Last updated: February 18, 2017
This rare feline is sometimes referred to simply as the Havana but has also been known as the Chestnut Foreign Shorthair. There are marked differences in breed type between Havanas produced in England versus the North American Havanas. Some registries accept them in lilac as well as their trademark brown colour.
The Havana is a medium sized breed, with males usually weighing in the 8 – 10 pound range and females 6 – 8 pounds. They are moderate in most aspects having mid-sized bodies and tails. They are lean but not as slender as many of the oriental breeds. They should be well muscled though and you should be able to see the muscle ripple under the coat as they pounce around your home. The legs are on the long side and have a moderate amount of bone.
The head has a very unusual shape and is longer than wide but overall size is in proportion to the body. The muzzle has a shape which is most often compared to a corn cob and has a square ending. There is a definite break behind the whisker pad. The eyes are large and oval. Any shade of green is acceptable and eye colour may change over the first year of life. The ears are on the large side and wide set on the head. They have rounded tips and tilt slightly forward, giving the cat an alert expression.
The coat is short, smooth and soft to the touch. It requires little grooming. It is either all brown or all lilac. The browns range from mahogany to a rich chocolate shade while the lilac is a greyish pink shade. Ghost tabby markings may be present in young kittens but they should disappear by the time the cat is mature.
Solid brown cats have been around at cat shows in England since the 1800s but were not overly popular and fell out of favour, disappearing almost entirely at one point. In the 1950s, several cat fanciers including Baroness Miranda Von Ullman (Roofspringer Cattery), Mrs. Anne Hargreaves (Laurentide Cattery) and Mrs. E. Fisher (Praha Cattery), set out to create a self-chocolate cat. They used chocolate and seal point Siamese and bred them to solid black, domestic shorthair cats with the occasional addition of Russian Blue to help create a self-chocolate cat. They succeeded and the first registered Havana was Elmtower Bronze Idol.
In the mid 1950s, Mrs. Elsie Quinn (Quinn Cattery) imported the first Havanas from Baroness Von Ullman to the United States. Although the North American cats started out from English breeding stock, the cats have evolved into a somewhat different type than the English cats. Today’s North American Havana is very similar to the original Havanas with the corn cob muzzle, upright ears and angular profile. In England, the Havana has become more oriental in appearance and is now slighter with the flared ears and wedge shaped heads that are typically seen in the oriental breeds.
The lilac Havana was accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1983 and some other registries do allow lilac Havanas as well. The lilacs are a pinkish gray in colour and should still have the trademark green eyes.
Havanas remain quite rare in England and are even rarer in North America. As a result, they can be an expensive purchase and you should expect to go on a waiting list for a kitten.
The Havana generally lives into his teen years and is a healthy breed. They are prone to oxalate stones which can lead to urinary tract infections. The stones are composed of calcium oxalate and, unlike struvite stones, cannot be managed through diet. They need to be surgically removed in most cases.
Once the stones are removed, the diet needs to be adjusted to produce a more dilute urine and low acidity since acidity contributes to oxalate stone formation. Canned food is often used to encourage a more dilute urine since it has a much higher water content than dry food. Many cats that develop oxalate stones also suffer from hypercalcemia and may need medication to reduce the amount of calcium in the body. The hypercalcemia may be caused by a number of different things including other diseases so it is important to investigate why the excessive amount of calcium is present in your cat’s body.
The Havana is a cat that has tons of personality. They are lively, playful cats throughout their lives. Naturally curious and intelligent they need to be involved in everything that happens within the home. They love games and puzzle toys that will challenge them. Left to their own devices, they can be quite mischievous.
They enjoy interacting with people and are quite extroverted. They do tend to become particularly attached to one person and can be quite devoted to that person. They will enjoy playing with all family members though and do well with other cat-friendly pets too. Their naturally playful nature makes them an ideal choice for a family with children.
Like many people oriented breeds, the Havana is not good at being alone. He needs company whether it is in the form of a person, another cat, or a cat-friendly dog. They should not be kept alone in a home where everyone is absent for an extended period of time on a daily basis. They will get along well with another equally playful cat and can be a suitable choice as a second cat for any breed that does not do well alone.
Should you fail to provide sufficient attention, expect your Havana to use his paw to interrupt what you are doing and indicate your failings. They can be vocal but have a softer voice than the Siamese. They will follow you from room to room and do their best to be involved in what you are doing. When they have exhausted their desire to play, they will gladly curl up on an available lap to get the loving that they firmly believe is their due.
Overall, this is a very affectionate and adaptable cat that does well in most homes, provided that he is not left alone for extended periods of time.