By Brenda Wood
"Chocolate delights" is one phrase that Havana Brown enthusiasts use to describe this beautiful chocolate brown cat with mesmerizing, green eyes. The North American Havana Brown is a unique breed and bears very little resemblance to the Havana, or Oriental Chocolate, found in Europe and Britain where it originated in the early 1950's.
The Havana Brown is best described as a cat of medium size and structure. It should be neither long nor slinky like its Siamese ancestors or Oriental cousins, nor should it be short and cobby like the Persian or Burmese breeds. In all aspects, it is a medium cat.
The well-toned, muscular body presents the observer with a sense of power and when picked up it should always feel heavier than it looks. Males naturally tend to be proportionally larger and more heavily boned than the females of the breed.
A fully developed adult weighs six to ten pounds.
There is nothing medium about its deep, rich, glistening, mahogany brown color. The soft, silky coat of the Havana Brown is short to medium in length. Lying close to the body, it should be smooth and lustrous in appearance. It feels like a luxurious mink or the finest of pure silks. A rich, evenly colored shade of warm chocolate brown tending more to red-brown (mahogany) is the most desirable color characteristic of the breed.
Too little or no reddish tone in the coat results in a flat look and is undesirable; likewise, too much red or black-brown shades similar to the sable color found in Burmese is also unacceptable. Kittens and young adults may show ghost tabby markings which should disappear as they mature. It may take up to two years for the coat to reach full maturity.
Lighter shades of rich, warm brown are preferred, but are also more likely to display ghost tabby markings. The best coats exhibit little or no ghosting on the body.
One of the most distinguishing features of the Havana Brown is the magnificent head, which is slightly longer than it is wide. The profile should neither be straight like the Siamese or Oriental, nor should it have a definite "break" like the Persian. There should be an obvious change in angle or "stop" at eye level where the skull meets the muzzle when the head is viewed in profile.
The unique combination of roundness and square shape in the overall appearance of the Havana Brown head and muzzle has resulted in many descriptive comparisons. It looks like a light bulb; like a corncob stuck on an orange; like the head has been stuck in a coke bottle; like a teddy bear.
The nose is wide with rosy-toned brown leather. The whiskers must be brown in color to complement the coat. The Havana Brown is the only breed of cat, which specifies a required whisker color in its breed standard.
The enticing green, oval-shaped eyes are one of the most captivating features of the Havana Brown. The eye color must be green. Any uniform shade of green is acceptable with deeper shades preferred. Beautiful, brilliant, green eyes in combination with large, forward pricked ears contribute to the characteristic, sweet expression on the face of the Havana Brown.
Elegant and graceful in appearance, the Havana Brown stands tall on its legs. Its paws are dainty and oval in shape. Characteristic of all chocolate-colored cats, the paw pads must be rosy in color.
The medium length tail tapers gently to a slightly pointed tip. Most Havana Browns carry their tails high above their backs. However, some like to carry their tails with a forward curl, not unlike a coat hanger ... or a monkey. When sitting in repose, the tail is usually wrapped around the body.
They possess alert, intelligent, affectionate and occasionally mischievous personalities and it is no surprise that those most familiar with this delightful breed often refer to them as "Brownies". There is something magical about the Havana Brown.
Living with the Havana Brown is both a privilege and a pleasure. Generally, it is characterized as being a somewhat shy, soft-spoken breed that prefers to devote itself to only one owner and to enjoy a quiet, comfortable home environment.
However, each cat has its own distinctive character. Individual personalities may vary from shy and aloof to others that are extremely outgoing and talkative with a delightful, coquettish manner. Those little brown characters with the outgoing personality will insist on having the very last word on absolutely everything.
Havana Browns living comfortably in a household together or in the company of other cats tend to be gregarious. They habitually greet other feline companions with a friendly head butt. A favorite amusement is hiding around corners or behind furniture waiting for an opportunity to slap a passerby on the derriere before dashing off. Havana Browns like nothing better than sleeping in tangled piles. Sleeping partners may be other felines or their favorite human companions.
