American Wirehair

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Introduction

The American Wirehair is a true American breed, resulting from a spontaneous mutation in a litter of upstate New York farm cats in the mid-to-late 1960s. Both parents were normally-coated. However, one of their offspring was unlike either parent or any of its littermates, in that its whiskers and coat were springy, coarse and crimped. This unusual coat is what distinguishes the American Wirehair from all other domestic breeds. Otherwise, it is quite similar to the American Shorthair, to which it is closely related.
The Wirehair is a medium-to-large cat. Its body is slightly longer than it is tall and is well-muscled and powerful, showing good depth of chest. As in most breeds, the females are usually smaller than the males, but they do not appear frail or dainty and should not be penalized because of any actual or perceived size difference. The American Wirehair's head is broad, with a prominent chin and well-developed cheekbones set on a well-muscled neck. In profile, their nose shows a gentle indentation. Their ears are medium in size, widely set and slightly rounded at the tips. Their eyes are large, round and piercing. The Wirehair's feet are rounded, compact and tight. The tail is in proportion to the body, tapering gently from rump to end and being neither blunt nor pointed.
Roughly one-half of the kittens in a Wirehair litter will demonstrate the wire-haired trait, and even these will exhibit it to varying degrees. Show breeders prefer that the whiskers and haircoat be noticeably wiry at birth, although it can take months for the full potential of this distinct coat to develop. When mature, the American Wirehair's coat is short-to-medium in length. Individual hairs are crimped, hooked and/or bent at the tips. This includes hairs within the ears, which are called "furnishings." The overall appearance of each hair, and the density and resilience of the cat's coat, are viewed as being more important than the coat's coarseness under the breed standard. The wired coat can develop ringlets rather than waves as a cat ages.

History

The first wire-haired cat appeared as a random, spontaneous genetic mutation in one of a litter of six shorthair kittens born to two barn cats on a farm in upstate New York in 1966. This red-and-white male, named Adam, had a uniquely sparse, crimped coat. He came to the attention of an experienced local breeder of Rex cats, who purchased Adam and one of his normally-coated female littermates. She bred the brother and sister together, producing a litter with both normal and wire-haired kittens. This established that the wirehair mutation was a dominant genetic trait, meaning that if one parent exhibited the characteristic wiry coat, wire-haired kittens would be among the offspring. All purebred American Wirehairs descend directly from Adam. A pure-breeding colony of Wirehairs was established by 1969. Breeding stock has been carefully selected by reputable breeders since that time, to ensure refinement and viability of this unusual breed.
American Wirehairs eventually were crossed with American Shorthairs to add diversity and genetic variation in the breed. As their population grew, wire-haired cats were exported to Canada, Germany and elsewhere, and the breed flourished. The American Wirehair was given full official recognition by the American Cat Fanciers' Association in 1978, when they were accepted for Championship competition.

Health Predispositions

American Wirehairs are known to be a healthy, relatively disease-resistant breed. However, they are still fairly uncommon outside of North America.

Personality

The American Wirehair is characteristically a people-oriented cat, with a strong, affectionate personality and a keen interest in its surroundings. The Wirehair is always looking for a way to amuse himself, and his owner. They have been described as quiet, reserved and loving, although to their owners these cats are personable and active.

Activity Level

Wirehairs are a sturdy, playful and energetic breed. They can be shy around strangers, but usually are not reserved around people with whom they are familiar. They do not require any special exercise or activity and typically live happily in an indoor or indoor-outdoor household environment. Most breeders of these and other purebred cats recommend that they be exclusively or at least primarily indoor pets, to avoid trauma from automobiles and animal fights, contraction of infectious diseases and infestation by internal or external parasites.

Behavioral Traits

The Wirehair tends to "rule the roost" and be dominant over other household companions. They are easy keepers and devoted parents, with few if any recognized reproductive problems. They typically are somewhat independent, although they are devoted to their owners. They are not especially known to be keen hunters, nor do they have any other distinctive behavioral traits. All in all, the American Wirehair is virtually identical to the American Shorthair, except for the difference in its coat.

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