Monday, November 26, 2012

Cat Breeds: Bengal

Bengals are a result of the desire to have a domestic cat that looks and even behaves like a wild jungle cat. The Bengal as we know it today was actually created by Jean Mill in the late 1970s. Mill, who was living in Covina, California at the time, was hoping to reproduce the spotted pattern, colors, and facial qualities of the Asian Leopard Cat. She inherited eight female cats, who were the products of a cross between the Asian Leopard Cat and domestic shorthairs, from a researcher at the University of California. These eight cats would be the first cats in her breeding program.

Of course, you need males for a successful breeding program. Mill added two male cats to her program. One of these was found at a zoo in Delhi, India and was a feral cat, orange in color with deep brown rosettes. The second came from a shelter in Los Angeles and was a simple brown spotted tabby. Both cats were shorthairs, but that's all they seemed to have in common.

Fast forward ten years (1986, to be exact) and there were more than two hundred Bengals all across the United States. The breed was registered with The International Cat Association (TICA). After several years, once Bengals had exhibited a normal sterility profile and was the same on a cellular level as other domestic cats, the breed became eligible to compete. The first Bengals competed in May of 1991. Since this recognition, outcrosses have not been allowed. What this means is that for a cat to be considered a Bengal, both parents must be full-blooded Bengals.

The Bengal is a standard-size cat ranging from six to fifteen pounds. Males are usually at the larger end of this spectrum, but there are exceptions to this rule. Cats are well muscled and are considered among the most athletic of cats.

The spotted coat of the Bengal may be distinct and recognizable by most cat fanciers, but it's not the only Bengal coat. Spots may be either large or small and may have a two-toned appearance. Another coat pattern accepted by most associations is the marble pattern. This is a swirling pattern that looks either like flowing horizontal lines or random swirls. Some cats even have a slightly iridescent appearance. This is called the glitter effect and is highly prized by breeders. Different associations accept different patterns, but they're really all Bengals.

Bengals come in a wide variety of colors, but the black or brown tabby is the most common. Acceptable colors also include grey, bronze, copper, gold, or even mahogany. All Bengals should have spotting or marbling to some extent. The spots or marbling should be either black or a rich brown.

Snow Bengals and silver Bengals are rare but prized. Snow Bengals carry a recessive pointed gene that causes a cream coat with a pearly shimmer. These cats also have blue eyes. Silver Bengals have a white or grey coat with dark grey patterns. Both are you standard Bengal except that they are exhibiting recessive traits.

The personality of the Bengal can take many new owners by surprise. Bengals are not that far removed from their wild ancestors and can sometimes be nervous and a little unruly. They are not generally recommended for families with young children. They are also inquisitive, active, and easily bored. They need something to do at all times, but don't get two unless you love chaos. Two Bengals cause all kinds of trouble.

Bengals need lots of space to run, jump, and climb. It's not usual to find a Bengal perched on a curtain rod or climbing a doorway. They tend to like water and will swim in a pool or bathtub at any opportunity. They are not a docile cat, but they can be integrated into a family with older children and pets if you are patient and ready for unexpected action.

Health problems can be persistent and annoying for Bengals. They are prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome which is aggravated by most commercial cat foods. Bengal cats need more protein and less grains in their food, so you'll have to spend a little more money to keep your cat healthy. They also have a problem with water. While Bengal cats are susceptible to micro-organisms found in unchlorinated water, they also don't handle chlorinated water well. The best approach is to give them distilled water to drink. That or boil unchlorinated tap water.

Like the Ocicat and other man-made spotted cats, the Bengal doesn't always breed true for pattern, which is still something breeders are working on. Regardless, they are an adventuresome cat and make a good pet, but only if you're ready for anything. They're certainly not a tame breed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Characteristics of the Balinese Cat

The history of the Balinese is shrouded in mystery. There are references to a longhaired Siamese (coat length is what separates the Balinese from the Siamese) in 1871 and in 1928 the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) has a registration record for a longhaired Siamese. Despite this, real breeding for the Balinese didn't really begin until the 1950s. Longhaired kittens born into Siamese litters were singled out for a specific breeding pattern and the Balinese was truly born.

