The Snowshoe cat is a unique-looking cat that resembles a Siamese, except with a chunkier body and white paws. Its coat pattern is a captivating swirl of brown, black, and white. Their eyes are a mesmerizing blue. But despite their beautiful appearance, the Snowshoe cat is quite rare.
People who own Snowshoes will tell you the hunt is worth it. They are a lively and personable cat who loves being wherever you are. Trying to fold the laundry? The Snowshoe is probably sitting atop the pile! Cooking dinner? The Snowshoe is on the counter, chatting about their day as you go about your routine. This is a social cat that has a personality as magnetic as its glorious coat.
Snowshoe Cat Breed Origin & History
The Snowshoe is a relatively new breed that first showed up in the 1960s. Siamese breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty, owner of Kensing Cattery in Philadelphia, produced a curious litter of kittens: three of the Siamese kittens had pure white mittens.
When oddities happen, breeders will often give the kittens quietly away to good homes. But Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty had another idea. She kept the mittened kittens and decided to breed them with one of her seal point Siamese and one bicolor American Shorthair.
The result was Siamese kittens without a pointed pattern. These cats had white mittens and a more average body style, rather than the leanness of a Siamese.
As Hinds-Daugherty continued her work on the breed, kittens started to all have a white inverted “V” pattern on their nose and muzzle as well. She really liked this feature and named the kittens after it. The name “Snowshoe” comes from the white nose, which she said looks like the kitties just played in some snow.
Rise and Fall of the Breed
Hinds-Daugherty started to bring the Snowshoe cats to local shows, complete with breed standards. It took some convincing, but Hinds-Daugherty convinced the Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF) to register the Snowshoe for exhibition only.
Despite the initial excitement, the Snowshoe started to fizzle out. The Snowshoe enthusiast asked a cat breeder from Virginia, Vikki Olander, to help the struggling breed.
With the extra help, the Snowshoe was registered as an experimental breed with the Cat Fanciers’ Federation and the American Cat Fanciers’ Association. In 1977, the American Cat Fanciers’ Association reported only four registered Snowshoes.
More cat breeders got wind of the ongoing Snowshoe struggles. Jim Hoffman and Georgia Kuhnell contacted the CFF to find out more about the Snowshoe. The organization updated the breed standards and defined the regulation rules.
More breeders joined the mission. By 1982, the breed was officially recognized for championship status. Cat Fancy magazine ran an article on the Snowshoe and put them in their infamous breed directory, making the breed more popular than ever.
By 1990, the first Snowshoe received a grand champion title: Birmack Lowansa of Nishna. This was followed soon after by grand champion Snowdancers’ Naughty Nikita Dancer. This cat later became the American Cat Fanciers’ Association’s first InterAmerican Best Snowshoe.
Appearances Throughout History
In the late Victorian era, there’s photographic proof of Siamese kittens with four white paws. In the 1950s, white-pawed Siamese were seen once again. They were called Silver Laces at that point.
“There is evidence of its existence both in an old Victorian photograph of a purebred litter of Siamese in which the front kitten has four white feet and in an old Japanese silk-screen showing one peering around a corner at a spider,” the ACFA states.
These two instances have led to a lot of mystery. Cat fanciers love to study the old evidence when discussing the history of Siamese and Snowshoes. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Snowshoes started being properly developed in Philadelphia. The breed is still relatively rare outside of the United States.
Snowshoe Cat Breed Personality
While the Snowshoe may not have the same slender appearance as the Siamese, they have the same social and outgoing personality. They are very attached to their family, always finding ways to be involved in whatever it is you’re doing.
You might not be able to brush your teeth without a Snowshoe sitting on the sink and watching you. When you’re watching television your Snowshoe may gently tap you with their paw, reminding you to pet them.
This is a cat who craves constant loving. If you have long workdays throughout the week, the Snowshoe will become quite unhappy – they don’t like to be left alone for long periods.
This is a cat who likes to make you happy. An intelligent feline, much like the Dwelf cat breed, the Snowshoe can learn which behaviors you don’t like while also figuring out how to do fun tricks like “sit” and “fetch.”
Of course, the Snowshoe still has an independent streak and will sometimes use their intelligence for things that might surprise you. After watching you use a sink or flush a toilet, the Snowshoe may quickly learn how to do this on their own. You might hear the toilet flushing in the middle of the night!
The Snowshoe has a fascination with water. This interest keeps them curious about the running water in your bathroom and kitchen. Snowshoes will also take small items (elastics, pens, socks) and put them in their water dish.
Snowshoes have another thing in common with the Siamese: They can be quite talkative. But unlike their skinny cousins, the Snowshoe has a melodic, quiet voice. Still, they won’t hold back when it comes to telling you about their day or trying to get attention.
Snowshoe Characteristics (Physical)
Snowshoes are a unique-looking cat thanks to their coat pattern and striking blue eyes. But what also sets them apart from their oriental bloodline is their shape, inspired by American Shorthairs.
This is a medium-sized cat with a well-balanced appearance. The American Cat Fanciers’ Association states they have “no extreme,” meaning no feature of the Snowshoe is disproportionate. Instead, they have medium boning, medium muscle definition, and a moderately long body. They are neither bulky nor delicate.
A full-grown male Snowshoe cat weighs in at 9-12 pounds, while a female typically weighs 7-10 pounds.
The Snowshoe has a head that’s in proportion to their torso. They have high cheekbones with gentle contours, giving their face the shape of an equilateral triangle. Their muzzle is proportionate and their chin is firm. Their nose is medium in width, with a flat or slight bump.
