Thailand’s “Good Luck Cat”
In Thai tradition, a pair of Korat cats is given to newlyweds or highly respected individuals for good luck. In fact, Korats were not available to be purchased until recently—they could only be given as gifts.
With its heart-shaped face, the Korat has also been dubbed the “sweetheart” cat—with the personality to match, according to devoted Korat owners.
The Korat cat has been claimed by Thailand as a national treasure. The cat, one of the oldest breeds, is named after Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima province (nicknamed “Korat” by the locals).
The first mention of the Korat is in "The Cat-Book Poems" authored between 1350 and 1767 AD in Thailand, now on display in Bangkok’s national library.
Korats first appeared in Britain under the name "Blue Siamese" in 1889 and 1896, and then appeared as “Korats” in the United States in the 1950s.
Korats tend to form strong bonds with the people in their lives. The breed is intelligent with a knack for interacting with people, often displaying a surprising depth of comprehension.
According to Daphne Negus, who has been breeding Korat cats since 1964 at the Si Sawat Cattery and was the secretary of the Korat Cat Fanciers Association, the breed is very sensitive and receptive. She gives a couple examples of the breed’s temperament.
“One female who, tired of waiting for her supper, took her owner's wristwatch off the kitchen counter in her mouth and laid it in her food dish. Recently, [a Korat owner] told me she owed her baby's life to her Korat. Standing at the kitchen stove, she ignored the nips in the ankle he gave her until they became so frequent she decided to see what he wanted. She went into the living room just in time to see her three-month-old son crawling to the open front door, watched by her Korat with a kind of ‘Well, finally!’ expression.”
Korats are known to be playful and thrive on the attention and company of people—including children, and other cats. This breed will greet you at the door, sit where you sit, sleep alongside you and always keep you within sight.
Korat cats can be easily misidentified as a Russian blue cat, due to the similar shorthair, blue-grey fur color. However, Korat cats have two distinguishing characteristics: a heart-shaped head and large green eyes. They are, in fact, one of the few cat breeds with only one coat color.
Although it is rare, Korats occasionally have striking or faint white markings or spots or even very faint gray stripes that can increase in size with age.
With a small to medium build, the Korat cat is known for its compact, muscular frame. This is an active cat, who likes to play rather than lounge for too long a period of time.
While these may be common medical conditions, your Korat cat will not necessarily develop any of those listed below. Due to the strict breeding guidelines of the Korat, the breed is known to be very healthy. Since 1998, however, one genetic health condition has become a concern: Gangliosidosis.
Gangliosidosis is a fatal progressive brain disease that is inherited as a genetically recessive disorder of metabolism of cells in the nervous system. Clinical signs, including uncoordinated walking, high-stepping walking with the presence of a tremor and a rapid sideways movement of the eyes, and depression, dementia, seizures, aggression, are seen from an early age, typically 2-5 months. The condition is usually fatal.
There are two types of gangliosidosis: GM1 and GM2; both are caused by different metabolic defects and transmitted by separate genes. The GM1 and GM2 genetic metabolic defects cause an abnormal accumulation of gangliosides (biochemical products) in cells of the nervous system resulting in deterioration of the brain and progression of the disease.
In an effort to eliminate gangliosidosis from the lineage, DNA tests were conducted to pinpoint the carriers. Although there is speculation that the genetic condition is now rare in Korats, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test has been identified which can detect the various forms of gangliosidosis. All breeding Korats should be tested for the GM1 and GM2 genes. Cats that test positive, even though they appear normal, are carriers of gangliosidosis and should be eliminated from the breeding pool.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.