Monday, December 29, 2014

Cat Breeds: Japanese Bobtail

Many of today's cat breeds are fairly new, but some of them are truly ancient. The Japanese Bobtail has been around for at least a thousand years. Their existence has been documented in Japanese writings and paintings for at least that long. They're considered good luck in Japan and around the world.

The first Japanese Bobtails appeared in North America in 1968 when Judy Crawford sent several of the cats to Elizabeth Freret. Later, when Judy returned to the United States herself, she brought several more cats with her. The two women worked tirelessly to have the cats recognized as an independent breed, but only the shorthaired version of the breed was recognized in 1979 by TICA. The longhaired version wasn't recognized until 1991. Today, most associations recognize the shorthaired Japanese Bobtail, but the longhaired cat is still sometimes refused championship status.

The Appearance of the Japanese Bobtail

The single most distinctive feature of the Japanese Bobtail is the little bob that serves as a tail. This bob is unique to each cat and may include kinks, curls, curves, and angles. The tail should be very close to the body, appearing as no more than a pom-pom at the end of the spine. The hair on the tail should be longer than the hair on the body. The bones of the tail are fragile and require careful handling. They're also typically fused, making it possible for this delightful cat to actually wag its tail.

The coat may be either short or long, but it must lack an undercoat in either case. This is what makes the coat lie flat against the body. Even the longhaired variety isn't 'fluffy' in the traditional sense. There should be relatively little shedding and the silkiness of the coat itself keeps matting to a minimum. A weekly brush keeps the coat in pristine condition.

Coat colors are many and varied. The traditional color is a mainly white body with black and deep red markings, but other colors are also accepted. There are just as many options for eye color, but blue or even eyes of two different colors are preferred over all others.

This medium-sized cat should weigh no more than 10 pounds. The hind legs should be powerful, giving the Japanese Bobtail its extraordinary jumping ability. The body itself should be slender yet strong. The head should be triangular with large eyes and ears set high upon the head.

The Personality of the Japanese Bobtail

Many cat breeds are intelligent, but the Japanese Bobtail is exceptionally so. They are active and love to talk, so expect a lot of chirp and meows if you have a Japanese Bobtail in your home. This cat also loves to play, especially if the game involves running and jumping, so search out cat toys that allow the cat to indulge in these activities.

You'd be hard pressed to find a breed that is more loyal to their family. Despite this, they are not lap cats. They'll often be found crawling on top of cupboards or perched on top of the fridge, but they are only rarely caught snuggling up to a human. They prefer to show their love by staring at you like you're the only thing that matters.

The Japanese Bobtail is sweet, intelligent, and fun-loving. They enjoy many hours spent chasing a ball or an afternoon of climbing the curtains. If you're looking for a cat that is independent and loyal, the Japanese Bobtail might be for you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cat Breeds: Himalayan

Colorpoint cats such as the Siamese have always held a mystical quality, one that has attracted many cat fanciers over the years. But, until the 20th century, colorpoint breeds all had short hair. If you wanted a longhaired version, you had to cross a colorpoint breed to a longhaired breed and hope you got a longhaired kitten with colorpoint markings.

But in the 20th century, all that started to change. It began in the early 1930s in the United States. Clyde Keeler and Virginia Cobb began an experimental breeding program. They hoped to achieve a more stable longhaired breed that had colorpoint markings. This program had its ups and downs, meeting with only limited success. In the 1950s, however, Ben Borrett started a similar program in Canada. This program was much more successful, and in 1955 the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) recognized the Colorpoint Longhair as its own breed, but this wasn't the end of the story.

Around this same time, Marguerita Goforth began her breeding program. Her goal was to create a Persian-type cat with Siamese markings. She was also determined to have the Himalayan recognized as its own distinct breed, and not simply another colorpoint breed. Through her efforts, the Himalayan was given Championship status in 1957. Since that time, the Himalayan has been a well established breed.

The Appearance of the Himalayan

If you picture a "Persian with Siamese markings", that describes a Himalayan perfectly. This regal cat even has the bright blue eyes of a Siamese. The Himalayan is a medium-sized cat with a cobby body. Like the Persian, the Himalayan should have a large, rounded head and a thick neck. Ears should be small and set low on the head. The tail should be short, at least when compared to most other breeds, but still long enough to give the cat a balanced look.

The coat is very much like the Persian coat, long and silky. The top coat should be shiny and the undercoat just thick enough to make the cat appear quite fluffy. This combination results in many, many tangles, so consider a Himalayan only if you're willing to groom your cat daily. This breed needs it.

