Himalayan Cat: Cat Breed Information, Characteristics and Facts
The stunningly beautiful Himalayan breed is characterized by their striking blue eyes and color markings that are similar to that of the Siamese. They are a medium build cat but they have a large bone structure and a long and thick coat so they look a lot bigger than they actually are. You can expect your Himalayan to live for between nine and 15 years and to reach a weight of between seven and 12 pounds.
Their luxurious coat can be a variety of colors including lilac, black, red, silver, brown and cream. They are highly valued as a pet but this is not just because of their stunning appearance. They have a calm and loving temperament. Many Himmies are quite shy and will get frightened in a noisy and boisterous environment. They will be quite happy to sit on your lap or snuggle up to you in a quiet room. This is one of the less demanding breeds; they will seek out your attention but will not leap around your home. If you don’t like the thought of cat’s climbing curtains or continually leaping on your kitchen counters, this could be the breed for you.
History of the Himalayan Breed
The Himalayan breed was named after the Himalayan rabbit which has a similar coloring. It is very similar to the Persian breed but has different color point markings. They are so similar that some national feline associations consider them to be the same breed.
Himalayans developed from breeding Siamese cats with Persian cats to give a Persian kitty with Siamese-style markings. The process began in the 1920s when breeders crossed a Siamese cat with a white Persian cat. The offspring were called ‘Malayan Persians’ but the new breed failed to get established. In the 1950s, more successful attempts were made by breeders in San Diego and Surrey (UK) and a color pointed Persian kitty was the result.
The Cat Fanciers Association did recognize the Himalayan as a distinct breed in 1957 but a reclassification in 1984 made them a subtype of the Persian breed once more.
Quick Facts About the Himalayan
- They are not from the Himalayas
The obvious assumption to make is that this breed originated in the Himalayan mountain ranges but that is not the case. They are not named after that region at all. Their name comes from the Himalayan rabbit which has a remarkably similar coat with color points – darker fur around the regions of the face and feet.
- Himalayans are hybrids
Some feline breeds have been developed from a single breed but others are created by combining two breeds. The Himmies are a combination of Persians and Siamese. They have the physique of the former and the coloring of the latter. This gives them their unique and adorable appearance. It was the US cat breeder, Margaret Goforth, who gave them their name in 1957. Nevertheless, some cat associations still refuse to recognize them as a breed in their own right.
- Himalayans are super stars
Himalayans have been the stars in many block busters and on the small screen. The unforgettable Mr Jinx starred alongside Robert De Nero in the smash hit ‘Meet the Parents’ and stole the show with his antics.
Then there was sarcastic Sassy, the star of the 1999 film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. However, Sassy was not a single kitty. It is reported that at least 10 Himalayans were used in the production of that film.
Martha Stewart, the famous media mogul, is the proud owner of no fewer than three Himalayans called Beethoven, Mozart, and Bartók. They often appear on her TV show as well as in her magazine features.
- Temperature is important to Himalayans
Because Himalayans are Brachycephalics, they have a short muzzle. This makes them look super cute but does make it difficult for them to cool down so they are very sensitive to heat. You are likely to find your Himalayan very close to your AC unit on a warm day!
Also, Himalayan kitties have gene modifiers which govern the development of their color pigmentation and the genes are sensitive to temperature. This explains why the cooler parts of the Himalayan’s body (the tail, paws and face) are dark but warmer body parts (body) are lighter in color.
- They are no athletes!
This is not an athletic breed! They have short and stubby legs so they find it hard to jump very high. This means that they are not interested in exploring high up areas and you are unlikely to find them perched on top of your wardrobe.
This suits families who would rather have a kitty who prefers to relax on the sofa.
Things You Should Know About the Himalayan
The Himalayan is a gorgeous and friendly cat who will bring great joy to your home. However, with that joy comes responsibility. It is important that you are clear about what you are taking on and that you have the skills and knowledge to keep your Himalayan healthy and happy. Here’s a list of the main points that you need to know.
There is every chance that your Himmie will enjoy a long and happy life but here are some of the things that you should look out for.
- Breathing issues
The Himalayan cats are a brachycephalic breed and have a flat nose which is similar to that seen in a Pug dog. This makes them look adorable but can cause some health issues. Himalayans are especially prone to developing compression of the sinuses and nasal passages. They may find it hard to breathe and they may be prone to developing upper respiratory tract infections. The fact that they have shortened sinus cavities can make the situation worse.
- Polycystic kidney disease
As the name suggests, this is a condition where multiple cysts form in the kidney and limit their capacity to work correctly. It is a painful condition and it cannot be cured but the cysts can be drained in some cases. It does not cause rapid death but does reduce the length and quality of life. It is a disorder that is inherited through the Persian bloodline and that is why it can be an issue for Himalayans. You can avoid the risk of this condition completely because there is a DNA test that breeders can use. Ask your breeder before you take on a kitten.
- Feline cutaneous asthenia (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome)
This is the veterinary term for saggy and painful skin. It is caused by a deficiency of collagen which is the body protein that delivers strength and elasticity to both the skin and the ligaments. It is a condition that is genetic in origin but there is currently no DNA test available. Therefore, we are relying on reputable breeders to remove affected cats from their breeding programs. The condition is detected by stretching the cat’s skin. If they are in extreme discomfort, it indicates that the disease is present. Vets have developed a measurement scale which is called the Skin Extensibility Index. It measures how far a cat’s skin can be stretched without causing discomfort and matches it with back measurements. It clearly indicates if the condition is present or not. Cats with the condition can suffer from joint dislocation because the ligaments that would normally hold the joints together cannot work correctly. Sadly, it also causes a lot of pain and cats with the condition usually have to be euthanized.
