Monday, September 26, 2016

Cat Breeds: Sphynx

In the early 1900s, a cat resembling today's modern Sphynx was shown, but this cat was described as a New Mexican Hairless Cat. It was not recognized worldwide and it did not gain much attention, but it was the first time this type of cat had been exhibited. Though the same mutation appeared several times after this, sometimes in North America, sometimes in Europe, it wasn't until the 1960s that a real effort to create a breed from these cats truly started.

In 1966 a small black and white kitten was born in Ontario, Canada. This kitten had no hair, but did have a very fine down covering her entire body. This little female was named Prune and she would become the foundation cat for the modern Sphynx breed. She was bred to other cats in an attempt to generate more kittens with the hairless gene, but it turned out the gene was recessive. That meant breeding hairless kittens was difficult. Even once a male with the recessive gene was found, only one in four kittens would be hairless. Eventually, however, there were enough kittens to start a true breeding program.

At first these kittens were called Canadian Hairless Cats, but it wasn't long before people started calling them Sphynx. These cats were recognized provisionally by the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1970, but the CFA withdrew its support due to concerns over genetic difficulties (especially its possibly compromised immune system). These concerns were eventually dismissed or corrected and today the Sphynx is recognized by several registries, including TICA.

The Appearance of the Sphynx

Medium in size, the Sphynx is muscular and athletic. The ears are truly huge and the eyes are the shape of ripe lemons. The ears and the eyes combine to give the Sphynx a sweet and open expression. Unless he's annoyed. This cat has the ability to look supremely vexed when he has to. It's almost eerie, the expressions the Sphynx is capable of.

The coat is really the most distinctive characteristic of the Sphynx. Though not truly hairless, this cat is as close as you can get. A fine down covers the entire body, making the skin feel like a soft suede. Acceptable colors and patterns are many and varied. You can have tabby, tortoiseshell, parti-color, and solid Sphynx cats. It's the coat type, not the color, that makes this cat.

Because this cat doesn't have real fur, he doesn't have anything to absorb the natural oils produced by the body. This means he'll get oily, so bathe your cat frequently. Twice a week should do it. If you neglect this simple task, expect to see a greasy spot in any place he's been napping. He also may get cold, so a sweater and a warm bed are a necessity. And sunblock for those sunny days because his delicate skin will burn. Talk to your veterinarian about appropriate brands for your feline friend or just keep him out of the sun.

Though generally thought of as hairless, a Sphynx isn't actually hypoallergenic. This is because most people are allergic to a particular feline protein, and this protein is contained in the saliva as well as the dander. So if you want a cat but you're allergic, before deciding on a Sphynx make sure you've spent some time with one so you know if you're allergic or not.

The Personality of the Sphynx

A Sphynx is almost like a little dog. He's loyal and loving and won't usually leave you alone. He's also fond of snuggling, and not just because he likes to be warm. He just loves to be close and he'll do whatever is necessary to accomplish that goal.

Highly intelligent, the Sphynx is a breed that will get into everything and anything. And while he loves you and your family, he's also just fine on his own. Unfortunately for you, these two traits mean trouble if he's left with nothing to occupy his time. So leave him a few good toys so he doesn't climb into the cupboard and pull out the flour for a good romp. Trust me when I tell you that getting flour off an oily Sphynx isn't a lot of fun. But a good Sphynx is one of the most entertaining of companions.

If you're looking for a unique cat who is loving and equally good with children and other pets, the Sphynx might be for you.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cat Breeds: Somali

Most breeds that are both ancient and have an exotic look about them have short hair. But sometimes, as breeds are strengthened using controlled outcrosses, an unintended gene creeps in. In the late part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, Abyssinian breeders were forced to outcross simply to maintain genetic diversity. At least one of the non-Abyssinian cats used in Abyssinian breeding program had the recessive gene for long hair.

Recessive genes rarely stay that way for long, however, so it should come as no surprise that longhaired Abyssinian kittens were sometimes produced. These undesirable kittens were typically given away, never to be used in breeding programs. But eventually things came full circle, as they often do. It was 1969 when an Abyssinian breeder named Evelyn Mague was working in an animal shelter in New Jersey. One day, when Mague was working, a kitten named George was brought to the shelter. He was not only a longhaired Abyssinian, but one of the kittens Mague herself had bred a few years earlier. Appalled by the way he'd been treated, Mague had him neutered and placed in a loving forever home.

But George's story stuck with her. For a pedigreed cat to be treated as so unwanted just because he'd had the misfortune to be born with long hair was a travesty. Mague decided to not only find and show the longhaired cats, but to have them accepted as longhaired Abyssinians. This didn't go over well with Abyssinian breeders, so Mague pursued the idea that the cats were their own breed, one she labelled the Somali.

Producing more longhaired kittens wasn't difficult. She still had George's parents, after all, so she was able to add approximately one out of every four kittens to her new Somali breeding program. And since the longhaired gene was recessive, breeding Somalis to Somalis produced nothing but longhaired kittens.

It took some time, but Mague managed to find a few other breeders working with longhaired Abyssinians in both the US and Canada. By 1972 there were enough breeders to found the Somali Cat Club of America. It wasn't long before Somalis were registered with National Cat Fanciers' Association (which no longer exists). Other associations, including TICA, soon granted the Somali Championship Status.

The Somali is a man-made breed. It is not the result of a spontaneous mutation, as some Abyssinian breeders claim, and breeders from all over the world were responsible for the introduction of the longhaired gene. Ideally, the Somali should have been recognized as simply a variation of the Abyssinian. It was not to be, however, and so the Somali was born.

The Appearance of the Somali

Because Somalis are really just longhaired Abyssinians, almost everything about them is exactly the same as their parent breed. The head, the body, the conformation...everything is just like the Abyssinian. Somalis should be lean and muscled, giving them an impressive agility. Ears are just a little large and eyes are shaped liked rounded almonds. Just like the Abyssinian.

