What unique cats make special pets?
By Michelle Liew
Other Unusual Cats
“All animals are equal, and none are more equal than others.” Michelle Liew via George Orwell
I usually give dogs a voice in my write ups about pets, but I am giving cats a little preening today. I have a little penchant for the underdog or in this case under cat - the rare cat breeds that many may not have come across.
So, I thought that I would give these special felines a little mention.We shall delve into the history of these breeds, their outstanding traits and most importantly, why we should consider them as pets!
Now to give them a little introduction.
The Devon Rex
A special breed with a curly, soft coat, the Devon Rex emerged in England in the 1960s. Named for its discovery in Buk Devon by Beryl Cox, the Devon Rex was found among a litter of kittens in a used tin mine. Cox came across an unusual cat (not the Devon Rex itself) that she wanted to catch and breed. After several tries, the shifty fellow still eluded capture.
Eventually, this strange cat, Tam, bred with a stray tortoise shell and Cox observed that one of the kittens had the same wild and curly coat as Tam. Cox named it Kirlee and it became the father of the Devox Rex breed.
Cox initially assumed that the Devon Rex was of the same breed as the Cornish Rex. But after repeated attempts to mate Kirless with Cornish Rex females, not a single curly haired kitten was produced. Cox came to the conclusion that the gene that caused the curly hair in the Cornish Rex cat was not the same as that of the Devon Rex - meaning that it was a breed of its own.
Lack of guard hair
Cats have three types of hair, namely:
guard hair or the top coat
awn hair or the intermediate coat
down hair or the softest, bottom layer of hair.
The guard hair, as the top coat, is meant to do as its name says - act as a guard for the animal’s skin. The Devon Rex, unlike many other cats, has very little guard hair.
A special feature that makes this breed unusual is its curly down hair, stemming from a gene neither of the Cornish or German Rex variety.
Another outstanding trait of the Devon Rex is its intelligence. These furry felines are really easy to train! They can be taught simple tricks like fetching and walking on a leash.
Why they should be considered as pets:
Aside from having great intelligence and trainability, the Devon Rex is also active, playful and really friendly.Such a rare breed not only makes a good talking point at gatherings, but also makes a constant companion which likes perching on one’s shoulders.
The Scottish Fold
The Scottish Fold
Another cat that one can consider making a part of the household is the Scottish Fold. A charming cat, he is certainly worth considering as a pet.
The original Scottish Fold was female a barn cat named Susie who was found in a Scottish farm in Perthshire. Susie’s ears had an unusual fold in the middle, which made her resemble an owl. Susie’s kittens were also born with folded ears. Unfortunately, Susie was killed in an accident after giving birth. As a result, many cats share a common ancestry with her.
One of these kittens was acquired by WIlliam Ross, who registered the breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. He started breeding the kittens with the help of Pat Turner, a Scottish geneticist. 76 kittens were born in the first three years, 42 with ears folded and 34 with straight ears. They concluded that the cat’s folded ears were a result of a dominant gene.
The GCCF withdrew registrations in 1971 because of predominant mites and ear infections in some cats. Others had broken limbs and tails. The breed was exported to America and cossed with British and American Shorthair breeds.
Needless to say, what makes this cat very outstanding is its folded ears. Some may even have 2 to 3 folds! Straight at birth, their ears will fold after about three weeks.
They also enjoy sleeping like a lBuddha, with the hips straight out and in a reclining position.
Why you should consider this breed
This breed is friendly, charming and good for owners who have other pets in the home because these cats do not mind them. They are gentle, loyal and soft spoken cats, making them ideal candidates for the home and are a popular pet lover’s choice. However, they tend to cost more than other breeds of cats.
The Japanese Bobtail
The Japanese Bobtail
The Japanese Bobtail is a cat that has a bobbed tail than resembles that of a rabbit more than its fellow feline friends. These cats even hop like rabbits! The cat is native to Japan, of course and the rest of Asia. It is now found the world over. Pretty, it has often been the subject of much Japanese folklore and art.