- Hair balls
It should come as no surprise that Himalayans suffer from hair balls as they have such a long and luxurious coat. Most of the time, hair balls are not a medical issue. It can be quite unpleasant for the owners to clear up but does the kitty no harm. However, there are occasions where hair balls can cause serious intestinal blockages that can only be tackled with major emergency surgery. You can do a lot to help prevent hair balls with regular grooming and the correct diet.
Himalayans need a premium cat food that supplies plenty of protein and all the vitamins and minerals that they need. You may wish to choose a food that is designed to help dispel hair balls safely and to prevent them from forming in the first place. These foods often contain omega oils which promote a healthy coat and could cut down on hair loss. However, it is inevitable that some hair will be ingested by your cat as they groom themselves. The special foods will help the hair to travel safely through the intestines rather than clumping into damaging hair balls. They do this by using a clever blend of several different types of fiber.
You may also want to avoid foods that contain potential allergens such as corn, wheat and soy and that contain artificial additives. It is also important that you keep an eye on your cat’s weight and check out the total calories of the food that you are using. Obesity causes many health issues in cats and you should be wary of over-feeding. The Himalayan is not the most active breed and therefore does not need a huge number of calories.
Himalayans are special cats and there are some special things that you will need to do to keep them healthy and happy. Because they are a Brachycephalic breed and have such a short nose, they do tend to produce a lot of tears and these need to be wiped away once a day with a cloth dipped in warm water. They are also prone to overheating so heatstroke is a real concern. Make sure that they have a cool area to relax on warm days.
Your kitty will need a regular claw trim if they have not worn them down naturally by moving around and scratching. If you are not confident doing this, a groomer can do it for you. It is important that you only trim the white tip of the nail and do not nick the pink parts which are further down. Most owners find that guillotine style pet nail trimmers are the best tool to use for this job.
In order to prevent tooth decay, brush your Himalayan’s teeth every day using a toothpaste that is specially designed for cats. Start when they are a kitten and they will soon get used to it.
Don’t forget the Himalayans are intelligent creatures and need plenty of toys to keep them amused. Something as simple as a crumpled piece of paper can provide hours of fun. Also, invest in some puzzle toys and a scratching post – you can encourage your cat to use it with a bit of catnip.
Cats that have long coats need a lot of grooming to keep it in order and Himalayan cats are no exception. They can be described as ‘high maintenance’ when it comes to appearances!
They have a thick double coat that can become matted and painful if it is not looked after correctly. You will need to groom your kitty every day using a stainless-steel comb or you could use a wire brush. Start when they are very young so they become accustomed to it quickly and use a treat to persuade them to keep still if you need to. Start the grooming session by brushing their back and then move onto the sides but don’t leave out the tummy, chest or tail. Any tangles can be tackled using a stainless-steel greyhound comb – it is the best tool for breaking them up. You do this by working from the bottom of the tangle and working your way towards the skin.
Believe it or not, you will also have to give your Himalayan a monthly bath. This will keep them clean and keep skin oils under control so that they always look sleek. It is essential that you start this when they are a kitten so that they will accept it. Himalayans that compete at shows need to have a bath every other day to keep their coat in top condition. Use a special cat shampoo for this.
There may be occasions when you need to call in a professional. You may need to take your kitty to a cat groomer if their coat becomes very matted. They will probably need a thorough grooming session and a trim. Choose your groomer with care – make sure that they have experience of working with Himalayans. A regular trim at the groomers is a good idea for Himalayans. It is a good way of preventing mats from developing and reduces the amount of grooming that you will have to do. However, it will cost you some money so make sure that you have the budget to cover it.
Himalayans have the perfect temperament to be a loyal and content indoor cat. They tend to be more active and communicative than the Persians but are not as vocal as the Siamese breed. They are a gentle cat that likes to have a quiet life but they are partial to games and will appreciate you taking the time to play with them. All you need is a very simple toy and lots of love.
Your Himmie is likely to become very attached to you and you may find yourself receiving constant demands for attention! They will adore sitting on your lap and will want to be with you when you are working or relaxing. If you are someone who does not appreciate the constant ‘help’ of a furry friend, the Himalayan may not be the best pet for you. From the moment you get your Himalayan kitten back home, you will have to schedule time in your day that you can devote to them and making them feel loved.
That said, spending time with a Himalayan is a complete joy. They are sweet-natured and very placid. It is rare for them to be big fans of boisterous games and they prefer a bit of gentle fun. When you invite a Himalayan to live in your home, you get an intelligent and devoted companion. They can be quite vocal but nowhere near as noisy as their Siamese cousins. They are laid back enough to tolerate a household that has young children but may prefer older children as they can get startled and don’t like too much rough and tumble.
The Last Word
Himalayan Moms and Dads rapidly become completely smitten with their little furry friends and so will you. Provided you are willing to put in the effort to keep their coat in order, you will have a gorgeous cat that will impress all your visitors. They have a laid-back attitude to life and ooze feline charm. Your Himmie will soon be as devoted to you are you are to them and you will enjoy many happy years together.