Category Archives: cat breed profile

Three Unusual Cat Breeds

By Langley Cornwell

One of the biggest time drains I’m faced with on a daily basis is the trap of looking at cat photos on social media sites. Not surprisingly, most of my connections are animal lovers. They post loads of pictures of their cats being precious and, no matter how many deadlines I have looming, I cannot turn away. It’s like the Siren Song. And yes, I’ll admit it; I’m just as guilty as my friends. If I didn’t exercise some restraint, I’d post multiple pictures of our kitty all throughout the day. I just want everybody to see how darn cute he is when he’s lying on a pile of laundry or hiding in a box or opening a drawer or smoking a catnip cigar or snuggling with our dogs or… oh, sorry. I get carried away.

So, the other day I was sucked into the cat-viewing vortex when I came upon a friend’s photo of a cat she was fostering. This little guy is the weirdest looking cat I’ve ever seen. We tried to identify what breed combination he is but came up short. During this exercise I did learn that there are less than a hundred cat breeds in existence, and the Cat Fanciers’ Association only recognizes 40 breeds officially. Of those 40 different breeds, most of them look fairly similar.

There are a handful of cat breeds, however, that don’t look like other cats. Through genetic mutations and selective breeding, some of these cats have turned out rather odd-looking. Here are three of the most unusual.

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The Sand Cat, a Small But Fierce Desert Wild Cat

By Julia Williams

The sand cat might just be the cutest of all wild cats, and it’s also one of the smallest. Don’t let that sweet face and tiny body fool you, though – this desert wild cat is tough as nails! Well yeah…it would have to be, to survive the harsh conditions where it lives.

Found in both sandy and stony deserts, the habitat of the sand cat (Felis margarita) ranges from North Africa’s Sahara Desert through the Middle East into Central Asia. Although “sand cat” might seem to be a nickname related to its habitat, it is the cat’s actual name. Also called the sand dune cat, these plucky felines have adapted to the extreme temperatures and dry conditions in the desert. Their feet are thickly padded with fur to insulate them from the hot sand. They have large ears which help them hear their prey, and they are excellent hunters – a small rodent like a mouse does not stand a chance against a sand cat!

This hardy feline can survive in temperatures ranging from 23° F to 126° F. During extreme heat, the sand cat stays cool by retreating to an underground burrow. They use abandoned fox or porcupine burrows, but are also good at digging and will enlarge the small burrows of gerbils or other rodents.

Perhaps most impressive of all is that sand cats do not need to drink a lot of water. Although they do drink water when it’s available, if necessary they can get the moisture they need from their prey. This allows them to live comfortably in areas that are far from a water source.

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The Margay, a Rare Wild Cat Breed

By Langley Cornwell

Often mistaken for the Ocelot, the Margay is a smaller breed of wild cat that shares the same territory. In fact, the Margay is also known as a tree Ocelot. There are many differences between the two breeds, however. Sadly, these differences have led the Margay breed to become endangered, which is why it’s so important to learn about this fascinating cat. Below, you’ll find information about the Margay’s habitat, some unique facts about this rare breed, and the reason that this special wild cat is endangered.

Description

The Margay has a beautiful black-spotted golden brown coat along with a white chest. Their spots usually feature a lighter colored center and appear to have a darker ring around the edge. The Margays are one of the smallest wild cats; fully grown, they measure 17-25 inches and weigh between four and nine pounds. In the wild, Margays can live up to 10 years, but do much better in captivity with lifespans reaching 20 years. Their diet in the wild consists of reptiles, birds and small mammals. Sexually mature at the age of one year, gestation for the Margay lasts around 3 months and results in a small litter of one or two offspring.

Habitat

While the Margay shares the same habitat as the Ocelot, the breed stays in the forest and prefers to lounge in the trees. During the day, Margays rest in caves or other dark areas. At night they spend their time jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree, hunting for their evening meal. Margays are independent cats; they prefer to live alone and usually stake out their territory by marking their scent. This may be done with urine, feces or scent glands. The Margay breed has scent glands located between their toes, and males have more scent glands than females. While territories may overlap, the Margay maintains a solitary lifestyle.

