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.