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Cats

Sphynx

Sphynx

 

Introduction

The Sphynx is a breed of cat developed through selective breeding starting in the 1960s, known for its lack of a coat (fur), though it is not truly hairless. The skin should have the texture of chamois, as it has a fine layer of down. Whiskers may be present, either whole or broken, or may be totally absent. The skin is the color their fur would be, and all the usual cat marking patterns (solid, point, van, tabby, tortie, etc.) may be found on Sphynx skin. Because they have no coat, they lose more body heat than coated cats. This makes them warm to the touch as well as heat-seeking.

Somali

 

Introduction

The semi-longhaired Somali cats have become one of the most popular breeds with their distinctive features of dramatic bushy tail, arched back and an impression of walking on tiptoe. Because of their original 'ruddy' (golden brown) color and bushy tail they were sometimes known as 'fox cats', and it's very easy to see why. They derive from the Abyssinian breed (initially as a complete surprise to the Abyssinian breeders when they appeared unannounced in litters of kittens), and are now often described by devotees as 'Abyssinians in an Overcoat'! The two breeds have many similar characteristics, including their intelligent and playful temperaments, although the Somali tends to have a more laid-back personality, with an alert expression that gives the impression of smiling, and, given half a chance, they will demonstrate their abilities as a natural hunter.

 

Appearance

The Somali should be a beautifully balanced, semi-longhaired cat of medium build and foreign type. The head is broad and curving to a firm wedge set on an elegant neck. The body is firm and muscular of medium length, with a fairly long tapering tail. The head, body, legs, feet and tail should be in proportion, giving a well-balanced appearance, with an alert, almost smiling, expression. The coat Somali is ticked, and each hair has between three to twelve bands of color in two different shades. The bands themselves are darker than the base color and produce a glossy, vibrant sheen when the cat is in full coat during the winter. The Somali is now bred in 28 colors in the UK, including usual (a ruddy-red color), sorrel (an apricot-copper), chocolate, blue, lilac, fawn, red, cream, plus an array of shades of tortie, silver and tortie-silver. Like Abyssinians, they have a dark rim around their eyes that makes them look as if they are wearing theatrical eyeliner and they have a small amount of white on their muzzles and chins/throats. The eyes are large, almond-shaped, set obliquely and well apart, expressive and bright in shades of amber, hazel and green, the brighter the better. The Somali coat tends to be shed once or twice a year in one go, rather than like the Persians who shed throughout the summer. When they are in full coat, they have a very splendid ruff and breeches effect.

 

History

The genetic roots of this breed go back to the early breeding of Abyssinian breeds in Britain during the 1940s, when longhaired kittens sometimes appeared unexpectedly in Abyssinian litters, but nothing much was thought of it at the time. A British breeder named Janet Robinson exported Abyssinians to Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand that were later found to carry the longhaired gene and descendants of these Abyssinians sometimes produced fuzzy-coated, dark kittens. In 1963 a Canadian breeder called Mary Mailing entered one of these new variants in her local cat show. One of the judges, Ken McGill, asked her for a similar kitten to breed from, and before long the first 'intentional' Somali was born as May-Ling Tutsuta. When these longer-coated kittens with bushy tails had first appeared in the USA in the 1950s in some Abyssinian litters, many breeders originally thought that they were simply a spontaneous mutation of the Abyssinian breed. However, one American Abyssinian breeder named Evelyn Mague, who was also interested in this longhaired variety, subsequently discovered that the longhair gene may well have been introduced by the cross-breeding of Abyssinians with longhaired cats in Britain, when 12 such cats had been registered with the National Cat Club in 1905. She began a breeding program with a Canadian breeder called Don Richings, who was using Ken McGill's stock, and from here the Somali was officially born and named as a new breed. The first pure Somalis were imported into the UK in 1980, and by 1991 the breed had gained worldwide recognition.

 

Health

This is generally a very healthy breed of cat without any breed-related defects, and they can live up to 14-16 years. The Somali needs annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukemia if they go outdoors.

 

Care

Very occasional combing will be the only grooming that you will need to give this cat as the coat very rarely gets tangled or matted and stroking will normally remove any loose hairs - they so thrive on human attention that they won't even notice that you are grooming them, and will just treat it as a bonus cuddle! As a larger breed, they may eat a little more than some other breeds. They will eat most good quality brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available.

