Exotic Shorthair

By PetMD Editorial on Jan. 9, 2009
Exotic Shorthair

A breed with only 50 years of history, the Exotic Shorthair, also known as the Shorthaired Persian, is a popular breed for cat fanciers who walk on the calmer side of life. This breed has its playful side, but it prefers to cuddle and relax for most of the day. Perfect for urban homes, or for country living, the Exotic is plush and beautiful to look at, with the added benefit of being one of the more affectionate breeds. A Persian without pretension, the Exotic is also easy to care for, with a minimal shedding but still luxurious coat.

Physical Characteristics

The Exotic Shorthair can be succinctly described as being a short-haired Persian, since for all intents, it meets every standard for the Persian breed, except for the coat. Where the Persian has a long thick coat that requires daily combing for prevention of mats and tangles, the Exotic has a medium length coat that is dense and plush, with a thick undercoat.

The Exotic does not require daily combing, nor does it shed heavily -- in fact, it sheds so little as to be considered a “non-shedding” breed. Weekly combing is recommended simply for the purpose of beautifying the Exotic, and for keeping hairballs to a minimum. The fur on the Exotic is so thick, that this is one of those particular breeds of cats that looks much bigger than it truly is; needless to say, it is a big cat.

The Exotic may grow to be up to 15 pounds, but in height it remains fairly short and close to the ground. The appearance is cobby with short, stout legs holding up a round, muscular physique. It is compact, not fat, with the weight being attributed to the density of the bones. Proceeding upward to the crown, the neck carries the athletic build: short and substantial, topped by an impressively sized head. Exotics are acceptable in any color and in any coat pattern, including color point (like Siamese), white, striped, and calico.

The face of the Exotic is identical to the Persian, with the same standards in place. There are two features which particularly cause the Exotic to stand out. This breed is categorized as brachycephalic, which means that the skull, and by extension, the face, is short and broad, with a flattened muzzle. The other natural characteristic this breed has, and which boosts its popularity, is its pedomorphic appearance, meaning that the face of the Exotic retains its kittenish expression, with large, round, widely set eyes, small ears, a short nose, and a large, round head. This “cuteness”, along with its ease of grooming, and its agreeable and playful nature, make the Exotic one of the top choices for companion animals.

The Exotic is not especially prone to disease or genetic abnormalities, and this is largely due to the precautions early breeders took in the beginning. But, being a brachycephalous breed means that it has the usual problems that result from having the nose and eyes in such close proximity to each other. The tear ducts have a tendency to overflow, leaving stains along the facial fur. This is easily remedied with a damp cloth. There may also be occasional sinus problems, or problems with tooth alignment due to the shortened jaw and the possibility of tooth crowding.

Finally, the shorter nostrils make the Exotic more sensitive to heat. High temperatures may lead to breathing problems. Add that to the heavier coat, and you have a breed that will look for ways to stay cool.

Although the Exotic loves human contact, and will spend much of its time as a lap cat, it will also look for spots where it can cool down, such as uncarpeted floors, bricks, and tiles.

Personality and Temperament

Early Exotics were a bit more active than their Persian relatives because of outcrossings for the short hair gene, but over the last four decades, since the breed began, the Exotic has come to be more like the Persian in behavior as well as appearance. It is still more playful that its relative, and its easy going nature and calm attitude are ideal for families with children and without, and for both rural and urban homes. The Exotic gets along well with other animals, but it tends toward people. Quietly, with a soft voice when it does have a need to speak, the Exotic will greet you when you arrive, and make you feel welcome, contentedly curling up on your lap.

This breed is amused by the simple pleasures of life. A string or a paper ball are enough to keep your Exotic pleased. They are not jumpers, nor do they dash around the house or make trouble on shelves. Their preference leans more toward lounging around and being caressed. They are amongst the most affectionate and loyal of cats breeds, a true companion pet.


History and Background

The birth of the Exotic Shorthair began in earnest in the late 1950s, when American cat breeder Carolyn Bussey crossed a Persian with a brown Burmese, in the hopes of desigining a brown colored Persian. She ended up with black kittens, but she had made the serendipitous discovery that the resulting kittens were strikingly cute. She believed that cat fanciers might take to the idea of a shorter haired Persian, one especially that would be easier to groom, but that retained the same beauty and easy nature of the Persian.

At this point, the short-haired breeds had been pretty well weeded out of the cat fancy because of the surreptitious crossings that had been conducted by less than honest breeders. While American Shorthairs were being crossed with Persians to produce better coats and to recreate the appearance of the Shorthair, the Shorthair breed itself was losing most of the qualities that made it a distinct breed.

The breeders of these cats fudged their papers to make it appear as though these new physical characteristics were naturally occurring, and cat fancy associations had no option except to all but end the registration of the Shorthair.

Ms. Bussey's exacting standards on breeding brought a more ethical approach to the cross breeding, and the result of her campaign to engineer this new breed was its registration as the Exotic Shorthair. Beyond the initial outcrosses between the Burmese and the Persian with the American Shorthair, the Exotic has been limited to crosses with the Persian, so that the breed can maintain its pedigreed status.

Outcrosses have not been a part of the Exotic breeding program since 1975, when the gene pool was deemed large enough to reliably produce both vigorous and attractive cats that met the standard.

This breed was granted Championship Status in 1967 by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). The Exotic made rapid progress from there, and was soon in demand. In 1971, the first Exotic Shorthair achieved the status of Grand Champion, and in 1991, an Exotic was the CFA's Cat of the Year.

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