Monday, August 22, 2016

Cat Breeds: Siberian

We don't really know where the majestic Siberian cat came from, but we do know there are references to these cats as early as 1000 CE (common era). Siberians appeared in the first cat shows in Europe in the 1870s and there is even an oblique reference to Siberian cats at the 1884 Madison Square Garden exhibition. Clearly they're not a new cat.

Siberian cats were mentioned in several books from the era, including the 1889 classic Our Cats by Harrison Weir and the 1898 book Domestic & Fancy Cats by John Jennings. Even the first photo of a Siberian appeared in an early book, specifically Helen Winslow's Concerning Cats. They've been around a while and everyone knows it.

Unfortunately for the breed, records weren't really kept on these beautiful cats in the early days, hampering their recognition by most associations. Finally, in the 1980s, Russian breeders began keeping proper records. They even developed the first breed standards at the Kotofei Cat Club in Moscow around that time, using a blue point and white cat and a brown tabby and white cat as their ideal examples of what the breed should be. This standardization of the breed also meant that other countries could start accepting the cats on an exhibition basis. The United States did this early on.

The All Union Cat Show in 1989 featured 12 Siberians, and a year later three of these beautiful creatures were imported into the United States by Elizabet Terrll. 1997 saw the first colorpoint Siberians brought to the US and in 1998 the first colorpoint kittens were born.

Acceptance was fairly simply once accurate records were being kept. TICA accepted the Siberian as a New Breed in 1992 and by 1996 they had achieved full Championship Status.

The Appearance of the Siberian

Large and powerful, the Siberian is ahead cat with a thick bone structure. The body and head are rounded with gentle contours and soft lines. Even the eyes are rounded, giving the cat a sweet expression. Solid legs and powerful hind quarters make this cat an excellent jumper, so expect to find him on top of the fridge from time to time.

With hair that is a little too long to be called short, and a little too short to be called long, the Siberian has an odd coat length that varies with the seasons. In winter it will be thick and plush with three layers to protect the body from the harsh winters in northern Russia, but in summer this coat sheds out, leaving behind something a little shorter and not half so thick. It's always soft, however, so the Siberian is a pleasure to pet.

The coat comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Colorpoint Siberians, also called Neva-Masquerade, are actually considered a separate breed by the FIF (Fédération Internationale Féline) registry. This is unusual, and has not been done in other registries. For the most point, colorpoint cats are classed with the rest of their Siberian cat friends.

Regardless of color or pattern, Siberians require intense grooming. During the winter, if you forget to brush him one day, he'll be matted by the next, so daily grooming is required. You'll have to keep this up even in the summer for the health and comfort of the cat, but the results are worth the effort.

The Personality of the Siberian

Intelligent and determined, this cat can and will learn now to open cupboards, find those snacks you thought you'd hidden, and can even remove child proof locks if he has enough time. With an impeccable memory and an unwillingness to be dissuaded, expect him to keep at it until he gets what he wants.

He loves people and is highly affectionate. Blessed with a fierce desire to play, he'll engage in a rousing game of fetch or run an obstacle course if that's the current game. Kids love him, and he loves kids, so he's a great family pet. He'll even get along with dogs if they're willing to play a game or two.

The Siberian is a vocal breed with a great range of chirps and meows. He can hold conversations for quite a while if you'll speak to him, and he loves to greet his people at the door with a few high pitched chirps.

If you're looking for a cat who is fun for the whole family and is lovely to behold, the Siberian might be for you. If you can stand the constant grooming, that is.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hybrid Cat Breeds: Serengeti

One day, a woman by the name of Karen Sausman had an idea. She wanted to create a cat that looked like the African serval but had no actual serval blood. This makes the Serengeti unlike the Savannah in any respect. Sausman would active her goals by crossing Bengals with Oriental Shorthairs at Kingsmark Cattery in California.

Her hybrid was a medium sized cat with long legs and a long body. With a large bone structure and upright posture, the Serengeti truly does have the bearing of a jungle cat. Ears and eyes are both just a little larger than you would expect for a domestic cat, and the eyes are either gold or amber in color.

The coat is distinctive, different even than its Bengal ancestors. It should be dusty gold in color, perhaps a dull yellow, with large black spots that are widely spaced. There are some Serengeti cats with solid black coats, but these are rare and not preferred. They're not typically used in breeding programs because they do not conform to the standard breeders are currently trying to achieve.

