The Himalayan, also known as the Himmy and the Colorpoint Persian, is one of the most popular of all purebred long-haired cat varieties. The Himalayan comes in a wide range of colors. Its body is always white to pale fawn, and the color-points are distributed evenly on the ears, face, legs and tail. Recognized Himalayan colors include chocolate, seal, lilac, blue, red, cream tortie, blue-cream, chocolate tortie, lilac-cream, seal lynx, blue lynx, red lynx, cream lynx, tortie lynx, blue-cream lynx, chocolate lynx, lilac lynx, chocolate-tortie lynx and lilac-cream lynx.
The Himalayan’s long, extremely dense coat should be combed daily to prevent matting, which can become quite a problem in this breed. If not groomed regularly, the Himalayan’s fur will tangle and form knots and mats. Over time, these mats put pressure on the cat’s fragile skin, causing irritation, pain and even weeping sores. It can be dangerous for owners to try and remove the mats with household scissors, as they can easily cut the cat’s thin skin, causing further medical problems. Regular brushing is helpful to reduce the moderate to high shedding associated with this breed.
The Himalayan, like other Persians, is a medium to large-sized cat with a stout, cobby body set on short, heavily-boned legs. Himalayans have the characteristic flat, open, pansy-like faces of all Persian color varieties. They have brilliant, bright blue eyes and small, perky ears. There is a distinctive ruff around their necks, resembling a lion’s mane. Like their bodies, their paws are large and fluffy. Himmys are not born with their full color-points, but instead develop them as they age. As a result, adults are usually darker than kittens. Himalayans tend to mature a bit more rapidly than other Persian varieties, reflecting their Siamese ancestry.
As one of the most popular of all domesticated cat breeds, Himalayans – like other color varieties of Persians – are extremely affectionate, loving and loyal. They are sweet, gentle, relaxed cats, who prefer to be in familiar, secure surroundings. However, with kindness and reassurance, they can adjust to boisterous living accommodations. This is a mellow, quiet breed that has a melodious voice when it chooses to use it. The enormous, expressive, brilliant-blue eyes of this breed give it an unusually contemplative countenance. Himmys do not do well left unattended for long periods of time, as they crave human contact and companionship. The Himalayan can be playful, but spends most of its time supervising its people and making sure all in the household is in order. This lap cat forms very close bonds with its owners.
Himalayans, like other Persians, are not particularly active or athletic animals. They are not prone to spontaneous bouts of leaping or climbing, as are many other breeds. Himmys are couch potatoes that seem to prefer lounging on soft pillows or their owners’ laps over more strenuous, energetic activities.
Most experts agree that the Himalayan should be kept as an indoor-only companion, due to the extreme thickness and length of its coat. Exposure to outdoor living can introduce parasites, thorns and other complications that can quickly make its coat unmanageable, at best.
Persians probably originated from ancient crosses of silky-haired white Turkish Angoras with indigenous long-haired cats from Persia, which is now called Iran. Hieroglyphic representations of similar cats date back to the 1600s and perhaps earlier, making the exact ancestry of the Persian somewhat unclear. The Himalayan is basically a color-pointed Persian and is still known in Great Britain as the Color-Pointed Longhair. It was actively developed starting in the 1920s by selective crossings of pedigreed Persians with Siamese, with the goal being to produce a thoroughly Persian cat in terms of temperament and type, but with the dramatic color-point markings of the Siamese. Dr. Tjebbes, a Swedish geneticist, was involved in some of these early experimental breedings as part of a research study.
Sometime in the mid-1930s, a particular Black Persian reportedly was crossed with a Siamese, producing three black, short-haired kittens. Two of those kittens eventually were mated together, producing a long-haired female named Debutante. When she reached maturity, Debutante was bred back to her father, and a long-haired, pointed Persian was the result. Over time, after many generations of in-breeding and out-crossing of Persians, Siamese and their hybrid offspring, the Himalayan became a cat that consistently bred true to color, temperament and type. Whether the Himmy is a distinct breed in its own right or should be considered as a separate color variety of the Persian is the subject of some debate among cat fanciers. The Himalayan was recognized in the United States in the late 1950s by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). In 1984, after many years of breeding and controversy, the CFA accepted the Himalayan as an approved color variety of the Persian breed, rather than as a separate breed.
The Himalayan is a fairly healthy breed, with an average life expectancy of 15 years or more. They should be housed indoors to maintain their health and manage their coat. Their extraordinarily large eyes tend to tear, and the hair around them should be gently cleaned on a regular basis. Warm water and a cotton ball are usually all that is needed to keep their pretty faces tidy and clean.
Himmys are prone to certain dermatological conditions, including dermatophytosis, eyelid cysts, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, facial dermatitis and skin tumors. They may be predisposed to adverse side affects associated with administration of the drug, Griseofulvin. Himalayans reportedly have an increased risk of developing basal cell tumors, corneal sequestration and hyperaesthesia syndrome. They also are prone to developing calcium oxalate urolithiasis, which are a particular type of urinary tract stones. Males have a heightened risk of developing this condition.