Himalayan cats are commonly seen in funny videos about cats, memes, and adorable kitten pictures.
And what’s not to love about their appearance? Long, lustrous fur, beautiful Siamese point coloration, bright blue eyes, and a face just squashed enough to produce some fairly humorous expressions, the Himalayan is popular and found all over the place.
They also have a good personality combination – fun and inquisitive and chatty while still being adaptable and amicable.
What more should you know about the Himalayan cat?
The History of Himalayan Cats
The Himalayan is a relatively new breed of cat in the world. This breed is actually a cross between Persians and Siamese, with many breeders and associations considering them to be a sub-breed of the Persian and referring to them as ‘Colorpoint Longhair’.
They have the long coat and much of the same physical features of a Persian, but the chattiness of a Siamese. The main reason though was to get the Point coloring of a Siamese on a breed of cat with long fur and the results were very positive.
The breed goes back to the 1930s with a successful breeding program in the United States. British breeders then brought that program to the UK, where it paused during World War II and then started again.
In the 1950s, the breed was officially recognized, and it has become a very popular pet ever since. They haven’t gone through the same issues many other breeds have of being decimated during World War II and then requiring a rebuild since the breeding program was merely paused, not neglected.
Himalayan cats can also be known as Himmies, Persian-Himalayan/Himalayan-Persian, or Colorpoint Longhair (Britain). The name actually comes from the Himalayan rabbit which has the same colorpoint pattern.
Some people say that Himalayan cats are descended from Asian wildcats and while there’s no definite proof against this, I would lean towards them being a cross of Persians and Siamese given their physical attributes and chattiness. But it makes a nice thought that these cats have been around longer than eighty years.
Characteristics of Himalayan Cats
The Persian ancestry of Himalayan cats is very obvious in its fur and build. They are medium to large size cats with a stock, thick body, deep chest, rounded abdomen, and very robust bones.
Himalayans are muscular cats and their thick coat layered on top of that makes them look even larger. In fact, that long coat is a double coat with a dense undercoat and long overcoat.
They also tend to be heavier than most other ‘medium’ cats because of their thick bones and thick coat, with females weighing between eight and twelve pounds and males often weighing more than twelve pounds.
Himalayan cats borrow from the Siamese ancestry for their coloring and eyes. They generally have blue eyes (though they can also have copper or green), and they come in a variety of ‘point’ colors: chocolate, lilac, red, blue, black, cream, gold, brown, and more.
When we think of the Himalayan cat, we often think of the Chocolate point one: deep brown tail and paws and a deep brown ‘mask’ with bright blue eyes.
Himalayan cats are generally quite healthy and can live to be anywhere between eight and over fifteen years of age. That long coat does require daily grooming though, not to mention regular trips to a professional groomer to make sure it stays healthy.
Fortunately, Himalayans tend to love attention from their owners, so grooming shouldn’t be an issue. A good, wide-tooth comb should do the trick for most cats. It’s important to groom them daily because the coat is long but fine and so it can get tangled easily, develop mats, and pick up dirt. A cat’s own ability to groom only goes so far after all.
Himalayan cats don’t need to exercise a lot in order to stay healthy, but they often have spurts of playfulness and energy that are quite fun to watch. Make sure your cat has toys to play with (simple ones are perfectly fine), and a few minutes of playtime with their human every day.
But they aren’t working cats, so you don’t usually have to worry about them going soft and getting health problems as a result. (That being said, it’s still important to feed your cat a balanced diet to stave off weight gain, diabetes, and other problems).
Himalayan cats can be divided into two facial types as well: extreme and traditional. Extreme is seen in show trends, but this is really unhealthy for the cat as the extreme squashing of the face causes respiratory problems. The more traditional (or doll face) has more of a protruding nose, so they can breathe better and so tend to be healthier.
In fact, cat associations are more and more pushing for owners to eschew extreme facial cats and go for the traditional ones for the sake of their pet’s health.
Himalayans look exactly as you would expect a cross between a Siamese and a Persian to look: beautiful contrasting colors, long coat, bright eyes, and a robust build. It’s no wonder that this breed is so popular; they’re just fun to look at and pet!
Temperament of Himalayan Cats
Just as Himalayan cats borrow physical characteristics from the Persian and Siamese, they also borrow temperament traits and then add their own spin.
This is a cat that is great for families because they are laid back and adaptable. They can be moved around from place to place without getting too stressed out about it and they don’t worry about new people coming and going, so long as ‘their’ people are around.
Overall, they are very calm cats and love to cuddle and sleep on laps. This is also not a cat that insists on jumping on counters, climbing curtains, or getting into places (unless they are really curious!) so it’s easy to train them to keep off your things. On the other hand, they can get stubborn about laps!
But, this is still a breed that also comes off the curious Siamese, so don’t be alarmed if your Himalayan is also quite curious!
