The Himalayan Cat is a popular and well-loved domesticated feline. Its name is derived from the Himalayan rabbit and mouse, which have similar colouring. This breed first made an appearance in the 1930s when Dr. Clyde Keller of Harvard Medical School and Virginia Cobb of Newton Cattery sought to develop a breed that extracted certain characteristics from Persian and Siamese cats to create a new breed.
The Himalayan stayed out of the spotlight until the 1950s when American cat breeder Marguerita Goforth began to cross-breed Persian and Siamese cats. By the early 1960s all major cat associations accepted and recognised the breed. The Himalayan inherits its point colouring and playful temperament from the Siamese, whereas its long fur is derived from the Persian Cat.
In some areas of the world, the Himalayan is referred to as a Colourpoint Persian. Due to similarities in appearance, the Himalayan and Persian are considered the same breed in some cat registries such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association while others, including the International Cat Association, consider them separate breeds.
There are two types of this breed that differ greatly in appearance. The original Himalayan is considered the more traditional of the two and features a large, round head with a nose that protrudes away from the face. Himalayans that appear in cat shows are known as extreme or “ultra-face” and have the same large, round head with a nose that is inset close between the two eyes.
Himalayans have an average weight of 3-6 kg and males tend to be slightly larger in size than females. The body of the Himalayan Cat is generally white, but the points, which include the tail, head and legs, can be a variety of shades including blue, brown, chocolate, cream, lilac, red, seal, tabby or tortoiseshell. The big, wide-set eyes of the Himalayan are blue in colour and its legs are short, drawing emphasis to its stocky body.
Aside from its appearance, the Himalayan is popular because of its sweet and gentle nature. It is generally a laid-back and social breed with a tolerance for strangers and children that is rare for cats. It is a smart animal that is loyal to its owner and adores attention. Much like the Siamese, its playfulness extends far beyond its kitten years. While not as vocal as the Siamese, the Himalayan is known to express itself vocally when it is hungry or in need of attention.
The Himalayan typically loves to be brushed, which is fortunate because the long and fluffy fur of this breed requires regular brushing to reduce shedding and to prevent tangles and mats from developing. Its coat is silky and soft to the touch, which makes it easier to groom than other long-haired cats. Some may choose to regularly bathe the Himalayan to avoid tangling of its coat.
The average lifespan of a Himalayan cat is 10-15 years. In terms of its health, this breed can experience medical problems depending on whether it is an original or extreme. As a result of its nose being inset close to the cat’s head, extreme Himalayans are susceptible to breathing problems. In turn, this can cause blocked tear ducts, which make the eyes water and require frequent wiping by the cat’s owner. Kidney problems may be inherited from its Persian ancestry, though medical tests can determine which cats are affected. As a result of its long, thick fur, Himalayans may produce more hairballs than other cats. When the hair is swallowed, it can build up in the stomach, potentially causing digestive problems. Frequent brushing or grooming will help reduce the amount of hair the cat swallows. Many health concerns can be alleviated if the Himalayan has regular veterinary checkups, is well taken care of in a safe indoor environment, and has a fresh supply of food and water.