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Choosing a Himalayan

By: J. Anne Helgren

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To say the Himalayan is popular is an understatement. Each year, the Himmie, as he's affectionately called, recruits more devoted humans into his not-so-exclusive fan club. Membership requires only two things – a desire to share your life and heart with a sweet, devoted feline, and a willingness to spend part of every day slaving over a hot cat comb. The Himalayan demands a serious time commitment to keep those long locks looking lovely.

History and Origin

The Himalayan was created in the 1950s by American and British breeders whose goal was to create a cat with the pattern and color of the Siamese but the body and head type of the Persian. By breeding together Persians and Siamese and then crossbreeding the offspring, these breeders succeeded in producing the desired appearance. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) and American Cat Fancier's Association (ACFA) recognized the breed in 1957 under the name Himalayan, so named for the color pattern found in other animals such as the Himalayan rabbit. By 1961, all major United States cat associations recognized the Himalayan.

In 1984, the CFA united the Himalayan and the Persian breeds into one, with the Himalayan considered a division rather than a separate breed. Himalayans are shown in the Himalayan color division of the Persian breed, and are called pointed pattern Persians. Persians that carry the colorpoint gene are called colorpoint carriers. The reason for this change? By the 1980s, the body, head, and coat types were the same for both breeds. Only the colors and pattern remained of the Siamese ancestors. Also, since the breeders were required to cross their Himalayans to Persians now and then to maintain the body and head type, registration and status problems arose for the hybrid offspring. Previously, the hybrids were not considered true members of either breed. As varieties of the same breed, the hybrids could be registered and shown in whatever color division they qualified.

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

Appearance

Heavily boned, broad through the chest, low on the legs, and massive across the shoulders and rump, the ideal Himalayan is a large, substantial cat with an overall impression of roundness, a body style known as "cobby." The long coat adds to the impression of roundness and mass.

Two distinct facial types exist – the extreme and the traditional. In both types, the Himalayan has small, rounded ears set low on the head, wide, round eyes, full cheeks, and a full well-developed chin. Although the extreme head type is favored in the show ring, the traditional has many fans. The extreme's face is round and flattened, and the nose is short and snub with a definite break. The nose is nearly as high as the eyes. The current show trend toward a more extreme facial type troubles some fanciers, who feel the extreme face is harmful to the breed. Reported problems include breathing distress, eye tearing, malocclusions, and birthing difficulties.

The traditional's head is also round and massive. However, the nose, while short and snub, is placed lower on the face, and only has a slight break. The up-curving mouth helps give the desired sweet expression that fanciers of this type prize. Reportedly, this type experiences fewer problems than his extreme counterpart.

Like their Siamese ancestors, Himalayans are decorated with the pointed pattern. Pointed and lynx-point colors accepted are seal, chocolate, lilac, blue, flame, cream, tortie, blue-cream, chocolate-tortie, and lilac-cream.

Personality

Himalayans make perfect indoor companions. Like their Persian siblings, Himmies are devoted and loyal. They are gentle, calm, and sweet-tempered, but they also possess a fun-loving, playful side. Himalayans love to play fetch, and a scrap of crumpled paper or a kitty toy will entertain them for hours. More vocal and active than the Persian (a gift from their Siamese ancestors, no doubt), they are nevertheless much quieter and less active than the Siamese. Himalayans are devoted and dependent upon their humans for companionship and protection. They crave affection and love to be petted and groomed, which is a good thing since every Himalayan owner will spend part of each day doing just that.

Grooming

Breeders recommend a 10 to 15 minute grooming session each day and a thorough one hour grooming session once a week. During the shedding months – spring when they shed their heavier winter coats, and fall before growing their winter coats – additional grooming is usually necessary. Occasional bathing is also needed to remove oil accumulation. Some breeders recommend a bath every two weeks, although some can go longer, depending on the oiliness of the skin. Daily face washing is necessary if tear staining is a problem, which it often is with this breed. Fortunately, with their calm, gentle personalities, Himalayans take well to grooming if you are gentle, consistent, and start their grooming programs early in their lives. Some breeders report that the Himmie coat is easier to maintain, and that eye tearing is not as much of a problem as it is with the Persian.

Although the breed is popular and plentiful, some breeders still have waiting lists for their kittens. If you want a bargain, look for a retired breeder or show cat (try www.breedlist.com). They can be purchased relatively inexpensively since the breeder generally is looking for a good home for the cat, not a high price.

Association Acceptance

The Himalayan is accepted for championship by the following North American cat associations:

  • American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE)
  • American Cat Association (ACA) as a division of the Persian breed
  • American Cat Fancier's Association (ACFA)
  • Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
  • Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) as a division of the Persian breed
  • Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF)
  • National Cat Fanciers' Association (NCFA)
  • Traditional Cat Association (TCA)
  • The International Cat Association (TICA)
  • United Feline Organization (UFO)

    Because Himalayans are regularly crossed with Persians, most associations have special rules that allow for these Himalayan/Persian hybrids. In TICA, for example, Persian, Himalayan, and exotic (shorthaired Persian) hybrids may be registered and shown with the parental 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 the mating produces offspring that look like Persians, they can be registered and shown as Persians.

    Special Notes

    Himalayan health concerns include breathing difficulties, eye tearing, malocclusions and birthing difficulties due to the head size and the flat face of the extreme Himalayan. Reportedly, traditional Himalayans tend to have fewer of these health problems. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which can cause kidney failure, is also known to exist in some Persian and Himalayan lines. Ask the breeder if the cat has been screened for PKD before agreeing to buy.

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