Monday, July 14, 2014

Hybrid Cat Breeds: The Highlander

Some breeds are newer than others, and the Highlander is one of the newest of them all. This hybrid cat breed can trace its roots only to 2004, but the cats chosen to initiate this new breed were not of any specific existing breed. Instead, individual cats were chosen based on their physical traits. Because the breed is so new, it is only recognized by a handful of associations as a preliminary or new breed. The International Cat Association (TICA) acknowledged the Highlander in 2008, but this breed has not yet gained wide acceptance.


The most defining characteristic of the Highlander is the ears. They feature a loose curl in the top third of the ear. The curl is similar to the American Curl, and yet distinct enough to set the Highlander apart from the more established breeds. The ears are placed high atop the head and are wide and open at the base.


Highlanders come in both long and short hair varieties, and any an all coat colors and patterns are acceptable. The long hair variety should be groomed at least twice a week to avoid matting while cats with shorter hair should be groomed twice a week, just like most other breeds. The coat is typically soft and might even feel silky.


The rest of the cat is strong and substantial. The forehead is sloped while the nose and muzzle have a squared appearance. Eyes are very much like slightly flattened ovals, giving this cat breed an intense and almost intimidating stare. The body should be large and muscular, almost reminiscent of a wild lynx or even a bobcat. The tail is short, usually about an inch, but this is natural and not the result of docking. The tail, which may have kinks or curls, is highly expressive. Some Highlanders will even wag their tail very much like a dog.


But make no mistake--they are cats through and through, right down to the way they play. Highlanders are clowns at heart and can often be found chasing their own tails or waiting behind a curtain to pounce on an unsuspecting human (or fellow feline, or canine, it doesn't seem to matter). These cats love humans, so expect to be met at the door, tail held high, even if you've only been gone for five minutes. These cats love to indulge in antics that have the appearance of insanity.


This friendly cat is great with children, is able to live with other animals, and adapts easily to most living situations. If you're looking for a cat with a playful personality and a unique appearance, the Highlander might be for you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cat Breeds: Havana

The Havana (once called the Havana Brown) has its origins in the early 1950s. Hoping to breed what was essentially a dark Siamese, breeders crossed Siamese cats with black domestic shorthairs and even a few Russian Blues. The results were varied for a while, but eventually Elmtower Bronze Idol, the first of the Havanas, was born. He was the result of a controlled crossing between a black domestic shorthair and a Siamese. Then in 1958 the breed was recognized by the Governing Council of Cat Fancy, but it was listed as the Chestnut Foreign Shorthair. The name Havana Brown would be adopted in 1970, and later (1983, specifically) the 'brown' portion of the name was dropped entirely.


There are really two lines of cats these days. English lines are more oriental looking, but American lines tend to have a more angular look and are more in keeping with the original appearance of the Havana.


The Appearance of the Havana


This medium-sized cat has a body type that seems foreign and familiar all at the same time. Weighing no more than ten pounds, the Havana is a firm and muscular cat. This makes him both powerful and graceful. The muzzle of the Havana is unique in that it just seems to stop, leading to a blunt appearance. The ears tend to be larger than the norm, but not so large as to seem ridiculous.


There is only one acceptable eye color--green. The Havana comes in two colors, lilac and brown. Some associations still only recognize the brown, but the lilac cats are just as lovely. Kittens are sometimes born with tabby markings, but these disappear as the cat reaches adulthood. Whiskers should match the coat color. Grooming is easy because the hairs are short and flat. A weekly brushing to remove loose hair is all that is usually required. If you want your cat to gleam like those show cats, rub him with a chamois cloth. I know, I know. They're for cars (and you typically buy then at auto supply store). But they are also for cats. Try it and you won't be disappointed.


The Personality of the Havana


Some cats are so people-oriented that they can't bear to be deprived of attention. The Havana falls squarely into this category. They really can't be left alone all day while you're off at work. They need affection and companionship. If you think you might leave your cat alone, get a companion cat or two. A group of three Havanas does better than a single cat left home alone.


