The Exotic Shorthair Cat – Paper Tiger to Pedigreed
The exotic shorthair cat, which looks like a tugboat in a velour body stocking, was created, for the most part, by stealth. That stealth began to show its face during the 1950s and ’60s, a time, ironically when America could still lay claim to a certain innocence. Be that as it may, the appearance of a number of American shorthair show cats underwent noticeable changes back then. You could notice those changes about the cats’ eyes, which grew larger and rounder; about their coats, which grew silky and seductively plush; and about their muzzles, which grew short, shorter and padded.
The credit for this evolutionary fast-forward can be placed squarely on the Persian’s foursquare shoulders. To be fair, actually, that credit should go to the American shorthair fanciers who bred some of their cats to Persians and then registered the resulting kittens as American Shorthairs by falsifying their pedigrees. This slight of glands was committed in the interest of creating a more dramatic-looking American shorthair and, hopefully, of taking home a boatload of rosettes and hardware from cat shows.
Because vice, like virtue, is its own reward, the new-and-improved American shorthairs did well in the show ring, despite the fact that the American Shorthair breed standard considered “any evidence of hybridizing” to be grounds for disqualification. Many judges, nevertheless, preferred to look the other way rather than to look askance at the Persian-like development of some American shorthairs.
Marriages of Convenience
One person who was unwilling to hazard whiplash by looking the other way so often was Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) judge Jane Martinke, who suggested that CFA create a new breed called the exotic shorthair Cat. The exotic, which would be judged on the same standard as the Persian with the exception of coat length, would be assembled out of breedings between Persians and any shorthaired cats and would be accepted in all the colors in which those breeds occurred. Breeders with bogus American shorthairs that had been produced through illicit hybridization would be allowed to transfer their cats to this newly created amnesty breed without having to answer any embarrassing questions.
Martinke’s idea was accepted by CFA, and exotic shorthairs became eligible for championship competition on May 1, 1967; but instead of allowing breeders to create exotics by crossing any shorthaired breed with Persians, as Martinke had suggested, CFA restricted breeders to using American shorthairs. (That restriction, of course, has not stopped some breeders from slipping a little Burmese into the mix occasionally.)
Despite CFA’s willingness to let bygones become bylaws, few American Shorthairs were re-baptized as exotics after the breed had been accorded championship status. So deafening, in fact, was the sound of no hands clapping, that CFA’s executive board voted unanimously on June 20, 1968, to rescind recognition of the exotic shorthair because nobody was showing them. Fortunately, someone at the meeting pointed out that judges were still complaining about American shorthairs that appeared to have Persian relatives. What’s more, if exotics were disenfranchised, the people who had begun working with them legitimately would fall victim to the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished effect. Therefore, the motion to defrock the exotic was tabled for further discussion.
Additions and Attractions
The opportunity to make honest cats out of un-American shorthairs was not the only convenience offered by the creation of the exotic shorthair Cat. People who didn’t want to risk bursitis and emphysema from the frequent grooming that Persians require found the wash-and-wear exotic an engaging option. What’s more, breeders put off by the Persian’s delicacy — some Persians can catch a cold just by looking out the window on a rainy day — found the exotic shorthair’s hybrid vigor equally attractive.
Whatever their motivation, persons interested in creating the spitting, a shorthaired image of a Persian had their work — if not their cats‘ conformation — cut out for them. For one thing, none of the 10 shorthaired breeds in existence in the late 1960s looked anything like the Persian’s kissing cousin. Thus, the earliest exotic breeders used American shorthairs (or Burmese or Russian blues) just often enough, usually once, to introduce the shorthair gene into their gene pools. After that (in order to give themselves more breathing room and their cats less) they bred exotics to Persians. Consequently, most of today’s exotic pedigrees do not reveal the presence of a shorthaired cat — other than an exotic, of course — for many generations. Yet the shorthair influence, though remote, is difficult to remove, and even now few people breed one exotic to another more than once every two or three generations. To do otherwise is to risk lengthening the nose and shortening the coat on the exotic.
Making a Short Story Long
As exotic shorthairs came to look more and more like Persians, a transformation that was not accomplished overnight, another problem arose: What to do with the longhaired exotic shorthairs that could pass, and sometimes did, for Persians in the show ring? These cats could not be shown legally, yet they did occur frequently in breedings between exotic shorthairs and Persians. Long hair is the handiwork of a recessive gene. In order for a cat to have long hair, both of the genes it inherits for coat length must be longhair genes. Persians, therefore, contribute a longhair gene to every kitten they produce. If the exotic shorthair cat to which a Persian is bred also carries a longhair gene — the result of having one Persian parent — half the kittens in that litter will be longhairs.
The solution to the longhaired-exotic-shorthair problem was simple: Allow longhaired exotics to compete as Persians or create a new breed called the exotic longhair. Most of the cat registries in North America have adopted one of those solutions. And at least one association has shortened exotic shorthair Cat to exotic.
The Building Code of Exotic Shorthair Cat
The exotic shorthair Cat has a broad, massive, carved-out-of-stone head with round underlying bone structure and great breadth of skull. Its ears are small, round-tipped and not unduly open at the base. Set far apart and tilted forward, the ears should ride low on the head so as not to distort its rounded contour. The exotic’s cheeks are full, its jaws broad and tweakable, its chin firm and well-developed. Large, round, wide-set eyes and a short, snub, broad nose combine to produce the exotic’s Campbell-soup-kid expression.
This glorious head is connected by a short, thick, linebacker’s neck to a medium-to-large body that has resounding depth across shoulders and chest, a level back, a hind end like a quarter horse, and a tail about as long as the distance between the neck and the tail root.
The exotic’s coat — short by some standards, medium by others — is dense, plush, soft in texture and full of life.
Personality Profile of exotic shorthair Cat
As you might expect from a breed that’s 99 percent or more Persian, the exotic shorthair Cat is sweet, docile and seen but not heard. Moreover, because the exotic needs less grooming and fewer baths than the Persian — and is much less difficult to dry — the exotic is less apt to get testy at the sight of a comb or brush.