The Snowshoe is a somewhat recent domestic breed that was developed during the 1960s by a breeder of Siamese cats. Its body type is considered to be a moderate oriental or foreign type, modeled after the appearance of the old style of Siamese that is often now called a Victorian or an "apple head". The Snowshoe's body should be longer than it is tall, but not extremely so. It should be well-muscled, well-balanced and athletic. Males are usually distinctly larger than females, averaging between 10 and 12 pounds in weight.
The head of the Snowshoe is shaped like a modified, slightly rounded equilateral triangle, about as long as it is wide. This breed has high cheekbones and a medium-length muzzle that is neither pointed nor broad. The Snowshoe's forehead should be flat and rise slightly above the muzzle, giving the appearance of two distinct planes when viewed in profile. The eyes are the only extreme on the Snowshoe. They should be walnut-shaped - larger and more rounded than the eyes of the Siamese but not as round as the eyes of a Persian - and always a bright, sparkling sapphire blue.
The coat of the Snowshoe is glossy and short, with no hint of an undercoat. Its markings are those of the Siamese – basically, an ivory base coat with darker markings, called points, on the face, ears, legs and tail. There is one dramatic exception: the Snowshoe has snow-white markings superimposed on the traditional pointed pattern. It must have white, preferably symmetrical "boots" on its front paws that extend up to but not beyond the ankle. The white boots on the hind legs, called "gauntlets," must extend up to the hocks. These dramatic markings give the breed its nickname, "Silver Laces." Snowshoe kittens are born white. It can take up to two years for their pointed markings to become fully apparent. This breed tends to darken in body color as it ages, but the distinct contrast between body color and points must remain intact throughout life.
Seal Point and Blue Point are the most common Snowshoe colors and are the only ones recognized by some cat registries. Lighter colors are thought to have the potential to mask marking imperfections until the cat is well into breeding age. However, other pointed colors are increasingly common, including the chocolate and lilac.
The first attempt at establishing a purebred white-footed Siamese began back in the 1950s. That initial effort was not successful. In the 1960s, Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty, a breeder of Siamese in Philadelphia, noticed that three kittens in a purebred Siamese litter each had four white paws. She found the contrast between the white feet and darker pointed legs quite attractive and decided to try and develop a moderate, pointed, white-footed cat that otherwise resembled the Siamese in type. She called her new breed the "Snowshoe," for obvious reasons. Ms. Daugherty faced some degree of opposition from Siamese fanciers, who were concerned that the Snowshoe's characteristic white leg markings could become mixed with the purely pointed Siamese. Nonetheless, Ms. Daugherty selectively bred her Siamese to American Shorthairs with tuxedo markings and promoted the white-footed offspring at local shows. She wrote a rudimentary standard for the new breed, with the help of others. With this standard in hand, Ms. Daugherty approached the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) about accepting the Snowshoe for registration. After some convincing, the CFF approved the Snowshoe For Exhibition Only.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jim Hoffman of Sujym Cattery in Defiance, Ohio and Georgia Kuhnell from Cincinnati, Ohio, independently contacted CFF for information on the Snowshoe breed. Shortly thereafter, the breed standard was updated, rules for registering the breed were defined and more Snowshoe breeders were recruited. As a result, CFF upgraded the breed from Experimental to Provisional. By 1982 the Snowshoe was officially approved for Championship status by the CFF. It was recognized for Championship status by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1994 but is not recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
The Snowshoe remains a rare breed even in the United States, which is its country of origin.
There are no widely recognized health problems unique to the Snowshoe breed. It probably shares some health predispositions with its Siamese and the American Shorthair ancestors.
Snowshoes are not just another pretty face. They are described as having a personality that is as unique as their appearance and never boring: "The personality is a complicated mix of mystical aloofness along with a slight dash of 'normal' cat. Like snowflakes and coloring, no two cats have the same personality." Some Snowshoes are reserved and quite shy with strangers. Some are demanding and rather bossy. Still others are hovering and somewhat clingy, acting like their lifelong ambition is to accompany and care for their owners at all times.
Generally, however, cats of this breed are sweet-tempered, energetic, playful and adaptable. Like their Siamese ancestors, Snowshoes are intelligent and very social in nature, tending to require more attention than most other breeds. As a result, they do not do well being left alone for long periods of time on a regular basis. Snowshoes generally get along quite well with most people, cats and even dogs, although some are loners and prefer one-on-one relationships with their owners. They usually insist on sleeping in bed with their owners and do not seem to realize they are cats. They are a vocal breed, with a soft, melodic meow.
The Snowshoe is a robust, lively, inquisitive, active and athletic cat. It is deceptively powerful and agile, although it is not known to have a particular propensity or fondness for jumping, climbing or seeking out high places.
Snowshoes typically want to be with their people at all times, whether awake or at rest. They are quite a good combination of their Siamese and American Shorthair ancestors. Snowshoes have splashy, bouncy personalities that are perfectly suited to their splashy markings.
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