When it comes to personality and temperament, the Serengeti takes after his Oriental Shorthair ancestors. He is loyal and loves to be around people. He'll play at all hours and will run and jump around the house with the ability of a jungle cat. He's not that fond of fetch, but he does need your companionship. Don't leave him all alone for the weekend or he'll become annoyed. Annoyed Serengeti cats can become destructive.

Like the Oriental Shorthair, the Serengeti is a vocal cat. He'll have entire conversations with humans, and he'll expect you to talk back at him. He's very sweet and ready to snuggle at a moment's notice. Young children may frighten him, but older children will become fast friends.

The Serengeti is a true hybrid and is recognized by very few cat registries around the world. With time, however, he may become more common at cat shows as he gains acceptance. Right now he's just a fun designer cat.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Cat Breeds: Selkirk Rex

The Selkirk Rex isn't an ancient breed. In fact, it can only trace it's origins to Montana in 1987. Persian breeder Jeri Newman took in a female kitten with an unusual look about her. Quickly named Miss DePesto, the kitten had curly whiskers, a wavy coat, and tightly curled hair in her ears. The other kittens in the litter did not exhibit these traits, leading Newman to believe Miss DePesto might have a new mutant Rex gene.

So Newman bred Miss DePesto to a black Persian male. The resulting litter had six kittens, three of whom had the curly coat of their mother. This meant that the gene was dominant, not recessive like both the Cornish Rex and the Devon Rex. This was the beginning of a whole new breed, and breeders throughout the country were quick to catch on.

TICA accepted the Selkirk Rex into its New Breed program in 1990, then granted it Championship Status in 1994. Since then, most registries have accepted this cat as a unique and recognizable breed.

The Appearance of the Selkirk Rex

With heavy boning and a muscular body, the Selkirk Rex is a medium to large size cat who weighs more than he looks like he should. His round head, round eyes, and tilted ears give him a sweet and open expression.

Like many breeds, the Selkirk Rex has both a longhaired and a shorthaired variety. The shorthaired cats have curls that are both dense and plush. Cats with this coat resemble teddy bears in their way. Longhaired cats...well, they tend to look like they're always having a bad hair day. They have the same fur as their shorthaired brothers, only longer, so they look a lot like tousled little sheep. Think a lamb that you've thrown in the dryer.

Regardless of coat length, the Selkirk Rex can be of any color. Curls will stand out most on the belly, neck, and flanks and are soft and fluffy to the touch. All Selkirk Rex cats need to be groomed regularly. Shorthaired cats can probably thrive with only a once a week brushing, but longhaired cats need to be completely groomed at least twice a week, preferably more, just to keep the coat free of tangles.

The Personality of the Selkirk Rex

This adorable cat loves attention. He is laid back enough to just hang out and he is always up for a cuddle. When someone wants to pet and stroke his unique fur, he typically thrives on the attention. That's good, because with a coat like his, it's often too much for guests to resist a quick pat.

With a love of games and a true desire to please, the Selkirk Rex is good with children as long as introductions are slow and positive. He'll play games with children and even occasionally want to dash around the house with them, but he also needs his space. If he backs off, let him go. He'll rejoin the game when he's ready.

If you're looking for a unique breed who loves people and can't get enough attention, you might want to consider the Selkirk Rex.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cat Breeds: Scottish Fold

Random mutation has given us many different cat breeds, including the unique Scottish Fold. Back in 1961, William Ross found a white barn cat with long white hair in Scotland. He took her home and named her Susie. Susie was bred to several male cats, including Persians, America Shorthairs, Burmese, and even Exotic Shorthairs. Some of these kittens developed ears that folded down. These cute little guys would become the foundation for the Scottish Fold breed around the world.

Today, Scottish Folds are recognized by most associations around the world. Some registries, such as TICA, allow outcrosses with American Shorthairs or British Shorthairs to keep the gene pool strong, but some registries have banned such practices, meaning not all Scottish Folds can compete in all associations.

The Appearance of the Scottish Fold

This unique breed is medium in size with a soft, round body. Eyes should be round and are typically copper in color, but all eye colors are allowed. The coat is found in all colors and patterns and can either be short or long. Shorthair cats should be groomed once a week, but longhaired cats need a thorough brushing at least two or three times a week to stay happy and healthy.

The ears are, of course, the most distinctive trait of the Scottish Fold. All Scottish Folds are actually born with straight ears, but when the kittens are about three weeks old the ears start to fold forward and down. Usually only half of all kittens will carry the gene that causes folded ears, which means half will have straight ears. These kittens are called straight eared Scottish Folds and, while they are technically Scottish Folds, they are not eligible for competition and they are not usually used in breeding programs.

