25 May 2018

Thai Cat

Thai cat breed

The Thai cat breed is closely related to the more well-known Siamese. As the Siamese cat breed developed more towards a graceful build, the more robust looking, original Siamese cat type was recognized as an independent breed, which is how the Thai came to be recognised.

Appearance

It is not surprising that Thai cats are often mistaken for Siamese cats, given that their breeds have the same origin. Thai animals are often referred to as "Siamese cats of the old type", with a superficial resemblance to the Siamese, but a little more powerful and more rounded. According to the breed standards, the clear distinction from the Siamese is important: Thai cats are supposed to resemble their ancestors from Southeast Asia and the traditional Siamese type with their peaceful temperament and modest build.

The Thai is a shorthair of the oriental type. It has an athletic build, but unlike the Siamese it is not overly slim. Their bodies are well-proportioned with a muscular neck, which gives them a solid look. The head shape of the Thai is a particular characteristic, with a long, flat forehad, a round skull and a well-proportioned muzzle. The chin and the tip of the nose are in a straight line and the ears are set wide apart and high on the head. The ears and the shape of the head are key characteristics that set the breed apart from the Siamese. A Thai cat‘s coat is adapted to the climate of their South-East Asian roots. There is only a small amount of undercoat, and the coat itself is soft and silky. The hair is short but does not lie flat on the skin.

Thai cats share the Siamese’s distinctive point colouration. Pointed cats have darker colouring on the tips of the ears, face, tail and feet, whilst the rest of the body is lighter in colour. This colouring is one of the most important distinguishing factors for the breed. As with many other point-coloured cats, the breed standard states that Thai and Siamese cats should have almond-shaped eyes that are bright blue.

The Thai is a shorthair of the oriental type. It has an athletic build, but unlike the Siamese it is not overly slim. Their bodies are well-proportioned with a muscular neck, which gives them a solid look. The head shape of the Thai is a particular characteristic, with a long, flat forehad, a round skull and a well-proportioned muzzle. The chin and the tip of the nose are in a straight line and the ears are set wide apart and high on the head. The ears and the shape of the head are key characteristics that set the breed apart from the Siamese. A Thai cat‘s coat is adapted to the climate of their South-East Asian roots. There is only a small amount of undercoat, and the coat itself is soft and silky. The hair is short but does not lie flat on the skin.

Thai cats share the Siamese’s distinctive point colouration. Pointed cats have darker colouring on the tips of the ears, face, tail and feet, whilst the rest of the body is lighter in colour. This colouring is one of the most important distinguishing factors for the breed. As with many other point-coloured cats, the breed standard states that Thai and Siamese cats should have almond-shaped eyes that are bright blue.

Colours

Thai cats have point colouring, which is due to a genetic mutation that causes a malfunction of the enzyme Tyrosinase, which has an effect on the production of the pigment melanin, leading to partial albinism.  Thai and Siamese cats are not the only breeds that have pointed colouring. Burmese, Ragdoll and Neva Masquerade can have similar colouring to the Thai.

The preferred body colour of the Thai is a light white, but it is considered more important that the colouring of the body and points are even. There are more than 100 colour combinations, but the most common are points coloured black and red with their shadings of blue and cream, as well as chocolate and cinnamon, and their shadings of lilac and fawn.

Siamese and Thai colourings are classified according to the base colour as follows:

 

Seal-point: Thai and Siamese in Seal-point have a black base colour, with the rest of the body appearing lighter.

Blue-point: Black base colour lightens to a blue shade

Chocolate-point: Thais in Chocolate-point have a brown base colour that shows through only at the point tips

Cinnamon-point: A red base colour is only visible on the points

Fawn-point: A cinnamon base colour fades to fawn

Lilac-point: The faded shade of brown is known as lilac, which is only visible on the points

Red-point: Siamese and Thai red-points have a red base colour

Creme-point: Cream coloured points with a white body.

Points are not limited to solid colours. Modification of individual colourings can lead to other interesting colour combinations. Each individual breed association decides whether new combinations are acceptable or not. Here are a few other examples:

Silver: Thai cats described as Silver have a modified gene that interrupts the complete colouring of each individual hair by suppressing the pigmentation. This means that in extreme cases only the tips of the hairs have any colour, resulting in a silvery appearance for the coat. A seal-point cat with the silver gene is described as a Thai Seal-Silver Point.

