Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Characteristics of the Abyssinian Cat

The Abyssinian, or Aby, is one of the most popular cats, both as a pet and a show cat. Most people would recognize this distinctive breed, even if they don’t know what to call it. The Abyssinian was once worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and is the cat depicted in most ancient artwork. The inner grace and beauty of this creature makes it an appealing companion for many people.

The Personality of the Abyssinian

Abyssinians are highly intelligent cats known for their loyalty and affection. They love to interact with both their owners and their environment and they love to explore. However, they are delicate enough that they’ll rarely knock over priceless heirlooms or the random saltshaker. Abyssinians enjoy having a good view of what’s going on around them, so expect them to sit high atop the fridge, a bookshelf, or even perching on the tops of doors. They are intensely curious and will follow whatever catches their eye, so they should be kept indoors.

Due to their high energy level, an Abyssinian will only rarely curl up on a vacant lap or sneak under the covers. They do enjoy playing with their beloved owners and will likely engage in a round of fetch in their more kittenish moments. These cats are highly social, but they don’t do well in large groups of cats. Abyssinians simply do not like to share the spotlight and are better suited to single cat households.

The Physical Appearance of the Abyssinian

The most defining characteristic of the Abyssinian is its unique coat. The richly colored fur has a ticked tabby pattern free of markings on its legs, tail, and neck. However, the perfect Abyssinian has dramatic facial markings. Each individual hair on Abyssinians is ticked with four to six distinct bands of color. These bands should alternate between dark and light, with the lighter beginning at the root, the darker at the tip. Ideally, the color at the root should be identical to the color on the underside of the cat, as well as the color on the insides of its legs. The eyes should be gold or green, though some associations such as the Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF) recognize hazel as an appropriate eye color. These cats are medium in size, with males weighing in from 8-10 pounds. Females should be slightly smaller at 6-7 pounds.

Abyssinians come in several different colors. The most common is the ruddy Abyssinian. The coat should be burnt sienna in color, ticked with various shades of darker brown or black. The undercoat should be orange-brown and the tail may be tipped with black. The nose leather should be a tile red, but the paw pads must be either black or brown. The ruddy Abyssinian is accepted in all major associations where the breed is recognized.

Blue Abyssinians are particularly striking. Their coats are warm beige ticked with shades of slate blue. The undercoat should be blush beige and the tail must be tipped with slate blue. The nose leather should be a deep rose in color, often referred to as old rose. The paw pads are usually mauve with slate blue between the toes. This color is accepted in all major associations where the breed is recognized.

Fawn Abyssinians are a warm rose beige ticked with light cocoa brown. The undercoat should be blush-beige and the tails must be tipped with light cocoa brown. The nose leather is typically salmon while the paw pads are dark pink with light cocoa brown between the toes. This color is now accepted in all major associations where the breed in recognized.

Red is has become a common color for Abyssinians. The coat should be rich, warm, glowing red ticked with chocolate brown. The undercoat should be bright red while the tail is tipped with chocolate brown. The nose leather is usually a rosy pink and the paw pads are a solid pink with chocolate brown between the toes. This color is accepted by in all major associations where the breed is recognized, though the International Cat Association (TICA) calls this color cinnamon.

Lilac is a beauty and unique color for Abyssinians. A lilac Abyssinian is a pale ivory ticked with a frosty gray. The undercoat is a pale ivory and the tail is tipped with frosty gray. The nose leather is always mauve or pink. Paw pads should be lilac pink with a dusty lilac between the toes. This color is only recognized by TICA and the American Cat Association (ACA).

Cream is one of the less recognized colors. Cream Abyssinians should be a pale cream in color, ticked with a darker cream. The undercoat is an even paler cream and the ears and tail should be ticked with darker cream. The nose leather should be rosy pink, as should the paw pads. This color is only recognized by the ACA.

Both the American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE) and TICA accept the silver version of each of their recognized colors. This means that an icy white coloration closest to the skin is followed by ticking up the hair shaft.

The Abyssinian is active, agile, animated, loving, and intelligent. These cats make engaging companions for people of any age and can easily adapt themselves to most environments. Abyssinians are truly a remarkable breed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cat Breed Facts: Colorpoint Shorthair

The origins of the Colorpoint Shorthair begin with the Siamese. Experiments were often initiated with the hope of introducing new colors into the Siamese breed. As these experiments could only be done by outcrossing with other breeds, this infuriated Siamese purists. However, one of these ‘experiments’ resulted in the personable Colorpoint Shorthair.

The Development of the Colorpoint Shorthair

Breeders truly began to introduce new Siamese colors in the 1940s. Red, cream, tortie, and tabby points were among the first colors to arise during this time. In Great Britain, these cats were not recognized as Siamese, but offered the name Pointed Foreign Shorthairs. Breeders refused to accept this designation. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) in the United States refused to recognize them at all.

In 1964, the CFA voted to recognize the new colors under a separate breed, the Colorpoint Shorthair. England’s solution to the ‘naming problem’ of the Colorpoint Shorthair was to recognize these ‘non-traditional Siamese’ under a new breed number.