As for color, the body of the cat should be a uniform cream (or similar shade). The points (ears, face mask, tail, legs and feet) should be a contrasting color, and it is this color that is considered the color of the cat. The Himalayan can be found in lavender, chocolate, seal point, and several other colors. Basically, if the Siamese comes in that color, so does the Himalayan.

The Personality of the Himalayan

Loving and affectionate, the Himalayan is the ultimate lap cat. They're not all that active, preferring to cuddle instead. Like the Siamese, they are quite vocal, so expect your day to be filled with chips and meows. Maybe even a few yowls if they get annoyed enough.

Though they do like to play a little, especially with scrunched up paper, they don't do well in high activity households. A quieter home is better suited to this elegant breed. They get along with other pets and even children, but they don't like to be bothered. So if you're going to bring a Himalayan into your home, teach children and even adults how to behave around your new feline companion.

Himalayans are sweet and loving. They make great companions for the elderly or those who live alone and need a friend. But they require extensive grooming and they don't like to be home alone. If you're home a lot and don't mind brushing out your cat on a daily basis, the Himalayan might be for you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hybrid Cat Breeds: The Highlander

Some breeds are newer than others, and the Highlander is one of the newest of them all. This hybrid cat breed can trace its roots only to 2004, but the cats chosen to initiate this new breed were not of any specific existing breed. Instead, individual cats were chosen based on their physical traits. Because the breed is so new, it is only recognized by a handful of associations as a preliminary or new breed. The International Cat Association (TICA) acknowledged the Highlander in 2008, but this breed has not yet gained wide acceptance.

The most defining characteristic of the Highlander is the ears. They feature a loose curl in the top third of the ear. The curl is similar to the American Curl, and yet distinct enough to set the Highlander apart from the more established breeds. The ears are placed high atop the head and are wide and open at the base.

Highlanders come in both long and short hair varieties, and any an all coat colors and patterns are acceptable. The long hair variety should be groomed at least twice a week to avoid matting while cats with shorter hair should be groomed twice a week, just like most other breeds. The coat is typically soft and might even feel silky.

The rest of the cat is strong and substantial. The forehead is sloped while the nose and muzzle have a squared appearance. Eyes are very much like slightly flattened ovals, giving this cat breed an intense and almost intimidating stare. The body should be large and muscular, almost reminiscent of a wild lynx or even a bobcat. The tail is short, usually about an inch, but this is natural and not the result of docking. The tail, which may have kinks or curls, is highly expressive. Some Highlanders will even wag their tail very much like a dog.

But make no mistake--they are cats through and through, right down to the way they play. Highlanders are clowns at heart and can often be found chasing their own tails or waiting behind a curtain to pounce on an unsuspecting human (or fellow feline, or canine, it doesn't seem to matter). These cats love humans, so expect to be met at the door, tail held high, even if you've only been gone for five minutes. These cats love to indulge in antics that have the appearance of insanity.

This friendly cat is great with children, is able to live with other animals, and adapts easily to most living situations. If you're looking for a cat with a playful personality and a unique appearance, the Highlander might be for you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cat Breeds: Havana

The Havana (once called the Havana Brown) has its origins in the early 1950s. Hoping to breed what was essentially a dark Siamese, breeders crossed Siamese cats with black domestic shorthairs and even a few Russian Blues. The results were varied for a while, but eventually Elmtower Bronze Idol, the first of the Havanas, was born. He was the result of a controlled crossing between a black domestic shorthair and a Siamese. Then in 1958 the breed was recognized by the Governing Council of Cat Fancy, but it was listed as the Chestnut Foreign Shorthair. The name Havana Brown would be adopted in 1970, and later (1983, specifically) the 'brown' portion of the name was dropped entirely.

There are really two lines of cats these days. English lines are more oriental looking, but American lines tend to have a more angular look and are more in keeping with the original appearance of the Havana.

The Appearance of the Havana

This medium-sized cat has a body type that seems foreign and familiar all at the same time. Weighing no more than ten pounds, the Havana is a firm and muscular cat. This makes him both powerful and graceful. The muzzle of the Havana is unique in that it just seems to stop, leading to a blunt appearance. The ears tend to be larger than the norm, but not so large as to seem ridiculous.