With the big round eyes and the folded ears that lie flat against the head, the Scottish Fold looks a bit like an owl. A cute, irresistible owl.

The Personality of the Scottish Fold

Intelligent and loyal, the Scottish Fold can learn just about anything, with or without your help. Expect your kitty to pull open cupboard doors and crawl about inside. You might even find him curled up inside a bowl or a pan. You will almost certainly find him sleeping in the sink at some point.

This cat isn't at all shy and loves a good game of fetch. He's good with other pets, including dogs, and loves children. Even younger children are well tolerated by this sociable breed. A friend is a good idea, but it doesn't have to be another Scottish Fold. Another breed of cat, or even a dog, will work just as well.

The Scottish Fold is an amusing cat. He might eat with his feet, sit up like a prairie dog, or even lounge like a human. If you want a funny breed to keep you company, the Scottish Fold just might be the right fit.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hybrid Cat Breeds: Savannah

Many times, cats that are directly descended from wild cats have a difficult time achieving recognition as a pure and true breed. This has happened, at least in great part, with the Savannah. In April of 1986 a domestic female cat mated with an African Serval, which is a wild cat found in certain parts of Africa. The resulting kitten was larger than a typical domestic cat, buy not quite as large as the African Serval. Though the coat pattern was clearly inherited from the father, the calmness and love of humans was all domestic cat. A true hybrid if there ever was one.

This first generation hybrid kitten was the very first Savannah cat, but he would not be the last. Over the next fifteen years, breeders would work tirelessly to perfect and stabilize their breed. This hard work paid off when TICA recognized the breed in 2001. Today the cat competes in the Advanced New Breed category, but it has yet to gain widespread acceptance, probably because of its rather wild ancestry. This is unlikely to change in the immediate future, but there is hope that one day the Savannah will compete as any other breed within most registries.

The Savannah is a large and sleek cat, very much resembling that African ancestor they so take after. Ears should be tall and alert and standing straight up on the head while the eyes are slightly angled. These two factors make the Savannah appear mildly surprised all the time. Long legs and a long body make him appear taller than he actually is, which is impressive in a cat already as large as the solid Savannah.

The coat is particularly distinctive, more so than even the spotted Bengal. Spots and strips abound and should be easily seen even from a distance. They should be placed in such a manner that they cannot be confused with traditional tabby markings. If it looks like a tabby cat, it is a tabby cat. Savannahs are truly unique and not mistaken for other cats.

Active and very curious, the Savannah loves to play games such as fetch and chase the invisible mouse through the house. He is in desperate need of regular exercise, so make sure you provide plenty of stimulation for your feline buddy. Toys and climbing habitats are an absolute necessity if you want to keep him from shredding your curtains. A friend is even better because they'll be obsessed with each other rather than tearing up the bottom of your couch or bed.

This large breed needs people and hates to be alone, which is another good reason to get more than one cat if you're away from home for hours at a time on a regular basis. He needs human interaction almost to an annoying degree, but don't expect him to be a lap cat. He'll be loyal and affectionate, but he prefers to show his love through playing and pestering than a long cuddle. He's got too much energy to stay in one place for long.

With a short coat that needs little in the way of grooming, the Savannah is a low maintenance breed who can make a pest of himself if he's ignored. If you want a friend with almost doglike loyalty, the Savannah might be for you.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cat Breeds: Russian Blue

Also known as Archangel cats, the Russian Blue originated near the Russian port of Arkangelsk on the White Sea, a mere 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. So it made sense to call them Archangel cats simply because of where they came from, though they are an angelic little breed.

Because Arkangelsk was a port city, it was relatively easy for these cats to spread throughout Europe simply by boarding the ships that came through. They made excellent hunters, so were prized by shop captains for catching rats. The Russian Blue spread so quickly that the first cat show in England in 1880 included these stunning creatures.

Prior to 1912, all blue cats with short hair competed in the same class. But by the end of 1912 Russian Blues were granted their own class, but they were described as Foreign Blues, not Russian. There was some controversy over this, but World War I distracted everyone from cats, leaving the matter unsettled for years to come.

After the war, breeding slowly picked up where it had left off, but the war had taken a toll. The gene pool had severely diminished, forcing breeders to resort to outcrosses to revitalize the breed. Some breeders used the British Shorthair for its color, others the blue point Siamese for the more foreign body type. In Scandinavia, breeders decided on blue cats and Siamese cats. Their kittens had short, tight coats and bright emerald eyes.