While some associations recognize Colorpoint Shorthairs as Siamese, most breeders and enthusiasts agree that these cats have developed unique traits and characterizes that do indeed warrant a distinct breed.

Some Breed Standards for the Colorpoint Shorthair

The standards for the Colorpoint Shorthair are fairly strict, as with most other breeds. It is easy to have a cat that is penalized or even disqualified, so those seeking a show cat should approach the purchase of a potential kitten with care.

General: The Colorpoint Shorthair is a refined and lithe cat with tapering lines. The ideal cat is similar to the Siamese, but with its own distinctive coloring.

Head: Medium in size, the head should be a long tapering wedge. It should be very triangular in shape, unbroken by the whiskers. An allowance should be made for jowls in adult males.

Ears: The ears of a Colorpoint Shorthair should be very large and pointed. They should be quite wide at the base and continue the lines of the head.

Eyes: All Colorpoint Shorthairs must have blue eyes, the brighter the better. The eyes should be almond shaped and medium in size.

Body: Graceful and long, the Colorpoint Shorthair is a combination of fine bones and firm muscles. The legs should be long and slim, while the paws are dainty and oval.

Tail: The tails of all Colorpoint Shorthairs should be long, thin, and taper to a fine point.

Coat: Fine textured and glossy, colors for the coat of Colorpoint Shorthairs vary and may include solid, lynx, or parti-color points. The coat should be short and lie close to the body.

Penalties: Any cat with inconsistent pigmentation of the nose leather or paw pads will be assessed a penalty in competition.

Disqualifications: Any of the following will result in disqualification: any eye color other than blue, kinked tails, incorrect number of toes, or malocclusion resulting in an overshot or undershot chin.

Colorpoint Shorthairs have budding personalities and a bright and open expression. They make wonderful companions but are generally not recommended for young children.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Select a Siamese Cat

Of all the breeds of cats available in the world today, the Siamese is one of the most popular. They have unique and vibrant personalities, and are wonderful companions. For those interested in purchasing a Siamese kitten, there are some things to consider.

Selecting a breeder is the first step in purchasing your kitten. There are literally hundreds of Siamese breeders in the United States, and many more throughout the world. Don’t be too hasty in your selection. Do your research and ask for references. If at all possible, visit the breeder and take a good look at the facility.

When adopting any cat, Siamese or not, health is always a major concern. Ask to see the parents of the kittens, and enquire about the general health and well-being of the parents. Pay attention to any mention of heart or liver problems with either parent, since these can be passed down to the kittens, especially with a breed such as the Siamese.

Take a look at the area where the kittens are kept, ensuring that it is free of dirt, fleas, and mites. Check to make sure all kittens are clean and healthy in appearance, and ask about a health guarantee. You want to make sure that if you take your kitten to the veterinarian and are told that your new family member is seriously ill, you can return the kitten for a refund.

Siamese kittens are highly social and quite dependent. They shouldn’t be removed from their mother before twelve weeks of age, or they could develop severe anxiety disorders. A breeder who encourages you to take the kitten home before this is likely not interested in the health and well-being of the kittens.

Observe the kittens for a while. Do not pick a kitten simply because you like the way it looks. Watch them as they interact with each other. The happy and frisky kitten is the best pick for most people. The wallflower might not be feeling well, or might dash under the couch as soon as you get home. Look for the kitten that will be more compatible with your lifestyle.

You might notice that the kittens are either a creamy white, or that their markings are lighter than expected. This is normal. Siamese markings start to come in around four weeks of age, and don’t finish darkening until the kittens are approximately a year old.

Siamese kittens are very vocal and require a lot of attention. If you tend to stay home a lot, or can take the kitten with you, then your kitten will be happy and well socialized. If, however, you’re away from home for long stretches of time and it's not possible to have the kitten accompany you, a second kitten might be a viable option. No one likes to be alone, least of all a precocious Siamese kitten.

The choice to bring a Siamese into your home is not to be made lightly. They can live for fourteen or more years, and are full of energy and love. If you’re ready to love them and give them the attention they deserve, Siamese might be the breed for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cat Breed Facts: Chartreux

References to blue, gray, or blue-gray cats can be found throughout French literature. Though the first recorded use of the name Chartreux to describe cats with blue fur was in 1723, entirely gray cats were common in France at least as early as 1558. Legend, which often passes for fact among cat fanciers, says that the Carthusian monks were responsible for the development of the Chartreux, but in truth, the ancient origins of this beautiful cat are probably lost to time.

The Development of the Chartreux

The first recognized Chartreux breeders were the Leger sisters, who lived on a small island in the northwest of France. Originally, the sisters bred Siamese and Persians, before becoming acquainted with blue-gray cats in the late 1920s. They discovered a large population of blue-gray cats on the island and were enchanted. Though no one knows how the cats came to be on the island, it is clear that one of the Leger sisters exhibited the first Chartreux in 1931 at a show in Paris.

