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The Khao Manee is a rare breed of cat originating in Thailand also known as the Diamond Eye cat that has an ancestry going back hundreds of years. They are known for having a pure white coat and often odd coloured eyes, with blue and gold or one of each being normal.
The Khao Manee is an ancient breed similar to the Siamese and the Korat and was mentioned in a book of cat poems called the Tamra Maew. It is however, a completely separate breed from the Siamese, even the pure white versions of that breed known as the Foreign White Siamese, as those cats have a British shorthair ancestor. The Khan Manee has been studied genetically and been shown to be a completely separate breed to the Siamese and other Thai cat breeds.
The breed was said to have originally been kept by the Siam royals along with other unusually coloured cats. Breeders in Thailand have worked to retain the purity of the breed as well as detailing its lineage and forming a breed standard. It was first exported to the US in 1999 when Colleen Freymouth imported a cat called Sripia and she was used as the foundation of the breed in the country. It took another 10 years for the breed to first reach the UK.
Khao Manee currently has advanced new breed status with The International Cat Association having been first listed for registration only in 2009. The GCCF in the UK granted the breed pre-affiliation in 2011.
While known as a white cat breed, the Khao Manee can produce coloured offspring depending on the genetics that cause the white coat. This is because white isn't so much a colour as a lack of colour and if both parents of the cat carry a certain version of this gene, the colour of the body isn't masked and a coloured cat is born. The coat of these cats is smooth and shiny with very little undercoat. They often have a darker patch on the head when they are born but this vanishes at around 12 months old.
Originally, the Khao Manee were said to have mercury coloured eyes but yellow eyes have become the most popular eye colour in Thailand and the odd-eyed cats are considered lucky. Cats that have blue eyes are sometimes deaf while their nickname of Diamond Eye cats comes from a type of glaucoma that they were once prone to, though it wasn't understood as such at the time. The deafness is caused by the dominant white gene that causes damage to the inner ear and many breeders now have their cats tested to see if they carry this gene to consider when breeding.
The character of these cats is described as very similar to other Thai cat breeds – they are very intelligent, affectionate with people and curious. They like to be around people, curling up with their owners to watch the TV or following them around the house. They are curious about visitors and will offer them affection quickly.