The Colorpoint is a beautiful breed with a color scheme to match any mood—from the delicate and ethereal cream point to the handsome striped lynx point to the unique and multicolored tortie point where, like snowflakes, no two are alike. The Colorpoint is a svelte cat with long, tapering lines, very lithe but still strong and muscular. The tubular body is fine-boned, trim, and elongated. Adult males usually weigh 7 to 9 pounds; adult females usually weigh 5 to 7 pounds.
The neck is slender; the legs are long and thin; the tail is long, not kinked, and tapers to a fine point. The head is a medium-size tapering wedge with a flat forehead and a fine wedge-shaped muzzle. The 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. In profile, a straight line can be drawn from the top of the head to the tip of the nose. The ears are very large, pointed, wide at the base, and set wide on the head, continuing the lines of the wedge. The eyes are almond-shaped with a slight slant toward the nose, medium-size, not crossed, and set not less than one eye width apart. They are vivid blue; no other shades or colors are permitted. In CFA and CCA, Colorpoint Shorthairs are allowed to outcross with Siamese.
The Colorpoint’s coat is short, fine-textured, and glossy, and lies close to the body. The colors define the breed. Accepted colors are solid point colors in red point and cream point; lynx point colors in seal lynx point, chocolate lynx point, blue lynx point, lilac lynx point, red lynx point, cream lynx point, seal-tortie lynx point, chocolate-tortie lynx point, blue-cream lynx point, and lilac-cream lynx point; and parti-color point colors in seal-tortie point, chocolate-tortie point, blue-cream point, and lilac-cream point. Body color ranges from clear, glacial, and bluish whites to assorted shades of ivory, cream, and fawn.
The colorpoint or pointed pattern, also called the Himalayan pattern, means the "points" of the body—ears, face mask, feet, and tail—are darker than the rest of the body. A temperature-sensitive enzyme controlled by the recessive colorpoint gene creates greater depth of color at the parts of the body farthest away from the heart. The skin temperature of the body’s extremities is a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body, and therefore attracts more pigmentation. The cooler the environment, the darker the color becomes. Pointed kittens, cradled in the warmth of their mother’s womb, are born white and develop their point colors after being pushed out into the cold world.
Although at most cat shows you will see only the variety of Colorpoint Shorthair just described—the Extreme—two varieties exist, each with its own group of proponents who are just as vocal about their chosen variety as are the cats themselves. The Old Style Colorpoint is a medium to large cat with a rounder, more moderate body and head type. The body is long, substantial, and solid, neither cobby nor svelte in type, nor in any way extreme. The cat is well-balanced with all elements in proportion. The overall impression is of a cat that is robust and muscular, but also lithe and graceful. The head can be described as rounded and broad compared to the Extreme. The ears are alert, not overly large, medium in length, almost as wide at the base as they are high and rounded at the tip. They are set as much to the side as to the top of the head. According to Old Style fanciers, the Old Style Colorpoint Siamese is generally healthier than the Extreme Colorpoint Shorthair and has fewer health concerns. This variety is accepted by the United Feline Organization (UFO), which also accepts the Old Style Balinese and Old Style Siamese. CFF accepts the Old Style Colorpoint as a color division of the Siamese, and ACA and TICA accept the Old Style Colorpoint and Old Style Siamese under the name Thai.
Colorpoint Shorthairs have much in common with the Siamese. These silky beauties with the hypnotizing baby-blues originated in Siam (now Thailand), where they were the companions of kings and were thought to inherit the souls of royalty on their way to the afterlife. The Colorpoint shares the body style, head type, eye color, coat length, pointed pattern, and sparkling personality of the Siamese, but comes in the nontraditional colors of red point, cream point, lynx (tabby) point, and tortie point (a mixture of black and red or their dilute colors, blue and cream). In short, the Colorpoint is a Siamese of a different color—svelte, graceful, active, vocal, and smart.
The effort to produce a Siamese-style pointed cat in colors other than the traditional four (seal point, chocolate point, blue point, and lilac point) began in Britain and North America in the 1940s. Early in the program, these innovative breeders focused on only red point and cream point (a dilute of red). The breeders crossed Siamese with red domestic shorthairs to obtain the desired colors. Later, Abyssinians and American Shorthairs were used by North American breeders.
It was slow going in the beginning; to get the desired colors and patterns, the breeders often had to sacrifice body type, so for a time their cats didn’t look much like Siamese.
However, these breeders were determined to perfect their cat creations, and with dogged persistence, they finally achieved the red and cream colors in the correct areas. The bloodlines were then crossed back to the Siamese to reestablish the Siamese’s body shape, head style, coat texture, fur length, and beloved personality.
As the new breed gained acclaim, breeders introduced another color, lynx (tabby) point, which added another 10 colors and patterns to the list of accepted color varieties. The third and last color class, parti-color (tortie) point, added four more varieties; the pointed areas are decorated with one of the four traditional Siamese colors—seal, chocolate, blue, or lilac—randomly mottled with red and/or cream. The pattern is particularly striking when, instead of mottled, the face has a blaze, with one side of the face red or cream and the other side one of the four Siamese colors. Because the color red is carried on the sex-linked X chromosomes, parti-color cats are almost always female.
The new colors grew in popularity, and the next step was to gain recognition from the registering associations. However, many Siamese breeders hissed, afraid the new colors would pollute their purebred lines. In order to appease the Siamese breeders, the North American breeders suggested the name Colorpoint Shorthair to distinguish it from the Siamese. CFA saw the appeal of the colorful cats, and agreed the new breed was a hybrid, not a natural breed like the Siamese. In 1964, the CFA board of directors accepted the Colorpoint Shorthair for registration as a separate breed, and in 1974, the breed was accepted for CFA championship. CFA recognizes the Siamese in only the four traditional colors, but most other associations have accepted the Colorpoint and its new range of colors as part of the Siamese breed. Today, only CFA, CCA, and UFO consider the Colorpoint Shorthair a separate breed.