tabby, but she was long, skinny, and completely hairless. She stayed hairless until she was around six weeks old, at which time she started growing a sparse and yet curly coat. As she matured, this coat became soft and waxy.

This was the first of these interesting cats, but it wasn't the last to be born on the cherry orchard. Their owner, Linda Koehl, decided to enter six of these kittens into a cat show in her area. The judges were pleased with her kittens, so she started a breeding program that would eventually establish the foundation for the LaPerm cat breed.

At first almost all of the kittens were born bald, only later developing the curly coat that is a signature of the breed. A few were born with straight hair and kept this straight hair even as they matured. Then a kitten named Snow Fire was born. He started out with straight hair, but it shed out and was replaced with a curly coat and even curly whiskers. This was the first time that had happened, but it's since become commonplace.

It took twenty years of perfecting the breed, but the LaPerm was finally granted championship status by The International Cat Association (TICA) in February of 2003. They have since been used to create a few hybrid cats including the Skookum.

The Appearance of the LaPerm

The LaPerm is a medium-sized cat with a strong and yet slightly strange-looking body type. They can weigh up to 10 pounds and have large, cupped ears. The eyes should be almond-shaped and have a loving appearance. Any eye color is acceptable.

The most distinctive feature of this breed is, of course, the coat. Guard hairs, awn hairs, and down hairs are present, which would make the coat relatively normal if it weren't for the curls. The curls are responsible for the coarse texture. Because of these curls the coat stands away from the body. The longest hairs should be around the neck, creating a ruff effect. Even the whiskers, eyebrows, and the hairs in the ears are curly.

There is both a shorthaired LaPerm and a longhaired LaPerm. The longhaired cat has a plume to its tail while the shorthaired cat has a tail that resembles a bottlebrush. Coats are thicker and fuller in the cooler months, and older cats tend to have a more developed coat than the younger cats. All coat colors and pattern are acceptable provided the coat is the traditional LaPerm coat.

Another benefit of this coat is that it does not tangle and doesn't fall out (think poodle, but in cat form). A light brushing once a week will remove any loose hair and keep the coat bright and shining.

The Personality of the LaPerm

Unlike some of the more aloof breeds, the LaPerm loves to be around people and can be found sitting on laps, shoulders, and sometimes heads (as my son will attest to). They make incredible family cats as they are gentle, patient, and friendly. A LaPerm will generally get along well with children and other pets. They're also incredibly entertaining with their kitten like antics. A LaPerm will never grow out of this kittenish attitude.

If you're looking for a cat that doesn't shed a whole lot, is great with kids, and is a bit of a clown, the LaPerm might be for you.