This cat will follow you around and investigate everything you do. They tend to be a little vocal, so you'll know when kitty isn't getting enough attention. This is the cat who will sit on your paper or lay on your computer until you play with him. You'll want to invest in cat toys and cat trees to keep this active breed busy. But this still won't be enough. The Havana needs interaction, so you can't buy a bunch of cat trees and expect him to entertain himself all the time. Play with him or you'll end up with a neurotic kitty on your hands (and under your feet).


The Havana is a robust and healthy cat, one that makes a terrific house pet for individuals or families who are home often. If you want a cat who will play with you, sleep on your pillow, and basically stalk your every move, the Havana might be for you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cat Breeds: Exotic Shorthair

When breeders started experimenting with a cross between the American Shorthair and the Persian, the goal was to get something that looked like a Persian but with much shorter hair. The kittens of these crosses did look like Persians, but they lacked the truly short coat of the American Shorthair. The hair was shorter than the Persian, but not quite short enough.


Still, there was potential in these kittens, and a woman by the name of Jane Martinke saw it. She called the silver-colored kittens Sterlings, proposing that this be the name of the new breed that would eventually be developed. The idea was still to keep crossbreeding in the hopes of attaining a short and plush coat. After consulting with several other breeders, the name was changed to Exotic Shorthair, opening the door for other colors and crossbreeds.


Time passed and different breeders used different crosses to get the look they desired. Some used the Russian Blue, others the Burmese, but all kittens were bred back to Persians in an attempt to keep the Persian body type. Because Persian breeders themselves didn't want to get involved in the development of the Exotic Shorthair, the breed came along slowly. It wasn't until 1979 that The International Cat Association (TICA) decided to grant the Exotic Shorthair championship status.


The Appearance of the Exotic Shorthair


The Exotic Shorthair has a dense bone structure, making them heavier than they appear. The head is broad, the ears low set, and the face short and round, leading to a sweet expression that contributes to the popularity of this breed. The body should be short, almost square, with thick legs and a thick tail that is shorter than the average breed.


The coat is thick and plush, but not as long as the Persian. They come in all colors and patterns, all of which look like little plush toys owning to the shape of the head and body. This breed does need to be groomed regularly, but grooming is not as difficult as with the Persian. A quick brush once a week and a wiping of the eyes (to prevent buildup that can lead to irritation) is generally all that is required.


The Personality of the Exotic Shorthair


A quiet breed, the Exotic Shorthair is gentle and affectionate. This is a cat that will jump into your lap for a cuddle as soon as you sit down. This cat inherited the easy-going nature of its American Shorthair ancestors, making it the perfect companion for children and other pets.


This cat loves to play and can amuse itself for hours if provided with a few toys and something to climb on. This means the Exotic Shorthair can be easily left at home while you go off at work. Your cat will be excited to see you when you get home, but he won't be totally lonely if he has a few interesting cat toys.


Known Health Issues of the Exotic Shorthair


Unfortunately, the Exotic Shorthair inherited a few health problems from its Persian ancestors. Inherited polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which can cause cysts in the kidneys, is common. The cysts are present at birth, but enlarge and cause severe problems once the cat reaches adulthood. The first signs of this disorder usually appear between three and four years of age. The cat may initially lack an appetite and be very thirsty, but irreversible kidney failure is the ultimate result. Breeders can screen their cats for this disease, but it's expensive. Expect to pay more for a kitten that is guaranteed to be free of PKD.


Other health problems can be traced to the brachycephalic face. The broad and short skull can cause eye and breathing problems. There may be chronic sinus difficulties and even kinked tear ducts, so good and regular vet care is important for the Exotic Shorthair.


The Exotic Shorthair is sweet and loving. If you're looking for a cat who will fit right into your family like he's been there for years, this adorable breed might be for you.



Monday, December 23, 2013

The Characteristics of the Egyptian Mau

Mau is the Egyptian word for cat, so the Egyptian Mau is really the Egyptian Cat. Genetic testing has proven conclusively that the Egyptian Mau really did originate in Egypt. In fact, ancient artwork in the region depicts cats that are very similar in appearance to the modern Mau. Unfortunately, the Mau had a hard time in the early part of the 20th century, almost going extinct during WWII.

In 1956, that began to change. Three cats were imported to the United States from Italy. Two of these were female, one was male, and all were Egyptian Maus. The gene pool was limited, but with precise crossbreeding, inbreeding, and the importing of suitable cats, the breed stabilized and was accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1979. Today, most cat associations recognize the Egyptian Mau as a championship breed.

