The Snowshoe Cat first appeared in the 1960s, as a result of cross-breeding a Siamese and an American Shorthair. The ears are large, with a triangular head that most often has black markings. The eyes are blue. The coat is short-haired and is white and gray. The tail is medium-sized. There are several varieties, such as Blue-point, Fawn-point, Chocolate-point and Seal-point. Known to be very sweet tempered, energetic, and well adaptable, they are a very social breed that needs more attention than most and cannot be left alone for long periods of time. Not for the part-time cat owner, the Snowshoe is part of the family.
In the late 60s, Siamese breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty of Philadelphia bred a litter that included three Siamese kittens with the pointed pattern and pure white mittens and boots. Intrigued by the unique pattern, she worked for a few years at turning this variety into a breed, continued by Vikki Olander of Norfolk, Virginia. Siamese and American Shorthairs were used in creating the breed. Olander wrote the first standard for the breed and gave the breed a paw in obtaining recognition. In 1974 CFF and ACA accepted the Snowshoe as an experimental breed, but interest dwindled and by 1977 Olander was the only Snowshoe breeder in the United States. It seemed that the Snowshoe might be just a passing fad. After three years of struggle to keep the breed alive, several other breeders joined Olander and together they obtained Championship status from CFF in 1983; the ACFA granted Championship status in 1990. Breeders are working toward CFA acceptance, but currently don?t have enough cats and breeders to meet the CFA?s requirements.
Despite the slow start, the Snowshoe has gained in popularity. In the future, breeders will be working toward larger size, more uniform body type, and deeper eye color. They are also working toward getting the white gene under better control (see Conformation).
Breeders brave enough to take on the Snowshoe challenge find that the cat pays back the effort in love and affection. Anyone looking for an aloof, standoffish cat need not apply for Snowshoe ownership?fanciers claim that Snowshoes don?t realize that they?re cats; they consider themselves people. They love to touch and be touched. Very intelligent, they can be taught a number of tricks. Snowshoes are also known for their fascination with water and on occasion will climb into the tub for a swim, as long as it?s their idea. While not as loud or vocal as the Siamese, Snowshoes are never at a loss for words.
One reason that the Snowshoe has not attracted more breeders in the 25 years of its existence is that blending all the genetic elements together to create the perfect Snowshoe isn’t easy. Four traits in particular make it difficult. The first is the inverted ‘V’ facial pattern that should extend from the mouth to the whisker tufts above the eyes. This pattern is governed by the piebald white spotting gene symbolized (S). Because this gene is incompletely dominant, if a cat inherits two copies of the gene, it will have larger areas of white than a cat with one copy of the gene. The effect, however, is not consistent, and other genes can affect the white areas. It?s difficult to predict how this gene will express itself, or predict which kittens will inherit two copies, so regulating the gene is a real challenge.
The second trait that gives breeders pause is the white boots for which the Snowshoe was named. This trait may be governed by the piebald gene as well, or may be governed by a recessive ?gloving? (g) gene. Either way, this trait is also difficult to control. Ideally, the boots should extend to the bend of the ankle in front, and to just below the hock joint on the back feet. Often, however, the white doesn?t extend high enough or extends too high. Some-times a foot will lack white, and sometimes a Snowshoe will not possess any white at all.