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Defined by White Booties and a Whole Range of Elusive Traits,
The “Perfect” Snowshoe is a Rare Animal

A cat defined by a set of complicated markings consisting primarily of signature white booties, the perfect Snowshoe cat is difficult to find. Breeding for a number of specific cosmetic traits in combination with a desirable personality has proven to be a challenge many developers have abandoned out of disappointment and frustration. Those who persevered are to be commended on a job well done: The Snowshoe is a winner!

This breed has been developed from a blend of American Shorthairs, Oriental Shorthairs and traditional Siamese cats, although recent use of American Shorthairs has dwindled significantly.

Snowshoes have clearly inherited the relaxed temperament of the American Shorthair with comical bursts of energy thrown in as a bonus. From the Siamese, they acquired a pleasing balance of curiosity and affection along with the breed’s high intelligence. Most Snowshoes are master locksmiths who learn how to open doors, cabinets, and yes, refrigerators to the amazement of their owners. To the annoyance of some persnickety housekeepers, Snowshoes will regularly make a mess by dropping some object they’ve been carrying around for hours into their water bowl, creating an extra cleanup and refill detail for you! Considering the professional setbacks suffered in trying to fulfill the genetic sophistications of this pedigree, this cat’s ridiculous antics are almost an indignity to the breed – but quite amusing nonetheless!

What is the sophisticated look? If you are ready to be confused, here it is. Reliant on recessive genes complicated by other factors, the Snowshoe's patterns are enigmatic. An important facial mark, the “V” shape that should extend from the mouth to the whisker tufts above the eyes, is controlled by a gene with incomplete dominance. If kittens are born with two dominant genes for the marking, then the feature will be larger than that of a cat with only one dominant gene. With the presence of other factors which may also affect this trait, results can vary from one cat to the next.

Next, the critical importance of the cat’s white boots are governed by a piebalding gene or a gloving gene. Equally perplexing is the achievement of the optimal boot configuration which should extend to the bend of the ankle in front, and to just below the hock joint on the back feet. Disappointing results are manifested by a variety of missing parameters like boots that are too short, too tall, or worse, missing one or both boots entirely. Such Snowshoes with deficient cosmetic markings are designated as “pet-quality” as opposed to show-quality, compensating in personality for what is missing from their appearance.

Wait, there’s more! The Siamese pattern and shading must be perfect as well. In registries and cat associations, the recognized Snowshoe coat color is point coloration, with a light body color and darker ears, face, legs, and tail. The American Cat Fanciers Association and the American Association of Cat Enthusiasts recognize only seal point coloration and blue point coloration while the Fédération Internationale Féline recognizes seal, blue, black, chocolate, red, cream, cinnamon, and fawn point coloration. Additionally, the FIF recognizes the colors in tortoiseshell, tabby, and tortoiseshell- tabby coat patterns. The International Cat Association recognizes all pointed colors.

The Snowshoe's coat should be medium to short in length, and should be bright and smooth with no noticeable undercoat. It is considered a fault within cat associations if the Snowshoe has a plush or double coat. The Snowshoe's coat undergoes seasonal changes and does not require much grooming. Paw pads may be white, point color, flesh tone or mottled. The paw pads will darken with age, and may even turn a chocolate-brown shade.

In purebreds, the eyes are always blue. The adult male Snowshoe typically weighs eight to fourteen pounds, with females, six to twelve, differentiated by a finer bone structure. Snowshoe kittens are born white, with markings appearing within one to three weeks.

This cat’s body must be depicted by the sturdy build of the American Shorthair with the long svelte physique of the Siamese. While conformation traits are more easily controlled than color pattern, attaining the correct shape of the head and placement of the ears has proven a daunting goal as well. With so many conflicting purposes, getting the “perfect Snowshoe” is nothing short of miraculous!

Although this breed has gotten off to a troubling start which has been ongoing since the sixties, recent progress has initiated a major increase in production and hence, popularity. New breeding goals include a larger size, more uniform body type, deeper eye color and more overall uniformity of patterning. At present, though, Shoeshoes continue to be individual cats with uniquely represented traits.

Not the typical cat, the Snowshoe is an engaging animal, who uses its pretty white paws to reach out and touch. Whether they prefer the warmth of your lap over rubbing against your ankles is hard to determine conclusively. Highly affectionate to immediate family, this cat will be a bit shy around strangers at first. Appreciative of the attention they receive from children, they will also tolerate your pet dog, if they must. Not fond of long hours of isolation, it is more humane to provide a feline friend, like another Snowshoe, for uninterrupted companionship. If they sense they have been “forgotten,” they will remind you with some subtle vocal hints. Notorious for high intelligence, these cats can perform feats of wonder, like retrieving a tossed object. Snowshoes also enjoy water, particularly running water, and may on occasion even take a dip in the bathtub, as long as it is their idea! (They do not like to be just plopped into a full tub, and will make their displeasure apparent!) Quite active with a tendency to prefer a perch in a high location (perhaps from bird-envy), this cat will adore a cat tree for privileged viewing.

There are no health problems specifically associated with the Snowshoe. Since breeds within its lineage are known for their impressive longevity and large, well-established gene pools, this is not surprising.

Breeders who are brave enough to take on the Snowshoe challenge find that the cat pays back the effort in lifelong love and affection. Anyone looking for an aloof, reserved cat need not apply for Snowshoe ownership. While the Snowshoe may be a little standoffish around strangers at first, this timidity does not last, as the Snowshoe considers everyone a candidate for attention. From the large numbers of pet-quality snowshoes available from breeders, your choices are unlimited. Whether Champion- quality or pet-quality, a Snowshoe is bound to provide its lucky family with a lot of pleasure!

barron’s encylopedia of cat breeds, j. anne helgren