Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Oriental Longhair

Oriental Longhair

Ancestry: Random-bred domestic cats
Place of Origin: United States
Date of Origin: Late 1970s
Accepted by: AACE, ACFA, CFF, and UFO as the Oriental Longhair, CCA and CFA as a division of the Oriental breed, TICA as part of the Siamese Breed Group (championship in all associations.)


The ideal Oriental Longhair is a svelte cat with long, tapering lines. The body is fine-boned, elongated, tubular and lithe but muscular. The head is a long, tapering wedge in good proportion to the body. The total wedge starts at the nose and flares out in straight lines to the tips of the ears, forming a triangle with no break at the whiskers. Ears are very large, pointed, wide at the base and set wide on the head, the outside edge continuing the wedge lines of the face. The neck is slender, the legs are long and thin, and the tail is long, not kinked, and tapers to a point. The eyes are almond-shaped, medium in size, not crossed, and are either blue, green or odd-eyed, depending upon the coat color and pattern. Eyes are set not less than one eye width apart, with a slight slant toward the nose. Adult males weigh 7 to 10 pounds; adult females weigh 5 to 8 pounds. Show Oriental Longhairs are not bony, flabby or fat.

This breed’s fine-textured coat is medium length, silky and lies close to the body, except for the plumage on the tail, which is lush, feathery and considerably longer than the body hair. Colors and patterns are too numerous to name, but are divided into the classes of solid, shaded, smoke, parti-color, tabby, pointed, and bicolor. The bicolor class doubles the possible combinations of all the other classes. All these variables make for a bewildering array of possibilities, but some colors are more common than others. For example, solid ebony, pure white and some of the tabby patterns are particularly popular. Because the Oriental is accepted in so many colors and patterns, breeders usually specialize in a few favorites.

In CFA, the allowable outcrosses are Siamese, Colorpoint, Balinese, and Javanese. Effective with Oriental litters born after July 15, 2013, CFA prohibits the registration of litters and individual kittens from pointed Oriental longhairs and longhair carriers bred to Siamese, Colorpoint Shorthairs, or any pointed Orientals. Litters from pointed Oriental longhairs or longhair carriers bred to Balinese can continue to be registered as Orientals until January 1, 2016.


The Oriental Longhair is essentially a Siamese not limited to short hair, the colorpoint pattern and few color choices. The Oriental Longhair is accepted in hundreds of color and pattern combinations. The breed was deliberately developed from the colorful Oriental Shorthair; the fanciers involved wanted a breed that had the same wide range of colors and patterns but with a longer coat. In the late 1970s, breeders crossed the Oriental Shorthair with the Balinese (longhaired Siamese), and the Oriental Longhair was born. In 1985, the breed achieved championship status in TICA. In 1988, the Oriental Longhair was accepted by CFA for registration and in the early 1990s for championship.

To really understand the Oriental Longhair, however, you have to know a bit about the colorful history of the Oriental Shorthair breed. The Oriental Shorthair was developed in the 1950s from crosses between the Siamese, domestic shorthair and the Abyssinian. The breed has the body style and personality of the Siamese but is not restricted to the colorpoint pattern; the Oriental Shorthair comes in every color of the rainbow except green—that color is reserved for the beautiful, almond-shaped eyes (the OSH may have green or blue eyes, or one of each, depending upon the coat’s color and pattern).

In 1995, CFA combined the Oriental Shorthair and the Oriental Longhair into one breed called the Oriental. The Oriental Longhair became a division of the Oriental breed, and suddenly breeding and registering the Oriental Longhair was much easier. For example, if two Oriental Shorthairs produced longhaired kittens (possible if both parents possessed the recessive longhair gene), those kittens could now be registered and shown in the longhair division instead of being sold or given away as pets. And when Oriental Longhair breeders cross back to the Siamese, Colorpoint Shorthair, Balinese, or Oriental Shorthair to maintain the proper head and body type and keep the bloodline diverse and healthy, shorthair kittens born in those litters that meet the breed standard can be registered and shown as Oriental Shorthairs.

It also meant the Oriental Shorthair’s colors and patterns were acceptable for the Oriental Longhair. The same year, CFA accepted bicolor for the Oriental, which increased the number of possible colors and patterns to more than 300. In 2013, CFA added one more color class: pointed. This added many additional color and pattern combinations not previously accepted, and made the most varicolored breed recognized today even more diverse and colorful.