They are moderately active cats when compared to some other shorthair breeds. Occasionally, they will engage in a sprint around the house or a wild game of tag if there are other cats to join in, but generally, they confine themselves to less active occupations, like batting their toys about, bathing themselves, napping or grand theft. Some Havana Browns are pack rats and will carry off treasures such as jewelry and pens to special secret hiding places that only they know about.
For the most part, Havana Browns can be described as well behaved. They tend to use scratching posts without much effort to train them. The hemp-covered scratching post is probably the most effective for any indoor cat. Heights and open cupboard doors do not always invite investigation from the demure Havana Brown. Although quite capable of unique feats of agility, they have also been described as somewhat clumsy at times. Not making the attempted jump successfully usually results in an embarrassed self bathing session and a look that says, "I really meant to do that, you know!"
No matter how the personality is expressed, most Havana Browns are people-oriented and make a delightful and unforgettable addition to almost any household. It has been said that once a Havana Brown owns you, you will never want to live without one.
Grooming and Maintenance
The Havana Brown is a shorthaired breed and requires a minimum of routine grooming and maintenance. A weekly grooming routine includes cleaning the ears with a moistened Q-tip and trimming the nails, both front and back. Good quality, stainless steel nail-clippers for cats can be purchased at a pet supply store.
The first step in grooming is to trim the toenails on a regular weekly or biweekly schedule. Start by placing the cat on your lap, preferably lying on its back or sitting on your lap. Gently squeeze each paw pad until the claw appears and then clip off the clear tip. Do not forget to trim the dewclaws, which are higher up the inside of the front paws. Front paws should be done regularly but back paws might only need to be trimmed every other session. The tip of the nail is made up of clear protein and has no feeling. If a nail is trimmed too close to the quick (where a think vein of blood appears), use a styptic stick or powder to stop the bleeding.
One of the positives about this breed is the minimal amount of hair loss or shedding. To insure this, a regular bathing routine should be established. Most Havana Browns love attention and will happily submit to a full body combing with a fine-toothed steel comb once or twice a week. To bring up the gloss and flatten the coat, buff it with a silk scarf or a soft, damp chamois on a regular basis. Do not underestimate the value of a petting with loving hands as the most satisfying of grooming aids. Stroke the cat firmly from the head to the tip of the tail with your bare hands.
To prevent daily grooming becoming a battle start handling kittens from an early age. Havana Brown kittens should be started on a grooming and bathing routine at 8 to 12 weeks of age to prepare them for future handling.
Show bathing a Havana Brown or any shorthair breed requires almost as much time and effort as for a longhair breed, but the drying process takes less time. Most Havana Brown exhibitors like to give the show bath two or three days before the show to allow time for the natural oils to return to the coat and restore the close lying, not fluffy, look.
Havana Browns should have a soft, silky touch with the coat lying tight and shimmering a rich, reddish, mahogany brown tone.
Havana Brown kittens should be handled and fussed over from an early age in order to give them confidence and prepare them for new homes and experiences later in life. Likewise, early show hall and ring experience conditions the show quality kitten for the potential show career ahead.
In the show ring, show quality specimens of the breed must be relaxed and responsive to handling. Breeders and owners who intend to exhibit Havana Browns must work with kittens to prepare them for handling in the judging ring. One key area to focus on is the head because so much emphasis is placed on the unique head structure of this breed.
Indeed, true show cats rarely need much handling on the judging table as they thoroughly enjoy taking advantage of the limelight if allowed the freedom to do so. Judges who take the time to stroke gently and offer interesting toys will likely be rewarded with a playful response. Again, breeders and owners of prospective show kittens spend time using a variety of teasers and toys to prepare for the possibilities of the show ring. Because the Havana Brown is a descendant of the Siamese, it is appropriate to stretch this breed to show off its rich, mahogany color and elegant style.
