Friday, March 18, 2011

Hybrid Cats: The Skookum

Hybrid cats, often referred to as designer cats, are cats whose parents are of two different breeds. Sometimes, crossing two breeds can result in a highly desirable kitten. For example, if you cross a Munchkin cat with a LaPerm you will get what has come to be known as Skookum.

The Skookum is a cat which is medium in size. However, due to its Munchkin parent, it will usually have shortened legs, especially shortened front legs. This is because the Munchkin cat carries the gene for dwarfism, which presents dominant expression. Most kittens will inherit the dwarfism gene, though there will be causes where a cat with a Munchkin parent will have normal legs. In these cases, the kitten is not considered a Skookum.

From the LaPerm parent, the Skookum inherits a curly coat. This coat could be long or short, and since it the LaPerm is a form of Rex, and Rexes are known for not shedding very much, the Skookum tends to be a low-shedding cat. Longhaired cats tend to have a loosely curled coat which stands away from the body. In fact, you should be able to feel the skin as you run your hands through the coat of a longhaired Skookum. Shorthaired cats have the same type of coat, except that it is difficult to feel the skin, simply because the hair is just that much shorter. Grooming these cats is easy, since the coat does not usually mat. These cats love to be brushed, so any necessary grooming is made that much simpler.

The Skookum is agile and athletic, despite having a cobby body and shortened legs. In general, the body has an appearance very much like any other cat, with the exception of the legs. The head is slightly rounded with higher-set cheekbones and a medium muzzle. The nose is medium-long with a slight stop right between the eyes. The ears are medium to large, very large at the base, and quite high set. The eyes are shaped like walnuts and shine with an inner brilliance that makes this cat very attractive as a pet.

These cats can come in many colors. Some are colorpoints, others are solid color. There are tabbies, bicolors, and spotted Skookums. At the moment, the Skookum can come in any color present in the Munchkin or LaPerm lines. However, there is currently an effort to standardize the colors of the Skookum coat.

Skookums tend to be very affectionate and sweet. Despite their somewhat awkward appearance, these cats are confident, self-assured, outgoing, and curious. This can lead them into trouble sometimes as they explore where they should not. Their playfulness rivals that of any other breed, and their shortened legs do not seem to hamper them at all. They can run, jump, and climb as well as any other cat, and will often dash off to hide in their own version of hide-and-seek.

This cat was created in the 1990s by Roy Galusha. It wasn’t long before other breeders from the United States, England, New Zealand, and Australia joined the breeding program. Today, there are many breeders throughout the world who are committed to establishing this unique breed. However, the Skookum cannot be considered ready for global recognition until the Munchkin and LaPerm are not longer necessary to maintain breeding programs.

The Skookum is recognized by the International Cat Association (TICA) as an experimental breed. The Dwarf Cat Association (TDCA) also considers them experimental. This breed has recently obtained recognition by the Rare and Exotic Feline Registry (REFR) and the Catz Incorporated, which is the national registry for cats in New Zealand. Currently, it is only in Australia and New Zealand that the Skookum may be shown as a breed in its own right. It may be that the Skookum will eventually achieve recognition by associations around the world, but as with most hybrid breeds, this takes a great deal of time.

The Skookum makes a wonderful pet and is highly intelligent. However, they are quite rare and incredibly expensive. There is also much variation in appearance between different Skookums. Eventually, if they are recognized as a breed by associations such as TICA, a breed standard will have to be developed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hybrid Cats: The Bristol

The Bristol is a cat that is shrouded in mystery, probably due to its rarity. Though once admitted into the International Cat Association (TICA) as a breed in their own right, they were dropped due to poor numbers and fertility problems. Instead of claiming that the Bristol is a separate breed, it might be better to consider the Bristol a hybrid, or designer cat.

It is impossible to know exactly when the first Bristol cat was bred. It is also difficult to be sure of the ancestry of the first Bristol cats. They do resemble the Bengal, but only to a certain degree, and it is thought that the Bristol actually predates the Bengal by many years. If this is the case, it is unlikely that the Bristol is a variation of the Bengal. Due to its exotic nature, it is rather more likely that the Bristol is a cross between the American Shorthair and the margay.

