The California Spangled Cat is a spotted cat with the appearance of a wild cat. Bred to resemble spotted wildcats such as the ocelot and leopard, the spangled cat was bred to make a statement about the plight of the world’s dwindling wildcats. Ironically, the spangled cat remains one of the rarest of cat breeds.
History and Origin
A conversation with the now-deceased anthropologist Louis Leakey inspired Paul Casey, animal advocate and writer, to undertake the creation of the spangled cat. When working on a writing project in Africa in 1971, Casey visited the famous Olduvai Gorge where years before Louis and Mary Leakey had discovered fossils of a new hominid species. While there, Casey was shocked to hear that one of the last breeding leopards in that territory had just been killed by poachers. In a later conversation in California, Casey and Dr Leakey explored the idea that if people had a domestic cat that looked like a mini-leopard… they would have a personal reason to relate to the conservation problem. The idea was, people wouldn’t want to wear fur coats that looked a lot like their beloved house pets.
The idea stuck with Casey and in the mid-1970s he drew up an 11-generation blueprint for his lap-sized leopard, using traditional Siamese, Angoras, British shorthairs, American short hair, Manx, and Abyssinians. These breeds gave Casey the core bloodline and each was introduced in a precise order to provide a specific characteristic to the breed. Contrary to rumour, no wildcats were used in the breeding program.
After he developed the core line, Casey added a spotted street cat from Egypt that possessed the feral, primitive look he wanted: a domed forehead, heavy musculature, wide-set eyes and ears, and well-defined whisker pads. And, of course, spots. This Egyptian cat, Casey claims, is a descendant of the original spotted cat worshipped in ancient Egypt. He also found that the Egyptian cat had a wonderful, social temperament, a bonus for the breed. Lastly, Casey added a shorthaired, spotted Malayan domestic cat that added musculature and a short, soft, velvety coat.
By 1985 Casey had the look he wanted for the spangled cat. He gathered a small group of breeders to help promote and propagate the breed and formed the California Spangled Cat Association now called CSCA International, not only to further the spangled cat but to promote the protection of wildcats as well.
To gain national attention for the spangled cat, Casey introduced the cat-loving public to his creation through an advertising campaign in the 1986 Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue. The cats were featured in a two-page spread as “his and hers” gifts priced at $1400 each. The promotion was controversial, particularly so since the same catalogue featured fox, beaver, mink, coyote and ermine fur coats. This advertising strategy managed to anger just about everyone, from the animal-rights people, who were against deliberate breeding of domestic cats, to the cat fanciers, who felt that the three spotted breeds already accepted were plenty. Even the Neiman-Marcus folks were mad; they weren’t pleased that Casey was speaking out against wearing furs.
However, it’s rightly said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity because the advertising and the controversy brought the spangled cat exposure it otherwise never would have had. Neiman-Marcus received hundreds of inquiries about the cats and took many more orders than Casey could fill. The demand for the cats depleted his stock, which slowed the breed’s development. It could be said the experimental breed creation succeeded in its primary goal, in that wearing furs of all the big cats is now banned in all western countries to deter poaching.
Numbers today remain small and the breed remains unrecognised by most cat breed organisations. The breed has a small, devoted group of breeders and fanciers working with the breed and continuing their conservation efforts. Members of the California Spangled Cat Association think of these cats as little ambassadors for their wild cousins.
The California spangled cat truly resembles a little leopard with the dynamic spots, low-slung hunter-like gait, and long, lean, muscular body. The forelegs are carried at a nearly 90-degree angle at the elbow, allowing the body to ride low, heightening the wildcat effect. Overall, the spangled creates the illusion of a much larger cat.
The face is expressive with wide, well-contoured, sculpted cheekbones, well-developed whisker pads, and a strong chin and jaw. The muzzle is broad, medium length and well-developed. Medium-sized, rounded ears set high on the head and well back from the face add to the wild look. The almond-shaped eyes are set well apart and slope gently.
However, the spots set the breed apart. The short coat shows off the pattern nicely. Blocked or rounded spots are preferred. Round, square, oval or triangular shapes are permissible, while crescent, eyelet, or fish scale markings are considered faults. Tabby-like barring may be present on the head, chest, and legs, but the body is unmistakably spotted. The spots may be grouped into rosette patterns.
Because of the diversity of colours used in the breed’s creation, the spangled cat comes in a wide palette of spotted colours: silver, bronze, gold, red, blue, brown, black and charcoal. The spots themselves are dark, well-defined, and sharply contrasted to the background colour.
Two other varieties exist as well, the snow leopard and the king spangled. The snow leopard resembles the central Asian great cat by that name. A light background, vivid spots, and blue eyes give this variety a particularly dramatic look. Born white, the snow leopard develops markings as she matures. The king spangled resembles the endangered king cheetah. At birth, the king spangled is completely black except for the face, legs and underbelly. In adulthood, strap-like segments and rows of diamond-shaped markings join at the cat’s sides. The face shows pale tear-stain markings which extend from the inner corner of the eye down to the outer edge of the mouth.
Despite the wild look, California spangled cats are affectionate, curious, social, and devoted to their humans. Known for their well-honed intelligence, spangled cats generally find ways to wrap their humans around their spotted paws, and make you love them for it. You’ll find them perching at eye-level to keep eye contact with you and to get a good view of the action. They are also noted for their energy and athletic abilities and will keep you amused with their acrobatics. They have strong hunting instincts and are quick to pounce on unsuspecting toes or catnip mice or the real thing if so allowed. Toys with feathers are always a hit. Spangled cats particularly enjoy games in which you take an active role.
California spangled cats need little grooming. Their short, sleek coats need minimal maintenance. Use a rubber brush once a week or so to remove loose hair, particularly during the fall and spring shedding seasons.
Getting a spangled cat is difficult since numbers are limited, prices high, and waiting lists long. Spangled cats begin at about $800 and go up to $2500, sometimes more. Preference may be given to people who will be active in breeding their cats since numbers are vital to the advancement of this breed.
The California Spangled cat is accepted for registration by The International Cat Association TICA