The Exotic is a medium to large breed with short, thick legs and a muscular, heavily boned, cobby body. The head is massive and round with a wide skull set on a short, thick neck. The eyes are large, round, and set far apart. The nose is short, snub and broad with a break centered between the eyes. Ears are small and rounded at the tip, set far apart and low on the head. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment.
The tail is thick and short but in proportion to the body. Adult males weigh 7 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 6 to 10 pounds. Type is more important than size. Balance and refinement are essential—all parts should come together in a harmonious whole, with neither too much nor too little consideration given to any feature.
The fur is soft, dense and plush, with a thick undercoat, and while considered short, it is slightly longer than that of most shorthaired cats (It may be called medium in length.) There is no ruff, nor is there long hair on the tail. The dense coat and round body leads to what is sometimes called “the teddy bear look.”
There are two facial types: the Extreme and the Traditional. Although the Extreme head type is what you’ll see in the show ring, the Traditional has many fans. Both types have small, rounded ears set low on the head, wide, round eyes, full cheeks and a full, well-developed chin. But the Extreme’s face is round and very flat, and in many cases the nose is nearly as high as the eyes.
The Traditional Exotic Shorthair’s head is also round and massive. However, the nose, while also snub, is placed lower on the face and only has a slight break. The up-curving mouth helps give the desired sweet expression prized by fanciers of this type. For those who like this look, the Traditional Cat Association (TCA) promotes the Traditional Exotic Shorthair and other traditional versions of pedigreed cats, such as the Persian and the Siamese. According to the TCA’s founder, Diana Fineran, the Traditional Exotic Shorthair lacks many of the medical conditions that trouble some Extreme Exotic bloodlines. Traditional proponents also say the Traditional Exotic usually doesn’t have breathing problems and eye tearing, because the face is not as foreshortened.
Exotics are available in a rainbow of hues too numerous to mention. Their many colors and patterns are not separated into divisions like the Persian in CFA. Eye color depends upon coat color. Outcrossing is allowed with the Persian and Himalayan.
This Persian in his pajamas, as the Exotic is sometimes called, was first developed in the 1950s. However, the Exotic wasn’t created to give fanciers a break from grooming. In the late 1950s, American Shorthair breeders began to breed Persians with their ASHs to improve the conformation and to introduce the Persian’s spectacular silver color into their breed. As a result, the American Shorthair (then called the Domestic Shorthair), began to take on Persian characteristics. Their faces became rounder and broader, their noses shorter, their ears smaller and their bodies more boxy and compact in design. Their hair became longer, softer and denser, too.
The Persian was not an allowable outcross for the ASH, of course; breeders were drawing outside the bloodlines without letting anyone in on their secret. They were rewarded for these illegitimate pairings, however, because the hybrids did well in the cat shows.
Other American Shorthair breeders were appalled at the changes. They had worked very hard to get the ASH the respect it deserved, and they didn’t want to see their breed transformed into a shorthaired Persian. The breed standard was revised to disqualify any cat showing evidence of hybridization–but they allowed the striking silver color to remain.
The as-yet unnamed ASH/Persian hybrids might have quietly vanished if it wasn’t for Jane Martinke, a CFA judge and American Shorthair breeder. She was the first to see the potential of these handsome hybrids, and in 1966 she proposed to the CFA board of directors that these cats be recognized as a new breed.
At first, the suggested name was Sterling for the recently introduced silver color. They finally settled on Exotic Shorthair, because silver wasn’t a color previously found in the American Shorthair, thereby making them “exotic.” Some fanciers felt the name was confusing to those who were not familiar with the breed, but even so the name stuck. In 1967, the Exotic Shorthair was accepted for CFA championship. In 1993, CFA shortened the name to Exotic, although many of the other associations still call the breed Exotic Shorthair.
In those early days, Exotic breeders had their work cut out for them because many Persian breeders opposed the new breed. Few would allow their cats to be used in Exotic breeding programs. Breeders who bred both Persians and Exotics had an easier time of it, since they already had access to good Persian stock, but progress was slow. However, the Exotic and its breeders outlasted their opponents. Today the Exotic is the most popular shorthaired breed, even surpassing the Siamese.
Initially, Exotic breeders used Burmese and Russian Blues in addition to American Shorthairs to introduce the dominant shorthair gene. Breeders used these shorthaired breeds just long enough to get the shorthair gene into the bloodlines. After it was introduced, crossing back to shorthairs was unnecessary and made it more difficult to achieve the prized Persian type. In 1987 CFA closed the Exotic to shorthair outcrosses altogether, leaving the Persian as CFA’s only allowable outcross.
