The Himalayan cat, or Himmie as they are affectionately called, is the amazing hybrid of the Persian cat and the Siamese cat. Himmie owners often joke that their cats are “Persian dressed up like Siamese.” The Himalayan cat has the long hair of the Persian with unique color points in their faces, ears, paws and tails like the Siamese. The cats have the gentle and calm disposition of the Persian and the energy and friendliness of the Siamese. With piercing blue eyes, cute pushed in pug-like faces and a flowing, silky coat, the Himalayan cat has become popular with cat enthusiasts, cat owners and popular culture. Here are 20 fun facts you didn’t know about Himalayan cats.
How the Himalayan came to be
Himalayan cats carry the ancestry of the Persian and Siamese cat but were created by cross breeding the two cat species. Many cat breeds have been created through cross breeding the Siamese because of its exotic look and good temperament. The Himalayan cat, however, came about from genetic research. In the early 1930’s, Harvard Medical School researcher, Dr. Clyde Keeler was researching the gene that carried color pointing in cats. Color points refer to the unique coloring of the face, ears, paws and tails in cats like the Siamese. With cat breeder, Virginia Cobb of Newton Cattery, Dr. Keeler worked to breed Persian cats with Siamese. The result was eventually a kitten called Newton Debutante. Debutante long thick white hair with color points. She had a flattened face and striking blue eyes.
Further breeding of Himalayan cats continued in the United States and in the United Kingdom following World War II. American cat breeder, Margaret Goforth, continued to crossbreed Persian and Siamese cats and in 1957 named the breed the Himalayan cat. Although Himalayan cats don’t have a connection to the Asian mountain range, the kittens resembled the thick white haired Himalayan fox and rabbit which live in the Himalayans. The Cat Fanciers Association in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom recognized the new breed in 1957. The CFA would reclassify the breed in 1984 as simply a sub color breed of the Persian cat. The cats are referred to as Persians in the United Kingdom and Europe, but they are referred to as Himalayans in the United States. The Himalayan cat competes in shows as a separate color category of Persians. The American Association of Cat Enthusiasts and the Traditional Cat Association refer to the cats a Himalayans.
Also Known As
Owners and cat enthusiasts often call their Himalayan cats “Himmies”. The cats have been known as Persian-Siamese and Longhaired Colorpoints in the past. Today, the cat is called the Himalayan Persian or the Colorpoint Persian in Europe.
Although they appear larger because of their rounded bodies and long hair, the Himalayan is a medium sized cat. They do have big bones and are strong and sturdy. The average Himalayan cat weighs between 7 and 12 pounds with the males on the heavier end. The Himalayan has a rounded pushed in face, a short, thick, tufted neck and a rounded body. The Himalayan cat has short legs. It’s tail is fluffy, full and straight.
Aside from its beautiful color pointed hair, the Himalayan cat is well known for its face. The face is pushed in or flattened resembling a pug dog. The rounded head features round blue eyes and wide set pointed ears. The face is colored per the color points with a skin colored nose or “cobby”. The face of the Himalayan cat is classified as either Traditional or Exotic. The Traditional face is also called “Doll Faced”. The face is round with a longer and lower positioned nose. The Extreme faced is also called “Flat Face” or “Peke Face”. In this case, the cat’s face is pushed in and flattened much like a Pug dog.
The most distinctive aspect of the Himalayan cat is its luxurious coat. The cat was bred because of research into the Siamese color point gene. The result is a cat with beautiful, thick, silky long hair that is typically white or cream colored like the Persian cat and color points on the face, ears, paws and tail like the Siamese cat. Himalayan kittens are not born with color points but they appear as the cats mature, usually by the age of 2. Originally there were just 4 color points on Himalayan cats. These included seal (black), chocolate, blue and lilac. It was found through breeding and research that chocolate and lilac were the most difficult color points to present. Both parents of the kitten must have the color point gene. Today there are 20 color points including combinations. The Himalayan’s silky tresses hang from its body. There is a ruff around the neck and frills between the ears, front legs and toes. The tail is fluffy and full.
