Monday, July 25, 2016

Hybrid Cat Breeds: Savannah

Many times, cats that are directly descended from wild cats have a difficult time achieving recognition as a pure and true breed. This has happened, at least in great part, with the Savannah. In April of 1986 a domestic female cat mated with an African Serval, which is a wild cat found in certain parts of Africa. The resulting kitten was larger than a typical domestic cat, buy not quite as large as the African Serval. Though the coat pattern was clearly inherited from the father, the calmness and love of humans was all domestic cat. A true hybrid if there ever was one.

This first generation hybrid kitten was the very first Savannah cat, but he would not be the last. Over the next fifteen years, breeders would work tirelessly to perfect and stabilize their breed. This hard work paid off when TICA recognized the breed in 2001. Today the cat competes in the Advanced New Breed category, but it has yet to gain widespread acceptance, probably because of its rather wild ancestry. This is unlikely to change in the immediate future, but there is hope that one day the Savannah will compete as any other breed within most registries.

The Savannah is a large and sleek cat, very much resembling that African ancestor they so take after. Ears should be tall and alert and standing straight up on the head while the eyes are slightly angled. These two factors make the Savannah appear mildly surprised all the time. Long legs and a long body make him appear taller than he actually is, which is impressive in a cat already as large as the solid Savannah.

The coat is particularly distinctive, more so than even the spotted Bengal. Spots and strips abound and should be easily seen even from a distance. They should be placed in such a manner that they cannot be confused with traditional tabby markings. If it looks like a tabby cat, it is a tabby cat. Savannahs are truly unique and not mistaken for other cats.

Active and very curious, the Savannah loves to play games such as fetch and chase the invisible mouse through the house. He is in desperate need of regular exercise, so make sure you provide plenty of stimulation for your feline buddy. Toys and climbing habitats are an absolute necessity if you want to keep him from shredding your curtains. A friend is even better because they'll be obsessed with each other rather than tearing up the bottom of your couch or bed.

This large breed needs people and hates to be alone, which is another good reason to get more than one cat if you're away from home for hours at a time on a regular basis. He needs human interaction almost to an annoying degree, but don't expect him to be a lap cat. He'll be loyal and affectionate, but he prefers to show his love through playing and pestering than a long cuddle. He's got too much energy to stay in one place for long.

With a short coat that needs little in the way of grooming, the Savannah is a low maintenance breed who can make a pest of himself if he's ignored. If you want a friend with almost doglike loyalty, the Savannah might be for you.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cat Breeds: Russian Blue

Also known as Archangel cats, the Russian Blue originated near the Russian port of Arkangelsk on the White Sea, a mere 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. So it made sense to call them Archangel cats simply because of where they came from, though they are an angelic little breed.

Because Arkangelsk was a port city, it was relatively easy for these cats to spread throughout Europe simply by boarding the ships that came through. They made excellent hunters, so were prized by shop captains for catching rats. The Russian Blue spread so quickly that the first cat show in England in 1880 included these stunning creatures.

Prior to 1912, all blue cats with short hair competed in the same class. But by the end of 1912 Russian Blues were granted their own class, but they were described as Foreign Blues, not Russian. There was some controversy over this, but World War I distracted everyone from cats, leaving the matter unsettled for years to come.

After the war, breeding slowly picked up where it had left off, but the war had taken a toll. The gene pool had severely diminished, forcing breeders to resort to outcrosses to revitalize the breed. Some breeders used the British Shorthair for its color, others the blue point Siamese for the more foreign body type. In Scandinavia, breeders decided on blue cats and Siamese cats. Their kittens had short, tight coats and bright emerald eyes.

By the time the Russian Blue was imported into the United States, there were quite a few versions to choose from. Most American breeders used English and Scandinavian cats, breeding for the best features of both. Through their concentrated efforts we were blessed with the modern Russian Blue, a cat with a pale blue coat tipped with silver who has eyes the shade of quality emeralds.