The Appearance of the Egyptian Mau

This muscular breed is elegant and has a regal bearing. Its coat is medium in length; its texture varies with the color of the Mau. Smoke colored cats have a fine and silky coat, but silver and bronze cats sport a dense and soft fur that is a pleasure to touch. All cats have gooseberry green eyes shaped like medium-sized almonds. The eyes slant towards the ears, giving the cat a slightly worried look. The ears are large and broad, giving the Mau an inquisitive appearance. These ears are very keen, making the Mau especially sensitive to sounds.

The most distinctive quality of the Egyptian Mau is the brilliant coat. Maus are the only naturally spotted domestic cat breed; all other spotted breeds were bred with wildcats to achieve the spotted effect. There is a marked difference between the coat color and the spot color, so the spots stand out in sharp contrast. The size and shape of these spots is mostly random.

All Egyptian Maus have a mark in the shape of an "M" on the forehead. This is often called the Mark of the Scarab. A dorsal stripe runs the length of the spine, covering the back and the tail all the way to the tip. The neck, upper chest, tail, and legs are all striped with the shoulders showing a transition between spots and stripes.

The Personality of the Egyptian Mau

This breed is shy and incredibly sensitive. They don't like loud noises and they despise anything that disrupts their daily routine. They do best in a quiet household free of too much noise. The Egyptian Mau is not the kind of cat that likes to live with a party animal and they tend to do better in homes without young children.

But the Egyptian Mau will bond to a sensitive and quiet individual. Once this cat is bonded, it will remain intensely loyal and loving towards its person. If a Mau truly bonds to you, you'll find yourself on the receiving end of more affection than you'll know what do to with. The cat will want to be with you always and will make little chirping sounds when happy. Expect the Egyptian Mau to be involved in everything you do because it's hard to avoid them when they want to be the center of attention.

Known Health Issues of the Egyptian Mau

For the most part, the Egyptian Mau is a stable and robust breed. They have very few inherited health problems, but some lines are prone to luxating patella (slipping kneecaps). Ask your breeder about this problem and consider getting a cat from a line that has not exhibited this condition.

The Egyptian Mau is a sweet and loving cat who needs a quiet space to be happy. If you are the type of person who likes to sit and read a book late on a Friday night, this loyal breed might be for you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cat Breeds: Donskoy

Some breeds fall somewhere between hybrid and purebred. This is the case with the Donskoy. Currently, the Donskoy cat is assigned to the Preliminary New Breed Category. This means that the cats can be shown in The International Cat Association (TICA) but they cannot earn titles. Eventually, if it becomes stable, this cat breed is expected to attain championship status and will be eligible for titles.

The Donskoy breed is the result of a spontaneous mutation. In 1987, a woman by the name of Elena Kovaleva rescued an abused kitten in Russia. The cat had been sealed inside a bag and used as a soccer ball by several young local boys. This kitten survived its ordeal but was so stressed that its hair began falling out. Eventually, the kitten, a female Kovaleva named Varvara, was completely bald. The hair never grew back despite being treated by several veterinarians.

As an adult, the hairless cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. These kittens were born with hair, but shortly after birth their hair began falling out and never grew back. This led some people to believe they were unhealthy and Kovaleva was encouraged to get rid of them. Luckily, a local breeder by the name of Irina Nemikina rescued one of the kittens. It took several years and a dedicated breeding program, but Nemikina eventually created what she called the Don Sphynx (Varvara was originally found beside the river Don and the hairless nature of the coat made the cats look like the Sphinx). When the breed was registered with TICA, it was given the name Donskoy.

The Appearance of the Donskoy

The most important trait of the Donskoy is the coat. There are actually four acceptable coat types, all but one of which results in hairlessness. The four coat types are Brush, Flocked, Rubber Bald, and Velour. Brushed kittens are covered in a wiry, soft, and wave coat. Shortly after birth some hair will fall out, resulting in bald spots on the head, upper neck, and back. Flocked kittens appear hairless at birth but are really covered in a thin soft chamois. This usually falls out and you get a bald cat. Rubber Bald kittens are born bald and stay that way. Velour kittens have a wool-like coat with a bald spot on the top of the head. The coat disappears in the first year, sometimes leaving some hair on the face, legs, and tail. The Donskoy is unique among cats in that it can grow a winter coat. This coat falls out again as the weather warms. They don't have a lot of hair (none in many cases), making them easy to groom and cutting down on shedding.