Tortie: Thai cats‘ colouring also manifests with red in a tortoiseshell pattern, also known as Torties.

Tabby: Point tips can also be striped, and this colouring is known as Tabby. So-called Lynx-Point colouring is also allowed in Thai breeding, so long as there is a good contrast between the base colour and the points.

White: The Siamese and Thai breeds both posess a continuous white colouring, known as Foreign White. The white coat color of the Foreign White is backed by an additional gene for "epistatic white" in combination with the point mutation. Due to missing point staining, the animals appear pure white.

Bi- and Tricolor: The spot coloring can be almost completely or partially covered with white. The results are two-color Thai cats, in which the point staining is combined with a white coverage. Three-colored Thai cats have a combination of point color, tortie and white.

Character

The Thai cat’s isn’t the only thing about the breed that is unique, but so is its character. Much like the Siamese, the Thai is friendly, sociable and enjoys human company. They produce larger than average litters of four to six kittens, so they are sociable right from the outset. These active, intelligent cats will follow every move that their humans make and like to be involved in the conversation.

Thai cat owners often say that living with the breed is a little like living with a small child: both the Thai and the Siamese are inquisitive, like to investigate every single area of the house and nothing is safe from them!

To stop them from getting lonely, sociable Thai cats need daily companionship and contact with other cats. They enjoy mutual grooming and snuggling with the cats that they live with and they also enjoy games of fetch, but they can be dominant, so the choice of their companions needs some thought. It is not a good idea to keep a Thai cat as a single cat.

A brother or sister from the same litter would be a logical choice for a companion for your Thai. Litter companions are already used to each other, and are likely to have similar characters and temperament, which makes them ideal playmates. If you adopt a Thai as a single cat, you may want to consider a more docile cat breed would be more suitable to keep your Thai company.

History

As breeding of the modern Siamese started producing a more slimline, long-legged body shape, requests for old-style Siamese cats started to increase. Many breeders and cat fanciers preferred a rounder, sturdier build for their cats, which is how the Thai cat came to be. The goal was to preserve the original Thai ‘masked cat‘. Once widely known as old-style Siamese, the breed is now known as Thai and recognised by the TICA pedigree cat registry. In Thailand the breed is known as “Wichienmaat“.

The origins of the Thai breed are found in the Siamese. Both breeds come from the region formerly known as Siam, in modern-day Thailand. The Wichienmaat, a domestic cat with distinctive point colouring and bright blue eyes, has been a treasured pet in this region for over 700 years. Sailors and colonists brought the first Siamese to England and the USA at the end of the 18th Century. Their appearance aroused a great deal of curiosity, especially because of the Siamese cat that was displayed at the Crystal Palace in 1871. King Chulalongkorn of Siam gave a breeding pair of Siamese to the British Consul General as a gift in 1884, and this is generally recognised as the official start of Siamese breeding in Europe. The breeding pair were named Pho and Mia. In 1892 the first breed standards of the “Royal Cat of Siam” were laid down, and this was followed by the formation of the English Siamese Cat Club in 1901.

Globalisation made importing animals from Asia much easier, which explains the boom in breeding of the Siamese around the world since the middle of the 20th Century. It also allowed for selective breeding and development of particular colourings and markings. At the same time, breeders started to work towards a more graceful, long-legged shape for the Siamese. The Siamese of the 1950s were, on average, thinner and more fine-featured than the cats that had originally come from Thailand. Whilst many cat fanciers preferred the new body shape, others missed the more moderately built, robust style of the old breed. In the 1960s it was rare to find a traditional Siamese, and it was even barred from cat shows. In response to this, the first breeders dedicated to the original look of the Siamese started to appear in the 1980s. The World Cat Federation recognised the Thai as a distinct breed in 1990 and in the early 2000’s Thai breeders began to import animals directly from Thailand, to widen the gene pool and maintain the appearance of the original pointed cat. The TICA finally recognised the Thai as an individual breed in 2009. Today, Thai cats may be bred with other Thais, or paired with Siamese.