The Appearance of the Russian Blue

Medium in size, the Russian Blue is graceful and elegant. His body had a foreign appearance while being both athletic and muscular. Legs should be long and fine, ears large and set so they frame the face. The eyes are quite distinctive with their emerald green color, and they are noticeable as they are round and just a little large for the face.

The Russian Blue isn't a Russian Blue without the characteristic blue coat. The coat should be short and dense and tipped with silver. This silver gives the cat an impressive shimmer. It looks impressive, and it is, but it's also relatively low maintenance. A quick brushing once a week is all most Russian Blues ever need.

The Personality of the Russian Blue

Incredibly affectionate and quite intelligent, this quick witted breed likes to stalk and observe people before he comes out of hiding. He's not shy or scared, he just likes to set the terms of his affection.

Once he does approach, he will not leave you alone. He might be able to entertain himself while you're away, but when you're home, you're all his. If you have children or other pets, so much the better, because he loves everyone equally. Also, there will be more people to play fetch.

If you're looking for a stunning cat who will love you to eternity, and you're willing to play fetch for hours on end, the Russian Blue might be the cat for you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cat Breeds: Ragdoll

The Ragdoll, though not an ancient breed, has been with us since the 1960s. Early in that decade a woman by the name of Ann Baker, a native of California, owned a pure white longhaired cat she called Josephine. She and one of her daughters, along with a seal matted male cat (who happened to be called Daddy Warbucks), are the very foundation of what would become the Ragdoll breed.

Though this gentle breed undoubtedly would not exist without the efforts of Ms. Baker, she was just a little on the eccentric side. She claimed that, during a period when she was in the hospital after a car accident, Josephine's genes were somehow altered. In her mind, this made the kittens born before the accident "normal" while the kittens born after exhibited the traits Ragdoll cats have become famous for. Whatever the truth of the matter, she did manage to select cats that furthered her breeding program.

But she couldn't do it all alone. The gene pool needed strengthening. To do this, she contacted breeders from across the United States, enlisting there help to help develop her breed. Eventually, however, her continued and worsening eccentricities encouraged most breeders to turn away from her. But this was not the end of the breed. Instead, the various breeders continued to develop the Ragdoll independent of Baker's influence.

Eventually, with the help of breeders from all across the country and the world, the Ragdoll became recognized by most major cat registries around the world.

The Appearance of the Ragdoll

Weighing in at up to 20 pounds, the Ragdoll is one of the largest of all domestic breeds. Because of their unusual size, they can take up to four years to reach maturity. In this four years they become large, long, sturdy, and quite hardy.

The eyes of this sweet natured cat must be blue to be admissible in competition, thought the occasional green or yellow does pop up. Round and large, these eyes give the cat a sweet and knowing expression.

This breed has a coat that is soft and silky and about medium in length. In general, there is little shedding associated with the Ragdoll, though they do drop hair in both the spring and fall. Despite their longer hair, they require little more grooming than a weekly brushing to help prevent tangles.

Coat colors are many and varied. A Ragdoll may be blue, chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lilac, tortoiseshell, or even red and cream. You may also find cats with more tabby colouring, though this is more rare.

There are three acceptable color patterns. Colorpoint Ragdolls are marked like Siamese and have no white on their bodies. Mitted Ragdolls are similar, but they have white feet. The back legs have white all the way up to the hock and there might be a blaze of white on the chest. Finally, bi-color Ragdolls have much more white. You will find the white markings go much higher on the legs and there will be white patches on the back. The belly will be white and the cat will usually have seen white on the face. Most of these patterns are accepted by most cat registries.

The Personality of the Ragdoll

The most distinctive feature of this breed is that most of them for limp when you pick them up for a snuggle. It's a little hilarious and sometimes new owners think their is something wrong with their new friend, but it's completely normal.

Ragdolls tend to be relaxed and friendly, making them great family pets. Most adults will even allow themselves to be dressed up. They like children and other pets and can even tolerate a rambunctious dog if they have to. Kittens are bold and active, and even young adults might display these traits, but mature cats are not really interested in much activity. While they might occasionally chase a toy, they'd really much rather nap in the sun, so don't expect a rowdy companion.