These cats tend to resemble an orange ocicat. Some have a smoky charcoal appearance, which is unlike a Bengal, while others had white or pale bellies and legs. They also had margay-type rosettes, an ocelot-like voice, and small, rounded ears. The ears, which are unlike their American Shorthair ancestors, are certainly an indication that a non-domestic cat is the other parent.

In 1991, some of these cats were found at a private residence in Texas. These cats were once registered with TICA as “Bristol Cats.” However, their chronic infertility had caused TICA to drop the breed many years before. Indeed, the cats in Texas, though beautiful and affectionate, were not very fertile. These cats had several characteristics that were definitely not of domestic origins, such as the ears, pattern, color, and head shape. While documentation of these cats remains unproven, experts do believe that these cats were a result of crossing domestic shorthairs or American Shorthairs with the wild margay.

Today, the margay and the American Shorthair are occasionally bred to create this interesting crossbreed. Considered designer cats, the Bristol cannot be thought of a true breed. This is because one of the defining characteristics of a breed is the fertility of the offspring. However, the American Shorthair-margay cross produces kittens of limited fertility. When these kittens are successfully bred together (which occurs only rarely), they do not appear to produce kittens with noticeable or sustained fertility.

These cats are considered rare and are sought after by those who can find a breeder and are willing to pay the high price tag.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Largest Breed of Domestic Cat

Discussions on which is the largest cat breed abound. There is much debate over which recognized breed is truly the largest, usually because the term ‘largest’ is open to interpretation. It could mean the tallest cat, or perhaps the one which weighs the most. However, in the world of cat fancy, when speaking of the largest cat, most experts would agree that the defining characteristic is weight.

This still can lead to a bit of confusion, so experts go on to define this further. The largest breed is considered the cat which has the greatest weight within its own breed standard. This means that simply overfeeding a cat will not mean that suddenly that particulr breed is the largest. Instead, the cat(s) in question must meet their breed standard, avoiding penalties and disqualifications in all shows. Of course, this also means that the breed must be recognized by a fair number of associations and federations around the world in order to be considered the largest breed of domestic cat.

This limits the field quite a bit. The Savannah might be considered to be the largest breed, as they sometimes weigh an average of 20-27 pounds; some cats weigh as much as 30 pounds. However, since they are not formally recognized by either the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) or the Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF), it is quite easy to eliminate this breed as a contender for the title ‘largest cat breed.’

The Norwegian Forest Cat is fairly large as well, and it is recognized by most associations around the world. However, this cat is more tall than heavy. Though it weighs anywhere from 13-22 pounds. Though this breed is obviously fairly tall, there are heavier and taller cats still.

The mysterious Ragdoll, beautiful and perfect for families, is another large breed. Weighing from 15-20 pounds, it would appear to be smaller than the Norwegian Forest Cat. However, these cats sometimes weight up to 25 pounds while still conforming to their breed standard. This would appear to put them at the front of the pack, so to speak. The Ragamuffin, a distinct breed in its own right, is very similar to the Ragdoll in terms of size.

The Maine Coon Cat, a native of New England, is a breed that has a large following. They are one of the most popular breeds in the United States and Canada, and have steadily gained ground in Europe. The origins of this cat are subject to much debate, but it is clear that the Maine Coon Cat has long since established itself as a legitimate breed. It also is one of the heaviest, weighing anywhere from 15-25 pounds.

The Ragdoll, Ragamuffin, and Maine Coon Cat all seem to have similar weights. In this case, it is helpful to look at the relative lengths of the cats. To date, there has not been a Ragdoll or Ragamuffin measured that has turned out to be longer than the longest Maine Coon Cat. If you combine the relative weights and sizes of these differing breeds, it becomes clear that the Maine Coon Cat is the largest of all domestic cat breeds.

Maine Coon Cats certainly deserve their reputation as the largest of all cats. Their weight and size give them a larger appearance and feel than any other breed of domestic cat. As such, there can be little debate when it comes to the largest cat, if you use weight as the first criteria, and break the tie with length (from the nose to the tip of the tail).