Also known as the Himalayan Persian cat or even “Himmy” casually, the Himalayan cat has a lot of fans. Indeed, cat enthusiasts widely tout the Himalayan cat as being among the top ten most popular cat breeds. This cat’s piercing, crystal-blue eyes appear large, round and alert surrounded by the long, thick ruff of the face and neck. Long, wispy whiskers give this cat a bit of a whimsical look, and the wide-set ears almost look like they were taken off a teddy bear.
History of the Himalayan Cat
The Himalayan cat was developed by crossbreeding Persian and Siamese cats in order to have the markings of a Siamese cat on the coat and body of a Persian cat. Presumably, geneticist Dr. Clyde E. Keeler and cat photographer Virginia Cobb thought this combination was exactly what was missing in the world in the early 1930s. Additional breeding programs emerged in the 1950s, and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of the United Kingdom was the first major cat organization to take notice. One particular cat, which breeder Marguerita Goforth named Princess Himalayan Hope, seems to be most responsible for the breed getting its name toward the end of the decade.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association, or CFA, currently classifies the Himalayan cat under the Persian breed, as does The International Cat Association, or TICA. The reasoning behind this decision reflects the fact that the term “Himalayan” actually describes this cat’s coloration rather than its origin. Nevertheless, this cat competes in its own category in both CFA and TICA competitions. Meanwhile, the American Cat Fanciers Association accepts the Himalayan cat as a distinct breed.
Size of the Himalayan Cat
Himalayan cats stand a few inches taller than the average house cat, weighing a couple pounds more as well. While falling into the medium- to large-sized category, this breed variant exhibits a notably large bone structure with significant musculature compared to most other domestic cats. This cat’s large head sits atop a short, stout neck, and its paws remain proportionally large throughout its life. If it were not for the snub nose restricting its breathing, the Himalayan cat’s deep, barrel chest would probably make it a superior athlete.
Personality of the Himalayan Cat
Himalayan cats have a reputation for being gentle and affectionate. Spirited but not too hyper, these fluffy felines are inclined to favoritism, preferring to hang out almost exclusively with one or two particular humans when part of a large family. These cats often will hide from visitors, and they require a private retreat in noisy homes to feel safe and comfortable.
The Himalayan cat likes to investigate new people, pets and objects on its own terms. Even though this cat will usually bolt from the room rather than meet approaching company, its inquisitive nature often draws it back out once things quiet down.
While all cats need daily interaction to maintain their mental health, Himalayan cats get along better than many other breeds when their owners are away at work for long stretches during the day or night. Nonetheless, these cats delight in waiting by the door for their people, timing it precisely for that extra special hour when their favorite humans come home for the day.
Eye color that appears as light blue in a Himalayan kitten will typically darken into a deep blue within the first several months after birth. Other than the eyes, most Himmies fail to look anything like their parents for the first few weeks. Indeed, a fresh litter of Himalayan kittens could almost be mistaken for a bunch of cotton balls but for their tiny noses and ears. While many animals go through an awkward stage, most Himmy lovers will proclaim Himalayan kittens to be the exception in retaining their adorableness from the day they are born until the day they die.
Although the Himalayan cat is the product of crossbreeding Siamese and Persian cats, today’s Himalayan kittens are far more than a simple crossbreed. Because the Himalayan markings, called “colorpoint,” come from a recessive gene, breeding these cats is an exacting science best reserved for professionals. Breeders no longer pair Siamese cats with Persians, instead breeding two Himmies that share the necessary gene without being too closely related. Genetic testing can also identify if Persian parents are carriers of the gene, but even so their litters will contain fewer Himalayan kittens than the Himmies would produce.
Himalayan cats average 15 years in lifespan, right on par with most domestic cats. Though not entirely hypoallergenic, the Himalayan cat tends not to trigger as much of an allergic reaction as other cat breeds for those individuals who are sensitive to cat dander or saliva. While that fact may bode well for their owners’ health, these cats do come with a few of their own health concerns.
Respiratory distress: Thanks to their flat faces inherited from their Persian ancestors, Himalayan cats can develop breathing troubles. Owners can often allay any wheezing by simply wiping their cats’ faces regularly, but a visit to the veterinarian is more than likely in order if it continues.