Even the coat colors are the same as the Abby. Blue, chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lilac, and ruddy are all acceptable colors. Other colors are sometimes produced, and some registries even accept these colors. Typically, if a color is accepted for the Somali, it is also accepted for the Abyssinian, and vice versa.

The only real difference between the two breeds is the coat length. For a Somali the coat should be long and soft and the tail should have a lovely plume. The neck should have a ruff and the legs should appear fluffy. Somalis look almost like little toys cats, so fluffy and beautiful as they are.

The Personality of the Somali

Somalis are sweet, loyal, and affectionate. Highly intelligent, they will explore every nook and cranny of your home and follow you around looking for new mischief to get themselves into.

This adorable little breed loves children, other pets, and all the people. All the people. He's constantly looking for someone to give him love and attention, so he's a good cat for large, busy households. He'll play games all day, especially if these games involve running and jumping. He's an athletic breed, so make sure he has plenty to keep him happy and occupied.

If you're looking for a sweet cat with the look of the Abyssinian, but you want something with a little more fluff, the Somali just might be for you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hybrid Cat Breeds: Sokoke

Not all breeds are thrown into the hybrid category because they're hybrids. Sometimes unrecognized breeds remain that way for a while because they're rare and a little different than most accepted breeds. The Sokoke is one if those cats. We don't really know where this breed comes from, but it seems likely that the Sokoke is a naturally occurring breed from Kenya. In 1978 a woman named Jeri Slater found two of these kittens on her coconut plantation in just that area. She kept them and later bred them.

It was her friend Gloria Moeldrup who brought two of these kittens to Europe in 1984. More were imported in 1991 and 1992, and finally FIFe (Fédération Internationale Féline) recognized the breed in 1994. But this was in Europe. It would be some time before the Sokoke was brought to the United States.

When it did finally happen, it was purely due to the interested of Jeannie Knocker and her son. They researched the breed and contacted breeders in Europe, bringing the first Sokoke cats into the United States in 2001. They started their own breeding program with the seven cats they had obtained, but it wasn't until 2004 that TICA accepted the breed for registration. It was a further four years before the Sokoke was advanced to Preliminary New Breed Status. This breed is still struggling for recognition around the world, but it will happen eventually.

Medium in size, the Sokoke is muscular and strong. His head is narrow and his ears are small, giving him an exotic appearance. Thought TICA currently only recognizes the black and brown modified classic tabby coat pattern, the Sokoke actually has many colors. Pointed kittens have been produced and there have even been blue and longhaired kittens in the past few years. Though these are not currently recognized, they're all still Sokoke cats, so don't discount them if you're looking for a pet.

This athletic breed is curious, active, and highly territorial. He loves people and wants to be the center of attention, but he's not great with other cats or even dogs. People. He likes people. Lots of people. He loves a good game and will play fetch, chase, or anything else you can come up with if it means he gets to hang out with you.

If you're looking for an athletic cat who never sits still, the Sokoke might be for you. But keep him entertained or he might tear up your curtains from sheer boredom.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Cat Breeds: Snowshoe

It was the early 1960s when three kittens with snow white feet were born into an otherwise normal litter of Siamese. These kittens were noticed by Dorothy Hinds Daughtery, who found the combination both striking and appealing. She thought perhaps she had the makings of a new breed on her hands, so she kept the kittens an experiment.

Because of the unique features of the kittens, she thought it best to breed them to an American Shorthair. She chose a cat with tuxedo markings for her first cross. This mating would produce the characteristic "V" facial markings the Snowshoe would eventually become known for.

We don't really know a lot about the history or breedings that took place in those early years because records were poorly kept, if they were kept at all, and there was declining interest in this new breed anyway. By 1977, in fact, there was only a single breeder left in the United States. The Snowshoe very nearly died out, and would have if there hadn't been a sudden resurgence of interest in this aloof breed. But there was, and this brought the cat back from the very edge of extinction.

By 1989 there were nearly thirty breeders across the country. It became obvious the Snowshoe was both interesting and unique, so TICA granted this cute cat Championship Status in 1994. Since then it has only grown in popularity.

The Appearance of the Snowshoe

Weighing no more than 12 pounds, the Snowshoe is medium in size and has a powerful body. He is long and muscular with a triangular head and large, expressive ears. Eyes should be round and range in color from a stark blue to a paler blue-gray.

The coat of all Snowshoe kittens is white at first. Snow white, actually. But this changes quickly, leaving only the feet and a "V" on the face white, as the body turns to cream and the points darken to their adult color, beginning at around two or three weeks of age. Common colors include blue point and seal point. Chocolate point and lilac point do exist, but these are not bred for and are considered rare and less desirable.

The hair is short and lays close to the body in a single layer. This makes grooming easy. Run a rubber brush over your feline friend once a week and call it done.

The Personality of the Snowshoe

Because this cat is a combination of the American Shorthair and the Siamese, he has inherited the temperament of both. Tending towards curious and aloof, the Snowshoe bonds to one specific person, not an entire family. With this person he will cuddle, play, and even talk in the melodious voice so common among Siamese blends. He'll demand attention, but he also needs stimulation. Because he is so intelligent and inquisitive, he'll need toys and other items to keep his attention. He will be destructive if he's too bored, so invest in some toys and climbing trees for when you're not around.

As happy and affectionate as this guy can be, he's not great with other people. Or other cats. Or dogs. Or really anything else. He loves his one person and that's about it. The Snowshoe does best in a quiet home with an affectionate human to spend his days with.

If you're looking for a cat with a unique look and a budding personality, the Snowshoe might be for you. If you have a calm home for him to settle in to.