Monday, October 15, 2012

The Coat of the Cat: Coat Length

Just taking a look at the various cat breeds quickly reveals one key difference between many breeds: the length of the coat. Most breeds are shorthaired, such as the American Shorthair, Bombay, Abyssinian, Manx, and so many more. Some are longhaired, such as the Cymric, Persian, and the Ragdoll. Then there are a few of the hairless variety, such as the Cornish Rex and the Sphynx. Coat length is a defining characteristic of many breeds.

In fact, for some breeds coat length is the defining characteristic. The Somali is the Abyssinian with longer hair, but they're not the only breeds separated only by the gene for coat length. In fact, there are six others. These breeds are: the Manx and the Cymric, the Oriental Shorthair and the Oriental Longhair, the Colorpoint Shorthair and the Javanese, the Exotic Shorthair and the Persian, the Scottish Fold and the Scottish Fold Longhair, and the Siamese and the Balinese. Take a look at pictures of the breeds and you'll just how similar they are. If a Somali was born with shorthair, it would pass for an Abyssinian. They're the same cats, just with a different coat length.

Coat length also relegates cats into shorthair or longhair speciality rings at shows, except in the Cat Fanciers' Association where speciality rings are determined by facial type and body conformation. On a practical level, coat length usually determines how much maintence and grooming is required. The Exotic Shorthair will require less grooming than the Persian. It's just a fact. And the hairless breeds require even less.

I talk about hairless breeds now and then, but the term 'hairless' is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the hairless cats are actually covered by a faint peach fuzz, making them shorthaired cats. Still, their hair is so short that if you're classifying cats by coat length, you really should have three categories. I know most associations don't (though there are some that do), but they should. Just my opinion.

So why is coat length important if you're not breeding or showing your cat? Gromming is an issue surely, but so is shedding. Both longhaired and shorthaired cats shed. Only a couple of breeds shed less, but all of them will drop some hair.

When choosing a cat breed as a companion animals, you'll have to consider how much grooming you want to do and how much hair you're willing to put up with. Choose your breed accordingly and save yourself some frustration. There's nothing like the sight of a beautifully-groomed Somali (or insert any longhaired breed here) walking across a sun-lit window sill, but if you're not going to do the grooming, or you're going to hate all the hair, you might want a shorthaired breed.

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