Progressive retinal atrophy: Not to be confused with the overactive tear ducts that these cats are also prone to having, this unpredictable genetic condition eventually leads to blindness. While the former requires a simple wipe of the eyes with a warm washcloth to remedy, the latter comes with no possible treatment and can be heartbreaking to witness.
Weight gain: Like Persian cats, Himalayan cats can gain weight rather easily. Enticing these cats with laser toys and cat teasers can help keep them active since they are disinclined to run and climb very much on their own.
Polycystic kidney disease: Reputable breeders should always screen the parents of their Himalayan kittens for this deadly genetic illness. Testing is especially important if there is a recent non-Himalayan Persian cat ancestor in the kitten’s pedigree.
Care of the Himalayan Cats
While their slightly large size would seem to protect them from other animals to some degree, Himmies’ long, fluffy fur makes them especially vulnerable to fleas, ticks and painful dirt matting. Thus, most veterinarians recommend keeping these cats indoors at all times. Fortunately, Himalayan cats tend not to take issue with this captivity, rather enjoying the safety and quietude inside the house.
Litter Box Training
Himalayan cats love to please their humans, so litter training should go well as long as the appropriate conditions are met. For instance, large-grain, non-clumping litter will be less likely to stick in this cat’s long fur. Another way to avoid fur matting from the litter box is to teach the cat to use the toilet instead. Many owners have reported success in toilet training their Himalayan kittens.
Himalayan Cat Nutrition
Weight-control blends of cat food are ideal for fully grown Himalayan cats. Owners should pay close attention to portioning to ensure their cats stay trim and vivacious. For Himalayan kittens, however, a mixture of canned food and high-protein dry food will promote healthy growth and development. The optimal ratio of wet to dry food may change as the kitten’s teeth and jaws grow stronger.
Coat Color and Grooming
The definitive dark fur on the face, ears, feet and tail, called “point” markings according to cat show standards, comes from the Himalayan cat’s Siamese ancestors. The intensity of these markings varies, sometimes taking over the whole face, paws and tail and other times covering just around the little snub nose and tips of the ears and tail.
Because their coat colors react to temperatures, it is not unusual to see a Himalayan cat with darker extremities during the colder months of the year and lighter markings otherwise. Of course, these changes typically come along with lots of shedding. As for actual color tones, TICA accepts all variations, presenting awards to cats with point hues ranging from cream to red or even blue as long as these shades carry significant contrast to the body color.
Sometimes, Himalayan kittens appear grayer or darker in body color than desired, but their coats typically change and lighten as they grow. Something like the reverse can also occur; light faces and tails can darken as these kittens grow older and begin to brave colder temperatures away from their mothers’ body heat. Perhaps even more intriguing, a Himalayan kitten can exhibit both changes at once, having its body lighten up in color while its point markings grow more pronounced.
Himalayan Cat Grooming
Owners should brush their Himalayan cats daily if not more often due to their long, cottony fur. A dual-sided brush with long, metal bristles on one side and short, horse-hair ones on the other proves most effective in preventing and controlling matting and tangles. The long bristles can reach the undercoat while the soft horsehair works to smooth and blend the cat’s natural oils into the top coat.
Because the fur is so long and thick, hairballs often form and can prove deadly if enough of them accumulate in kitty’s belly. To keep those hairballs at bay, veterinarians often recommend to owners that they bathe their Himalayan cats on a monthly basis in addition to brushing. As long as owners begin these grooming regimes with Himalayan kittens and continue them into their adulthood, these cats can come to enjoy and even look forward to being brushed and bathed.
Children and Other Pets
Himalayan cats do best in small families with few other pets. Families with small children who want a Himalayan kitten should take care to handle their pet daily to acclimate it to a busy, noisy life. Adopting grown cats from this breed can be great for singles and childfree couples who just want a little more company around the house. When it comes to dogs and other cats, Himmies can take some time to adjust, but they tend to form intense, loving bonds with their fellow pets once they do.
Even going by TICA’s standards, Himalayan cats are most remarkable for displaying a sweet disposition. However, it would be a mistake to think these cats were bred merely for their looks; in fact, Himmies offer low-key affection and companionship that can be difficult to find in another pet.