More about color points
As stated above, today the Himalayan cat has 20 different color points. While the body hair remains white or cream colored, the color points on the face, ears, paws and tails can range from black to red. The color on the face is like a “mask”. The area covered begins above the eyes, stretches across the cheeks and down the chin. Ear markings extend to the tips and inside the ears. The paw markings extend to the cat’s pads. Today, a Himalayan cat can have color points including seal, chocolate, blue and lilac. It can also be fawn, red (flame), silver, Tortoiseshell, Tabby, Lynx and more. Research has shown that temperature and enzyme production has an effect on the cat’s color pointing as well as genetics. Melanin causes pigmentation in the skin and fur. Along with body temperature and environmental temperature, pigmentation occurs in the cooler parts of the body. This explains the darker colors that extend from the Himalayan cats body to its ears, paws and tails. Science has also shown that Himalayan cats living in cooler climates will have darker color points than Himalayan cats living in warmer climates.
Unfortunately the Himalayan cat carries the risk of having a gene prone to Persian cats that can lead to PKD. PKD is Polycystic Kidney Disease. Tests can be run early in the Himalayan’s life to see if it carries this gene. If so, the cat should not be bred but should be spayed or neutered. Himalayans are also prone to feline hyperesthesia syndrome, a nervous system disorder. The cat’s flattened face could affect its breathing, dental and eye health. As with any pet, your Himalayan should be regularly examined by its veterinarian and receive regular vaccinations. Proper nutrition is also necessary as with any pet. Aside from a fresh clean water dish, a nutritious cat food should provide your Himalayan with a balanced diet. It’s important to bare in mind that the Himalayan is a high energy cat and will burn calories. With proper health care, the Himalayan cat will live an average of 8 to 15 years.
Grooming the Himalayan cat is time consuming. The Himalayan cat has a double coat and because it is long and thick, the cat’s hair should be brushed daily. This will keep the skin and hair oils in check and keep the hair from matting. Matting hair can become a problem with litter box use, so keep the litter box clean. Daily brushing will also help limit shedding which is a problem with the Himalayan cat. Fortunately, the Himalayan cat loves to be groomed. The cat doesn’t mind lazing on its owners lap and being brushed and catered to. With the Himalayan cat, brushing once a day is a must. The Himalayan cat should also be bathed once a month. This helps keep the cat clean but also helps keep the hair and skin oils in check, so the Himalayan cat can maintain its silky, shiny, healthy, luxurious long hair. It’s important to note that the Himalayan is not hypoallergenic. Even with daily brushing, those with allergies will not want to have a Himalayan as a pet.
Because the Himalayan has a flattened face, its eyes are prone to tear duct issues. Aside from daily brushing, the Himalayan’s face and eyes should be wiped daily with a clean, damp cloth. This will prevent buildup and clogging of the tear ducts that could lead to health issues if not properly cared for. Other daily care means making sure your pet Himalayan cat has nutritious food. Your cat should be getting all of its necessary vitamins and minerals from its daily food. Himalayans like to laze about and you’ll want to prevent them from gaining weight. The Himalayan also tends to have some major energy bursts so they do need proper calories. As with any pet, your Himalayan should always have a dish of fresh water available.
The typical Himalayan shares its temperament with its ancestors, the Persian and Siamese cat. Like the Persian, Himalayan cats tend to be gentle and calm. They love to laze in a warm sun beam or show off their beauty laying on a couch or chaise. The Himalayan also tends to inherit the temperament of the Siamese cat. Like the Siamese, the Himalayan likes to be a part of the family. The Himalayan will easily adapt to family activities and is not a loner, but a joiner. The Himalayan cat gets along well with children, other cats and other dogs. With early socialization, the Himalayan will get along well with visitors. However, the Himalayan will attach to its primary owner. The cats are extremely affectionate, loving and loyal to one person in the family. Many Himalayan owners will say that their pet is in touch with their own feelings. The Himalayan makes a great companion pet and makes a great family pet.
The Himalayan cat has been featured in films and television. The sarcastic and witty character of Sassy in the 1990’s “Homeward Bound” films was voiced by Sally Field. Sassy went on adventure with dogs, Shadow and Chance” as they treked across America to reunite with their human family. The character of Mr. Jinx in the “Meet the Parents” trilogy was a peke-faced seal colored Himalayan. The cat was intelligent enough to flush the toilet. Ben Stiller’s Gaylord Focker couldn’t hide the fact that he was responsible for Mr. Jinx’s disappearance by painting another Himalayan’s tail black. A Himalayan cat was also featured in the 2006 “Meet the Parents” parody, “Date Night”. A Himalayan cat was a character on the 1984 “Heathcliff” cartoon and decades later on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” series. Crookshanks was an intelligent yet grumpy looking ginger colored Himalayan cat featured in “Harry Potter”. The Himalayan has been featured in Japanese and Korean Anime stories.
