Introduction

This breed of cat is a deliberate hybridization of the Siamese and the American Bicolor cats (American shorthair cats with the white spotting factor). The breed began in 1960 in Philadelphia, USA, when Dorothy Hinds Daugherty of Kensing Cattery, noticed that three Siamese kittens in a litter had white feet within the pointing. She found the contrasting pattern appealing and decided to breed for that effect.

This was an era when a number of new breeds were being created or discovered. This is a fairly rare breed (6/10 where 10 = the most rare, on my estimation).

After the creation of the breed, its development included breeding Snowshoe to Snowshoe.

The American Shorthair, one of the founding cats is a gentle, amiable and very agreeable cat. They look like cats used to look, I say.

Likewise for the Traditional “old-fashioned” Siamese. The Siamese cat’s character is slightly different from the American Shorthair but all the same this breed of cat has a well rounded character suitable for human companionship; albeit a bit  demanding and talkative at times.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the Snowshoe Cat also has all the qualities required of a fine all round domestic cat namely, friendly, calm, talkative, accepting of other pets, companionable, the intelligence of Siamese and amiability of the American Shorthair and enjoying being indoors. According to Gloria Stephens the Snowshoe cat has inherited a bit of the Siamese cat “aloofness”. The voice, unlike that of the Siamese, is soft and gentle, she says.


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These thumbnail photographs are all ©copyright Helmi Flick. Please click on them for larger versions.

Coat — Appearance

The fascinating aspect of the Snowshoe Cat and the cat’s outstanding feature must be the coat pattern. After all, this cat is named after the pattern. I therefore go into some detail about the coat color and pattern despite the fact that it means discussing cat genetics, a very complex subject that is still being researched. Indeed at 2005 in an article entitled “White spotting in the domestic cat (Felis catus) maps near KIT on feline chromosome B1″ by M. P. Cooper, N. Fretwell, S. J. Bailey and L. A. Lyons”, it was stated that “the gene(s) responsible for white spotting in the domestic cat have not yet been identified”.

I deal primarily with the Bicolor Snowshoe (the photographs illustrate the Bicolor). There are mitted and pointed coats as well (see below).

White Spotting Gene

As I understand it the white spotting gene causes the bicolor pattern through its interaction with a recessive allele (see below) of the agouti gene. Its action is modified by (a) modifier genes and (b) whether it is present in heterozygous form (2 copies of the gene) or homozygous form (one copy present). The white spotting gene is semi-dominant with variable expression (is this because it is modified?). Remember genes come in pairs and one of the pairs is called an allele.

This gene is imported into the Snowshoe cat by the Bicolor American Shorthair. The white spotting gene interacts with the Siamese gene and overlays on top of the pointing pushing out the dark pointing caused by the Siamese gene to produce the white markings on the face, limbs and front of the cat.

Apparently, some researchers have hypothesized that there are various types of white spotting gene and one of these is the direct cause of the “mittens” (snowshoes) on this cat.

Himalayan Gene

The Siamese gene is called the Himalayan gene. The gene is recessive to the full color gene meaning both alleles (2 copies) of the gene need to be in place for the Siamese color to be present.

Interestingly the gene is also heat sensitive. It is this particular characteristic which explains the “pointing” or dark extremities. The extremities of an animal are obviously cooler than the center. Under warmer conditions the gene produces a lighter color (the Siamese body color) and under cooler conditions the gene produces a darker color.

This explains why the Siamese cat is darker during the winter months (particularly if the cat goes out a lot) and pure cream or white without points at birth (at the moment of birth the kitten will be at internal body temperature).

The same applies to the Snowshoe cat. At birth they are white and they develop their markings over the first 3 weeks.

Another interesting point is that Siamese cats get darker with age and it has been reported that the white areas caused by the spotting gene may increase with the cat’s age. Is the spotting gene heat sensitive too?

This would imply that the white markings of the Snowshoe Cat might expand slightly with the age of the cat and that there is greater contrast with age.

The Snowshoe cat has a semi-foreign shape or body conformation. This is a muscular body but not cobby (like the Persian, for example). Males cats are medium to medium large and females medium in size (see largest cat breed).

