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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Dressed in tobacco-brown with a gorgeous pair of green eyes, the Havana is a muscular, medium-size cat related to the Siamese. He enjoys sitting in a lap and chatting to his owner in a soft voice. His short coat is easy to groom.
In Britain, the shorthaired cat called the Havana Brown is a brown variety of the Oriental Shorthair, but the Havana Brown in the United States is a separate breed with a different body and head type.
The Havana Brown’s fur resembles the wrapping of a fine Cuban cigar — or so the story goes about how the cat got his name. A number of cat breeds have been created by crossing the Siamese with other breeds to bring in desired traits, such as new colors, patterns, or hair lengths. The Havana Brown is one such hybrid.
A group of British breeders in the 1950s crossed chocolate- and seal-point Siamese with black domestic shorthairs and Russian Blues to create the striking chocolate-brown cats with emerald eyes. In at least one American cat registry, The International Cat Association, the cats also come in lilac and are known simply as Havanas.
The smooth coat of the chocolate-colored cats is a rich mahogany shade. Lilac Havanas are described as a sort of pinkish-gray color. Each color has matching whiskers. The cats weigh 6 to 10 pounds.
Don’t get a Havana Brown if you don’t plan to spend a lot of time interacting with your cat. The Havana Brown is human oriented, playful, and curious. He wants to spend time with his people and involve himself in everything they do. If it would bother you to have a cat dog your footsteps, do not get a Havana Brown.
The Havana Brown uses his paws to investigate as well as to demand his person’s attention. Interactive toys are his favorites — anything that ensures your focus is on him.
The silky coat of the Havana Brown does not shed much and is easy to groom with weekly brushing. The only other grooming required is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning.
The Havana Brown is not as talkative as the Siamese, but he is sociable and likes to converse with his family in his soft voice. He gets along with children and is well suited to any home with people who will love him and give him the attention and play he desires. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats, and attacks from other animals.
A number of cat breeds have been created by crossing the Siamese with other breeds to bring in desired traits, such as new colors, patterns, or hair lengths. The Havana Brown is one such man-made breed.
Solid, or “self-brown,” cats were known in England and Europe in the late 19th century and went by the name Swiss Mountain Cats. The breeding of these cats was discouraged in the 1920s, but a group of British breeders in the 1950s crossed chocolate- and seal-point Siamese with black domestic shorthairs and Russian Blues to create striking chocolate brown cats with emerald eyes. They became known as Havana Browns, probably for their tobacco-like coloring rather than any association with Cuba. They have also been called Chestnut Foreign Shorthairs.
The first Havana Brown was imported into North America in the mid-1950s. The breed was accepted for registration by Cat Fanciers Association in 1959 and was granted Championship status in 1964. To ensure a wider gene pool, the cats can be outcrossed to unregistered black or blue domestic shorthairs, certain colors of Oriental Shorthairs, and chocolate-point or seal-point Siamese.
Don’t get a Havana Brown if you don’t have a lot of time to interact with your cat. The Havana Brown is human oriented, playful, and curious. He has a strong desire to spend time with his people and involve himself in everything they do. If it would bother you to have a cat dog your footsteps, do not get a Havana Brown.
The Havana Brown uses his paws to investigate as well as to demand his person’s attention. Interactive toys are his favorites — anything that will ensure your focus is on him.
The Havana Brown is highly intelligent. Challenge his brain by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in her home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either untruthful or unknowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Havana Browns are generally healthy, however, they may be prone to developing calcium oxylate stones in the urinary tract. It’s always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Havana Brown at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health.
The silky coat of the Havana Brown does not shed much. It is easy to groom with weekly brushing.
The only other grooming the Havana Brown needs is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning if the ears look dirty. Use a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Start brushing, nail trimming, and teeth brushing when your cat is still a kitten, and he will accept these activities later on.
You want your Havana Brown to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality, and looks of the Havana Brown, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Cat Fanciers Association, Cats Center Stage, the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and The International Cat Association.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to become available. Many breeders won't release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Havana Brown might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
The Havana Brown is an uncommon breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes a pedigreed cat ends up at a shelter after losing his home to an owner’s death, divorce, or change in economic situation.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Havana Brown in your area in no time. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Havana Browns available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Havana Brown. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Havana Browns love all Havana Browns. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. Start with the Fanciers Breeder Referral List. You can also search online for other Havana Brown rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Havana Brown, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Havana Brown to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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