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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Alan Thompson, Animal Photography
The Oriental is a natural athlete — long, lithe, svelte. He is lively and fun-loving, always into everything. Orientals like to supervise all family activities and offer running verbal commentary on how things should be done.
The Oriental is an offshoot of the Siamese, but his coat, which can be long or short, doesn’t have points. It comes in more than 300 colors and patterns, giving rise to the nickname Ornamental.
A number of cat breeds have been created using the Siamese as a base and crossing him with other breeds to bring in desired traits, such as new colors, patterns or hair lengths. The Oriental is one such hybrid, created through crosses with American and British Shorthairs, Abyssinians, Russian Blues and domestic cats. He’s described as a nonpointed Siamese, meaning that his color or pattern covers his entire body, not just the face, ears, legs and tail.
The Oriental, who can be shorthaired or longhaired, is found in hundreds of combinations of colors and patterns. Just imagine a shorthaired ebony ticked torbie or a longhaired blue mackerel tabby and you will get an idea of his variety. Unlike the Siamese, the Oriental has green eyes, although white Orientals may have blue, green or odd eyes. In all other respects, the Oriental resembles the Siamese, with the same svelte, muscular body, wedge-shaped head, and large, triangular ears.
The Oriental has the same wonderful personality as the Siamese: chatty, curious, smart and loving. Like the Siamese, the Oriental has a distinctive voice and will “talk” to you about anything and everything. This is a cat who has a passion for his people and will involve himself in everything they are doing.
Orientals become extremely attached to their humans, so be prepared for a lifetime commitment. It can be very difficult for these cats to adjust to the loss of their family or favorite person. For that reason, it’s an excellent idea to socialize your Oriental kitten thoroughly to help ensure that he is familiar with lots of other people and going to new and different places. Your efforts may help prevent him from reacting negatively if he must be hospitalized, boarded or visited by a pet sitter.
When you are not available to entertain him, an Oriental will divert himself by jumping on top of the refrigerator, opening drawers, seeking out new hideaways to frustrate anyone who might be searching for him, and watching television with clear interest. He can learn to walk on leash, plays fetch with enthusiasm and is usually amenable to living with children, dogs and other cats.
If you appreciate his sculptural looks and want someone who will express endless interest in you, he may be just the cat you’ve been looking for. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats and attacks from other animals.
You might think that the Oriental is a recent development, but written mentions of a solid-colored Siamese cat date to the late nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the 1950s that European breeders began to develop the cat into a recognized breed, through crossing Siamese with Russian Blues, British Shorthairs, Abyssinians and domestic shorthairs, then crossing the offspring back to Siamese.
A few American breeders showed interest in the cats and formed Oriental Shorthair International, a club that achieved recognition for the breed from the Cat Fanciers Association in the 1970s. The increase in recognized colors and patterns helped to catapult the breed’s popularity. The Oriental is the tenth most popular breed recognized by the CFA.
Orientals are passionate about the people in their lives. They become extremely attached to their humans, so be prepared for a lifetime commitment. It can be very difficult for these cats to adjust to the loss of their family or favorite person.
When you are not available to entertain him, an Oriental will divert himself by jumping on top of the refrigerator, opening drawers, seeking out new hideaways to frustrate anyone who might be searching for him, and watching television with clear interest. He can learn to walk on leash, plays fetch with enthusiasm and is usually amenable to living with children, dogs and other cats. In fact, he may even prefer it. The more action the better for this cat. Just make sure that children treat him with the gentle respect he deserves. Entertain him with puzzle toys, teach him tricks, even train him for feline agility.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Any breeder who claims that her breed or lines has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable 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.
Orientals are generally healthy. Health issues that may affect the Oriental are the same as those for Siamese and include an inherited neurological defect that causes crossed eyes; hereditary liver amyloidosis, which can lead to liver failure; and dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that reduces the heart’s ability to contract. Bladder stones and mast cell cancer have also been reported in the breed. Never buy a kitten from a breeder who does not provide a health guarantee. A guarantee does not mean that your kitten will not ever get any of these conditions, but it indicates a breeder who is willing to stand behind what she produces.
The Oriental with a short, smooth coat is easy to groom with weekly brushing with a rubber curry brush. Comb longhairs with a stainless steel comb a couple of times a week to prevent or remove mats or tangles. For both coat types, a rubdown with a damp cloth is a quick and easy way to remove loose hairs. A final shine with your hands or a soft cloth will leave his coat gleaming.
The only other grooming he requires is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning. Trim the nails as needed, usually every 10 days to two weeks. He can be prone to periodontal disease, so it’s important to brush his teeth at home with a vet-approved pet toothpaste and schedule veterinary cleanings as needed.
You want your Oriental 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 Oriental, or to find breeder recommendations, visit the websites of the Oriental Shorthairs of America, the Feline Breeder Referral List or The International Cat Association.
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. Orientals are popular and most breeders have waiting lists, even for pet-quality kittens. If you have your heart set on a kitten in a particular color or pattern, you may have to wait six months or more for one 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 Oriental 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. 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.
A breeder is not your only option for acquiring an Oriental. Although Oriental kittens are almost never found in shelters and rescue, adult Orientals, both pedigreed and mixed, may not always be so fortunate. You may find the perfect Oriental for your family by asking breeders if they know of any Orientals that need a new home, contacting Oriental breed rescue organizations or checking your local shelters or the listings on Petfinder or Adopt-a-Pet.com.
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 Oriental 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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