Some of us may be familiar with the Japanese Maneko, the Beckoning Cat which is supposed to bring in fortune. It consists of a cat sitting on its haunches with a forepaw raised.It is modeled on the Japanese Bobtail. With mainly white calicoes, the heterochromatic kittens with gold or silver eyes are popular in Japan.
A take on the history of the Bobcat states that they arrived in Asia more that 1000 years ago. In 1602, the Japanese Government decreed that all cats be set free to protect valuable silkworm crops. Japanese Bobtails became Japan’s strays.
A folklore tells of how a cat came to have its tail being caught on fire. With much of it razed, it became the Japanese Bobcat.
In 1701,Dr. Englebert Keampfer, who wrote about the landscape of Japan noted that only the Japanese bobtail was being kept in households. It had its notable colors of black,white and yellow.
In 1968. Elizabeth Freret became the first person in the Western Hemisphere to import that Bobtail out of Japan. It was accepted for Championship status at cat shows by the Cat Fancier’s association in 1976.
Why you should consider it as a pet
The Japanese Bobtail is good with children, making it an ideal companion in the household. It is also good with other pets.
In terms of ‘cat-sonality”, it is gentle, smart and independent.
Known also as the Diamond Cat, this cat is a rare, native all white breed which hails from Thailand. They have blue, gold or odd eyes with one of each color, the odd eyed being the preferred cat. They are muscular and athletic.
What is surprising about this breed is how long it has taken for it to gain popularity. So rare is the breed that it received “registration only” status in 2009. It was given a breed name in 2010 and promoted to “Preliminary New Breed” as recently as 2012.
The earliest mention of the Khao Manee was in the Tamra Maew, or the “Cat Book of Poems”written in 1350. It means that it was native to Thailand for nearly 650 years. Their rarity makes them expensive, with cats costing eight to thousand dollars in the UK alone.
Why they can be pets
Khao Manee are inquisitive, communicative and intelligent, interested in human interaction, making them excellent choices as household pets.
The Savannah is really what it is, domestic cat breed as true to its wild roots as you can possibly find. A crossbreed between a Serval (African WIld Cat) and a domestic cat, the inbreeding gives it a unique quality. Their tall, slim build gives them the appearance of a larger size than their actual weight. It is renowned for its jumping ability.
As recently as 2001, the International Cat Association accepted it as a registered breed. The association accepted it as a breed in 2001. To be considered as a Savannah, the only quality the cat must have is that it is crossbred with the Serval.
Bengal breeder Judee Frank crossed a male serval, belonging to Susie Woods, with a Siamese cat to produce the Savannah. It caught the attention of Patrick Kelley, who bought it in 1989. He was the first to take interest in establishing a breed based on a domestic cross. After working with breeders, Kelley finally came across Joyce Sroute and worked with her in having the breed
recognized. They wrote the original Savannah breed standard and gave it to the TCIA for approval. True to its serval roots, its hiss sounds like that of a snake’s.
Why they should be considered as pets
The Savannah is compared to the dog because of its loyalty. It will follow its owners around. HIghly intelligent, they can also be taught to play games like fetch, They are loving and enjoy the head butt, but are occasionally known to pounce.
A note - if you are a potential pet owner who has a penchant for tidiness, the Savannah might not be the right choice because it loves to bat water from its water bowl.
Now, coffee, tea or cat? Let me introduce you to the cat in a teacup, or the Teacup Persian. This breed has gained popularity recently because of the space restrictions that living in apartment present. One of the things that I like about cats is the variety of colors they come in, and the Teacup Persian is no exception. Known for their long, flowing coats, they are similar to regular Persians, though Teacup cats are defined as those which weigh ten pounds or less when they reach maturity.
The Persian cat was imported into Italy from Khorasan, Persia by Pietro Della Valle and from Angora into France at around the same time. From France, they soon reached Britain. Interestingly, research has shown that the Persian may be more closely related to cats from Western Europe than Persia.