The face is a modified wedge; nearly an equilateral triangle (the Japanese Bobail has a face shape described as an equilateral triangle). Jowly stud boys may have a more rounded head. The eyes are medium sized and oval

Breeding

Through selective breeding Snowshoe Cat breeders are, it seems, able to control to a degree how the white spotting gene will work. This is important as the preferred show pattern is the inverted “V” on the face as illustrated in the pictures at the top of this page. This is a symmetrical pattern co-ordinating well with the Siamese points and the geometry of the face.

Although, please note that the TICA breed standard does not give more points if the pattern is symmetrical.

The white spotting gene is possibly (some conflicting information here) associated with deafness, blue eyes and odd eye color if it has affected the area of the ears and eyes. Note: the Messybeast author Sarah Hartwell states that this is not the case. Deafness is associated with the white gene (a different gene), however.

A mitted Snowshoe has white on the paws, chest, back legs and chin only. The pointed Snowshoe Cat has pointing like a Siamese and no white patches.

The Snowshoe Cat has full TICA registration (can be shown at competition) but is not registered by the CFA. The top UK registry, GCCF, has preliminarily recognized this cat

History

DateEvent
1960Creation of the breed
1960-1997Little development in USA – one breeder in USA, 1997
1980UK began development of the Snowshoe
1993Recognized by TICA
1980-1998Little development in UK – one breeder, 1998
2002UK bloodline improved with German importation of a male cat
200312 breeders and 45 cats in existence – FiFe registers breed
2004FiFe full registration (can show at championships)
2004Preliminary recognition by GCCF
Not yet recognized by CFA but the breed is registered with these registries: ACFA, TICA, CFF, ACA


Breeders + Breed Standard + Clubs

2008: As usual I select breeders from Internet websites only. The status of the website in terms of Google PageRank and Alexa traffic rank is indicative of the effort invested in it and therefore the cattery.

The content of the site will also tell people a bit about the philosophy of the breeder. I try and select individual cattery websites (as opposed to directory listings) listed in the first three pages of a Google search and add my comments.

Karib’s Kats – link is broken 13th Jan 2013 and therefore removed.
Located Long Island NY, USA. Has an Alexa traffic rank of 9m (low) but at least ranked and a Google PageRank. Guess it has been around for a while – at least 10 years or more. Very small website.

This is the only Snowshoe breeder’s website listed in the first three pages of Google indicative of the rarity of this cat (note: there are directories,
however).

Snow Angels Snowshoe Cats
Not sure where they are located as it’s not clear from the website. They have a PageRank and 6m Alexa traffic rank. Not in first 3 pages of search. This is the only cattery for this breed listed by TICA on their website. Dead site June 2012.

Some UK breeders

None of these sites are listed in first 3 Google search pages.

Snowshoe Cats UK (link)
Listed in a directory. Nice looking site; no traffic rank and a low PageRank. Based in Plymouth, Devon (SW England)

Glittakitz
Hobby cat breeder located off junction 29 of the M1 near Holmewood (nr. Chesterfield). TICA and GCCF registered.

Snowshoe Cat Society Website moved or dead June 2012.
Not a breeder but lists the above two breeders and more.

Breed Standard:

Breed standard
TICAstandard
AACEstandard
ACFAstandard
Cat (Felis catus)


Clubs:

Snowshoe Cat Club – regulated by GCCF (UK based club therefore) (link opens in new tab/window).

Snowshoe Cat Society – regulated by GCCF


Sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • http://sncats.tripod.com/
  • http://www.southpolesnowshoes.com/
  • http://www.showcatsonline.com
  • http://www.fanciers.com/
  • http://www.kolumbus.fi
  • White spotting in the domestic cat (Felis catus) maps near KIT on feline chromosome B1 Animal Genetics 37 (2), 163–165.M. P. Cooper, N. Fretwell, S. J. Bailey, L. A. Lyons (2006)
  • http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/catbreeds.htm
  • Messybeast
  • http://www.craov.co.uk

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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