As the dusty desert caravans wound their way westward from Persia and Iran, it is supposed that secreted among the rare spices and jewels on the basket-laden camels was an even more precious cargo, an occasional longhair cat. They were called Persian for their "country of origin," but hieroglyphic references as early as 1684 B.C. shroud forever their exact beginnings.
Persians, with their long flowing coats and open pansy-like faces are the number one breed in popularity. Their sweet, gentle, personalities blend into most households once they feel secure in their new environment. Creatures of habit, they are most at home in an atmosphere of security and serenity, but with love and reassurance, can easily adapt to the most boisterous of households. Their quiet, melodious voices are pleasant and non-abrasive. They communicate delightfully with their large expressive eyes and make charming pets for all ages. Persians have short heavily-boned legs to support their broad, short bodies. They like to have their feet firmly planted and are not given to high jumping and climbing. Playful but never demanding, they love to pose and will drape themselves in a favorite window or chair, enhancing the decor in much the same way as a treasured painting. Persians are tremendously responsive and become a constant source of joy and delight to their owners. Pleasurable as an unexpected sunbeam, their companionship is close and enduring.
2. Maine Coon
There is a wealth of romantic tradition surrounding this beautiful and popular cat breed. So where did Maine Coon cats really come from?
One of the best known stories about Maine Coons is that they are the result of a mating between a raccoon and a domestic cat. This is, of course, genetically impossible!
Maine Coons have been thought to be the result of a bobcat/housecat cross. This is a possibility. Matings between bobcats and housecats are rare, but they have been documented. The kittens of such a cross are described as sturdy, heavily-furred cats with large tufted ears and big feet, i.e. they look like Maine Coons!
Rescued French Revolution Cats
The next legend is an extremely romantic tale, based loosely on fact. Towards the end of the French Revolution, there was a bid to save the royal cats. A sea captain named Samuel Clough was to bring Queen Marie Antoinette and her cats to the USA. She is said to have had a number of fluffy Persian or Angora cats, which mated with the resident American farm cats. Their descendents are said to be the Maine Coons. This is not impossible, but fairly unlikely, since Marie Antoinette was not even known to have any long-haired cats.
Captain Coon’s Cats
Next there is the story of a Captain Coon, an English sea captain who was very fond of cats. He had a number of Persians and Angoras, and when he fraternized while ashore, so did his cats! When long-haired cat litters began appearing, they were referred to as “one of Coon’s cats”…and gradually the name stuck.
Maine Coons could be descended from the Norwegian Skogkatt, which possibly came over with the Vikings. In recent times there have been many comments on the similarity between the two breeds, so this is quite possible. The longhaired Russian cat could also have been a possible ancestor.
The Likely Truth of the Matter
The true origins of the Maine Coon are likely to be a combination of all of the above legends, shorn of the romance and some of the details. Throughout the period of American colonization, ships came to the North-East of the USA with cargo and crews, and with them, their cats. These would have been cats of many breeds, which mated with the original domestic American cats. Man then added to the mix by selecting the traits that were found to be appealing, adding breeding programs, and finally producing today’s Maine Coon.
But does it all really matter anyway? The Maine Coon is a unique, huge, lovable cat, with devoted fans the world over. Do they really care where he came from?
The Himalayan is one of the most popular breeds of cats. These longhair, blue-eyed beauties capture the eyes and hearts of cat lovers all over the world. Read on to learn about the history, look and care of Himalayan cats.
History of Himalayan Cats
The Himalayan breed was started in 1930 by Dr. Clyde Keller, from the Harvard Medical School, and Virginia Cobb of Newton Cattery. They started out by breeding Siamese cats with Persian cats, trying to develop a long-haired, Persian-bodied cat with the color-points of the Siamese. They bred and crossbred until "Newton's Debutante" was born. This cat was the first cat recognized as beginning the Himalayan Breed.
