The Exotic Shorthair grew from a different original desire. American Shorthair breeders bred to Persians to obtain their lovely silver color and green eyes. The kittens were pretty to look at but did not meet the true American Shorthair type. Jane Martinke noticed the effect the outcrosses had on the American type and coat as well as the attractiveness of the kittens. She proposed a new breed, called the Sterling because of their lovely silver color. These new cats were to look just like Persians but with a short, dense plush coat. Originally intended to be silver only, the new breed changed the name to Exotic Shorthair and accepted all colors. Only a few outcrosses were made to shorthaired but because the gene is dominant. In addition to the American Shorthair, some breeders chose to use the Burmese for its stocky body type, moderate head and short coat, while others went to the Russian Blue for the shorthaired gene because of its dense double coat. After the initial outcross to get the short coat, the offspring were bred back to Persians. At about the same time, Carolyn Bussey (New Dawn) crossed a Burmese and a red tabby Persian in an attempt to create a brown Persian. Brown is recessive so all the kittens were black and Carolyn also got the idea to develop a short-coated Persian.
Early progress was slow and difficult as Exotic Shorthair breeders tried to get Persian breeders to work with them. Gradually as the type on the new breed improved and it became more popular, an increasing number of Persian breeders were willing to help and some decided to work with the young breed as well. The goal was to produce a short-coated Persian so as Persian type changed so did Exotic Shorthair type. The early standard did not call for the Exotic to have a break like the Persian because of its shorthaired ancestry, however as the type came ever closer to the Persian this changed and the standards are now identical except for coat length. They have had championship recognition in TICA since June 1979.
The easy-going Exotic Shorthair is an affectionate, gentle cat with the quiet manners of the Persian. Quietly endearing, Exotics request your attention with an irresistible gaze and then hug you when you pick them up. They will follow you from room to room in order to be near you and then jump in your lap for a nap when you settle down to read a book. Their shorthaired ancestors have given them a love of play and they will jump to catch a toy or sit studying how to get the toy you put out of reach before they were finished playing. Simple things amuse them whether it is chasing paper balls around the house or watching water drip out of a tap. While seen but rarely heard, the Exotic has a soft voice and has a vocabulary of chirping sounds. Although sweet and peaceful, Exotics still have an intelligent curiosity that makes them a joy to be around and since they are so easy-going they get on well with children and other pets.
Exotic Shorthairs are heavily boned, massive cats with lines softened by the thick dense coat. They have broad round heads with low set ears and great big round eyes opening up the short face and giving it a sweet expression. Their round heads are set on robust, short, square bodies with little short thick legs balanced by a short thick tail. The plush coat adds an impression of soft roundness to these muscular cats making them look like plush toys you want to pick up and cuddle. They come in all the colors of the rainbow and a multitude of patterns including pointed for a shorthaired version of the Himalayan.
Grooming is easy with simple combing removing loose dead hair and a wipe of the eyes that can get irritated by dust because of their large surface. All the look of a Persian without the need to care for the long coat!
Health Issues Common to Exotic Shorthair
All pedigreed cats have some sort of health problem, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Exotics have hereditary health issues that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about who you buy from. They include polycystic kidney disease (PKD), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), excessive tearing of the eyes and respiratory problems caused by restricted nasal passages. Responsible breeders take steps to avoid these problems. Exotics should be healthy and vigorous, able to breathe normally and produce only normal amounts of tears.
Polycystic kidney disease is a hereditary condition causing enlarged kidneys and kidney dysfunction. It usually shows up between 7 and 10 years of age, although it can appear as early as 3 years of age. Reputable breeders are working to establish PKD-free breeding programs. Because PKD is linked to an autosomal dominant gene, it is easy to identify and eliminate. Ask the breeder for proof that both of a kitten's parents are free of kidney cysts, which can be detected on ultrasound. If one of the parents is PKD positive, which may be the case if the cat's bloodlines are otherwise valuable, confirm that the kitten you are purchasing has tested PKD negative.
A hereditary form of progressive retinal atrophy occurs in Persians, although its prevalence is unknown. In Persians, PRA causes vision problems early in life, at 4 to 8 weeks of age, and progresses rapidly. Cats become completely blind by the time they are 15 weeks old. You may have heard that PRA in Persian cats is limited to those from chocolate or pointed (Himalayan) lines, but in a recent study, no such associations were found. That means that PRA may be more widespread in the breed than is currently believed. A study is under way to determine which gene causes the disease and develop a genetic test to identify cats that are carriers of this recessively inherited disease. Because many other breeds use Persians as outcrosses, health problems such as PRA can spread quickly and widely to other breeds.
Even if Exotics do not have any overt breathing problems, such flat-faced breeds are sensitive to heat. They need to live in air-conditioned comfort, protected from hot weather. Keep in mind that many airlines will not transport them in the cargo bay (which isn't recommended for other reasons, as well) because of their potential for respiratory distress or even death in stressful conditions.
Pet Insurance for the Exotic Shorthair
Pet insurance for purebred cats costs more than for mixed breed cats. This is because a purebred cat is more likely than a mixed breed cat to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace cat insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which purebred cats are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your cat is when he's a healthy kitten. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.