Undoubtedly a credit to their mixed ancestry, the Havana Brown comes equipped with a hodgepodge of traits to enchant those with whom they share their lives. Naturally inquisitive, the Havana Brown characteristically reaches out with a paw to touch and feel when investigating curiosities in its environment. Other breeds are more inclined to use their noses and sense of smell first to investigate anything that intrigues them. Nevertheless, the use of the paws to touch is not exclusively reserved for snooping. Being truly sensitive by nature, Havana Browns frequently reach out to gently touch their human companions. It is as though they are extending a paw in the spirit of genuine understanding and friendship. As if in confirmation, one of the traditional poses most often caught on film by photographers presents the Havana Brown with one of its elegant forepaws raised and slightly curled.
Although not a particularly vocal breed, Havana Browns are extremely attentive parents. Some females may talk constantly to their kittens. Litters may range from 1 to 6 or more, with 2 to 4 being the average.
One of the unique and surprising aspects of Havana Browns is their apparent lack of interest in "people food". Most seem content with their favorite canned or dry cat food and rarely show much interest in snatching foods for which other cats insist on making nuisances of themselves. Young kittens are the exception. They can be quite insistent about having a taste of whatever their human may be sampling. Beware; tiny needle-like teeth and sharp claws can be hazardous to fingers and lips.
In terms of its history, the Havana Brown is a hybrid or man-made breed. Some refer to it as one of the designer breeds. It is the result of carefully planned breeding for a specific genetic design. The story began long before the conception of the Havana Brown, as we know it today. Documentation indicates that all-brown Siamese-type cats existed in the United Kingdom and Europe in the late 1800's. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, mentions a "wholly chocolate-coloured strain of Siamese."
"Swiss Mountain Cat" was one of the names given these early chocolate brown cats. However, these cats disappeared, probably because the Siamese Cat Club of Britain published a statement circa 1920 to the effect that, "the club much regrets it is unable to encourage the breeding of any but blue-eyed Siamese." As a result, all solid-chocolate brown cats with non-blue eyes were rejected from Siamese classes at shows until interest was renewed following World War II.
By the time the breed had acquired recognition in English cat registries, the name had been modified to "Chestnut Brown." In North America, not only the name Havana Brown has been retained, but also the distinctive look of the cat. In England, breeding to Siamese has continued, therefore the original type of the cat has been lost. A "Chestnut Brown" of today resembles the North American Chestnut Oriental Shorthair in appearance. North American breeders have endeavored to maintain the original look of the 1950's style Siamese. The Havana Brown is a moderate cat with a distinctive head, an exquisite coat, and a captivating personality.
The Havana Brown was accepted by CFA for registration in 1959 and received championship status in 1964. Records and old pedigrees indicate that some North American breeders emulated some of the English breeding practices by introducing Russian Blues and Siamese into their early breeding programs. However, this practice came to an end when the breed was closed to outcross breeding in 1974.
In 1998, CFA again approved opening the breed to outcross breeding in an effort to increase the gene pool for these magnificent cats. As a result, Havana Brown breeders can choose to breed Havana Browns to Havana Browns, or they can choose to breed Havana Browns to solid color Orientals-shorthair division (chestnut preferred) or solid color domestic shorthairs (black or blue only). In 1999, CFA also approved the use of chocolate point or seal point Siamese with full Havana Browns.
First generation (F1) cats may not be shown in Havana Brown classes at CFA shows. However, they can be extremely useful in breeding programs and those that are not deemed to be suitable candidates for breeding provide beautiful pets when neutered or spayed and placed in pet homes. Second (F2) and following generations (F3, F4, etc.) are recognized for competition in Havana Brown classes at CFA-sanctioned shows.
With continued dedication, judicious encouragement and mentoring of new breeders and constructive co-operation amongst existing breeders and enthusiasts, may this extraordinary breed created so meticulously through the co-operative efforts and vision of a small group of English breeders, continue to win the hearts of those fortunate enough to be possessed by the magnificent Havana Brown.
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This program is supported by
The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.
This program is supported by The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.