 

Temperament

Somalis are very affectionate cats, giving as much love and attention as they receive. They make perfect family pets, always wanting to be in the center of things, never just sitting in a corner hoping to be noticed. They are very conversational cats, enjoying a good chat with their owners, and yet their voices are not harsh and said to sound more like a chirrup than a conventional meow! They are easy going, sociable cats, getting on with other members of the family, both human and pet. They are fascinated by water, and can open doors quite easily so you may need 'child-locks' for cupboards that they really shouldn't investigate. They will probably find plenty to entertain them inside without wanting to go out of doors, and will be perfectly happy as indoor cats if that suits your lifestyle best. They are good at retrieving objects that are thrown for them and will love to play with a variety of toys. However, they will always appreciate the company of at least one other cat if you are going to be out during the day.

Siamese

 

Introduction

Siamese are strong, elegant and intelligent cats, affectionately known as 'meezers' by their adoring owners, and are amongst the earliest-known breeds of pedigree cat. They make wonderful pets with their loving natures and extrovert personalities, and are a constant source of entertainment with their antics. The traditional Seal Point Siamese might look quite familiar, as they have been portrayed in many films including Bell, Book and Candle, The Aristocats, The Lady and the Tramp, and That Darn Cat - although this aristocratic image frequently belies the true nature of this iconic breed, who is as capable of snuggling up with you on the sofa to watch the TV, purring loudly, as of simply exuding true beauty.

 

Appearance

All purebred Siamese have vivid blue, almond-shaped oriental eyes with base coats of varying shades of off-white depending on the color of their 'points', although the coat tends to darken slightly in older cats, from fawn to a paler shade of the points color. 'Points' refer to the darker facial masks, ears, tails, legs and paws, and although the first imported Siamese were Seal Points (a dark seal-brown, almost black), a wide range of points colors have developed in the UK over the years - with blue, chocolate, lilac, caramel, tabby (known in the USA as lynx points), red, tortie, cream, apricot, cinnamon and fawn points now available. The coat of the Siamese is short, fine and close lying, and they have large ears and long tails, and are a very elegant but muscular breed. The original Siamese often had kinked tails, and eyes that squinted, and whereas these features of course do not detract from the wonderful nature of these extrovert cats, they are considered to be breeding faults nowadays and would not win any prizes at a cat show!

 

History

The first Siamese cats were imported to the UK from Thailand (previously known as Siam) in the late 19th century, reputedly from the King of Siam's palace. There they were known as the Royal Cat of Siam, and it is said that after much diplomatic negotiation with the King, it was eventually agreed that a male and two or three females (records vary) might be brought to England. There has been much debate over the origins of this breed, much of which has been shrouded in the mists of time, but it is generally thought that the Siamese cat developed from the Sacred Cat of Ancient Egypt, a theory supported by the close resemblance to the statues of Bast, statues that are still widely seen by visitors to modern-day Egypt. Others claim that the Siamese descended from the Temple Cat of Burma, but however they reached Siam, these lovely cats had flourished there for over two hundred years before reaching England. The arrival of the Siamese in England coincided with the first cat shows, and they were introduced to the public at the first Crystal Palace cat show in 1871.

 

Health

When Siamese were first introduced to the UK many years ago, they were not as strong as modern-day Siamese, probably because they had been used to a warmer climate. Today's Siamese from reputable breeders should be strong and healthy, but, in common with all breeds of cat, they nevertheless need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukemia if they go out of doors. Older Siamese are sometimes prone to kidney problems, detectable by loss of weight and increased thirst, but a Vet can prescribe medication to help combat this, and many Siamese live to the age of 14-16. It is wise to have Siamese kittens neutered by the time they are 6 months old, as they tend to mature sexually at a very young age, and do not need to have a litter of kittens first. Un-neutered male cats will spray in the house and tend to wander, whilst un-neutered females will be very noisy.

 

Care

Siamese are very sociable cats, usually preferring to share their life with other cats as well as with their humans, and will often live quite happily with a placid dog of a breed that tolerates cats. They need company and should not be left totally alone for long periods of time. Contrary to popular belief, Siamese are not fussy eaters (unless they're allowed to be) and will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. They need to be kept stimulated, and will play for hours - and it's often wise to shut cupboard doors and put things out of sight in the same way that you would for a toddler, as they are so inquisitive. Siamese can live very happily indoors without going outside. They don't need much grooming, apart from an odd brushing to get rid of loose hairs, and their eyes and ears should be checked and kept clean if necessary. The paler pointed Siamese, such as red, cream and apricot points, often collect dark debris in the corners of their eyes, but this is perfectly normal and can easily be wiped away with a piece of damp cotton wool.

