With their big eyes and long, fluffy fur, Himalayans are darlings of the cat world. They're especially adorable as kittens, but before adopting a little Himalayan, learn as much about the breed as possible. They have specific needs that you should take into account before bringing a kitten home.
You probably won't find a Himalayan kitten in the wild unless he wandered away from his home. That's because Himalayans come from breeders. The breed made its debut in the 1950s when the Siamese gene for big baby blues and color point patterns -- splashes of color on the paws, tail and face -- was crossed with the Persian gene for long hair.
If you find it difficult to tell the difference between a Persian and Himalayan kitten, have no fear -- the Cat Fanciers' Association considers Himalayans a type of Persian.
Let's Get Physical
When you first get your roly-poly ball of Himalayan fluff, he might not have the Siamese-style markings that make the breed so distinct. Instead, he'll be either white or cream color, with his pattern just beginning to appear. The color points start developing when the kitty is a couple of weeks old, but the full pattern won't be apparent for a while -- possibly a year or more.
The Himalayan kitten should have a cute little pink nose, and wide blue eyes that shouldn't darken as he ages, though darkening is possible if the cat isn't purebred.
To some degree, all kittens are alike in personality. They love to run and play, they eat frequently, and they might cause you some grief by scratching up the furniture and scattering litter everywhere.
But Himalayans have some special traits that make them particularly good family pets. Although variations in personality exist, these cats are known for being sweet, docile and somewhat lazy. They tend to be intelligent and affectionate. If you're looking for a kitten who enjoys curling up in your lap as much as chasing a toy, Himalayans are a good bet.
Himalayan kittens' distinctive physical characteristics also create some health challenges. Their long, flowing coats need to be brushed -- frequently. If you skip even a day or two, you're likely to find tangles and snarls the next time you pick up a comb. Leave kitty alone too long, and his coat will be matted. The sooner you get the kitten used to grooming, the better.
If your kitten is of the "squashed" face variety, he might have problems breathing and shouldn't be left outside in hot weather. His big blue eyes could also have issues with tearing. Himalayan kittens should be screened for feline polycystic kidney disease -- cysts will be present at birth -- and for progressive retinal atrophy.