Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Himalayan

Himalayan

Ancestry: Longhaired domestic cats
Place of Origin: North America and Britain
Date of Origin: 1950
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)

 
Description

Otherwise indistinguishable from the Persian, with the same body type and long, silky coat, Himalayans are distinguished by their pointed pattern (the pattern of the Siamese) and their deep vivid blue eyes. Because of their long fur, the pointed pattern appears softer than that of the Siamese.

The Himalayan is a medium to large breed with short, thick legs and a muscular, heavy-boned, cobby body. The head is massive and round with great breadth of skull, set on a short, thick neck. The eyes are large and round, set far apart, giving the cat a sweet expression. The nose is short, snub and broad with a break centered between the eyes. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment. The ears are small and rounded at the tip, set far apart and low on the head. The tail is thick and short but in proportion to the body. It is carried without a curve and at an angle lower than the back. Adult males weigh 9 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 7 to 11 pounds. The Himmie is solid, but not fat, with an overall appearance of soft roundness. Type is more important than size.

Two distinct head types exist: Extreme and Dollface. Although the Extreme is the type accepted in the show ring, the Dollface has many fans. Fanciers of this type claim the Dollface is the original look before selective breeding changed the appearance of the breed. The Dollface Himalayan’s head is also rounded but the nose is placed lower on the face and has a moderate break. The upcurving mouth helps give the desired sweet expression that fanciers prize. Dollface breeders claim the Dollface lacks many of the health problems found in the Extreme Persian.

The Himalayan’s coat is long, flowing and very thick, which softens the cat’s lines and accentuates the appearance of roundness. The points, consisting of the ears, legs, feet, tail, and face mask, show the cat’s basic color. Body color ranges from white to beige; a clear, uniform color is preferred, but subtle shading and darker shaded areas on the coats of older cats are allowed. Still, there must be a definite contrast between body color and point color. Point colors include chocolate, seal, lilac, blue, red, cream tortie, blue-cream, chocolate-tortie, lilac-cream, seal lynx, blue lynx, red lynx, cream lynx, tortie lynx, blue-cream lynx, chocolate lynx, lilac lynx, chocolate-tortie lynx and lilac-cream lynx.

The only allowable outcross is the Persian, except in TICA, where the Exotic Shorthair is also permitted. The Siamese is no longer used in breeding programs.

History

The Himalayan, a gorgeous cat with the color and pattern of the Siamese but the body and coat of the Persian, was deliberately created in 1950 by American breeder Marguerita Goforth. Soon after Goforth's success, British breeders also achieved the same goal. By crossbreeding Persians and Siamese and then crossing the resulting offspring, these breeders succeeded in producing the desired appearance. These innovative breeders weren’t the first to try this crossbreeding, but they were the first to attempt to establish this new variety as a distinct breed. In 1955 the British Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) recognized the Himalayan under the name Colorpoint Longhair. The American associations CFA and ACFA recognized the breed in 1957 under the name Himalayan, named for the color pattern found in other animals such as the Himalayan rabbit. By 1961, all major North American cat associations that existed at that time recognized the Himalayan.

For many years, the Persian and Himalayan were considered two separate breeds, and the hybrid offspring of the two were not viewed as members of either breed. Since breeders crossed their Himalayans with Persians to maintain body and head type, this created status problems for those kittens. It was frustrating for breeders to produce cats that couldn’t be registered as Himalayans, or as anything else. Breeders argued that the body type was the same for both breeds and only the colors and pattern remained of the Siamese ancestry. In 1984, CFA united the Himalayan and the Persian breeds, and in that association the Himalayan became a color division of the Persian rather than a separate breed. As varieties of the same breed, the offspring could be registered and shown in whatever color and pattern division they belonged.

The decision was controversial, however, and not everyone was happy with the new policy. Some of the Persian breeders didn’t like the idea of hybrids being introduced into their pure Persian bloodlines. Some Himalayan breeders were equally concerned about the breed they had worked so hard to refine. In fact, a group of fanciers so strongly disagreed with the new policy that they split from CFA and formed their own organization, the National Cat Fanciers’ Association (NCFA).

Today, whether the Himalayan is considered a breed in its own right depends upon the association. In TICA, the Himalayan is included in the Persian Breed Group, which includes the Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair. They share a standard but each breed is mentioned and the differences noted. However, in the AACE, ACA, ACFA, CCA, CFF, and UFO, the Himalayan is considered a separate breed and has its own breed standard.

However, because Himalayans are regularly crossed with Persians, most of these associations have special rules that allow Himalayan-Persian hybrids to be registered and shown. In TICA, for example, Persian, Himalayan and Exotic hybrids or variants may be shown as the breed they resemble. That means if a cross between a Persian and a Himalayan results in offspring that look like Himalayans, they can be registered and shown as Himalayans. If an Exotic-to-Exotic mating produces, say, a longhaired tabby, it can be registered and shown as a Persian. In ACFA and CCF, non-pointed Himalayans are included in the Himalayan standard, allowing them to be shown. This makes it much easier for breeders and avoids the problem of ending up with kittens that can’t be registered or shown. In CCA, pointed Himalayans and non-pointed Himalayans are considered two separate breeds, but non-pointed Himalayans are not recognized for championship. However, they can be used in Himmie breeding programs.