If you're looking for a sweet feline companion who sleeps beside you most of the time, the Ragdoll might be for you.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Cat Breeds: Pixiebob

Originating in the northwestern United States, the Pixiebob has only been with us since the late '80s. In 1985, a woman by the name of Carol Ann Brewer bought a kitten from Washington state. This kitten was a spotted male with a short tail and he was a polydactyl cat. This means he had more than the normal amount of toes. While the typical cat has five toes on the front paws and four on the back, this new kitten had more. It made him unique and adorable, but Brewer thought no more of it than that.

The next year, in 1986, she rescued a classic patterned male cat who had a short tail and stood nearly to her knees. He also was a polydactyl cat. She gave this cat a name. Keba. Later that same year, Keba and a domestic female produced a little of kittens. One of these kittens, a female, had a reddish coat with fawn undertones. She had a muted spotting pattern and had inherited her father's shortened tail. Brewer decides to call this cat Pixie.

Pixie's unique look promoted Brewer to create more cat with these same traits. It took some work, as creating a new breed always does, but by 1989 she was able to document the unique traits of her emerging cat breed, which she called the Pixiebob. It was 1993 before Brewer was able to apply to The International Cat Association (TICA) to begin the recognition process, and 1994 when the Pixiebob was granted Exhibition Status.

Finally, in 1996, the Pixiebob was advanced to New Breed Status. After that, it only took a year for Brewer to prove the true viability of her breed. In 1997, the Pixiebob was granted full Championship Status and has since gained recognition throughout the world.

The Appearance of the Pixiebob

This adorable cat is medium in size, weighing up to 17 pounds, with a muscular body. He weighs more than you might think because he is just that solid. The hind legs are just a little longer than the front, making him appear ready to spring at any moment, and the paws are large with long and thick toes.

While we're talking about toes, it is important to note that the Pixiebob is the only recognized breed that is allowed to be a polydactyl cat. He can have up to seven toes on each foot, though this is more likely to occur on the front feet. For this hefty cat, more toes is just another quirk and not a reason for disqualification.

The face looks almost like the face of a bobcat. The brow should be heavy and the eyes triangular in shape. The only acceptable eye colors are golden brown, gold, or gooseberry green. The tail is often kinked or knotted, but it should still be flexible and manoeuvrerable. Average length varies, but it should never be shorter than two inches and it should always be shorter than the tail of your average cat.

Ideally, the Pixiebob should be a brown spotted tabby ranging in color from tawny brown to a more reddish brown. Though the spots are easily seen, they should be muted and quite small. Heavy ticking is common, and this ticking may be darker in the winter and could even take on a silver tone.

As with breeds such as the Oriental and the Peterbald, the Pixiebob has more than one coat variety. Specifically, there are longhaired and shorthaired Pixiebobs. The shorthaired cats should have a wooly texture and is incredibly thick. This makes it stand up from the body and sometimes feels like the cat is wearing a cushioned coat.

The longhaired Pixiebob, however, has a soft and silky coat that can grow up to 2 inches long. Some cats even have tufts in their ears, making them look like little bobcats. If your Pixiebob has long hair, expect the facial hair to grow downward until it looks like your cat has sideburns. All in all, a very interesting looking cat.

Long hair or short, the Pixiebob is easy enough to groom. A weekly brushing should be enough to keep the coat gleaming and to remove loose hair so your cat doesn't end up with endless hairballs.

The Personality of the Pixiebob

Active and social, the Pixiebob is really more like a dog than a cat. He is loyal and forms and incredible bond with his family. He is great with children and other pets and hates being alone. Highly trainable, the Pixiebob can be taught to walk on a leash and will engage in a rousing game of fetch if the mood allows.

Expect your Pixiebob to talk. A lot. You'll hear chirps, meows, yips, and even a growl once in a while. The growl is not aggressive in any way, but rather yet another one of the varied sounds the Pixiebob is capable of.

If you're looking for a soft cat with boundless energy who will follow you like a little puppy, the Pixiebob might be for you.