The breed was accepted by CFA in 1957 as a breed standard, and in the 1980's it was merged with the Persian breed, listing them as a color variation of a Persian instead of a totally different breed. Now in order to breed CFA registered Himalayans, you must have a CFA Registered Persian and/or Himalayan for both the sire and the dam. No Siamese are allowed in the breeding line.
The Siamese cat originated from Thailand, formerly known as Siam. These cats were held in such high esteem in their native country that no one except the King and members of the royal family were permitted to own them. They were originally known as Royal points.
Written records reveal that Siamese cats, in their country of origin, were venerated as guardians of the temples. When a person of high rank died, it was usual to select one of these cats to receive the dead person's soul. The cat was then removed from the royal household and sent to one of the temples to spend the rest of its days living a ceremonial life of great luxury, with monks and priests as its servants. These cats were reputed to eat the finest foods from gold plate and to recline on cushions made of the most opulent materials, which had been provided by the departed one's relatives in an attempt to receive good fortune and blessings. Once they became temple cats, they were supposed to have special powers and could intercede for the soul of the dead person.
Years ago features such as crossed eyes and kinked tail were looked on as characteristics of the breed and many legends exist as to their origin.
It was said that a Princess of the Royal House of Siam used her cat's tail as a ring-stand while she was bathing. The kink in the tail prevented the rings from falling off and being lost. Another legend accounts for both the cross-eyed feature as well as the development of the kink. Once, when all the men of Siam left their homes to defend their kingdom, just two cats - one male Siamese, Tien, and one female Siamese, Chula - remained in order to guard Buddha's golden goblet in the sacred temple. The male cat became pretty restless and, after mating the female Siamese, left her in order to find another priest to look after the temple. The female, apparently, was so overwhelmed by the responsibility of guarding the Buddha's treasure that she never once glanced away from the goblet, wrapping her long tail around its stem to prevent theft in case she should fall asleep. As time passed waiting for Tien to return with a new master, she could no longer for stall the birth of her kittens, who all arrived with the physical characteristics that she herself had acquired during her period as watch guard - a kinked tail and crossed eyes. Just occasionally, even today, kittens are born with these features - so the legends are kept alive.
Abyssinians are a special type of tabby cat; they are distinguished from all other tabbies by their beautiful ticked, resilient coats. All tabbies, in fact, have this ticked or agouti background in their coats (whereby each individual hair shaft is banded with different colors); however, superimposed on this ticked background is a particular dark pattern such as mackerel, spotted, or blotched. Through more than 85 years of selective breeding, these dark patterns have been nearly eliminated from the Abyssinian breed, and this is what makes them so unique. Although other tabbies are bred in different colors, Abyssinians are bred and recognized for championship by CFA only in the ruddy and red varieties. (In CFA, the color blue was recognized in 1984 and fawn in 1989).
Some breeders prefer to believe that Abyssinians are the most ancient of breeds and that they were both companions and gods of the Egyptians. The history of the Abyssinian breed could begin wherever a ticked tabby walked, because similar cats existed in all countries. The notion that ticked cats were imported here, there, and everywhere is a rather provincial idea. There is little or no doubt that Abyssinian cats developed in England, for there is no record of any Abyssinian cat imported there.
The Ragdoll is a relatively new breed of cat which was first bred by a lady called Ann Baker in California, USA in the1960's. Ann Baker was a breeder of Persians at that time and the founding queen of the Ragdoll breed was a non-pedigree Angora-type female called Josephine who was owned by one of Ann Baker's neighbors.
Josephine produced frequent litters of kittens which were all fairly wild until at some stage she was severely injured by a car and after her recovery it was noted that the kittens she produced were quite different in that they seemed to crave human attention and were very playful, loving and relaxed. This aroused Ann's interest and she started to acquire some of Josephine's kittens. The first of these was a black self female called Buckwheat who is described as being similar to a Burmese but thick-furred. Also at this time Ann had been borrowing one of Josephine's older sons to sire progeny in her black Persian breeding program. He had the appearance of a black/brown Persian and she named him Blackie. He was the father of Buckwheat and on one of her visits to borrow Blackie she saw his brother who Ann described as being most impressive and having the appearance of the Sacred Cat of Burma (the Birman breed). She was most taken with this cat and named him Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks.