The skin of the Donskoy should feel velvety and hot to the touch. There should be pronounced wrinkles caused by the incredible elasticity of the skin. These wrinkles should be most noticeable on the cheeks, jowls, and under the chin. Vertical wrinkles should separate the ears and run straight down the forehead. There should also be significant wrinkles on the neck, chest, legs, underbelly, and the base of the tail. The skin itself is like human skin, meaning cats can get tanned and even turned by too much sun exposure. A natural sunblock is recommended for cats who spend a great deal of time outside.

The Donskoy is more than just its coat and skin. It is a strong and sturdy cat with powerful hind legs. These cats are medium in size with males typically being larger than females. The Donskoy breed is not a delicate one. They are hardy cats that can give as good as they take.

The Personality of the Donskoy

Intelligent and inquisitive, the Donskoy is a joy to have around. This cat is a social butterfly and loves to be the center of attention. They will play with both children and other pets and generally adapt to changes well. Active and athletic, they don't mind a good romp, but they also make perfect lap cats, especially with their warm bodies. Cuddling this cat is relaxing, and the cat enjoys just as much as the person.

These cats take a keen interest in their surroundings. They will constantly use whatever is around them to make up new games. They're not all that destructive, but they are almost too social. Everyone who comes through the door will be greeted by the Donskoy, who will usually assume the visitor is there for the cat's amusement alone.

The Donskoy is more than just social; the breed is also highly intelligent and responsive to humans. This means you can train your cat to respond to voice or hand commands. If there's a way to be involved, the Donskoy will take it, even if it means following rules.

If there's one downside to these cats, it's that they cannot be left alone. Not all. Not for a few days while you're way. Not for twelve hours while you work. Not for a couple hours while you run to the supermarket. They need companionship or they'll pine and sometimes become unhealthy. The Donskoy is a good pet for someone who works at home, but even these people will sometimes have to go out. Consider getting two, or even getting a dog. This way your cat will not be truly alone.

The Donskoy is a fun-loving and passionate cat breed well suited to most living situations. Though they are a little on the expensive side and can be difficult to find, they fit into most families and bring smiles to everyone who encounters them.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cat Breeds: Devon Rex

The origin of the Devon Rex cat can be traced to Buckfastleigh, Devon in 1960. There was a feral tom living in an abandoned mine there, one with a curly coat. A woman named Beryl Cox adopted a stray tortie and white female. These two cats inevitably mated, and one of the kittens, a male, had a curly coat just like his father's. This kitten was named Kirlee.

At first it was thought his traits could contribute to the emerging Cornish Rex, but Kirlee's genes were just different enough. Kirlee's whiskers, for example, were stubby, sometimes entirely missing. The Cornish Rex exhibited curled whiskers. Kirlee's hair was tightly curled and not at all uniform. The Cornish Rex had a uniform coat. Kirlee had large eyes, a short nose, and low-set ears. The Cornish Rex did not.

Clearly the genes controlling the two mutations were different. To distinguish them, the Cornish gene was labeled Gene 1 while the Devon gene was labeled Gene 2. Every Devon Rex that has appeared since 1960 carries Gene 2 and can trace its lineage back to Kirlee.

The Appearance of the Devon Rex Cat

At first glance the Devon Rex can seem a little strange. This breed is on the smaller side, generally weighing no more than nine pounds. Like most breeds, females are smaller than males. They are all athletic and have strong muscles. The hind legs are a little longer than the forelegs, giving the cat a slightly lopsided appearance. The ears are huge and the face is shaped like a wedge. In the right light, the Devon Rex almost looks like a rogue pixie. The whiskers and eyebrows of this cat are short and curly, or even missing entirely.

Though the preferred coat is as even as possible and full of loose curls, coats actually vary greatly. Some cats have thick coats, others have sparse coats, and some even have bald patches all over their bodies. This doesn't indicate illness of any kind. It is simply the way Gene 2 expresses itself in different cats.