Care and Keeping

Thai cats are active and intelligent, so they need constant stimulation and room to explore. They are not suited to being kept indoors, but could be kept in an apartment if they had access to a safe balcony or terrace.

Sociable Thais tend to pine if kept on their own, but they form strong bonds with other cats and humans. These cats love to involve their human companions in their everyday lives, through games, cuddles and long, involved ‘conversations’! The best conditions for a Thai cat are where their human partner can give them lots of attention, company and distractions, so that life does not become dull.

Due to inbreeding in the early history of the Siamese, some genetic illnesses and defects can crop up amongst Thai cats. These can include a recessive gene that causes a creased tail, as well as hydrocephaly. Thai kittens with hydrocephaly have a very short life expectancy – just days after birth. So far there are no clues as to the cause of this genetic defect, but it is recessive. This means that even if your cat does not suffer from a particular malformation or genetic illness itself, it can pass it on to its offspring. If both parents of a kitten carry the same recessive gene, their kittens will suffer from that particular genetic defect.

Thai cats can suffer from retinal wastage, where the retina is gradually destroyed by metabolic disturbances in the surrounding tissue. Eyesight problems tend to manifest in the second year of life, causing sudden night blindness in the first instance. The partial albinism that is caused by the disturbance of the melanin (pigment) metabolism is the most likely reason why Thais are seen to squint more frequently, however as a rule this does not cause any lasting problems for the cats themselves.

The endocardial fibroelastosis that occurs in Thai cats is characterized by a thickening of the inner heart wall. This can also overlap the heart valves and often leads to heart failure. Just as with the frequently occurring ductus arteriosus, the actual cause is not yet known. The persistent ductus arteriosus is a lack of closure of the short-circuit connection between the aorta and the pulmonary stem in newborn kittens which causes weakness or cardiac failure.

Thai and Siamese cats are also susceptible to various cancers, congenital blood deficiency defects and metabolic disorders. Examples include the excessive storage of non-degraded metabolic products such as, for example, amino acids or polysaccharides. The accumulation of gangliosides in the brain leads to the affected animals suffering from an increasing brain damage and a damage of the central nervous system at an early age.

However, just because the Siamese is prone to suffering from certain genetic diseases does not mean that your Thai will suffer too. Genetic tests are being developed that are able to spot disease early. Removing affected animals from the gene pool should also help to prevent passing on of genetic defects to future generations of cats.

Breeding

The examples above show how important it is that any breeding programme is undertaken in a responsible and considered way. Professional breeders make the health of their animals their top priority and they test early for potentially inherited diseases or defects. They carefully research each pairing and keep a close eye on mother cats throughout pregnancy. However the real work starts when the kittens are born, in making sure that the young cats get the best nutrition, socialisation and care possible. It is a round-the-clock task! Healthy food and regular vet checks are also important in the process. Anyone interested in buying a pure-bred Thai cat will know a good breeder because they will be prepared to be on call for any advice and guidance needed to keep a young cat fit and healthy, because they only want the best for your new pet.

Top quality care and nutrition does not come cheap. Traditional Siamese kittens are sold for £400-500 plus. Take care when responding to advertising that offers you pure breed kittens for a lower price, as anyone offering kittens for sale at a discount must have had to cut corners somewhere along the line, which is where many animals can suffer. Often these discount breeders have scrimped on health checks, failed to conduct necessary genetic testing, or paired the cat parents without paying attention to any genetic defects that they may pass on to the kittens. Mother cats may not be given enough recovery time after birth before being allowed to carry another litter, and although this increases profitability it means that the mother cats are not strong enough to produce healthy litters or to care for them properly. Poor nutrition for mother cats can also produce unhealthy offspring. The result of all of this is that the kitten you buy is unlikely to be in the best of health. It may also suffer from inherited disorders, and be poorly socialised.

If you are interested in purchasing a Thai cat, you should contact a professional breeder who is a member of an official breed association. If you would like a responsible (and cheaper) alternative, you can find healthy cats looking for a good home at your local animal sanctuary or pet charity, and you may even find a pure breed among them.

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