Consistently ranked among the top 10 most popular breeds by the Cat Fanciers’ Association, the Himalayan is essentially a Persian cat with Siamese cat markings.
Persian cats most likely originated on the cold, high plateaus of Iran (the area formerly known as Persia).
The Himalayan breed was developed by cross-breeding Persians and Siamese cats, which produced kittens with long fur and Siamese-style point markings on their faces, ears, legs, and tail. Points may be blue, chocolate, lilac, seal, flame, tortie, blue-cream, cream, or lynx on a white or beige background.
Like Siamese cats, Himalayan cats are born without markings, and the point markings come in gradually over time. The points are temperature-regulated. Colder temperatures produce darker points, whereas warmer temperatures produce lighter points.
Himalayans are built like Persians, with round faces, short thick necks, short legs, and broad shoulders and chests. Their stocky bodies are medium to large, and appear even larger and rounder due to their long coats.
Himalayan cats are no longer bred with Siamese cats. The only outcrossing allowed by most cat organizations is with Persian cats, though The International Cat Association (TICA) allows outcrossing with the Exotic Shorthair.
In 1984, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) made the controversial decision to make the Himalayan a division of the Persian breed, rather than a separate breed. The rationale behind this decision was that Himalayans have the same body type, head shape, and coat qualities as Persians. Some fanciers, angered by the decision, split off from the CFA to form the National Cat Fanciers’ Association (NCFA).
Himalayan Cat Facial Types: Extreme and Traditional
All Himalayans have small rounded ears that are spaced wide apart on their heads, full cheeks, and round eyes, but there are two recognized Himalayan facial types:
- Extreme: Currently fashionable in the show ring, the Extreme Himalayan has a round, flat face and a short snub nose that is almost in line with its eyes. Many fanciers object to the Extreme face, as breeding for these traits can cause malocclusion (misaligned teeth), weepy eyes, breathing problems, and birthing difficulties (due to the shape and size of kittens’ heads) in some Himalayans.
- Traditional: The Traditional Himalayan also has a large, round head with a short snub nose, but the nose is lower on the cat’s face and the mouth curves upward, creating a sweet expression. Breed-associated health problems are less common with this type.
Himalayan Cat Personality
Himalayans are a little more active and playful than Persians, reflecting their Siamese heritage, but they are far mellower than the Siamese. Many are lap cats that would rather snuggle up with their favourite humans than tear the house apart.
Sweet-tempered, calm, and gentle, Himalayans tend to be good with most members of a household, including other pets and children. Himalayans are usually not particularly talkative. Some are slightly more chatty than the average Persian due to their Siamese heritage, but they tend to have soft voices.
Himalayan cats require a lot of attention, so they are not a good choice for people who spend much of their time away from home. Also, Himalayan cats should only be adopted by those who are willing to keep them indoors full-time.
Himalayan Cat Grooming Requirements
Like Persians, Himalayans have intensive grooming requirements. They should be groomed daily, for at least 10-15 minutes, supplemented by an hour-long weekly session. During the shedding seasons (spring and fall), additional grooming is often required.
Himalayans may also need to be bathed once in a while to remove oil build-up. In addition, for those that suffer from excessive tear staining, daily face washing is also required, and most Himalayans need regular ear cleaning as well.
Himalayans tend to be calm, tolerant, easy-to-handle cats, so washing and combing should not be a traumatic ordeal. However, they do require a significant time commitment, so only those willing and able to put in the time should adopt cats of this breed.
Himalayan Cat Health
Himalayan cats are prone to a number of medical conditions, including:
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), which can cause kidney failure
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which causes progressive vision loss, resulting in full blindness by 15 weeks of age
- Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a life-threatening heart disease
- Periodontitis, an inflammatory disease that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth, often leading to tooth loss (this risk for this condition can be significantly reduced with preventative dental care)
- Joint problems, such as early arthritis, slipping kneecaps, and other issues
- Eye ulcers, due to problems associated with the shortened nose, particularly in the Extreme facial type
Some Himalayans, especially the Extreme type, suffer from additional problems associated with their head sizes and flat faces, such as excessive eye tearing and breathing difficulties. Obtaining Himalayans from legitimate breeders who engage in responsible breeding practices and screen for health issues significantly reduces the likelihood of health problems (with many cat breeds, health problems become more common due to backyard breeders who engage in irresponsible practices; these breeders usually sell kittens for cheaper prices than the legitimate breeders).
Adopt a Himalayan Kitten or Cat
Himalayan kittens from good breeders cost around $800 to $2,500 depending on markings, lineage, and whether they are classed as show quality or pet quality. To adopt an adult Himalayan, see Petfinder’s list of available Himalayan shelter cats.
- Berg, L., Cat Fanciers’ Association. (2006). “The Himalayan Persian.” CFA.org.
- Helgren, J.A. (2010). “Choosing a Himalayan.” PetPlace.com.
- P&G Pet Care. (2009). “Himalayan.” Iams.com.
- Purebred Cat Rescue. (2009). “Himalayan.” PurebredCatRescue.org.