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Snowshoe

Snowshoe

Place of origin

Pennsylvania, United States

History

Another early "designer breed," the Snowshoe was inspired by kittens born of an accidental breeding in the 1960s of a Siamese queen with an unknown male bicolor cat who must have been carrying the recessive colorpointing gene. Three of the kittens were colorpointed with white feet, similar to the pattern of the Birman. The Snowshoe breed was developed during the 1960s through crosses of Siamese with bicolor American Shorthairs. The aim was a cat with unique conformation, rather than Siamese type, but with the specific color pattern of white spots on a Siamese colored cat.

Much of the detailed early history of the Snowshoe has been lost due to poor recordkeeping. The breeder used sealpoint Siamese with "tuxedo pattern" bicolor American Shorthairs to breed Biblemore of these attractive cats. The first generation offspring lacked the recessive Siamese colorpoints because they inherited only one gene for this trait. By breeding these offspring to Siamese cats, the desired colorpoints with white feet were produced. These white feet gave rise to the breed's name, and they were exhibited at local cat shows, but not recognized by any registry.

The Snowshoe was initially recognized in 1974 by both the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) and the American Cat Association's (ACA), but by 1977 there was only one breeder keeping the Snowshoe breed alive in the United States. The original pattern restrictions discouraged existing and prospective breeders because of the difficulty of breeding cats whose markings met the breed standard. Luckily, more breeders came forward to work with the Snowshoe, and it was recognized by TICA in 1993. The breed has not attained sufficient numbers to be recognized by the CFA.

The Snowshoe breed remains rare despite having existed for almost fifty years. Although the colorpoint gene is recessive and breeds true, the dominant white spotting (piebald) gene has very variable expression, making it difficult to consistently produce Showshoes with the preferred patterns. Cats with only one copy of the white spotting gene may have as little as a locket and white tail tip, but lack the desired white feet, whereas cats with two copies may be almost completely white with colored markings on the head and tail. All degrees of white spotting between these two extremes can be produced, making it difficult to predict the appearance of offspring even though both parents may have the correct pattern.

The gene that produces the inverted "V" on the face appears to be incompletely dominant. A cat inheriting two such genes usually has an undesirably large amount of white on the face. The white gloves and boots are due either to the white spotting (piebald) gene or to a related "gloving" gene. Variant (nonstandard) Snowshoes have white that extends too far up the legs, white that does not extend far enough, or asymmetrical markings. Cats with too much or too little white, or with colored toes, still have the Snowshoe temperament and make excellent pets. This variability makes every Snowshoe, whether exhibition or pet quality, a unique individual.

Although visually similar in pattern, the American lines of Snowshoe are not related to the longer-haired Birman or Ragdoll. However, in the United Kingdom and Europe, new bloodlines were founded using Ragdolls as outcrosses due to the impossibility of importing American-bred Snowshoes. To expand the gene pool, some American registries permit outcrossing to the Siamese and American Shorthair. The American Shorthair is not recognized in the United Kingdom or Europe, necessitating the use of other outcross breeds instead.

The Snowshoe arrived in the United Kingdom in 1980, and a dedicated breeding program began in 1986, but by 1998 only one breeder and five cats remained. Its progress was also hampered by a misconception that it was a "Shorthaired Birman." In 2002, cats from Germany were imported to reinvigorate the breed. It proved impossible to obtain Snowshoes from the United States, and American Shorthairs are not found in the United Kingdom, so British breeders outcrossed Snowshoes to Ragdoll/Oriental-mix females, a Snowshoe-patterned rescue kitten of unknown ancestry, a bicolor-pointed British Shorthair, and a sealpoint Ragdoll male. Descendents of these cats can now be found in Snowshoes all over Europe.

In Europe, Snowshoes have been recognized by the FIFe since 2004. In the United Kingdom, they have preliminary recognition with the GCCF.

The Snowshoe is sometimes likened to a snowflake or to "pebbles on a beach"-no two are alike, either in pattern or in personality.

