I recently went to a TICA cat show in North Carolina and fell in love with a new cat breed whose look is as exotic as its name: Chausie (pronounced "Chow-see"). This breed's roots lie in the Jungle Cat, a cat that was found in ancient Egypt, where both the Jungle Cat and the African Wild Cat were used for hunting wild waterfowl.
These cats have been found mummified in Egyptian tombs, which gives proof as to the high regard that these cats were held by their owners. While the name Jungle Cat sounds generic, it is not. This is not just any cat who lives in the jungle or forest, but rather, it is a distinct species of cat with nine subspecies. It is one of the largest of the small cats, ranging in the wild from 18 to 30 pounds.
The Jungle cat's habitat is from the Nile Valley to Turkey and the Caspian Sea, going east through South Asia and as far as Vietnam. They prey on rodents and other small animals and can flourish in close proximity to humans, attracted by the rodents which seem to follow farms and irrigated fields.
The Jungle Cat, or Felis Chaus (the Latin name for this species), have been found living in abandoned granaries and houses. They are extremely flexible creatures (as all cats tend to be) and because of that fact, have a stable population.
These cats are exotic wild animals and they require special permits to own (and in some states are illegal), special diets, housing and a serious commitment. These animals are not recommended as house pets - but they are closely related to Felis Sylvestris, which is widely considered to be the ancestor of the modern domestic cat. This is the reason that Jungle Cat hybrids were able to come into existence.
The first Chausies were Jungle Cat hybrids that were bred around the 1970's. The thought was to be able to offer a more reasonable alternative to the people who longed for exotic and wild cats since there were many disasters to both humans and the wild cats when people tried to turn a wild animal into a "pet." While many breeds were used in the beginning, currently the only permissible outcrosses are the Abyssinian and the domestic shorthair.
Today, the Chausie is a fully developed domestic breed who resembles its ancestor, the Jungle Cat. It is a tall, statuesque cat, medium to large framed and boasts the muscular body of a true hunter. The cats have also been bred to be good natured, loyal, intelligent and affectionate, just like any other domestic feline. It is on the active side (similar to an Abyssinian) and remains playful and kittenlike well into adulthood.
I was drawn to the breed because of its elegant look and sweet disposition. There are three accepted colors, brown ticked tabby, solid black or silver-tipped, an unusual color which is unique to the breed. The coat is short to medium, dense and relatively coarse. The body is long and slender, the ears are large and may be lynx-tipped. The overall look is breathtaking.
I was lucky enough to be able to handle one of the silver tipped cats at the show and fell immediately in love. This is definitely my kind of cat and the activity level fits my homelife to a tee. Remember, I share my home, not only with my domestic cats, but with five Abyssinians!
I definitely caution my readers that this breed is not for everyone, especially if your perfect cat is a coach potato! You have to be prepared to have an assertive, active and intelligent cat that will get into plenty of mischief if bored.
They should never be only cats and they need a lot of different toys and scratching posts to keep them busy. They do best on a high quality commercial cat food and the easiest way to pick which one is to continue to use whatever the kitten has been raised with.
I believe that a Chausie can be a good companion to gentle children who have been raised to respect animals and give them their space, but I would hesitate to place one with children under three who have not learned to always be gentle. Chausies are very much like children themselves and require some special one on one care. You can train them to fetch, walk on a leash and go on from there - my guess is that they would be great at agility.
It is obvious that the people who have chosen to work with the Chausie, are dedicated and responsible breeders because the cats I met were a credit to both the breed and the breeder. I definitely see a Chausie in my future. And if you see one in yours, remember that it is important to make sure a Chausie breeder is a member of The International Cat Association and that the Chausie is registered.
This helps to insure that the breeder is reputable and working for the betterment of the breed. It also insures that the Chausie kitten you choose has the required generations behind it in order to be legal in many of the states.
For more information about the Chausie (and great photos), log onto www.tasurt-chausie.com or go to the TICA Chausie breed committee site, www.chausiebreedcommittee.com.
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