By the time the Russian Blue was imported into the United States, there were quite a few versions to choose from. Most American breeders used English and Scandinavian cats, breeding for the best features of both. Through their concentrated efforts we were blessed with the modern Russian Blue, a cat with a pale blue coat tipped with silver who has eyes the shade of quality emeralds.

The Appearance of the Russian Blue

Medium in size, the Russian Blue is graceful and elegant. His body had a foreign appearance while being both athletic and muscular. Legs should be long and fine, ears large and set so they frame the face. The eyes are quite distinctive with their emerald green color, and they are noticeable as they are round and just a little large for the face.

The Russian Blue isn't a Russian Blue without the characteristic blue coat. The coat should be short and dense and tipped with silver. This silver gives the cat an impressive shimmer. It looks impressive, and it is, but it's also relatively low maintenance. A quick brushing once a week is all most Russian Blues ever need.

The Personality of the Russian Blue

Incredibly affectionate and quite intelligent, this quick witted breed likes to stalk and observe people before he comes out of hiding. He's not shy or scared, he just likes to set the terms of his affection.

Once he does approach, he will not leave you alone. He might be able to entertain himself while you're away, but when you're home, you're all his. If you have children or other pets, so much the better, because he loves everyone equally. Also, there will be more people to play fetch.

If you're looking for a stunning cat who will love you to eternity, and you're willing to play fetch for hours on end, the Russian Blue might be the cat for you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cat Breeds: Ragdoll

The Ragdoll, though not an ancient breed, has been with us since the 1960s. Early in that decade a woman by the name of Ann Baker, a native of California, owned a pure white longhaired cat she called Josephine. She and one of her daughters, along with a seal matted male cat (who happened to be called Daddy Warbucks), are the very foundation of what would become the Ragdoll breed.

Though this gentle breed undoubtedly would not exist without the efforts of Ms. Baker, she was just a little on the eccentric side. She claimed that, during a period when she was in the hospital after a car accident, Josephine's genes were somehow altered. In her mind, this made the kittens born before the accident "normal" while the kittens born after exhibited the traits Ragdoll cats have become famous for. Whatever the truth of the matter, she did manage to select cats that furthered her breeding program.

But she couldn't do it all alone. The gene pool needed strengthening. To do this, she contacted breeders from across the United States, enlisting there help to help develop her breed. Eventually, however, her continued and worsening eccentricities encouraged most breeders to turn away from her. But this was not the end of the breed. Instead, the various breeders continued to develop the Ragdoll independent of Baker's influence.

Eventually, with the help of breeders from all across the country and the world, the Ragdoll became recognized by most major cat registries around the world.

The Appearance of the Ragdoll

Weighing in at up to 20 pounds, the Ragdoll is one of the largest of all domestic breeds. Because of their unusual size, they can take up to four years to reach maturity. In this four years they become large, long, sturdy, and quite hardy.

The eyes of this sweet natured cat must be blue to be admissible in competition, thought the occasional green or yellow does pop up. Round and large, these eyes give the cat a sweet and knowing expression.

This breed has a coat that is soft and silky and about medium in length. In general, there is little shedding associated with the Ragdoll, though they do drop hair in both the spring and fall. Despite their longer hair, they require little more grooming than a weekly brushing to help prevent tangles.

Coat colors are many and varied. A Ragdoll may be blue, chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lilac, tortoiseshell, or even red and cream. You may also find cats with more tabby colouring, though this is more rare.

There are three acceptable color patterns. Colorpoint Ragdolls are marked like Siamese and have no white on their bodies. Mitted Ragdolls are similar, but they have white feet. The back legs have white all the way up to the hock and there might be a blaze of white on the chest. Finally, bi-color Ragdolls have much more white. You will find the white markings go much higher on the legs and there will be white patches on the back. The belly will be white and the cat will usually have seen white on the face. Most of these patterns are accepted by most cat registries.

The Personality of the Ragdoll

The most distinctive feature of this breed is that most of them for limp when you pick them up for a snuggle. It's a little hilarious and sometimes new owners think their is something wrong with their new friend, but it's completely normal.

Ragdolls tend to be relaxed and friendly, making them great family pets. Most adults will even allow themselves to be dressed up. They like children and other pets and can even tolerate a rambunctious dog if they have to. Kittens are bold and active, and even young adults might display these traits, but mature cats are not really interested in much activity. While they might occasionally chase a toy, they'd really much rather nap in the sun, so don't expect a rowdy companion.

If you're looking for a sweet feline companion who sleeps beside you most of the time, the Ragdoll might be for you.