The coat also changes appearance over the course of the lifetime of each individual cat. Devon Rex cats molt occasionally, causing the coat to break off. They can appear to have a short coat with no curls, or even no coat at all, until the curly coat grows back. Molting is not a fault; it is simply the way these cats are.

When compared to most cats, the body of the Devon Rex is extremely hot to the touch. Some people think this is indicative of illness at first, but it's entirely natural. The coat is so short that it does nothing to keep the body heat next to the body. Because of this trait, these cats get cold easily. They often search for warm places to sleep and can be found stretched out on a radiator or curled up in the sunniest spot in the house.

Grooming the Devon Rex is quite simple since this cat breed doesn't shed much. A quick brush with a grooming mitt once a week is usually all that is required. Because of the short coat, an actual brush is not recommended. The oversized ears can collect grease and dust, so they should be cleaned with a soft cotton ball dipped in baby oil.

The Personality of the Devon Rex Cat

The Devon Rex is playful, intelligent, and loving. This is a highly active breed that likes to climb and run. They have a powerful need to be with people and don't like being left alone. In fact, this cat breed can be destructive when left alone for long periods of time. If you tend to be away for more than four or five hours at a time, a companion cat is a good idea. With a friend, your Devon Rex may be less inclined to destruction and more content to wait for you to arrive home.

This cat is good with children, other pets, and random visitors who might drop in for tea. In fact, the busier your household is, the happier your Devon Rex will be. They love to be the center of attention, so expect your cat to be around whenever there's a crowd. They're not as talkative as the Siamese, but they do make soft chirping sounds if they feel they're being ignored.

Known Health Issues of the Devon Rex

Like many specialty breeds, the Devon Rex suffered from inbreeding in its early years. This has led to some common health problems including coagulopathy (a clotting disorder), luxating patella (slipping kneecaps), and inherited spasticity (spasms). Genetic testing and limited outcrossing are both being used to help reduce the occurrences of these problems.

If you're looking for a cat who has a sweet nature and a slightly different appearance, the Devon Rex might be for you.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cat Breeds: Cornish Rex

Massive change such as a world war often triggers genetic change. This is how the Cornish Rex first developed. On July 21st, 1950, a litter of five kittens was born in Cornwall, England. One of these five kittens was a curly coated, cream male. This kitten was named Kallibunker by his owner, Nina Ennismore. Ennismore assumed that the coat was the result of a spontaneous mutation, the same kind that had been seen in horses, rats, and mice.

Under the advice of geneticist A.C. Jude and cat fancier Brian Stirling-Webb, Ennismore bred Kallibunker back to his mother (a tortie-and-white shorthair named Serena). This breeding produced two males and a female in the later summer of 1952. Both males had the curly coat of their father. One of these died before reaching seven months of age. The other was named Poldhu and is considered the father of the Cornish Rex cat breed, which was named because of its place of origin.

The problem with the foundation stock, including both Kallibunker and Poldhu, was one of a limited gene pool. There just weren`t that many Cornish Rex cats. So Ennismore had to inbreed her cats quite a bit. Knowing this would eventually compromise their health, she began to outcross to ordinary shorthaired cats. Though she might have introduced the gene into any number of breeds, she chosen to stick with shorthairs, mostly because a longhaired Cornish Rex would suffer from constantly matted hair.

After having achieved a cat population of more than forty cats, Ennismore discovered she could not sell enough of her unique cats to stay financially afloat. She chose to put many of her cats to sleep, the aging Kallibunker and Serena among them. She might have still had Poldhu, but two veterinarians performed a testicular biopsy in an attempt to determine if Poldhu was simply a blue-tabby-and-white stud or something more rare, siring blue cream and white. Females of this latter sort were common, but males were rare. Even more rare was a male of this sort who was fertile. Most were born sterile.

Though the vets promised Ennismore that Poldhu`s fertility would not be damaged, he never sired another litter after the biopsy. To make matters worse, the sample extracted from Poldhu was lost somewhere in the laboratory, rendering the entire procedure worthless.

