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.

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