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Oriental Cat

Oriental Cat
  • Rating of 8 in


  • Rating of 9 in


  • Rating of 9 in

    Need for Attention

  • Rating of 8 in


  • Rating of 8 in

    Need to Vocalize

  • Rating of 2 in


  • Rating of 9 in


  • Rating of 2 in


  • Rating of 4 in

    Healthiness and Hardiness

  • Rating of 2 in

    Grooming needs

  • Rating of 5 in

    Good with children

  • Rating of 5 in

    Good with other pets

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Oriental Cat Personality

The personality of the Oriental is as distinctive as the multicolored exterior. They are natural entertainers, full of enthusiasm, energy, and the belief that the world should revolve around them. Haughty and royal one minute, they are animated and inquisitive the next. They are highly curious, and will go to great lengths to be involved in your activities.

Orientals' feelings are easily hurt if you ignore them but, given their full share of affection, Oriental Shorthairs will repay you with a lifetime of love, affection, and intelligent conversation. They usually bond with one person and become extremely devoted and dependent upon their chosen human. Expect them to be at your side, in your lap, and at the door to interrogate you about where you've been.

The breed?'s vocal tone is generally softer and milder than that of the Siamese, but the range, frequency, and inflection vary from cat to cat. Like their Siamese relatives, they are never at a loss for words on any subject.

Oriental Cat Breed Traits

The body type of the Oriental is virtually the same as the Siamese's. What sets the breed apart is the wide variety of colors and patterns. Unlike the Siamese that comes in only four colors and one pattern (although that varies depending upon the cat registry), the Oriental is available in over 300 color and pattern combinations. Some colors are more common than others; solid ebony is the most common. Pure white, chestnut, blue, and ebony tabby are also popular. However, Oriental breeders are working with just about every possible color and pattern.

The Oriental is in general a healthy breed but can suffer from the same defects as the Siamese, since they are closely related. Protrusion of the cranial sternum is a common, though not serious, defect seen in some Siamese and related breeds. Endocardial fibroelastosis is a more serious anomaly that can be found in some Siamese lines.

Interested in the history of the Oriental cat breed?

In the past, blue-eyed, colorpointed cats were owned by royalty and were kept in the Royal Palace of Siam. The Siamese breed, however, is only one of several varieties native to the area. The Cat-Book Poems, a manuscript written in Siam (now Thailand) some time between 1350 and 1767 A.D., describes and shows a variety of cats native to the area, including solid black, black and white bicolor, solid brown, blue/gray, and shaded silver, as well as cats bearing the point-restricted color pattern. The cats portrayed in the book had slim bodies and legs, large ears, and tapered muzzles, much like that of today's Siamese and the related breeds.

The first cats imported to England from Thailand were often solid or bicolored. It wasn't until the 1920s when the Siamese Cat Club issued a statement excluding all other colors that the blue-eyed pointed cat became the Siamese norm in Britain.

The concept of cats with the Siamese body style but with a wide range of colors and patterns had captured the interest and imagination of cat fanciers. It was only a matter of time before these cats entered the cat fancy, with a little help from breeders with a flair for exterior decorating.

The Oriental seen in the show halls today is not a direct import from Thailand, but rather a Siamese hybrid developed in the 1950s and 1960s. The breed's creation was deliberate, breeders wanted a cat that looked and acted like a Siamese but that came in a wider range of colors. In the 1950s British breeders crossed Siamese cats with domestic shorthairs and Russian Blues. In the late 1960s American breeders, fascinated with the British Orientals, took up the torch and crossed Siamese, domestic shorthairs, and Abyssinians to create a new look. Body style was not sacrificed for color and pattern, and backcrosses to the Siamese preserved type and personality traits.

The Oriental breeders met with initial resentment from Siamese breeders who were resistant at best to the idea of another Siamese-type hybrid, but, since the way had already been paved by breeders of the Colorpoint Shorthair (which gained CFA acceptance in 1964), the opposition didn't stop Orientals from gaining ground.

In 1972 the CFA accepted the Oriental Shorthair for registration, and granted full Championship status in 1977. Since then, the Shorthair has rapidly increased in popularity. In recent years the Oriental Shorthair has been consistently ranking high among short haired breeds.

Since the Siamese has the long haired Balinese, and the Colorpoint has the longhaired Javanese, it seems only right that the Oriental Shorthair should have his own long haired variant, a cat with a long, lean, classy chassis, silky fur, and a full palette of colors to choose from. To that end, the Oriental Longhair is the newest addition to the long line of Siamese-type cats. Although currently rare, the breed is slowly growing in popularity and appeals to the cat lover who wants the elegant body type and personality of the Siamese, the wash-and-wear hairdo of the Balinese, and the myriad of colors of the Oriental Shorthair.

The Oriental Longhair was developed in the late 1970s by breeders who crossed the Oriental Short-hair with the Balinese. The breed achieved official recognition in 1985 when TICA accepted them for Championship status, and they were accepted for registration by the CFA in February, 1988. In 1996 in the CFA, the Oriental Shorthair and Oriental Longhair breeds were combined into one breed division simply called Oriental. At the time of this writing, the Oriental Longhair is recognized for Championship in ACA, CFA, TICA, UFO, ACFA, and AACE.

Copyright © 1998 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. based on

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