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The Snowshoe is a breed of domestic cat that originated in the 1960s in the US and is still classified as a rare cat breed.
The Snowshoe was first discovered in the 1960s by a Siamese breeder named Dorothy Hinds-Daughterty when three kittens in one litter had unique markings – white points and feet. Curious about this development, she began to work to create a breed using seal point Siamese and bicolor American Shorthair cats as the basis. However, the offspring often lacked the Siamese points. By breeding these cats back to the Siamese, the point markings came out and she named the breed Snowshoe due to their white feet. The program was later taken over by Vikki Olander.
Olander was the first to develop a breed standard for the Snowshoe and had this accepted by both the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) and the American Cat Association (ACA) as an experimental breed in 1974. By 1977, however, Olander was the sole breeder in the US until she was contacted by a number of other breeders who became interested in the work. Finally, they achieved championship status from the CFF in 1983 and from the ACFA in 1990. Recognition came from The International Cat Association in 1993.
A breeding program started in the UK in 1986 but by 1998, when Mollie Southall of the Coldenbufforsnow Cattery joined, there was just a single breeder left, Maureen Shackell. Between them, they had just five cats to work with. A male was imported from Germany to bring in fresh bloodlines and by 2006; other breeders began to help widen the gene pool. The Snowshoe was given full breed status with the GCCF in 2013 and can now be shown at Championship level in their shows. There is also a Snowshoe Cat Club in the UK and in 2005, the Snowshoe Cat Society began.
The main reason the Snowshoe has been so difficult to establish is that it is tricky to get cats with the breed standard markings and patterns. The markings rely on recessive genes along with other factors, such as the V shaped facial pattern that is created by a gene of incomplete dominance. This means that if any offspring has two dominant genes for the marking, the features produced will be larger than one with a single version but other factors also influence the appearance, meaning it can be difficult for breeders to predict what their cats will produce. Snowshoes that have too much white, not enough white or white in the wrong place are all classed as mismarked and not to the breed standard.
The Snowshoe is a shorthaired cat that can have either the triangular modern Siamese look or the softer applehead shape. The coat consists of solid and white patterns with the points of solid black based colors and white patterns normally on the face, chest, stomach and the paws. Eyes are always blue in purebred cats and their points can come in blue, lilac, lynx, chocolate and fawn.
Breeders describe these cats as affectionate and sweet tempered cats who enjoy the company of both adults and children and get along well with other pets. They are social and mellow with great devotion and affection for their owners but this does mean they don't like to be left for long periods of time unaccompanied. They have the vocalisations of Siamese though aren't as loud and are also noted for their intelligence. Learning to open doors and tricks such as fetch is common for them. They don't mind water, particularly when it is running and will sometimes even swim.
The Snowshoe is not a cat that is easy to obtain in show standard quality due to the specific nature of the markings required. However both show standard and 'pet' cats are affectionate and adoring family members who fit in well with both children and other pets and have the intelligence typically of breeds descended from the Siamese.