The Oriental Longhair is still quite rare, but the breed has fans and is gaining more. The breed appeals to the cat lover who wants the long, svelte body type and talkative temperament of the Siamese, the semi-long wash-and-wear hair of the Balinese and the rainbow of colors of the Oriental Shorthair. Many breeders who work with the Oriental Longhair also work with the Oriental Shorthair, and often with the Siamese or one or more of the other Siamese-derived breeds as well.


Oriental Longhairs are generally healthy and can live 15 years or sometimes longer if they’re kept indoors. However, some Oriental Longhair lines share the same hereditary weaknesses as some lines of Siamese, since the breed was created by using Siamese and is still outcrossed with Siamese and related breeds today. In particular, the hereditary disease liver amyloidosis, has been found in some lines of Oriental Longhairs. This disease causes insoluble fibrous proteins called amyloid to be deposited in the liver, which can cause lesions, dysfunction, liver failure, liver rupture and hemorrhage, resulting in death. The spleen, adrenal glands, pancreas, and the gastrointestinal tract also may be affected. Oriental Longhairs affected by this disease usually develop symptoms of liver disease when they are between one and four years of age, which include loss of appetite, excessive thirst, vomiting, jaundice, and depression. No cure has been found, but medication can slow the disease’s progression, particularly if it is diagnosed early.

In addition, incidences of the heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart muscle that decreases heart function, have been found in some lines of Siamese and closely related breeds like the Oriental Longhair; this disease as yet has no cure but its progression may be slowed with treatment, particularly if it's caught early—ultrasound and electrocardiograms can be used to diagnose the disease.

On the plus side this breed seems to be at a lower risk for the more serious and fatal feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), according to Dr. Susan Little of the Winn Feline Foundation.

In addition, Oriental Longhairs are prone to plaque buildup, tartar formation, 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, bone, and tooth loss. Untreated, dental disease can cause infections in vital organs and undermine a cat’s overall health. Be sure to have your veterinarian give your cat a dental exam during his annual veterinary checkup, and periodic professional teeth cleaning as needed. If your cat will tolerate it, brush his teeth regularly using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush (you can also use a soft child’s size toothbrush, or gauze wrapped around your finger, since it can be easier to control than a brush.)

Discuss these diseases and conditions with your breeder before agreeing to buy, and ask what steps she has taken to insure the health of her cattery’s kittens. Buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.

Even though this breed is a longhair, Oriental Longhairs lack the downy undercoat that mats so easily and therefore don’t need frequent grooming. However, grooming Oriental Longhairs more often than is required is good for their health because it gives you the opportunity to check for developing health problems. It also provides some of the attention that's so important to your Oriental’s well-being and happiness.

Did you know?

Despite the breed’s name, the Oriental Longhair’s coat is only medium length. It lacks the easily tangled, downy undercoat common to some longhaired breeds. Grooming is quick and simple.


The myriad colors and patterns may catch your attention, but the vivacious personality of the Oriental Longhair holds it. Very active, playful and entertaining cats, they are always underfoot and want to be involved in all of your activities, from aerobics to quiet evenings by the fire. A tall cat tree is necessary to keep your Oriental Longhair from climbing to the top of the highest bookcase. There are few places Oriental Longhairs cannot reach, and their curiosity and intelligence makes it hard to keep them out of closed closets and cupboards. They hate closed doors, particularly when their special person is on the other side.

Extremely people-oriented and trusting, Oriental Longhairs generally form a close bond with one person. While friendly to others in the household, it’s clear who their preferred person is. They spend most of their time with their favorite human and eagerly await his or her return. Once you form that close emotional bond, Oriental Longhairs put complete trust in you. If left alone or ignored for too long, they become unhappy and depressed. With the proper amount of love and attention, however, Oriental Longhairs are completely devoted companions. Like most Siamese-derived breeds, they are snugglers, wanting to be on your bed, in your lap and, most of all, at your side. The Oriental Longhair is not for those who work all day and have an active social life at night.

Although known to be demanding, noisy and mischievous, these qualities endear them to their many fans. This breed’s vocal tone is generally softer and milder than that of the Siamese, but Oriental Longhairs still love to share all the intimate details of their day with their favorite person. They are never at a loss for words on any subject. Since they are vocal cats, they are also sensitive to your tone—harsh rebukes hurt their tender feelings.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Small to medium.
Coat Length(s):Medium hair.
Body Type: velte.
Grooming Requirement:Every few weeks.
Talkativeness:Very vocal.
Activity Level:Very high.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Adults, seniors, and children (6+).
Time Alone:0 to 4 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Can be a handful.