Even today, the Chartreux remains one of the rarest of cat breeds. The breed was almost eliminated entirely during WWI and WWII. When breeders attempted to revive the breed in the 1950s, they found that there were not enough of the blue cats to create a suitably diverse gene pool. In an effort to save the breed, breeders began outcrossing with other blue cats, most notably Persians and British Shorthairs.

This outcrossing compromised the Standards of the Chartreux, making the breed resemble the British Shorthair. In 1970, the Feline International Federation judged that there was no difference between the breeds, and so they were to be judged in the same category. This situation lasted for seven years until breeders in Europe insisted that their cat was indeed different from the British Shorthair.

The Chartreux did not make an appearance in the United States until 1970, and after that outcrossing was rare. The Chartreux has developed a style all its own, one that distinguishes it from other breeds and varieties of blue cats.

Some Breed Standards for the Chartreux

The Standards for the Chartreux, as with many other breeds, are quite strict. It is quite easy to have a cat that is penalized or even disqualified, so those picking a show or breeding kitten should do so with care.

General: The ideal Chartreux is a sturdy French breed with dense, water repellent fur. Though husky, robust, and amply built, the Chartreux is a supple and agile cat, never coarse or clumsy. These cats are strong and intelligent, and have an amenable personality.

Head: The head should be rounded and broad, but not a sphere. This cat should have a powerful jaw with full cheeks. The nose should be straight, and neck short and heavyset. The Chartreux has a sweet, smiling expression.

Ears: Ears should be medium in both height and width, set high on the head, with a very erect posture. The set of the ears makes the Chartreux appear to be ever on alert.

Eyes: The eyes should be rounded and open, conveying an alert expression. The color should be anywhere from copper to gold, with a deep, brilliant orange as the preferred color.

Body: A Chartreux should have a robust physique. The chest should be deep, and all cats of this breed should be solid and dense. Females are medium in size; males are much larger and take longer to mature.

Tail: The ideal Chartreux has a tail of moderate length, heavy at the base, and tapering to an oval tip. The tail should be lively and flexible.

Coat: The coat of a Chartreux should be medium short and slightly wooly in texture. The undercoat should be resilient, with a longer and protective topcoat. The coat may range in color from blue gray to ash or slate, though blue is the preferred tone.

Penalties: Any cat with a severe nose break, snubbed or upturned nose, tail defects, or eyes too close together will be assessed a penalty.

Disqualifications: There are several reasons a Chartreux might be disqualified. These include: visibly kinked tail, green eyes, or a white locket.

The Chartreux is a sweet and loving cat, unique in color and gentle in nature. This breed would make a wonderful addition to any home, including homes with children.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hybrid Cats: Alaskan Snow Cat

The Alaskan Snow Cat is an experimental breed that is often confused with the Snowshoe. The Snowshoe is a recognized breed by most associations throughout the world. The Alaskan Snow Cat is a hybrid. This means that its parents are of two different breeds. The Alaskan Snow Cat is the result of crossing the Somali with the silver Persian. This results in a beautiful and unique hybrid breed.

The Alaskan Snow Cat was created in the 1900s by several breeders throughout the United States, especially in Minnesota and Florida. These breeders are currently attempting to reach some sort of breed standard in an attempt to gain recognition of the breed. The goal is to create a breed that has the natural grace and beauty of the Somali, but with the heavier body and head of the Persian. Attaining this on a consistent basis had proven challenging.

Color has proven to be equally difficult to predict. Though most Alaskan Snow Cats have a white underbelly, the actual color of the rest of the cat varies. Many are brown, rust, or even black, and most have dark banding on the legs and tail. However, the most desirable color of the Alaskan Snow cat is a silver-gray with darker gray banding and a white underbelly and throat ruff.

The Alaskan Snow Cat, due to its Persian parent, is stronger and more stable than the Somali. This means that the cat is hardier and can roughhouse with dogs and small children easier than its Somali parent. They can’t jump quite as high, however, due to their increased weight, but they can still climb very well and have a tendency to sit on top of cupboards, fridges, and even climb curtains. Owners of Alaskan Snow Cats should be aware of this, as more delicate curtains can often be shredded by this heavier cat.

These cats tend to be fairly laid back and enjoy playing with other cats, dogs, or even young children. However, they do not like loud noises, so children who do play with these cats should be taught to keep their voices down. Alaskan Snow Cats are very friendly and prefer to stay with their people. They tend not to do well alone, so the conscientious owner will ensure a companion is provided. This doesn’t have to be another Alaskan Snow Cat. These sweet felines are just as happy with another breed of cat or even a dog as a best friend.

Because these cats are so rare and the breed is still in its infancy, it is difficult to provide a detailed look at the Alaskan Snow Cat. It will be some time before breeders can stabilize the breed and produce a standard that is acceptable throughout the world of cat fancy. Until that happens, the Alaskan Snow Cat will remain a fun and beautiful experiment.