Ann was also able to obtain another daughter of Josephine's. This one had a lot of white on her and was in essence a badly marked bicolor. Ann called her Raggedy Ann Fugianna. Unfortunately when Josephine had a litter of kittens she was very protective of them and at some stage when she was defending her latest litter from the family dog the owner's husband decided that enough was enough and had Josephine and the kittens destroyed so we will never know if Ann would have used further offspring from Josephine for her Ragdoll breeding program. She did, however, have both Buckwheat and Fugianna and with the services of Daddy Warbucks was able to continue breeding her Ragdolls.
The history of the Birman in Europe dates back to around 1920, although the details are rather sketchy. The Birman is reported to have descended from a pair brought to Europe by Mr. Vanderbilt this pair being Sita the female and Madalpour the male. During the voyage to Nice, Madalpour died, Sita was however in kitten and later gave birth to a litter where only one survived - this was the female Poupee being the beginnings of the 'de Madalpour' stock.
Selections and cross breeding to Siamese and other breeds (including Colour points, and White Longhairs) were done in order to establish the early Birman, as there was no other way to recreate that which had been found in Sita & Madalpour.
8. American Shorthair
The American Shorthair phenotype most closely resembles the nearly extinct Scottish variant of the European wildcat, known as The Scottish Wildcat.. A small captive breeding program, conducted by several Scottish zoos, is actively working to preserve and extend genetic diversity among captive purebred wildcats, so that a wider gene pool can eventually be released to prevent extinction of this endangered species. Meanwhile, enjoy the similar appearance and hunting talent of its domestic relative, the American Shorthair cat.
In the early tenth century, the Romans brought the European Shorthair into the British Isles, where he was received with admiration as the protector of the scarce British grain supply. Hywel Dda, Prince of South Wales, put several laws into effect in 948 A.D. for the protection of these rodent hunters. One of these laws fixed the value of newborn kittens, young adults, and proven hunters. The penalty for stealing or wounding a cat was one ewe and her lamb. The penalty for killing a cat was enough grain to cover the tip of the cat's tail when the cat was suspended by his tail with his nose touching the ground.
Several historical sources show that the original cats of Siam (now Thailand) were not all color pointed. Indeed cats of all colors were imported to the west from Thailand at the beginning of the twentieth century. Yet, in the 1920's, an official decision made by the Siamese breed association, has set the color point coat pattern as the only acceptable pattern in the Siamese breed.
During the 1950's, breeders in the UK began to explore the new possibilities of multi -colored cats with the Siamese build and personality. Later on, American breeders joined the efforts and in the 1970's the new breed was recognized as the Oriental. At first, in the UK the breed was also known as the Foreign type cat. The Oriental is the standard name today in most associations. The only exception is the white Oriental, which is still called the Foreign White in the UK.
In 1966 a domestic cat gave birth to a hairless kitten in Toronto, Canada. It was discovered to be a natural mutation and the Sphynx cat, as we know it today, came into existence. This cat and a few other naturally hairless cats have been found worldwide. These have magically been produced by Mother Nature and are the foundation for this unusual breed. Cat breeders in Europe and North America have bred the Sphynx to normal coated cats and then back to hairless for more than thirty years. The purpose of these selective breedings was to create a genetically sound cat with a large gene pool and hybrid vigor. This is a very robust breed with few health or genetic problems.
The Sphynx is not actually totally hairless, there is fine down on the body which feels like a warm peach. Some light hair is often present on the nose, tail and toes. The texture of the Sphynx skin has been likened to a suede hot water bottle, a horse’s warm muzzle or a heated chamois. They are registerable in every color that a cat comes in and the color is seen in the pigment of the skin and the few hairs that they do have. One of the questions most asked is “Don’t they get cold?” Well, of course, if it is too cold for you it will be too cold for a hairless cat too. However, these cats are smart enough to find a warm human, dog or cat to curl up with or they will get under your bed covers.