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Cat Breed Profile: the Lovely LaPerm

By Langley Cornwell

It doesn’t seem fair that a cat breed has prettier hair than I do, but that’s the case with the beautiful LaPerm. These gorgeous cats’ coats are curly; the curls can be loose and wavy or ringlet-style, ranging from tight Shirley Temple type ringlets to extended corkscrew curls. Their coats can be any color and coat pattern, it’s the curls that make it a LaPerm. In fact, the name LaPerm means rippled or wavy.

History of the LaPerm Cat

This cat breed hasn’t been recognized for long; in 1982 the breed actually started as a mutation of a robust, healthy barn cat. The Cat Fanciers’ Association relates the story of a farmer in Oregon whose land, located near the ancient fishing and hunting grounds of the Wishram Indians, was peppered with barn cats. One of the cats had a litter of six kittens, and one was born without a hair on her body—she was completely bald. Even though she was hairless, the kitten had big, wide-spaced ears and classic tabby-type patterns marked on her skin. At around eight weeks old, the kitten’s coat started to come in curly. And when she reached three to four months of age she had a full coat of soft, curly hair. The farmer named her “Curly.”

These Oregonians knew more about farming than they did about cats. Even though they knew the curly-haired cat was different, they didn’t give it much thought. For the next 10 years, life on the farm remained fairly steady. Since the farmers didn’t know anything about genetics or breeding, they allowed their cats to roam freely around the orchards and throughout the barns. The cats continued to breed indiscriminately, but the farm lady noticed that more and more litters included a bald kitten or two. Curious about what was happening, she began to search for information about her strange cats.

Once the farm owner was made aware of how unusual these cats were, she wanted to learn more about breeding. She started confining the cats and studying their offspring. She determined that the curly gene was dominant and was carried by both the male and female cats. The farmer-turned-breeder entered one of her beautiful, curly-coated cats in a cat show and got a huge reaction; she was overwhelmed with the amount of interest and excitement the cat generated. It was that farm lady in Oregon who established the breed and gave the cats the name of LaPerm.

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Taking a Walk on the Wild Side – The Bengal Breed

By Deborah Barnes

It is no wonder the Bengal cat has taken the top spot as the number one most popular breed by TICA (The International Cat Association) for two years in a row. This miniature inspired leopard with its glossy coat and spotted fur is nothing less than stunning, and there is nothing ordinary about this breed whose claim to fame is a walk on the wild side.

It is for that very reason, that this cat also sparks some controversy and is not recognized as a registered breed with the CFA (Cat Fanciers Association).  They consider this domesticated hybrid that descends from the Asian Leopard Cat to be “wild” (therefore with an unpredictable temperament) and that is why they don’t accept the breed or allow it to be shown at CFA sanctioned shows.

The first Bengal was created in California in 1963 by an unplanned mating between a female Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic shorthair male. Fascinated with the concept, Jean Mill, the originator of the Bengal as we know it today, began a planned breeding program in 1980 to create a cat that looked like the Asian Leopard Cat, but had a domestic’s temperament. Leopard cats were originally bred to domestic shorthairs, Ocicats, Egyptian Maus, Abyssinian and Burmese, until the Bengal’s unique appearance of today was achieved.

The Bengal is a sleek and powerful cat with an athletic frame and a gait like its ancestors in the jungle – they prowl low to the ground with a fluidity of motion like a big cat in pursuit of prey. Despite that, because these remarkable creatures are a domesticated breed, they are actually very friendly and make a personable companion. They are amazing athletes, jumping two to three times higher than your typical cat, and are extremely intelligent, active, lively, graceful, strong, agile, curious and vocal.