Notes

One might assume from seeing those perfect and seemingly effortless curried coats at the cat show that grooming Himalayans is a breeze. One might assume incorrectly. When you buy, make sure the breeder is willing to provide advice about grooming and health. The Himalayan demands a serious time commitment to keep those long locks looking lovely, and it takes knowledge and practice to do it properly. If you let your cat’s grooming slide, you’ll end up with a matted, miserable kitty bearing no resemblance to the lovely Himmies in the show ring.

Like the Extreme Persian, some Extreme Himalayans are prone to excessive eye tearing and breathing problems due to the foreshortened face. Such Himalayans need daily face washing to eliminate the dark streaks tears can leave under the eyes, although some breeders say Himmies don’t have as much trouble with this as Persians do. Be sure to ask your cat’s breeder. Tear stain remover, made especially for cats to clean the discoloration under the eyes, can be purchased from pet supply stores, catalogs, and web sites.

In addition, some Himalayan lines are prone to plaque, tartar buildup, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, tooth, and bone loss. Untreated, periodontal disease can undermine a Himmie's overall health. This breed needs dental exams during the annual veterinary checkups, and periodic teeth cleaning as recommended by your veterinarian. If your cat will tolerate it, regular tooth cleaning using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush or a soft child's size toothbrush will help reduce plaque. A gauze pad wrapped around your finger works just as well and is easier to control.

The Himmie is not usually an unhealthy breed, although some lines are prone to certain diseases. This is true of most pedigreed breeds; one of the unfortunate side effects of selective breeding is that it’s possible to acquire and concentrate detrimental traits along with the desirable ones. The most widespread and potentially life-threatening disease that exists in Himalayan lines is polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited disease that can cause death by renal failure. Since symptoms are mild until later in life, untested breeding cats have often already passed on the dominant gene to their offspring. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, an estimated 37 percent of Persians have PKD, a serious problem for the Himalayan since the Persian is the only outcross, and is used often in Himalayan breeding programs. Too, some associations consider Himalayans and Persians divisions of the same breed. Fortunately, a PKD genetic test for Persians, Exotics, and Himalayans is available from the school's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, which helps breeders screen out affected breeding stock.

Another potentially life-threatening disease that exists in some Himmie lines is the inherited heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a progressive heart condition that is often fatal. The symptoms of HCM can be so subtle that the first visible symptom is sometimes sudden death. However, since HCM is the most common heart disease in cats, a number of veterinary schools such as UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine are working to find ways to test, treat, and cure the disease. A test for the mutation has been developed for the Ragdoll and Maine Coon, and researchers are working on tests for other breeds as well. No cure is currently available for the deadly disease, but medication can slow its progression if it is caught early. HCM can be diagnosed by cardiac ultrasound and ECG testing.

This is not to say your Himmie will develop all or any of these conditions and diseases. However, it’s wise to ask your potential breeder how carefully she screens her breeding stock. Talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns you have, and buy from a breeder who tests for PKD, screens breeding stock for PKD and HCM, and provides a written health guarantee.

Did you know?

In CFA, the Himalayan is a division of the Persian breed known as Pointed Pattern Persians. Persians who are not pointed but carry the recessive colorpoint gene are called Colorpoint Carriers and are assigned different registration numbers for breeding purposes. Because they have a copy of the colorpoint gene, they can produce Himalayan kittens if mated to cats that also possess at least one copy of the colorpoint gene, even if neither parent shows the pointed pattern in their physical appearance.

Personality

Each year, the Himmie proves its popularity by recruiting more humans into its exclusive club. This is hard for some to understand, since membership requires becoming a cat hair stylist. However, Himalayan owners say it’s no secret—and no contest; the Himmie is the most poised, loving and sweet breed who ever padded around the planet. It’s all about personality. The regal Himmie is a sedate and affectionate cat, preferring to cuddle with you rather than climb your favorite curtains. Responsive to your moods and emotions, Himalayans share your joys and help you bear your sorrows.

Tranquil doesn’t mean unintelligent, although breeders say that’s a common misconception. Like most cats, Himmies spend a lot of time learning how to wrap their people around their little paws so they can get just what they want. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you—they’re just being cats.

Some breeders say that there are differences in personality between the Himalayan and the Persian. Others claim no differences exist, and this could very well depend upon the bloodline, since different traits can be concentrated in different lines. Some breeders say Himmies tend to talk more (a gift from their Siamese ancestors, no doubt) and have a more slightly active temperament. Don’t worry, though—Himalayans don’t keep you awake with their yowling the way Siamese are prone to do. They have soft, pleasant voices.

Himalayans crave affection and love to be petted, but don’t demand attention the way some breeds will. If they are not getting the requisite amount of attention, however, they let you know by quiet meows and meaningful stares with those big, wide eyes. Himmies can be a bit more playful than Persians, and some enjoy an occasional game of fetch with their favorite people, perhaps because Siamese are prodigious fetchers. Interactive toys with which you take an active role are favorites with Himmies, but that can be the most expensive feathered toy or a balled-up scrap of paper.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Medium to large.
Coat Length(s):Long hair.
Body Type:Cobby .
Grooming Requirement:Daily.
Talkativeness:Quiet.
Activity Level:Low.
Affection:Affectionate.
Usually Good With:Everyone.
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Easy to handle.