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Oriental Cats

Updated on March 21, 2011

Oriental Cats: History

The Oriental shorthair is an ancient cat breed that originated in Siam, now known as Thailand. It resembles the Siamese except for the fact that it lacks darker colored "points" on the ears, legs, and tail. Like the Oriental shorthair, the Siamese cat is reported to have originated in Siam.

Apart from color, early Siamese cats in America and England bear little resemblance to the Siamese in today's show rings. The early Siamese were called "apple heads," as they had short, stocky bodies, rounded eyes, and round heads. Today's breed has strikingly different characteristics, being sleek and long with tilted eyes.

Balinese cats originated as a sport, or mutation, from the Siamese cat in the early 1950s. It happened when some purebred Siamese cats produced long-haired kittens. The longhairs bred true, and eventually the new breed was established.

Oriental Cats: Characteristics

The Oriental breeds have large, broad-based ears, a wedge-shaped head, and a long tubular body with a long, whippy tail. Orientals are fine-boned, yet should feel firm and muscular under their coats. Medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes slant toward the nose lending a characteristic Oriental look. Like many things Oriental, these cats are very graceful and elegant.

Orientals, both shorthairs and longhairs, are color-patterned cats excluding pointedness. These cats come in a multitude of colors and coat patterns that range from solid to tabby, and on to exotic tortoiseshell.

Both Siamese and Balinese are "pointed" cats. The Siamese is the shorthair breed and the Bali (a familiar shorthand) is the longhair species. Pointed patterns come in a variety of colors, including seal point, blue point, chocolate point, torte point, red point, and even lilac point. All of these pointed colors can also be seen with the tabby variation-called a lynx point.

Breeders are now developing a related variant known as the Oriental longhair. Siamese and Oriental shorthairs characteristically have short, fine coats that lie close to the body. The Oriental longhairs and the Balinese should have semi-long coats. The hair on the tail is usually longer than the body hair. Orientals' eyes are deep and mysterious. The color ranges from the deep cobalt blue of the ocean to the light blue of summer's sky. The Oriental shorthair can also have green eyes, except for the whites, which may be blueish.

Many owners appreciate the fact that Oriental breeds need little or no grooming.

Oriental Cats: Temperament

Notoriously very vocal, Orientals produce a distinctive sound. It's usually easy to tell if these cats are present at shows, as they carry on conversations with their owners, other cats, or by themselves. Noted as the most vocal of the domestic cats, owners either adore the constant debate or wish they'd acquired a quieter breed.

Equally of note is the Orientals' affinity and affection for their owners. These cats adore their owners and crave companionship. They are happy to share their owner's beds, laps, and favorite chairs.

They are very active and if there is no playmate, they will use their imagination to create fun from whatever is at hand. Beware of furnishings, knickknacks, and high ledges such as drapery cornice boxes when Orientals are in the house. With their long tubular bodies, Orientals are ready for flight and are capable of jumping over five feet in any direction. Add to this great intelligence and dexterity and you have cats that are good acrobats. Some Orientals have proven capable of opening any cabinet or drawer.

Patience and a sense of humor are definite pluses for those who own these enchanting animals.


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