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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
The popular Himalayan, nicknamed the Himmy, is a colorpoint version of the Persian, although at least one cat registry considers him a stand-alone breed. He was created by crossing the Siamese and the Persian and then breeding the offspring until the desired characteristics were achieved.
Although the Siamese was used to develop the Himalayan, it is no longer part of Himalayan breeding programs. Be wary of breeders who describe their kittens as Siamese-Himalayan or Siamese-Persian crosses.
The Himmy combines the best of two very different breeds. Like the Persian, he has small ears, large round eyes, a snub nose and a sweet expression. His long, beautiful coat, which comes in seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, flame, tortoiseshell, blue-cream, cream, lynx points and many more colors and patterns, brings Siamese style to a short, heavy-boned Persian-style body.
This is a people-oriented cat with the sweet and sedate personality of the Persian, the “what-cha doin’ and how can I help?” attitude of the Siamese and, of course, the striking points and bold blue eyes of the Siamese. He communicates with his expressive eyes and his soft, melodious voice. The affectionate Himmy loves a lap, but if you’re busy with other things, he will be there to supervise, perhaps while playing with a favorite toy. He’s not a jumper or climber, instead posing regally on a chair or sofa. Himalayans are adaptable and will make themselves just as at home with a loud, boisterous family as with a pair of empty-nesters, as long as they have everyone’s complete devotion.
Be patient. If you want a particular colorpoint, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to be available. Many breeders won't release kittens to their new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
A kitten named Newton’s Debutante was the first Himalayan, back in 1931. He was the result of a breeding program by Virginia Cobb and Clyde Keeler, who wanted to produce a Persian cat with the colorpoints of the Siamese. They were followed in the 1950s by Canadian breeder Ben Borrett, whose goal was to create a longhaired cat with colorpoints. First known as a Colourpoint Longhair, the new cat was recognized in 1955 by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. American cat registries recognized the breed in 1957, calling it a Himalayan.
Like their Persian siblings, Himalayans are quiet, placid cats. You are more likely to find them reclining gracefully on a sofa than perched on top of the refrigerator, but they are playful in a sedate kind of way and enjoy having an assortment of toys. Certainly you shouldn’t expect a Himmy to be inactive. What these cats like best, though, is sitting in a lap or simply being in their person’s company. They are not demanding of attention and can do well on their own during the day, but a quiet meow and a speaking glance with those blue eyes will let you know if they feel neglected.
Himalayans do best in homes with older children who won’t chase after them or clumsily bop them on the head. They aren’t big on playing dress up, but they might not mind riding in a doll buggy or being a guest at a little girl’s tea party.
The Himmy is intelligent, although he’s not always given credit for it. Challenge his brain and keep him interested in life by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns how to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in the 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. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Himalayans have some hereditary health issues that can be a concern. They include polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and respiratory problems caused by deformities associated with the breed's flattened face. Responsible breeders take steps to avoid these problems. Himalayans should be healthy and vigorous and be able to breathe normally.
Polycystic kidney disease is a hereditary condition causing enlarged kidneys and kidney dysfunction. Cysts can often be found via ultrasound as early as 12 months of age, but kidney failure may not occur until later. Reputable breeders are working to establish PKD-free breeding programs. Fortunately, a DNA test is available, so it is easy to identify and eliminate. Ask the breeder for proof that both of a kitten’s parents are free of kidney cysts, which can be detected on ultrasound or with a DNA test. If one of the parents is PKD positive, which may be the case if the cat’s bloodlines are otherwise valuable, confirm that the kitten you are purchasing has tested PKD negative.
Even if Persians/Himalayans do not have any overt breathing problems, such flat-faced breeds are sensitive to heat. They need to live in air-conditioned comfort, protected from hot weather. Keep in mind that many airlines will not transport them in the cargo bay (which isn’t recommended for other reasons, as well) because of their potential for respiratory distress or even death in stressful conditions.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Himalayan at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
Beauty never comes easy. The Himalayan is a real glamourpuss and like any star requires the daily attention of a devoted stylist. Ask your cat’s breeder for advice on the best way to care for your Himmy’s coat.
Expect to comb the long, flowing coat daily with a stainless steel Greyhound comb to prevent or remove mats and tangles. A slicker brush can also be a good tool to have on hand. Don’t slack off or you’ll quickly have a matted mess to deal with, and your Himmy will not be pleased if you have to take him to the groomer for a lion trim.
He needs regular baths to stay clean and sweet-smelling. Introduce a kitten to bathing as soon as you bring him home and he will accept it readily. Some Himalayans have a problem with excessive tearing of the eyes. To prevent ugly staining, wash the cat’s face daily, particularly beneath the eyes.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually weekly. Check the ears every week for redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with 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 early so your kitten becomes accepting of this activity.
You want your Himalayan 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 Himalayan, 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. (Note that the CFA considers the Himalayan and Persian breeds one and the same.)
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.
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.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to be 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 Himalayan 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 Himalayan 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 pedigreed cats end up at the shelter after losing their home to an owner’s death, divorce or change in economic situation. Check the listings on Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet.com or the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and ask breeders if they know of a Himalayan who is in need of a new home.
Wherever you acquire your Himalayan, 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 Himalayan to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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