Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cat Breed Facts: American Wirehair

The American Wirehair grew out of a spontaneous mutation. This unique breed has a vastly different coat than any other type of cat. Every hair is crimped, coiled, and springy, even the whiskers. These cats, related to the American Shorthair, make delightful companions.

The Development of the American Wirehair

In 1966, a litter of kittens was born in Verona, New York. One of these kittens, a red-and-white male, had sparse, wiry hair. This kitten, named Adam, was bred to a calico cat. This mating produced four kittens, two of which were wirehaired females.

This wirehaired coat was tested to determine if it was related to either of the Rex mutations. It was discovered that all three types of hairs — down, awn, and guard — were twisted, and the awn hairs were hooked at the tip. This was unlike either the Cornish or Devon Rex. Eventually, a great variance among Wirehaired coats developed. Some were sparse, some close lying and tight. However, the most desirable Wirehaired coat was thick and springy. This is still true today.

The breed was accepted into the CFA for registration in 1967. In 1978, the first American Wirehair achieved championship status. Though closely related to the American Shorthair, from which the original coat mutation sprang, American Wirehairs are registered as a separate and distinct breed. The American Shorthair is still an allowable outcross breed for the American Wirehair.

The wirehair mutation is a dominant gene. However, it is entirely possible to breed a Wirehair to a Wirehair and end up with a litter of all straight-coated kittens. This can be disheartening to the novice breeder, and all breeders of American Wirehairs must be prepared for this eventuality.

Some Breed Standards for the American Wirehair

The standards for the American Wirehair, 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 American Wirehair is the result of a spontaneous mutation. The coat is springy, dense, and resilient, and also hard and coarse to the touch. These cats are agile and have a keen interest in their surroundings.

Head: The head should be in proportion to the body, and the underlying bone structure should be round with a well-developed muzzle and chin. A slight whisker break is allowed.

Ears: Medium sized and slightly rounded at the tips. The ears should be set wide and not unduly open at the base.

Eyes: Should be medium to large, bright, and clear. The eyes should be set well apart.

Body: The American Wirehair should have a medium to large body, with males larger than females. The torso should be well rounded and in proportion. Legs should be well muscled, paws should be oval and compact.

Tail: The tail of the American Wirehair should be in proportion to the body. It should be slightly tapering, but neither blunt nor pointed.

Coat: The coat of the American Wirehair is springy, tight, and medium in length. Each hair should be crimped, hooked, or bent in some fashion, including the hair inside the ears. The overall appearance of the coat is more important than the crimping of each individual hair. The most desirable coat is dense, resilient, crimped, and very coarse.

Penalties: Any cat displaying a deep nose break or long and fluffy fur will be assessed a penalty.

Disqualifications: The most common reason for disqualification for American Wirehairs is an incorrect coat. Also, a kinked or abnormal tail, the incorrect number of toes, or any evidence of hybridization will result in a cat being disqualified from competition.

The American Wirehair is a unique and loving breed. It is also one of the few breeds that is truly native to North America. Its sweet and open disposition makes it a wonderful pet for any cat-lover.

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