This might have spelled the end of the Cornish Rex if not for Brian Stirling-Webb. In 1962, he learned that a male Rex kitten had been born in Devon. The woman who owned this kitten (named Kirlee) offered him to Stirling-Webb, hoping this would inject new blood into the failing Cornish Rex breed. Stirling-Webb bred Kirlee to the Cornish Rexes, but this resulted in kittens with straight hair. It became obvious that the Kirlee did not share the same mutation as the Cornish Rex cats. Luckily further test matings proved that the German Rex cats, developed independently in Germany, were compatible with the Cornish Rex. This allowed the Cornish Rex to continue in England.

Across the ocean, the Cornish Rex was also beginning to thrive. Before giving up her cats in the 1950s, Ennismore had sent several to American breeders. Most of these breeders were actually Siamese breeders, so they used their Siamese cats to enhance the Cornish Rex. This introduced a triangular head shape, fine bones, large ears, and a look reminiscent of the Greyhound dog. In a sense, they created the look of the Cornish Rex we are now familiar with.

The unique look of this breed was popular with cat fanciers and enthusiasts around the world. slowly gained acceptance around the world as a distinct and separate breed from the Devon Rex, beginning with the Canadian Cat Association and the American Cat Fancier`s Association in 1963. The Cat Fancier`s Association, however, continued to see the two breeds as one, registering both as Cornish Rex, until 1979.

The Appearance of the Cornish Rex Cat

The physical appearance of the Cornish Rex is unique and a little disconcerting the first time you see one. They`re tall and slender, a little like the Siamese, and have a dainty appearance. Even so, they are strong and well muscled. The power in their legs allows them to leap to astonishing heights. The body itself flows from head to tail.

The ears are rather large and placed on top of the head. The eyes are oval and have a slight upward slant. This, combined with the triangular head, gives the cat an exotic appearance. The body temperature of the Cornish Rex is also higher than would be considered normal for most cats.

But the thing that defines the Cornish Rex is the coat. The coat is short and curly, with even the whiskers and eyebrows having significant curl. There are no guard hairs at all on this breed of cat, so the Cornish Rex is usually soft to the touch. Because of the lack of guard hairs, the coat doesn`t require much in the way of grooming. The coat may be of any color and pattern.

The Personality of the Cornish Rex Cat

If your looking for a cat that is unreserved, friendly, and intelligent, the Cornish Rex might be for you. These unique cats have an almost fanatical need to be the center of attention. Sometimes called the Velcro cat for its need to near people, the Cornish Rex isn`t as independent as some other breeds. They don`t like to be left alone, so this isn`t a good pet for people who are gone twelve hours a day.

The Cornish Rex is full of energy and loves to play games. This is a cat that will love being taught to fetch and will even roughhouse with children to some extent. As long as they can have positive attention, this cat breed will do almost anything and are the entertainers of the cat world. They tend to be excellent with children and adapt well to most situations.

For all that it loves to communicate, the Cornish Rex isn`t a vocal breed. Instead, this cat will get his message across with body language and friendly antics. They use their tail, ears, and paws to tell their story, so watch your feline friend closely if you choose one of these cats.

Known Health Issues of the Cornish Rex

The Cornish Rex has very few genetic health issues, none of them serious. This is a hardy breed that generally enjoys good health. It should be noted, however, that they do have very short hair and have no guard hairs. This means they`re not suitable for colder climates and generally benefit from a cat sweater. You should also clean the ears and between the toes as these areas tend to get greasy.

Is the Cornish Rex Hypoallergenic?

This question comes up a lot, mostly because there are some dog breeds (Poodles among them) with curly hair that does not shed. These dogs are generally considered hypoallergenic as their coat minimizes the risk of allergic reaction. But a cat is not a dog, even though the thought in the 1950s was that the Cornish Rex would turn out to be hypoallergenic.

The problem is root of allergies. In dogs, it's usually the dander. So if the hair doesn't fall out, there's no dander on the couch to cause a reaction. With cats, however, the reaction is typically to the protein Fel D1 (which dogs don't have). This protein is present in the skin, dander, saliva, and urine of cats, including the Cornish Rex. To state it simply, coat type has no impact on allergies, so the Cornish Rex is not hypoallergenic.

The Cornish Rex may not be considered hypoallergenic, but it's still a wonderful and loving companion. These sweet natured felines make excellent pets for many families around the world.