In the beginning, there were only four accepted colors -- chocolate, blue, seal, and lilac. But other colors weren't far behind and in 1979 red, cream, and tabby patterns were added to the acceptable colors list. It was still some time, however, before any of these colors in combination with white were considered acceptable. Today, most colors and patterns are acceptable by most cat associations around the world.

The Balinese is very much like the Siamese except for the longer coat. This longhaired breed is elegant, graceful, and muscular in an understated sort of way. The long coat lies close to the body. There is no undercoat, making grooming easier and limiting the mats that often form with other longhaired breed. The tail is long and plumed with hair that can grow up to 5 inches in length. The body is a creamy white and the markings on the coat should be restricted to the tail, legs, ears, and face.

The eyes of all Balinese should be brilliant blue, very much like glittering sapphires. The legs should be long and the body should be svelte. Some of the larger cats can weigh as much as 8 pounds, though most are closer to 6 pounds. This breed does need some grooming to remove dead hairs and keep the cat comfortable, but the coat doesn't really mat so a weekly brushing is really all that is required.

If you want to understand the personality and temperament of the Balinese, look to the Siamese. A Balinese is one of the most vocal of cats, often having little "conversations" with the people around them. They are also loyal and love to be around people, though they can play the aloof game as well as any other cat breed.

These cats are incredibly intelligent and easily bored, so work to keep your feline companion occupied. They can become destructive is left alone for too long, so if you have to be away from the house for more than 4 or 5 hours, you should probably consider getting a second cat. They need the companionship and they're less likely to dig a hole in your prized couch if they have a friend to occupy their time.

It's important to note that the Javanese is very similar to the Balinese. In fact, since some associations still only recognized the four original colors in the Balinese, other colors are usually assigned to the Javanese. These two breeds are almost identical, however, and many enthusiasts make no distinction between them. Both breeds live for many years and have no breed-specific health issues. They also make excellent companions for people of any age.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Characteristics of the American Wirehair

Like many breeds, the American Wirehair is the result of what is assumed to be a spontaneous mutation. In the state of New York a litter of 6 kittens were born, one of which had a short, wiry coat and crimped whiskers. This kitten was purchased by a local breeder and bred to 2 different females with normal coats. When the kittens from these crossings all had wiry coats, it was determined that the gene was dominate. Genetic testing confirmed that the hair was unique and unrelated to the stiff coats of either the Devon or the Cornish Rex. And so the American Wirehair was born.

The American Wirehair is very like the American Shorthair in term of conformation, size, and body type. Its body is muscular and firm and its head is longer than it is wide. The eyes are full and round and the ears are slightly rounded at the tip. They are, all in all, a fairly standard cat.

Except for the little thing that makes them unique. The wiry coat is distinctive, but it's not identical on all cats. It can range from spiked (where your cat looks like you've applied gel to spike his fur) to curly, and the individual hairs might be anything from slightly hooked or bent to truly crimped. Regardless of these variations, all American Wirehairs should have a dense and coarse coat, one that is preferably crimped, over the entire body. The whiskers are always crimped. The coat, which comes in virtually all colors and patterns, should spring back into place when disturbed by petting or otherwise being ruffled.

The only real problem with this type of coat is that the cat will be prone to skin ailments. These could include allergies or simply sensitive skin. To reduce these problems, bath the cat at least once a month and groom him daily. These cats also suffer from excess earwax, so clean their ears on a weekly basis.

The American Wirehair is similar in temperament and personality to the American Shorthair. They are friendly with people and like attention, but they are rarely demanding. They are also independent and like to have time alone. They are quick and intelligent and get along well with most people. They are playful and enjoy older children, though they merely tolerate younger children.

This breed of cat makes a loyal and fun companion for many families and individuals. They are also a great conversation starter whenever friends and family meet your feline companion for the first time.