Making heads and tails of Thai cats

Photo: Chumporn Sangvilert

Korat cats were first registered in the US by the Korat Cat Fanciers Association in 1965. The breed was formed of cats imported directly from Thailand by Jean L Johnson in 1959. The association established a controlled breeding programme, and in 1966 the Korat breed was accepted by the Cat Fanciers Association, one of the largest cat associations in the world. Today the Korat breed is accepted by all popular cat associations around the world.

But variations in the Siamese breed -- identifiable by their heart-shaped face, slender tail and short hair -- have grown significantly. The changes prompted some breeders to call for the registration of a new breed named "Thai". These breeders believe that the cats should be named after their country of origin, Thailand, in the same way that Siamese cats were named after Siam.

Timba, a local association that registers Thai cat breeds, is campaigning to have the cats called Wichienmaat. Timba argues that this is how they are named in the Tamra Maew, an ancient collection of poems describing the characteristics of Thai cats, dating back to 1350 and predating all other cat associations.

The rare Khao Manee, or diamond-eye, cats are also mentioned in the Tamra Maew. They were first registered in the US with The International Cat Association in 2009. Colleen Freymouth imported the first Khao Manee from Thailand in 1999. However, it was not until 2012 that Khao Manee was accepted as a full championship breed, meaning they became eligible to compete with all the other recognised cat breeds in Tica shows.

Konja is a solid black cat with silky fur and greenish-yellow eyes. Konja moves with agility and grace, and has lion-like legs.

Suphalak, known for its copper-coloured fur, is not registered by any Western association. Timba plans to register Suphalak with Tica in 2017. Once registered, the preservation and breeding of Suphalak will be managed and controlled by Thai breeders.

Source: Timba

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