By Johanna Leibfarth
Exotics are a delightful shorthair version of the Persian cat. Often referred to as a "teddy-bear" cat, they have the charming appearance, and the mild, gentle disposition of their full-coated cousins, without the demanding requirements for daily grooming.
Exotics are identical to Persians in every respect, except for coat length. Their luxurious coat is shorter than the Persian's, it is medium in length and does not resemble the coat of any other shorthaired cat. There is no ruff around the neck and no feathery hair on the tail. The fur is a little shorter on the face and on the legs, but otherwise it is even all over. Its texture should not be silky or wiry. It should be medium soft. Most importantly, the coat has to be very dense, like the winter coat of a bear or a mountain goat. This coat does not exist in any other breed. It is strictly the result of combining Persians and shorthairs.
All cats are affected by a seasonal cycle. In spite of thousands of years of domestication, of centuries of indoor living with fireplaces or pot-bellied stoves, a cat still has a thicker coat in the winter than in the summer. By summer, the Exotic's coat is at its worst. Even though an Exotic's coat does not tangle, in late spring and early summer when the heavy undercoat is being shed, the hair can become almost felt-like. At that time, only a thorough bathing can remedy the situation. The Exotic begins to rebuild its dense winter coat in September and it reaches its peak quality during the coldest, darkest months of the year.
Virtually any coat color that occurs naturally in the cat can also be found in the Exotic, and almost all of them can be registered and shown. Exotics seem to follow the popularity trends of the Persians. For example, during the last ten to twenty years bi-color and calico Persians have become quite fashionable and numerous. Predictably, Exotics are following suit. White combined with black and red, or brown tabby, or blue makes for a stunning cat. Therefore, it is no surprise that more and more bi-color and calico Exotics are being bred and are appearing. But all Exotics, regardless of color, compete as one breed. Colors range from solid black to lynx point, from copper-eyed white to spotted chocolate tabby, from brown classic tabby to lilac smoke.
In spite of the enormous spectrum available, most Exotics are of the more familiar colors like blue, or black, cream or red, tortoiseshell, or tabby. There are only a few Exotics shown with the Himalayan color pattern, and rarely will there be smokes. The first Exotic to become a Grand Champion was a shaded silver. Regrettably, silvers are extremely rare today.
It happens at every cat show. A visitor will walk by the cage and say, "What kind of cat is this? It looks like a Persian, but it doesn't have long hair!" To the owner, that is a much-appreciated compliment.
Yes, Exotics should resemble a good quality Persian in every aspect except for coat length. A well-built Exotic should be "round" from every angle. The head of a good Exotic should resemble a softball with small, rounded ears. The nose should be small, snub and placed between the large, round eyes. The lips should gently curve upward to accentuate the roundness of the muzzle and the cheeks. Overall, an Exotic should have a sweet, open, wide-eyed, intelligent and alert expression. The body should be relatively short and cobby with stocky legs, tidy round feet and a "bottlebrush" tail, which is not too long.
Most everyone is familiar with the quiet nature of the Persian cat. Because the Exotics have been bred with Persians for so many years, their personality has become much like that of a Persian, no longer resembling their ancient shorthair ancestors.
In general, Exotics are quiet, docile, and affectionate. When introduced as kittens to an environment with dogs or children they adjust with ease and quickly become loving playmates. Exotic kittens are not destructive. They do not climb curtains or chew blankets, and they rarely use their claws. They can easily be trained not to jump on the kitchen counter or dining room table. With just the right dose of independence, an Exotic respects your privacy and does not constantly demand attention. Yet they want to be close to you at all time, and quietly follow you from room to room. They are content to sit in a window and watch the world go by and meditate, or doze while you are away from home. Even though Exotics are outgoing and friendly, they generally do not approach strangers without caution. Once they decide that you are "safe," they will unobtrusively mold themselves into the couch, right next to you and purr contentedly.
Although they sleep during most of the day, even an Exotic is prompted by its biological clock. Nocturnal animals in nature, they are most active in the evening and in the early morning. During these wake hours they are very playful and extremely busy. It is always a surprise to discover what amuses them. One of the most pleasant attributes of an Exotic is that they have the ability to entertain themselves for hours with a simple toy like a paper ball. Yet, as soon as they hear or smell a can of food being opened, they sit on the kitchen floor, their feet neatly tucked under, patiently waiting.
Well padded and sufficiently insulated, they prefer to sleep in the coolest place in the house. The designer cat bed just purchased at the local pet store, or the cozy warmth of a down comforter is usually shunned. Instead, they prefer a porcelain basin or the tiles on the bathroom floor.
Exotics, like Persians, mature slower than most other breeds. Therefore, it is not necessary to have a male neutered when he is six months old. Neither males nor females spray. Occasionally a whole male (or stud male) may spray during mating season, but in general, they are fastidiously clean and tidy. The males are exceptionally gentle and loving. When neutered they make the most desirable pets. The females not only are loyal to their owner; they also are attentive and protective mothers. They raise their babies with ease and care, and total devotion.
Males and females are very quiet, with soft, mellow voices. When a female is in heat, she will alert her owner more through her gestures than through a "mating call," at best there will be a gentle chirp.