They have bursts of playtime, and they are quite intelligent. And like the Siamese, they are chatty – they will talk to you regularly and if they want something, you’ll know about it.
They are known for having a musical purr and for carrying on conversations with people in the house. Fortunately, they aren’t as chatty as the Siamese, but it’s still a consideration if you live in close quarters with other people such as apartments or townhouses.
Himalayan cats are also quite open to meeting new people and enjoy hanging out with groups and getting pets from everyone. They are calm enough to have around small children, and they tend to attach themselves to a few members of a family, though they will get along with everyone.
Overall, Himalayans make great family cats. They are laid back, but still playful; smart, but don’t use it to get into everything, and they are chatty without being too bossy.
Health Concerns for the Himalayan Cat
Himalayans have a bit of an advantage over many other purebred cats – they are already a combination of fairly healthy breeds. But there are still some things to watch out and there are some genetic predispositions to disorders to keep an eye out for as well:
- Polycystic kidney disease: Thankfully, this isn’t common and it can be treated early, but if it is not caught early, it can cause serious problems. PKD is a disease wherein multiple cysts form on a cat’s kidneys. It’s not fatal (at first), but if it’s not treated, more dangerous bacterial infections may arise and those can be fatal.
- Ringworm: The thick coat of the Himalayan cat makes them susceptible to ringworms because they are harder to spot. During your daily grooming, check your cat for red, scaly spots and see the vet if you think there may be a ringworm infection.
- Respiratory issues: Himalayans inherit this from Persian cats – that squashed face makes them more susceptible to respiratory issues such as breathing problems, swallowing, or they may struggle to do strenuous physical activities. (They also are more likely to snore. My part Persian definitely snores).
Another issue that Himalayans can have a hard time with is their weight. They aren’t really high-energy cats, so you have to even more carefully monitor their food intake to ensure that they won’t gain too much weight.
Feline obesity can lead to other problems like arthritis and feline diabetes, so it’s important to go with high-quality food and not let them over eat.
As noted before, that long coat is prone to tangles and matting if it is not combed daily. Getting your cat used to that chore as early in their life as possible will help ensure that they won’t fight you on it and it can be a great bonding activity.
You should also watch out for fleas and ticks (particularly if your cat spends time outdoors) and signs of rashes or other skin problems. Himalayan cats also sometimes need to be bathed because of oil build-up, so make sure you are prepared for that trial!
Most cats don’t really like going through this and will fight you on it, Himalayans being no different. Many Himalayan cats also need to have their faces washed because of eye tearing. This prevents stains and makes your cat more comfortable.
And just like any other cat, it’s important to clean a Himalayan’s teeth regularly to prevent dental disease. Using crunchy dental treats can help too as can making sure your cat has access to plenty of water every day.
In general, though, this is a pretty healthy cat and mostly just needs some help keeping that coat healthy!
What is the Ideal Owner for a Himalayan Cat?
Himalayan cats are pretty laid back and amiable, so there are very few people they won’t get along with. But as a potential cat owner, you need to ask yourself if you are a good fit for the Himalayan. Make sure that you are ready for the following:
- Daily grooming! If you cannot do daily grooming, then this may not be the cat for you. That coat gets knotted up easily and can lead to other problems if it is neglected.
- If you want a quiet cat, this one probably won’t be for you. Himalayans are chatty, much like their Siamese ancestors, and they like making all different noises to talk to people. They may not be ideal if you live in tight quarters with people who won’t be as understanding of your chatty pet.
- And though Himalayan cats aren’t high energy, they often have sudden bursts of playfulness which will require them to have access to toys or else they may turn that intellect to getting into your things.
- Himalayans are far from hypoallergenic, so if you have allergies, this is definitely not the cat for you.
Himalayan cats are usually perfectly good with families and children since they are so patient and laid back. If they get annoyed by a small child, they tend to wander off rather than pick a fight. They can also be introduced to other cats and dogs as long as it’s done carefully.
It’s important to talk to a reputable breeder about your wants and needs so that you can be matched with a good kitten for your household.
Oh, and that coat will shed a lot, so be sure you can stay on top of a cleaning regime, or else you may find tufts of fur everywhere! A good vacuum cleaner and broom is a must (even if your cat glowers at you come cleaning time).
Final Thoughts on the Himalayan Cat
The Himalayan cat, in many ways, blends the best of Persians and Siamese, which of course was the point. They borrow the affectionate nature of the Persian, the beautiful coloring and chatter of the Siamese, and the long coat of the Persian.
They may be high maintenance due to that coat, but they often return the favor of all that work with cuddles, hang-out time, and some pretty funning playtime.
They are generally sociable cats that are adaptable to change and enjoy their families. But if you cannot commit to the grooming schedule or you want a cat that isn’t so noisy, this probably isn’t the one for you.
If you have ever had a Himalayan cat in your home, let us know what it was like! Was it more like a Siamese or a Persian or a perfect cross?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.