Physical description

As the name suggests, the outstanding feature of the Snowshoe breed is its four white feet. The Snowshoe also has striking splashes of white on the muzzle and chest. The body is semi-foreign in conformation, neither oriental nor cobby, but is intermediate between the American Shorthair and the Siamese. The long legs are muscular and in proportion with the medium-length, strong body, resulting in an athletic and deceptively powerful cat. These are not delicate cats; it is often remarked that they have surprising heft when lifted.

The head type is that of a moderate, early-style Siamese, with medium to medium-large ears that continue the line of the modified triangular head with gentle contours. The blue, oval-shaped eyes give a sweet expression to the face. The Snowshoe should have a smooth, short coat without noticeable undercoat.

Colors and varieties

Snowshoe point colors are seal, chocolate, fawn, blue lilac (lavender), and tabby (lynx). The FIFe also recognizes the red series of colors (red, cream, and tortoiseshell, and the tabby versions of these colors), and TICA recognizes all possible pointed colors including silver and smoke varieties. The colored points should be clearly defined and contrast with the paler body color. There is less contrast in the paler colors such as red, cream, and fawn. In common with other colorpointed cats, the body is darker along the back and paler on the chest and underside, and older cats tend to have darker bodies. Snowshoe kittens are born white, developing colored points in the first three weeks of life, and it may take up to two years for a Snowshoe to develop its full color, especially in the dilute colors.

Mitted Snowshoes have the white limited to the paws, hind legs, chest, and chin; typically, one quarter of the body is white. Bicolor Snowshoes have the addition of the white facial pattern and other white markings on the body (which may be difficult to discern against the pale body color). The body may be one-quarter to one-half white ("high white"), although less white is preferred for exhibition cats. Unrecognized Snowshoe patterns (variant or "nonstandard" Snowshoes) are harlequin (mostly white with colored patches) and colorpointed-without-white.

Temperament

An active, friendly, and playful cat, this breed makes an excellent family pet because little seems to faze them. They are attentive to family members and get along well with children and with other pets. Some Snowshoes are shy, while others are more extrovert and assertive. Some seem to adopt the role of feline nursemaid to their chosen human. They do not like to be left alone for long periods of time.

Snowshoes quickly learn how to play "fetch" and enjoy climbing frames, especially those with tunnels and resting platforms, because they enjoy surveying the household from a high place. They are very intelligent and can learn to open doors or do tricks. Some Snowshoes enjoy playing with water and may even try to join their owners in the bath or shower.

Activity level

High

Vocal level

Moderate; some Snowshoes are very chatty, although their voices are not as loud or strident as the breed's Siamese ancestors.

Special needs

None; their short coat is easy to keep in condition. The mix of American Shorthair and Siamese (and other breeds in Europe) means Snowshoes are generally healthy cats. Buyers should be wary of Snowshoes sold as "CFA registered" because this breed is not yet recognized by the CFA.

Variations

Due to outcrossing, some European lines of Snowshoe may carry the recessive gene for long hair and may produce semi-longhair variants. Other well-known breeds with a mitted colorpoint pattern include Birmans and Ragdolls. Lesser-known breeds with this pattern include:

  • Piawaian Kucing Malaysia (Malaysian Piawaian Cat): similar to the Tonkinese in conformation and to the Ragdoll in pattern; this homegrown Malaysian breed generally resembles the Snowshoe.
  • Seychellois: bicolor-pointed Siamese, bred and recognized in Europe; like the Snowshoe Siamese, these have the extreme Oriental conformation.
  • Snowshoe Siamese: Siamese with white feet; these differ from mitted Snowshoes in having the extreme Siamese conformation. Despite the similarity of name, this should not be confused with the Snowshoe.
  • Snow-Toes: Himalayans with white feet, bred in the 1960s from crossing Himalayans to Birmans.
  • Tibetan (Nepalese, Nepalayan): mitted colorpoint polydactylous breed with the cobby, short-faced conformation of Persian Longhairs and Exotic Shorthairs, developed in New Zealand.
  • Snowshoe kitten

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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