Himalayan: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Adult Himalayan cat

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Himalayan cats, otherwise known as "Himmies," are a hybrid breed of Persian and Siamese cats. The result is a beautiful feline with a long, silky, Persian-like coat and Siamese-like pointed coloring and bright blue eyes.

Medium to large in size, the stocky, thick-bodied Himalayan cat has a wide, deep chest, a rounded abdomen, and sturdy bones. A healthy Himalayan should feel muscular and solid, but not overly chubby.

Despite their larger size, Himalayans can be considered a "gentle giant" of the feline world. They adore the attention and affection of their owners, have sweet, temperate personalities, and are very playful. If you're looking for a low-maintenance cat, however, a Himalayan may not be the right pick for you—their long, silky coats require daily care.

Breed Overview

Size: Medium to large in size with a wide-set chest and round abdomen. Himalayans typically weigh between 7 and 12 pounds, but some males may weigh more.

Coat and Color: Dense undercoat with a long overcoat that comes in pointed colors and patterns. Some colors include gray, blue, chocolate, lilac, and cream.

Life Expectancy: 15 years or longer

Characteristics of the Himalayan

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendliness High
Pet-Friendliness High
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness Moderate
Energy Level Low
Intelligence Low-Moderate
Tendency to Vocalize Low
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Himalayan

Unlike many other breeds, Himalayans don't have a very long history. In fact, they've existed for less than 100 years.

Through the 1920s and 1930s, breeders around the world attempted to produce a cat with a Persian body and Siamese markings. In 1935, two medical researchers from Harvard cross-bred a black, Persian male with a Siamese female to study how certain genetic characteristics were inherited. The intent was not to create a new breed of cat. After creating and cross-breeding several litters, these researchers finally produced the first true Himalayan cat, which they named Debutante.

Breeding slowed during World War II, but following the war, an American breeder named Marguerita Goforth created the first Persian-bodied cat with Siamese pointed coloring.

In 1957, this hybrid was officially recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) and the American Cat Fanciers' Association. Several years later, the Cat Fanciers' Association combined the Himalayan and Persian breeds, due to their similar body types. Today, many organizations still do not consider Himalayans and Persians to be distinctly separate breeds.

Himalayan Care

If you're not willing to dedicate some time to grooming each day, the Himalayan probably isn't the right cat for you. Because they have long, silky hair that tangles and mats easily, a Himalayan's coat should be brushed with a sturdy, wide-toothed comb daily. This will remove and prevent tangling and mats, and help remove any dirt, dust, or debris. It's also recommended that a Himalayan visits a professional groomer every few months to ensure their coat is healthy and clean. The good news: Himalayans absolutely love to get attention from their owners, which makes grooming easier—and an excellent bonding experience for both the owner and Himalayan.

You can protect your legs and your furniture by trimming your Himalayan's nails regularly. Examine his paws weekly and trim as necessary to keep his paws healthy and injury-free. Dedicate some time each week to examine your cat's ears, too. Himalayans' pointed ears are susceptible to capturing dirt and debris, which can lead to infections and other ear issues down the road. If you find debris in your cat's ears, use a pet ear cleaner and cotton ball to gently remove it. Never use a cotton swab in your cat's ears—it can cause serious damage to the delicate inner-ear structures. If the ears are very red or inflamed, very dirty, or smell funny, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Himalayans have low exercise needs, but they are extremely playful and will get into mischief if they become bored. You can keep them entertained and engaged by providing plenty of cat toys and dedicating a few minutes to playtime each day. Because Himalayans have such playful personalities, something as simple as a ball of paper will keep them entertained for hours.

Himalayan kitten
Kryssia Campos / Moment / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Although the genetic variation of Himalayans offer some protection against inherited health issues, they can be susceptible to certain conditions. Not every Himalayan will have health issues, but it's important to know about them, should they develop in your cat.

Some common health conditions among Himalayans include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease: PKD is characterized by the development of multiple cysts on a cat's kidneys. It's not immediately life-threatening, but should be treated as early as possible in order to prevent the development of new cysts and to reduce the risk of dangerous bacterial infections.
  • Respiratory issues: Because Himalayans have flattened faces, they're more susceptible to certain respiratory problems, like difficulty breathing and swallowing, or inability to perform physical activity.
  • Ringworm: Himalayans' long, thick coats are more difficult to groom, giving them an increased risk of developing ringworm. Be sure to carefully check your cat's skin for red, scaly spots during grooming sessions and see your vet ASAP if you suspect a ringworm infection.

Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to reduce your Himalayan's risk of these health conditions. They'll be able to provide active steps you can take to protect him, as well as an action plan if a health condition does arise.

Diet and Nutrition

Your cat's nutritional needs depend on their age, weight, and activity levels, so it's important to talk to your veterinarian about their feeding schedule. Because Himalayans are susceptible to hairballs—their long, silky coats are highly prone to shedding—you might want to ask your vet about a food specially formulated to prevent or reduce hairballs.

Feline obesity is a common problem among all breeds, so be careful not to overfeed your cat during regular mealtimes or with treats. If your cat is gaining excessive weight, your veterinarian can provide a customized diet plan.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Himalayan cats are extremely sweet, playful, and gentle pets that can adapt to virtually any home type. They have low exercise needs, but extremely high grooming needs—if you bring a Himalayan home, you can expect to groom her long, thick coat daily.

As always, be sure to do your research and determine if a Himalayan cat is right for your family's schedule and lifestyle before bringing one home.

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