Himalayan pet cats have been proudly shown off by their famous owners. Martha Stewart owns three, Beethoven, Mozart and Bartók. The businesswoman, media mogul and television personality has featured her cats on her television show “Martha Stewart Living”, in her magazine and in advertisements for her K-Mart product line. Stewart actually has owned 7 Himalayan cats. “Flipping Out” star, Jeff Lewis, is also the proud owner of Himalayans. Monkey and Stewie have been featured on his home improvement television show.
Like the Siamese, the Himalayan cat can be lots of fun. The cats are very intelligent and enjoy learning tricks. With bouts of high energy, the Himalayan likes to play. Toys can include special cat toys or plush toys but often a Himalayan cat can be entertained with a ball of crumpled paper. Like the Siamese, the Himalayan can be taught to fetch. After lazing around for awhile, the Himalayan may have bouts of energy and sprint across the room or roll across the floor. The Himalayan tends to be a playful, entertaining and fun cat to live with.
A couple Himalayan cats have received honorable recognition. Colonel Meow was named in the 2012 Guiness Book of World Records for the cat with the longest hair. His hair was nine inches long. The cat with the grumpy looking smushed in face actually went viral when featured on the Internet in 2012. Colonel Meow passed away just 2 years later, dying because of a heart ailment. The smallest cat in the world was a Himalayan named Tinker Toy. This pint sized cat measured just 2.75 inches tall and 7.5 inches long when he reached the age of maturity, 2 1/2 years old. He was born the runt of his litter on December 25, 1990. Tinker Toy was a blue point Himalayan. He was owned by Scott and Katrina Forbes of Taylorsville, Illinois and lived for 6 years. A Portland, Oregon Himalayan family pet named Lux weighs 22 pounds.
The Himalayan cat has been popular since its inception. In 1996, the breed was the most popular in the United States. The popularity hasn’t fizzled out. Himalayan cats are the second most popular breed registered by the Cat Fanciers Association. The Himalayans are the most popular of the Persian color varieties. While many pet owners just enjoy the Himalayan as a house pet, the cats are shown throughout the world. In fact, the Himalayan is the most recognizable cat seen participating in cat shows. There are several Himalayan cat clubs throughout the United States and throughout the world.
They don’t jump
One of the benefits of the Himalayan cat is its calm behavior that most often is not destructive. Because of their short legs, Himalayans don’t tend to climb or jump like many other cat breeds. This is great because the cats won’t jump on kitchen counters or tear up curtains. Owners of Himalayan cats may have to put up with shedding, but they don’t have to put up with destructive behavior by these short legged gentle cats. The relatively calm cats will not be a tornado in your home. You won’t find one swinging from the drapery or jumping up on shelves or counter tops causing destruction.
A great indoor cat
Many times people are afraid to own cats because they think it will be difficult to keep the cat indoors. While this may be true for many breeds, the Himalayan is definitely a great indoor cat. The Himalayan cat has little to no desire to venture outdoors. The cat is content to lounge about the house or apartment looking pretty. The Himalayan also is social. The cat wants to hang out with its human family and adores being included in the fun.
Finding a good breeder
When looking for a Himalayan cat as a pet, it’s important to find a good breeder. The breeder should be registered with a cat fancier association. These include the CFA, the International Cat Association (TICA) and the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe). This will assure the breeder adheres to ethics codes and assures the bloodlines are good. Local breeders should be visited, and website breeders should be thoroughly reviewed. The cost for a properly bred Himalayan cat can run between $500 and $1500.
A beautiful, lovable cat
Any Himalayan cat owner will probably tell you what a delight their pet is. The Himalayan is the best of both worlds. The cat is beautiful with striking, exotic looks. The cat is intelligent. The cat is affectionate and loyal. The cat is fun and entertaining. The only downside of owning a Himalayan cat is probably the grooming. Most cats are self grooming, but with its long, luxurious double coat of hair, daily grooming is essential with the Himalayan cat. It’s certainly worth it to have the companionship of such a beautiful, gentle and intelligent cat.