Rare Breed Has Siamese Origins
The snowshoe cat came about almost accidentally, when three Siamese kittens were born with white paws — markings not common with the Siamese breed.
Originally called “Silver Laces,” the snowshoe cat breed originated in Philadelphia, Penn., 45 years ago but to this day remains one of the rarest breeds in the United States.
A sweet-natured cat with an affinity for tricks and agility, the snowshoe is a lovable family companion.
When Siamese cat breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty discovered that three kittens from a newly born litter had unusual markings on their paws, she decided to launch a new cat breed and called them “Snowshoe.”
During the 60s, Daugherty earnestly began breeding this new line of feline, pairing the white-pawed offspring with bicolor American shorthair cats. When she realized that the ensuing offspring lacked the traditional Siamese points, she changed tactics and began crossing the white paired offspring with Siamese cats.
The result was a breed that had the coat of an American shorthair with some of the traditional Siamese traits: blue eyes, point coloration and personality. Of course, the striking white markings and paws in this new breed were its most recognizable features.
The snowshoe cat breeding program was eventually adopted by fellow breeder Vikki Olander in the early 70s, who in turn promoted the rare breed at cat fancier shows during the 70s and 80s.
The breed achieved champion status with the American Cat Fanciers Association in 1990, and in 1993 was recognized by The International Cat Association.
The breed remains rare, due in part to the difficulty in breeding cats that comply with the breed standards. The unique pattern of the snowshoe cat relies on a recessive gene in order to produce the desired results. As the genes are difficult to control, the outcome often produces varying results.
Snowshoe cats are known to get along well with children and other pets. The breed is usually mellow and sweet natured with a sociable personality.
These cats thrive under the care of their owners, so they don’t fare well if left alone for long durations. They live well with other companion cats and dogs, which can help soothe separation anxiety during its owners’ typical working hours.
Like their Siamese ancestors, snowshoe cats are vocal and intelligent. This breed can learn tricks, are known to fetch, walk on a leash, and also possesses clever exploration skills such as discovering how to open various types of doors throughout the house.
You might notice your snowshoe often perched on the counter near a sink. The breed is quite fond of playing in water, and may occasionally swim if given the opportunity. These are curious, semi-active cats who enjoy the company of their human and pet companions.
Snowshoe kittens are born white with blue eye; its coat pattern, which appears within one to three weeks after birth, is unique to each cat.
With a thick, short coat, the snowshoe typically has a solid and white pattern along its chest and stomach and, most notably, a white “V” facial pattern. The cat has darker shading along its back, shoulders and hips. True to its breeding standards, the paws of snowshoe cats are either white, flesh-toned, mottled or “point” color.
Like its Siamese ancestors, snowshoe cats have what is called point coloration, when the body is lighter than its ears, face, legs and tail. Snowshoe cats can have the following point coloration: blue, seal, black, chocolate, red, cream, cinnamon, fawn, tortoiseshell and tabby.
As the snowshoe ages its color pattern will darken, sometimes turning chocolate brown. The breed’s coat does not have a double coat so it doesn’t require daily grooming, although a weekly brush will help prevent the coat from matting.
Snowshoe cats inherited their body shape from their American shorthair ancestors: The breed is known to be medium-large with a long frame; male snowshoe cats can weigh up to a hefty 18 pounds. While some snowshoe cats are born with a typical Siamese triangular-shaped face, others are born with a common “applehead” shape that is traditional amongst American shorthair cats.
Snowshoe cats are known to be rather healthy; so far, there aren't any congenital or genetic conditions specific to the breed that have been reported. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.