 

Temperament

Despite their frequently haughty expressions, Siamese are a loveable and affectionate breed, thriving on human company. They have a reputation for being noisy, but tend to use their voices to communicate rather than simply for the sake of it. Of course, an entire breeding female will make a loud noise to attract any passing males, but neutered pets 'talk' to their owners for a variety of reasons - to say hello, to enquire when tea might be ready, or generally to attract attention to something. Siamese have a very inquisitive nature, and will enjoy trying to 'help' with jobs around the house as well as investigating the contents of cupboards. They love to be made a fuss of, and many enjoy sitting on their human companions and being picked up, often head-butting to attract attention. They are natural show-offs, especially when there are visitors around to appreciate the entertainment.

Russian Blue

 

Introduction

The Russian Blue is one of the earliest recognized breeds of pedigree cat in the UK, and was exhibited at the first cat show held at Crystal Palace in 1871. The Russian Blues competed in a class with blue cats of all breeds, and it wasn't until 1912 that they got their own class. Unusually for a cat of 'foreign' type, they have quite a reserved personality with people they don't know, but are loyal and trusted companions to their owners. They are a gentle breed and make good pets, but do not have the loud, often harsh, voice of many of the other Foreign and Oriental breeds, nor are they quite so active even though are highly intelligent. The Russian Blue is a very dignified cat and would certainly never have a 'mad half hour', so beloved of the Siamese, Orientals and Burmese! It is often believed that people with moderate allergies to cats can cope better with a Russian Blue for a couple of reasons - they are thought to produce less glyco protein (a source of cat allergies) than other breeds, and their thick coats may also trap some of the allergens closer to the skin. Although the Russian Blue has been used on a very limited basis to develop other breeds in the UK (such as the Havana, one of the Oriental breeds) this was fundamentally to improve coat texture. Generally speaking, Russian Blues are not currently involved in breeding program outside of the Russian shorthair group, which itself has developed in recent years to include a Russian Black and Russian White, both currently only at Preliminary status in the UK. The new colors conform to the general Russian Blue type, the whites being pure white with pink nose leather and paw pads, and the black is most striking with a jet-black coat and black nose leather and paw pads.

 

Appearance

The Russian Blue is distinguishable from other pure blue cats not only by its long and graceful body, but also by its double coat of medium blue with a soft, downy undercoat and top distinctive silvery sheen. The coat is blue right down to the roots, without any tabby or ghost markings although these are sometimes seen in kittens, and is short, thick and very fine with a silky feel. Paw pads and nose leather are also blue. The other distinguishing characteristics of this very gentle breed of cat are pronounced whisker pads, and the large, quite pointed ears set close together and held high up on the head, both giving a rather solemn expression. The eyes are a bright vivid green, set rather wide apart, and are almond-shaped, although the early Russian Blues had yellow or orange eyes right up until 1933.

 

History

It is thought that the modern Russian Blue descends from the ships' cats brought from the Russian port of Archangel to Britain and Northern Europe in the early 1860s, when they were often known as Archangel Cats. Very similar-looking cats may be found in the colder regions of Russia today, and such blue cats are considered lucky in Russia, with engravings and pictures given to new brides. Russian Blues are even mentioned in an 1893 book, Our Cats, by Harrison Weir (the founder of the British cat fancy), although from the Russian Revolution in 1917 until 1948 they were called Foreign Blues, when they became known as Russian Blues. Today's Russian Blues contain both British Blues and Blue Point Siamese way back in their pedigrees, at the point when the breed had almost died out in the 1950s, and there were then attempts by Scandinavian and British breeders to revive it by crossbreeding, although the Siamese traits have now been largely bred out and nowadays the outcross is regarded as having been detrimental to the breed.

 

Health

The Russian Blue is not known to have any breed-specific health problems and can often live to the age of 15 years. Pets from reputable breeders should be strong and healthy. They need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukemia if they go outdoors.

 

Care

This breed will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. Eyes and ears should be checked and kept clean if necessary by use of a clean damp cloth. They have very short glossy coats, which need little grooming, and can normally be kept free of loose hairs simply by stroking. Some breeders say that the less the cat is brushed, the more radiant the coat becomes. Russian Blues can live very happily indoors without going outside, so long as they have a scratching post and plenty of toys to occupy them.

 

Temperament

This highly intelligent breed tends to be very affectionate towards their owners, but not as extrovert and demanding as many other Foreign and Oriental breeds. Some like being picked up and made a fuss of, but mostly they show their love to their nearest and dearest on their own terms. They are quietly conversational with their owners, but do not insist on having a loud opinion on everything. Because Russian Blues have such tranquil temperaments, they are ideally suited for more elderly people as they do not rush about, as well as for children as they will tolerate slightly clumsy handling by means of wriggling out of small restraining arms rather than biting or scratching. They like company and do not like being left alone for long periods of time - at least one more cat or a small dog will make ideal companions if you tend to be out a lot. And of course, they enjoy having plenty of toys to play with.