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The snowshoe breed beautifully combines traits from both the Siamese and American shorthair. The result is this lovely cat who is simultaneously reminiscent of both sides of her lineage while remaining wholly unique. A medium-large, healthy, long-lived breed, the snowshoe is a devoted family companion and a cat who not only tolerates but openly indulges in the company and affection of her people.
The snowshoe looks almost exactly like a marriage of the Siamese and American shorthair might suggest. Maintaining much of the body length of the Siamese, but adding a little more of the American shorthair’s heft to it, the snowshoe is a medium-large, moderately built cat. Their heads can be either triangular or apple-shaped, and the best specimens have shorthair markings on their faces, with an upside down “V” marking that is one of the standards for the breed. Ears are wide set and pointed, eyes are walnut shaped and always some shade of blue.
Snowshoe fur is short, single-coated, and color pointed. Darker colors like fawn, chocolate, and blue are the most common, but black, orange, and lilac are possible as well. Paws are white, giving the breed the look from which their name was derived. The white can extend up the legs to varying degrees, though too much or too little white can relegate a purebred snowshoe to pet status rather than show or breeding stock.
Snowshoes can exhibit a number of different personality traits, but whichever temperament your snowshoe winds up having, expect her to commit to it fully. Some are playful showoffs, eager to learn tricks and games to hold your attention and keep you laughing. Some become devoted family members, considering themselves equal partners in the family dynamic and expecting to be involved in all activities. Still others will adopt the role of protector, bonding most strongly to one person in the household and often being loath to leave that person’s side.
However your snowshoe’s personality shapes up, they are all deeply social cats, interacting well with children, other cats, and cat-friendly dogs. Conversely, they do not tend to do well on their own, so single-pet snowshoes may develop separation anxiety if they are left home alone for extended periods of time. Consider two!
Snowshoes are highly intelligent cats, can be trained to walk on leashes, appreciate a good game of fetch, and often enjoy splashing around in water or even going for short swims. True to their Siamese blood, they tend to be highly talkative cats, though their voices are often softer and less intense than a Siamese.
Snowshoes tend to be active, athletic cats who respond well to games and activities that keep them moving. Getting a multi-level kitty condo or even a running wheel will be a much-appreciated gift. They enjoy toys but can be somewhat aloof to them, so keeping a variety on hand to match their shifting whims would be a good choice.
Snowshoes get along well with children, cats, and dogs, so homing them in large families or multi-pet homes should be a breeze. In fact, the latter is encouraged, due to the snowshoe’s low tolerance for being alone.
Whether you have dogs or cats for your snowshoe to play with, early and proper socialization will be a game changer.
“[When] introducing a kitten to other pets, if we’re not aware of how those other animals are going to interact, we’ll want to control the environment as much as we possibly can,” says Carol Margolis, DVM, DACT, of the Gold Coast Center for Veterinary Care on Long Island, NY. “Being home 24/7 for the first week is a great idea, so you can be home to interrupt any behaviors that you want to stop. Patience is going to be the name of the game.”
The short-haired, single coat of your snowshoe is going to be very easy to maintain. They are low-shedders, which makes them good options for people with allergies, and a brushing once a week should be all it takes to keep these little guys shiny, happy, and looking great.
The breed has proven to be incredibly hardy, with a lifespan of 20 years or more being fairly common. Outside of the usual cat issues with kidneys and hearts, the snowshoe should be a fairly low-worry breed. Occasionally, snowshoes will manifest Siamese traits like kinked tails or crossed eyes, but these are purely cosmetic issues that don’t affect their health at all.
As is the case with a great number of cat breeds, the snowshoe exists because a breeder once found a cat with a recessive trait and thought, “Hey. This could be a thing.”
In the case of the snowshoe, that breeder was Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty of Philadelphia, Penn., and that trait was the white feet on three Siamese cats from a litter in the early 1960s.
Looking to develop a color-pointed cat with white feet, Hinds-Daugherty bred those cats to an American shorthair, then those cats back to a Siamese. With some effort, the desired effect was indeed produced.
Yet, snowshoes remained a rare, difficult breed to reproduce, because all of their primary breed traits rely on recessive genes. Getting cats to produce the coloration and patterns most desired is still a bit of a “luck of the draw” situation, and even today no two snowshoe cats look exactly alike.
Hinds-Daugherty gave up the breeding program in the 1970s and Vikki Olander picked up the mantle. It was Olander who wrote the first breed standard and worked to have the snowshoe accepted into the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF), American Cat Association (ACA), and The International Cat Fanciers Association (TICA). It was a long road, but the snowshoe was granted champion status by the CFF in 1983, and by TICA in 1993.
- Snowshoes are born completely white. Their signature coloration appears during the first few years of their lives.
- Dusty the Klepto Kitty is a snowshoe who gained infamy for his history of … (wait for it) … cat burglary. As of his February 2011 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Dusty had stolen 16 car wash mitts, seven sponges, 213 dish towels, seven washcloths, five towels, 18 shoes, 73 socks, 100 gloves, a pair of mittens, three aprons, 40 balls, four pairs of underwear, one dog collar, six rubber toys, one blanket, three leg warmers, two Frisbees, one golf club head cover, one safety mask, two mesh bags, one bag of water balloons, one pair of pajama pants, eight bathing suits, eight miscellaneous objects, and—presumably—a partridge in a pear tree.
- The world’s most famous snowshoe, if you go by her 2.6 million Instagram followers, most likely wasn’t a full-on snowshoe at all. The Internet sensation Grumpy Cat (real name: Tardar Sauce, who died in 2019) continues to inspire memes based on her humorously negative frown. She had the facial markings of a snowshoe, but her owners say she was born to a calico mother and a blue-and-white tabby father. A form of dwarfism and an underbite produced her famous frown.