The Snowshoe has average-sized, slightly rounded eyes that slant to the base of the ears. Snowshoes are known to have various shades of blue eyes.
Their ears are proportionate and medium at the base, with a slightly rounded tip.
Legs & Paws
The American Cat Fanciers’ Association describes the Snowshoe’s legs like that of a runner or jumper. They have medium boning and a good length. Their feet are in proportion to their legs.
The Snowshoe has short to medium-length fur that’s smooth to the touch.
When it comes to their color and pattern, there are strict guidelines for Snowshoes. They can be mitted or bicolor, with some white still required on the paws. Patches of color in white areas are acceptable, but there should be a definite contrast between the point colors and white.
Mitted Snowshoes have white limited to their paws, back, legs, chest, and chin only. They are about one-quarter white at most.
Bicolor Snowshoes must have white on their face. They will also have white areas on their legs, thighs, chest, and chin. Bicolor Snowshoes are between one quarter to one-half white.
Snowshoes can live up to 15 years old if given proper treatment and veterinary care.
The Snowshoe is a generally healthy cat breed with no known hereditary diseases. Still, there are some illnesses that every cat owner should be on the lookout for.
Cancer is a common disease in all domestic felines. There are a variety of different cancers Snowshoes can develop. Always make sure you are bringing your cat in for regular vet visits to catch cancer early. This can make it easier to manage.
Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin or inadequate insulin response. Usually, a cat’s digestive system breaks down the food they digest, including glucose. But when a cat does not produce insulin, blood sugar levels will elevate. If left untreated, a Snowshoe with diabetes can have complicated health problems.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FIV doesn’t show any symptoms until a couple of years after the initial infection occurred. Your cat’s immune system will be severely weakened, making them susceptible to various secondary infections. Cats with FIV must live alone indoors.
Many stray cats and ferals carry FIV, meaning you should never let your Snowshoe wander outside. If they get in a fight, they could end up infected.
This is another illness that can be avoided if you let your cat live indoors. Cats can get heartworm from infected mosquitos. This condition can lead to several underlying health problems in your cat, including lung disease. Discuss some preventative options with your vet.
Upper Respiratory Infections
This is quite common in cats. Their nose, throat, and sinus area can be quite susceptible to infections caused by different viruses and bacteria. If you notice your cat has a runny nose or drippy eyes, bring them to a vet to check for upper respiratory infections.
Snowshoe Cat Breed Care
With a short coat, the Snowshoe requires pretty typical grooming. This means taking a brush to your Snowshoe about once a week. Brushing will remove excess fur, reducing cat hairballs and shedding. Brushing your cat will also make their coat shiny and healthy, helping to move oils around properly.
Every week you should also trim your cat’s nails. If you are having trouble, this is something a vet can help with. Regular trimming will ensure your furniture is safe from a lonely Snowshoe hoping to get your attention.
Check their ears for wax and dirt buildup as well. Use a vet-approved wipe to gently remove anything you see. Brush your cat’s teeth every day if you can to avoid dental complications.
Snowshoes are medium-sized cats who require a typical amount of cat food. Check the panel on your chosen cat food to see how much food is appropriate for your cat’s weight.
Try spacing meals out throughout the day with a timed feeder. This gives them the right portion throughout the day without you having to lift a finger. You might even notice your Snowshoe stops meowing at you for food.
Always look for cat food with quality ingredients. The first ingredient should always be protein, like turkey, salmon, or chicken. Avoid brands where the first ingredient is something like “chicken meal.”
Avoid food brands with an excessive amount of carbohydrates, like corn and wheat. These ingredients are “fillers” since cats don’t need them in their diet.
A healthy alternative is wet cat food. Canned food has no carbohydrates. Instead, it’s made of over 70% water. This is a great way to give your cat the liquids they need to ensure they don’t become dehydrated.
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Children & Other Pets
Snowshoes often get along with other pets. They are social cats that will thrive with other cats in the home. You may want to adopt another cat around the same age as your Snowshoe while they are both young.
If your Snowshoe is older, introduce them to a kitten. This makes socialization a bit easier for your Snowshoe. Always introduce two cats very cautiously and slowly.
Snowshoes are also great companions for younger children. Kids will love playing fetch with this fun-loving cat. They are also gentle and snuggly, making them great for cuddle sessions. Always watch how younger children interact with your cat, since they may get too rough or pull their tail.
More About This Breed
Snowshoes have a very mysterious history. Records of this breed have been poorly kept, which has erased older accounts of Snowshoes appearing throughout history.
Their marks are courtesy of a recessive gene, making it quite difficult to properly breed this cat. What makes it even harder to predict which kittens will be Snowshoes is that they are born completely white! They will sometimes have faint hints of markings at birth, but you won’t see how they look for a few years.
This elusive and rare kitty will cost you $500 or more.
A popular internet cat named Grumpy Cat (real name Tardar Sauce) was thought to be a Snowshoe. But the owner has confirmed Grumpy Cat was a mixed breed with possibly some Snowshoe down the line. It’s quite rare to see a Snowshoe!
The Snowshoe cat is a beautiful breed with an equally likable personality. Social and loyal, Snowshoes love spending time with their family and other pets. You will often see them hanging out on the couch while you watch TV, tapping your shoulder when they want some pets, or lounging outside the shower, fascinated with your daily routines.
This is a rare breed that will never want to leave your side!