The Teacup Persian, about a third of the size of the actual Persian, is bred for its sheer small size.
Why you should keep a Teacup Persian
Good with children, their small size makes them ideal pets for the modern household. It is also gentle and very good with children.
No, I do not refer to the soft toy, but the cat. I like to think of the munchkin as the kitty counterpart of the dog, a corgi, because of its incredibly short legs that are that way because of a genetic mutation. Known as achondroplasia, the condition in no way affects their running or jumping abilities.
What is a little bit of a drawback for this breed is that kittens with 2 or more copies or achondroplasia, otherwise known as the "munchkin gene", will not survive. The genetic makes them a no-no in cat fancying societies.
Achondroplasia, unfortunately, also makes the cats susceptible to sunken chests, back problems or other spinal deformities. It was finally recognized by the International Cat Association in 1995.
Sandra Hochenedel, a music teacher, found two pregnant cats that had been chased by a bulldog under a truck. She kept one, Blackberry and half it's kittens were born with short legs. She gave one of the litter to a friend, Kay LaFrance who named it Toulouse. So the breed began and spread.
The Munchkin was introduced to the public in Madison Square Garden in 1991 via a televised cat show. The potential back and hip problems created somewhat of a controversy, and amid that the breed was accepted in TCIA's "cat roll."
Why keep a Munchkin?
The Munchkin is a delightful cat which takes a real interest in the people around it. Intelligent and playful, it is a welcome companion to be around.
My instinct to keep this breed would stem from my love of the "under cat."
Minskins, part of a breed of cats known as dwarf breeds, are known for their unusually large ears owing to their Devon Rex parentage. They appear to be very small Sphynx cats because of their Sphynx ancestry.
It is known for its hairless coat and belly
You have guessed it-the Minskin is a cross between a Munchkin, particularly the Devon Rex Munchkin, with a Sphynx cat. So this kitty has quite a complex parentage!
A very new breed, Paul McSorely began breeding the Minskin in 1998.He envisioned a cat with short fur, colored at its extremeties like a Siamese.He bred them using his Devon Rexes and Burmese Cats.
By 2005, 50 Minskins that looked the way McSorely envisioned existed. Currently, it is in the Preliminary New Breed status and being monitored by the TICA.
Why welcome a Minskin into the home?
Extremely tolerant of other cats, the Minskin is an ideal lap cat for an older person with arthritic hands.It is also good with little children and an ideal pet for smaller living spaces.
I consider the Sphynx to be the kitty counterpart of the well known hairless dog, the Chinese Crested Hairless.
The lack of coat makes this cat warm to the touch. Markings on other cats may also be present on a Sphynx. Its outstanding trait? Hair, or lack thereof. Contrary to popular belief, this breed is not completely hairless. Instead, it is covered with fur the color of soft peach fuzz.
The Sphynx requires regular bathing as its very short hair cannot absorb the natural oils its skin produces. It is prone to the same allergic reactions as other cats.
Breeders in Europe have been working to breed the Sphynx since the 1960s. Two sets of hairless felines provided the foundation cats from which came the Sphynx.
The rarity the breed is due largely in part to the delays in breeding it. Mr. Riyadh Badhwa a science graduate of the University of Toronto, combined efforts with his mother,Yania, a Siamese Cat breeder and the Tenhoves (Kee and Rita) to lay the foundation for the breed.
The first Sphynx Cat, prune, died without successfully breeding. In 1967, a mother and her kittens managed to survive. 2 kittens from her second litter of cats were transported to London and from there, the breed developed.
Why would I want to keep a Sphynx cat?
Known to be highly energetic, this cat has the ability to master acrobatic tricks. It is an extrovert and enjoys the limelight, so if you are the sort who loves entertaining guests, a sphynx might be a good assistant. Its curiosity and mischievousness make it rather a handful.
All in all, the sphynx is for those who prefer active cats!
For pet owners with a mind to owning a cat, these are some breeds that you might consider taking home. Not just pets, they also make good conversation topics!
Original Work by
Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
All rights reserved
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