There is only one acceptable eye color--green. The Havana comes in two colors, lilac and brown. Some associations still only recognize the brown, but the lilac cats are just as lovely. Kittens are sometimes born with tabby markings, but these disappear as the cat reaches adulthood. Whiskers should match the coat color. Grooming is easy because the hairs are short and flat. A weekly brushing to remove loose hair is all that is usually required. If you want your cat to gleam like those show cats, rub him with a chamois cloth. I know, I know. They're for cars (and you typically buy then at auto supply store). But they are also for cats. Try it and you won't be disappointed.

The Personality of the Havana

Some cats are so people-oriented that they can't bear to be deprived of attention. The Havana falls squarely into this category. They really can't be left alone all day while you're off at work. They need affection and companionship. If you think you might leave your cat alone, get a companion cat or two. A group of three Havanas does better than a single cat left home alone.

This cat will follow you around and investigate everything you do. They tend to be a little vocal, so you'll know when kitty isn't getting enough attention. This is the cat who will sit on your paper or lay on your computer until you play with him. You'll want to invest in cat toys and cat trees to keep this active breed busy. But this still won't be enough. The Havana needs interaction, so you can't buy a bunch of cat trees and expect him to entertain himself all the time. Play with him or you'll end up with a neurotic kitty on your hands (and under your feet).

The Havana is a robust and healthy cat, one that makes a terrific house pet for individuals or families who are home often. If you want a cat who will play with you, sleep on your pillow, and basically stalk your every move, the Havana might be for you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cat Breeds: Exotic Shorthair

When breeders started experimenting with a cross between the American Shorthair and the Persian, the goal was to get something that looked like a Persian but with much shorter hair. The kittens of these crosses did look like Persians, but they lacked the truly short coat of the American Shorthair. The hair was shorter than the Persian, but not quite short enough.

Still, there was potential in these kittens, and a woman by the name of Jane Martinke saw it. She called the silver-colored kittens Sterlings, proposing that this be the name of the new breed that would eventually be developed. The idea was still to keep crossbreeding in the hopes of attaining a short and plush coat. After consulting with several other breeders, the name was changed to Exotic Shorthair, opening the door for other colors and crossbreeds.

Time passed and different breeders used different crosses to get the look they desired. Some used the Russian Blue, others the Burmese, but all kittens were bred back to Persians in an attempt to keep the Persian body type. Because Persian breeders themselves didn't want to get involved in the development of the Exotic Shorthair, the breed came along slowly. It wasn't until 1979 that The International Cat Association (TICA) decided to grant the Exotic Shorthair championship status.

The Appearance of the Exotic Shorthair

The Exotic Shorthair has a dense bone structure, making them heavier than they appear. The head is broad, the ears low set, and the face short and round, leading to a sweet expression that contributes to the popularity of this breed. The body should be short, almost square, with thick legs and a thick tail that is shorter than the average breed.

The coat is thick and plush, but not as long as the Persian. They come in all colors and patterns, all of which look like little plush toys owning to the shape of the head and body. This breed does need to be groomed regularly, but grooming is not as difficult as with the Persian. A quick brush once a week and a wiping of the eyes (to prevent buildup that can lead to irritation) is generally all that is required.

The Personality of the Exotic Shorthair

A quiet breed, the Exotic Shorthair is gentle and affectionate. This is a cat that will jump into your lap for a cuddle as soon as you sit down. This cat inherited the easy-going nature of its American Shorthair ancestors, making it the perfect companion for children and other pets.

This cat loves to play and can amuse itself for hours if provided with a few toys and something to climb on. This means the Exotic Shorthair can be easily left at home while you go off at work. Your cat will be excited to see you when you get home, but he won't be totally lonely if he has a few interesting cat toys.

Known Health Issues of the Exotic Shorthair

Unfortunately, the Exotic Shorthair inherited a few health problems from its Persian ancestors. Inherited polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which can cause cysts in the kidneys, is common. The cysts are present at birth, but enlarge and cause severe problems once the cat reaches adulthood. The first signs of this disorder usually appear between three and four years of age. The cat may initially lack an appetite and be very thirsty, but irreversible kidney failure is the ultimate result. Breeders can screen their cats for this disease, but it's expensive. Expect to pay more for a kitten that is guaranteed to be free of PKD.

Other health problems can be traced to the brachycephalic face. The broad and short skull can cause eye and breathing problems. There may be chronic sinus difficulties and even kinked tear ducts, so good and regular vet care is important for the Exotic Shorthair.

The Exotic Shorthair is sweet and loving. If you're looking for a cat who will fit right into your family like he's been there for years, this adorable breed might be for you.