Thailand’s natural short-haired landrace of cats has, through a combination of planned crossbreeding and random hybridization, developed into four separate breeds: the sleek Havana Brown, the grey Korat, the Siamese (all of which are colorpoints) and the Oriental Shorthair.
Saying that the personable and highly social Oriental Shorthairs are merely non-colorpointed Siamese is, most definitely, selling the breed short, and the Oriental Shorthairs are themselves recognized as a separate, registered, breed by, among others, the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association).
The Siamese proper has been around for centuries, but it was only mid-way through the last century that breeders thought to mate individuals whose kittens would combine the traditional Siamese body and head shape with the colors of the British Shorthairs and the Russian Blues.
Further interbreeding – spearheaded by American breeders this time – crossed the Siamese with Abyssinians and American Shorthairs, and from all these combinations, came what we now know as the Oriental Shorthair.
Oriental Shorthairs are very sleek of coat and wide of eye, and they also have the characteristic wedge-shaped head and large, butterfly-wing ears found on the colorpoint modern Siamese.
Green, yellow and amber-eyed Orientals are the norm, however, as, in this breed, blue eyes usually combine with the colorpoint coat pattern, which will, of course, make the cat not an Oriental but a Siamese.
With regard to coat color and pattern, Orientals have taken these traits directly from the non-Siamese in their ancestry, and there are at least 600 different types of colored and patterned coats that appear.
CFA regulations recognize most, if not all, of the 600 possible color/pattern combinations, and the association has attempted to separate them into six distinct classifications.
First are the solid colors, including fawn, red and ebony, and then come the smoked colors, where a stripe of white is found at the base of the hairs on solid color coats.
The third coat possibility is the shaded, which is when the aforementioned white band is found at the tips of the hairs instead of the base.
Fourth, fifth and sixth all have to do with vibrant color combinations (instead of solid-color-and-white) and comprise the tabbies with their typical banded fur, the patched tabby/parti-color where splashes of cream and/or red are thrown into the mix and, lastly, the bi-color, where any of the aforementioned color combinations appear with the white spots found due to the presence of the white spotting gene.
Orientals make wonderful pets and are extremely intelligent, inquisitive and vocal.
They love to interact with their owners, and if there’s something they think they can help with, they will! They fit in well with other pets – dogs included – and children will usually not be a bother to them.
They are loyal and loving, but if they’re not the center of attention they tend to become cranky and a little needy.
Rounding out the Oriental/Siamese family is the Oriental Longhair, which is almost identical in every way to the Shorthair except for the length of the coat.