Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Snowshoe combines the pointed colors of the Siamese with the traditional Siamese and American Shorthair body type. They are a medium sized cat. Males typically weigh 9 – 12 pounds and females weigh 7 – 10 pounds. The body should be similar to that of the traditional Siamese, rather than the more angular and exotic modern Siamese. American Shorthair was added to the gene pool to help accomplish this although most outcrosses today are with Siamese or Oriental Shorthairs.
The body is moderately long but not as extreme as many oriental breeds and not delicate, though not cobby either. They are well-muscled and athletic cats with medium bone. The legs are long as is the tail.
The head is a broad, modified wedge that is as wide as it is long. The Snowshoes has high cheekbones with two distinct planes to the skull, separated by a slight stop at the nose bridge. The ears are of moderate size with a broad base and slightly rounded tips. They are set at the side and continue the modified wedge shape of the skull. The eyes are always blue although the shade of blue can vary. They are somewhat oval in shape and should be longer than wide.
The coat is short to medium-short in length. It is silky in texture and very soft. The coat lies close to the body and is smooth to the touch. It requires little to no grooming. They are a pointed cat. The color of points allowable depends on the registry although all allow blue and seal. Some allow lilac and chocolate and other point colors. They must have mittens and be bicolored with an inverted white “V” on the face. The desirable markings are very specific and the result of a combination of recessive genes, making them very difficult to achieve when trying to produce an ideal show cat. Kittens are born completely white and the point colors begin to develop at a few weeks of age.
There are some older photos of Victorian era Siamese with white mittens and these are thought to be the inspiration. A few had tried to re-create the breed before but none really had much success until Dorothy Hinds Daugherty, a Siamese breeder from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Daugherty had a litter of Siamese kittens in which three kittens had white mittens. Intrigued by the color pattern, she set out to try to create a breed around it.
Like others before her, Daugherty ultimately lost interest but before doing so she enlisted another breeder, Vikki Olander from Norfolk, Virginia. Olander took up the torch and maintained it even as interest in the new breed faded until she was the only known breeder of Snowshoes in the United States in 1977. After that though, interest picked up again and slowly but surely the breed began to gain ground again. Today, they remain relatively rare and elusive but there is a growing number of breeders around the world that have taken an interest in this uniquely marked breed. They are accepted by some but not all registries at this time.
For the most part, Snowshoes seem to be a relatively healthy breed and often live into their teen years. Because they are often outcrossed to Siamese and related breeds and also have these breeds heavily within their background, it is important to consider diseases that are common in these breeds as a possibility within the Snowshoe.
Common problems in Siamese cats include hepatic amyloidosis, nystagmus (crossed eyes), vestibular disorder, and hyperesthesia syndrome. Hepatic amyloidosis involves an accumulation of the enzyme amyloid in the liver. It will eventually cause liver failure and the death of affected cats. Crossed eyes may look funny but pose no real health hazard to your pet. Vestibular disorder involves a (usually) temporary loss of balance that results in an odd gait and tilted head. It generally resolves itself within a few weeks. Hyperesthesia syndrome is often associated with stress levels. It tends to result in a sensitivity to touch and some unusual behaviors that do not progress and can be minimized by maintaining a low stress environment for your pet. It should be emphasized that none of these disorders have been well documented in Snowshoes but that they may crop up as a result of the relationship between Snowshoes and Siamese cats.
The Snowshoe is often described as being a bit like a snowflake – each and every one is totally unique. Some describe them as being a combination of mystical aloofness with a touch of normal cat. For the most part, they are affectionate cats that bond tightly to their families and often to one particular member of the family in particular. They can be shy with strangers.
They do tend to be active and playful cats. They are quite intelligent and take a keen interest in their family’s activities. Expect them to want to be involved and have an opinion on matters. They can be vocal like their Siamese ancestors but have softer voices like their American Shorthair relatives.
They tend to like high places and are jumpers and climbers. They also enjoy playing with water and a few have been known to go for a swim in the tub. It is suggested that you have lots of toys and puzzles for them to keep them occupied.
Like many breeds related to the Siamese, Snowshoe cats do not well when left on their own for extended periods of time. They are sociable animals and need company. If the family will be away from home for an extended period of time during the day, it is advisable to ensure they have some company in the form of another cat or a cat friendly dog. They will thrive in a home where there is someone around all the time.
For those willing to wait for a kitten, they can be an excellent choice for a family pet. Playful and adaptable, they will do well in most homes provided that they have some company and are not left by themselves for extended periods of time on a regular basis.