Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Himalayan, often referred to as the Himmy, is one of the most popular of all cat breeds. It combines the attitude, body type and coat of a Persian with the colour points and blue eyes of the Siamese.
Like the Persian and its shorthaired counterpart, the Exotic Shorthair, the Himalayan is a cobby cat with a short, rounded body, short tail, and short but very sturdy legs. They are generally medium to large in size, typically weighing 7 to 12 pounds. The chest is deep and wide and the back is short and level. Although they give an overall impression of roundness, they should not be fat. They should be well-muscled, robust, and powerful looking.
The face is somewhat flattened in appearance although two types are generally acknowledged. The show type Himalayans have an extremely flattened face which can lead to difficulty in breathing. The traditional type Himalayans have a slightly less flattened face which can be healthier although they are still sensitive to heat and may suffer breathing difficulties.
The head is broad and rounded with a smooth dome. The jaws are broad and powerful with full, prominent cheeks. The overall expression is sweet. The ears are small with rounded tips and set wide on the head. The eyes are also large and round and are always blue. They shade of blue can be anywhere from light to deep blue with the deeper colour preferred.
The coat is long and thick. There is a dense undercoat which makes the coat have even more volume. Texture ranges from silky to cottony with silky being much easier to care for than cottony. It sheds seasonally and may be much thinner immediately post-shedding. This is a pointed cat, which means that the body is an even shade with darker shading at the points (ears, tail, legs, feet, and mask). All pointed colours are acceptable.
The coat requires daily brushing or it will become matted and extremely difficult to deal with not to mention uncomfortable for your pet. It can be clipped down but even then will still require regular grooming. They should also be bathed monthly. Because of the prominence of the eyes in the flattened face, the eyes tend to tear more and wiping the face down daily is suggested if you want to avoid staining of the facial coat and to reduce the risk of infections.
The idea of a Persian in the exotic points of a Siamese is an idea that tickled many fanciers’ minds and many attempted a crossbreeding over the last century. The first Himalayan kitten, Newton’s Debutante, was bred by Virginia Cobb and Dr. Clyde Keeler in 1931. In the 1950s, Ben Borrett of Canada began a breeding program for longhaired colour pointed cats. They were originally called the Colourpoint Longhair. But the credit for getting the breed recognized goes to Marguerita Goforth. They were first registered as Himalayans in 1957 with the name Himalayan coming from the rabbit of similar colour.
For many years, the Himalayan was recognized as a separate breed. Today, some registries consider it a variation on the Persian and register it as such rather than as a unique breed. Crossbreedings to produce Himalayans are no longer allowed by any registries. The popularity of the breed ensures that there is a diverse gene pool of Himalayans to produce future generations.
The Himalayan usually lives into his teen years. Like the Persian and Exotic Shorthair, the breed is heat sensitive and should be kept in air conditioned comfort in hot climates. They should be kept as indoor cats to avoid risks from the weather, dirt and debris getting tangled in the coat, and the usual risks from other animals and vehicles.
They are more prone to cherry eye (a protrusion of the third eyelid) and entropian (eyelid rolls inward, rubbing the lashes against the eyeball) than some other breeds but both conditions can be corrected surgically if necessary.
The shortened jaw can lead to dental issues that may require extra care or extraction of teeth. The Himalayan can also get seborrhea oleosa which is a skin condition that can lead to itchy skin, redness, and loss of hair.
One of the more unusual diseases that occur in is feline hyperesthesia syndrome. The latter is a rare neurological disease that leads to unusual sensations in the skin and associated muscles, often in the dorsal and pelvic parts of the cat. It is characterized by rippling skin, excessive scratching, licking, and biting of the affected area during an episode. The episodes are usually short, lasting only a few minutes. The cause is unknown but reducing stress in the cat does seem to reduce the number of episodes a cat experiences. Management is mainly behavioral but medication may be used in extreme cases. It does not progress and generally is not overly difficult to manage unless the cat develops an infection from excessive scratching or biting.
Like the Persian, the Himalayan is a stately, reserved cat. Very affectionate but not overly active is a good way to describe them. They are not into jumping and excessive play although they will gladly play with a toy if you offer it to them. They prefer to watch and observe rather than be in the thick of activity.
They bond closely with their families and are quite affectionate with them and the people they deem acceptable. They are more likely to be aloof and avoid strangers until they decide to accept them. With those they love, they enjoy curling up in a lap and being lavished with love and attention.
This is a breed that prefers to be on the ground on a comfortable piece of furniture rather than up high on shelves and cabinets. They may seek out shady spots in the home or a cool bit of tile to cool off when it becomes too warm.
The Himalayan will adapt to other pets and children provided they are not overly obtrusive. They are willing to sit at a child’s tea party or perhaps be pushed around in a stroller but are unlikely to allow themselves to be dressed up. Older children may be a wiser choice. They are quite content to be on their own and are an ideal choice for working families provided that they are willing to keep up with the breed’s grooming requirements. The Himalayan does well in apartments and homes alike but is best kept as an indoor cat.