Care of the Exotic
Like most cats, Exotics relish being combed. A quality steel comb is all that is needed. How often an Exotic should be combed depends largely on the time of year. Even though an Exotic's coat does not mat or tangle, a brief, but thorough, combing once or twice a week will be sufficient most of the year. During shedding time, however, even daily combing may not be enough. This is the time when an Exotic will need a bath now and then. For a routine, general maintenance bath, any good, cat-safe, tearless pet shampoo will work. It is certainly easier on the animal when this routine has been maintained throughout the year, but most Exotics endure a bath with patience - even if it is only a once-a-year event.
After the cat has been shampooed, well rinsed, and towel dried, it will have to be dried with either a professional, or hand held dryer. If a professional, stand dryer is not available, it is easier if two people are available for drying.
Bathing an Exotic for show is just as time consuming and involved as it is for a Persian. In preparation for a show weekend, an Exotic should be bathed as close to the show time as possible. The technique is much the same as it is for Persians. If you have a Persian breeder friend who shows his cats in impeccable condition, ask him for his "secret." It should work equally well for your Exotic.
The principal difference between preparing an Exotic and a Persian for show is that an Exotic cannot be dried in a cage. It must be totally blown dry, while it is being diligently combed. It is important not to forget the tail and the legs, because any area that is left to dry on its own will lay flat and become wavy. The properly prepared coat should look beautifully "sifted" on every part of the cat.
The history of the breed goes back approximately forty years when several breeders on the West Coast of the United States crossed Persians with shorthaired cats. These breedings were not officially sanctioned, and their intention was not to create a new breed.
The kittens resulting from these cross breedings, however, were adorable and unique beyond expectation. They had a little bit of the Persian's features, but they did not have long hair. Their heads were too round, their hair was too fine and too thick, their coat too plush and their bodies too cobby to match any existing breed. Nonetheless, they were so cute that it was hard to resist not showing them. At that time the American Shorthair breed had an open registry and because early Exotics resembled American Shorthairs, they were registered as American Shorthairs. In spite of their darling appearance, many of their characteristics did not fit the standard of the American Shorthair. However, some judges overlooked their obviously hybrid features and honored them with high placements in the show ring.
Soon the existence of these hybrid cats became a very controversial subject in the Cat Fancy, and in 1966 the CFA Board of Directors decided to establish a legitimate place for them. At first, they were to be called "Sterlings," because most of these hybrid shorthair cats shown at that time were shaded silvers or chinchillas. However, CFA soon realized that other colors (such as black, blue, tortoiseshell, or smoke) were sure to follow. It was agreed to call them Exotic Shorthairs.
The name Exotic Shorthair was chosen because silver and chinchilla did not naturally exist as colors in shorthair breeds. To many people "exotic" means anything but round, chubby, and placid. For many years, Exotic breeders have tried to find a more appropriate name for this unique breed, but the only change occurred when the "shorthair" part was dropped.
A standard for this new breed was written based on the standard for the Persian, and everyone working with cats originating from Persian x American Shorthair crosses was given the opportunity to register their animals as Exotic Shorthairs.
With the beginning of the 1967-68 show season Exotic Shorthairs were granted full championship status at all CFA shows. The Exotic is one of the few breeds of cats that can honestly claim to be "made in America."
In spite of its odd name, the Exotic has become a very popular little cat and people all over the world are working with this breed. Thanks to a tremendous jump-start by the American breeders, some wonderful animals are being produced in other countries as well as in the United States. The progress the Exotic has made during the last three decades is truly remarkable.
The first time an Exotic placed among the top-winning cats in CFA was in 1973. Since then, they can be found among the National Winners almost every year.
Since the standard for the Exotic was, from the very beginning, the same as a Persian's, it was a logical goal for breeders to produce a Persian type cat with a shorter coat. Once the original cross had been made and the shorthair gene had been introduced, Exotics were consistently bred back to Persians and not to their shorthair ancestors. In 1987, the Exotic Shorthair Breed Council decided it was no longer necessary to use original crosses with American Shorthairs to obtain genetic diversity. Since then, only Exotics and Persians may be used as parent animals and American Shorthairs can no longer appear on an application for a litter registration.
Because the Exotic is a hybrid breed, some kittens are born with long hair. These kittens are registered as Exotic Longhair, and may be used in Exotic breeding programs. They can be entered and judged at a show, and they are eligible to receive awards and gain a title as an Exotic Longhair.
In the show ring, Exotics compete as longhair cats in the "Longhair Specialty," with other longhair breeds including Persians. It is somewhat confusing when an Exotic is referred to as a longhair cat, since its coat is certainly not long, but it is not short either. However, because of its overall appearance, its bone structure, and its body conformation, it is a Persian-type cat and it belongs in this group.
It seems that this hybrid cat called Exotic has inherited the best of both worlds, not only in appearance and ease of care, but also in disposition. This breed is truly an ideal blend - quiet, loyal and peaceful, intelligent and forever playful in a non-destructive way. And yet, it requires only a minimal amount of care.
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This program is supported by
The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.
This program is supported by The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.