A Bengal comes in a variety of colors and patterns, each one equally as beautiful as the next. The shape of the head, ears, eyes, nose, neck, torso, tail, legs, feet, texture, color, pattern and contrast are typically what distinguishes a pet quality cat versus show or breeding quality. Accepted colors are brown tabby, seal lynx point, seal sepia tabby and seal mink tabby. The spots can be a splendid palette of blacks, rusts and cinnamons, and some Bengals possess a recessive “glitter gene” that gives the rosette pattern on the fur an iridescent glow, as if covered with warm frost. There are also silver and snow Bengal’s that have markings in whites, grays and blacks, or marbled Bengal’s in a unique scroll pattern that can be found in leopard or snow leopard colors.

Bengals are classified in a range of generational types, from F1 to F4, with F1 cats being the closest to their wild ancestry, and F4 being the closest to the domestic. This changes the price and personality of the cat significantly and F1 cats should not be purchased without serious consideration, as they require informed owners who are equipped to take care of them and their special needs. They can be very difficult to socialize and tame, and do not always bond with a person as hoped or expected.

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Egyptian Mau Cats: the Oldest Spotted Breed

By Julia Williams

The Egyptian word for cat is Mau (rhymes with wow). A translation from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (240 B.C.) states that “The male cat is Ra himself, and he is called by reason of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him, He is like unto that which he hath made, thus his name became Mau.”

You probably already know that cats were worshipped as deities by the ancient Egyptians. Large numbers of sacred cats were mummified and placed in underground galleries. Numerous bronze votive statuettes have also survived, such as the Gayer-Anderson cat now housed in the British Museum. Cats were also cherished as pets, and mourned upon their death. Tombs of the kings revealed not only mummified cats but toys and food as well. It’s been alleged that very often, a family would shave off their eyebrows to mourn the passing of their beloved cat.

Spotted cats were depicted on the walls of the pharaoh’s chambers, and were said to be the kings’ most sacred and revered companions. Many historical experts believe that artwork of the ancient Egyptians clearly identifies the Egyptian Mau. It’s hypothesized that the Egyptian Mau was domesticated from a spotted subspecies of the small African Wildcat.

The Egyptian Mau is the oldest and the only naturally occurring breed of spotted domestic cats, a group that includes Ocicats, Bengals, Savannahs and Safari cats. The Mau’s history in North America began in 1956, when they were imported by an exiled Russian princess named Nathalie Troubetskoy. The Egyptian Mau was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) for championship competition in 1977.

The Egyptian Mau is a fascinating cat with a stunning “wild” look and a delightful demeanor. First-time Mau owners are said to become so enchanted with this spotted breed that they almost always want more than one.

Temperament of the Mau

As a rule, the Egyptian Mau is an intelligent and active cat. They are fiercely loyal and devoted to their human companions, and are known to form very strong bonds with their owners. Mau kittens adapt easily to new situations, but an adult Mau cat who has already bonded with a family may experience a challenging adjustment period when going to a new home.

The Egyptian Mau has a soft, melodious voice and is known to use it to express happiness. Another way they demonstrate their contentment is by vigorously wiggling their tails (the equivalent of a dog’s wagging tail, perhaps?) while kneading a person with their front paws.

Physical Attributes of the Mau

The beautiful Egyptian Mau is a medium size cat with well developed muscles and athletic grace. The large, slightly almond-shaped eyes are in a distinctive gooseberry green shade. The Mau has alert, medium-to-large ears that are broad at the base, moderately pointed and sometimes tufted.

The coat is medium long and silky, with a glossy sheen. Three colors can be shown in championship status: Silver, Bronze and Smoke, with Silver being the most popular color by far. In the Egyptian Mau standard, much importance is allocated to pattern and contrast. Spots may be any shape or size, but they must be clearly visible and should not run together.

Cats in Egypt Today

Like most American cat owners, Egyptians typically have just one or two felines in their household. However, cat-keeping is largely confined to members of the upper middle class, which is a tiny minority. Although the Egyptian peoples’ feelings toward cats are conditioned by tradition, many are not fully aware of the sacred history cats have in their country.

Photo courtesy of Lil Shepherd.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.