This leaves Exotic breeders with a problem. One of the frustrating difficulties is that Exotic kittens with long hair can be born if both shorthaired parents carry the longhair recessive gene. Because the Exotic is periodically bred to Persians to keep the desired body and head type, most Exotics do possess one copy of the recessive longhair gene and one copy of the dominant shorthair gene. Such heterozygous Exotics will have short hair but can pass the gene for long hair onto their offspring. The gene can be passed for generations without showing up in the offspring’s physical appearance. But when two heterozygous Exotics are mated, on average litters will include one longhaired kitten, two heterozygous shorthairs and one homozygous shorthair, which possesses two copies of the shorthair gene.
Since Exotics are hybrids and Persians are not, these longhaired kittens are still considered Exotics–a longhaired version of a shorthaired Persian, the oxymoron of the cat fancy. The longhaired Exotic has been a problem for breeders who show and register with CFA, since CFA didn’t allow longhaired Exotics to be shown for championship as either Exotics or Persians. They could be used in Exotic breeding programs, but the show ring was closed to them.
In 2010, however, CFA changed these rules somewhat, perhaps due to fanciers taking their Exotics to shows sponsored by associations with more liberal rules.
In TICA, longhaired Exotics can be registered and shown as Persians. In ACFA, AACE, ACA, CFF, UFO and CCA a separate standard exists for the Exotic Longhair (in ACFA the breed is called the Longhair Exotic). This way, good-quality longhaired Exotics can be shown for championship, and breeders don’t have to worry about what to do with the longhaired kittens who will continue to be born. Now in CFA, Longhair Exotics that fit Persian color descriptions are eligible to compete in those Persian color classes. The Exotics are identified by a different registration prefix so their wins will count toward longhair Exotic breed and color class wins instead of Persian wins. A longhair division for Exotics is being created for scoring purposes and national/regional points accrued by longhair Exotics shown in the Persian color classes.
With an Exotic, you can spend more time playing with your feline friend instead of grooming him; compared to the Persian, the Exotic is easy to groom. However, Exotics do require more grooming than many other shorthaired breeds because they have as much hair as Persians do—it’s just shorter. Also like the Persian, they have a rich, full undercoat. Figure on a grooming session with a good quality steel comb twice a week to keep your Exotic free from mats. Breeders recommend a bath once a month as well. Exotics whose eyes run need their faces washed daily with a warm, wet washcloth. Tear stain remover, made especially for cats to clean the discoloration under the eyes, can be purchased at pet supply stores, catalogs, and web sites
The Exotic is essentially a shorthaired Persian, and is still crossed with Persians, so it’s no surprise that the breed has some of the same health issues as the Persian. These include sinus and breathing problems caused by the foreshortened face, snub nose, abridged sinus cavities, and constantly running eyes due to short tear ducts. Some Exotics need their faces washed daily to eliminate excess tearing. Also, some lines are prone to plaque, tartar buildup, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, tooth, and bone loss. Untreated, periodontal disease can undermine a cat’s overall health.
In addition, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is very common in Persians and its related breeds. PKD causes the development of multiple cysts on both kidneys, which can result in renal failure. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, over 37 percent of Persians have PKD, a breed that accounts for nearly 80 percent of the pedigreed cats in the cat fancy. Fortunately, a PKD genetic test is available from the school’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, which helps breeders screen out affected breeding stock.Leslie A. Lyons Ph.D., Assistant Professor with the Department of Population Health and Reproduction, recommends PKD testing for Persians, Exotics, Himalayans, American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs, Scottish Folds, and any breed that outcrosses with Persians.
Some lines of Exotics also have inherited the potentially life-threatening heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The disease can develop at any age, but is more common in older cats—cats who have already had the opportunity to pass the disease along to offspring. This disease is serious because the first noticeable symptom of HCM is often sudden death at a relatively young age. HCM is the most common feline heart disease, and is known in other breeds and in random-bred cats as well. Be sure to talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns, and buy from a breeder who tests for PKD and provides a written health guarantee.
Did you know?
The Exotic is sometimes called the lazy person’s Persian, because the breed has the body type and laidback lifestyle of the Persian but lacks the long, easily matted fur. If you’re yearning for a Persian but don’t want to spend time every day grooming your cat, the Exotic may be for you.
The Exotic’s personality is very similar to the Persian’s: devoted, sweet and affectionate. Exotics usually choose one human in the household as their preferred person and follow them around like small, plush lapdogs. They are loyal cats and want to be involved in every aspect of their people’s lives.
As a rule, this breed has the attributes of the Persian—dignified, quiet, sensitive, enjoys pampering—but they are also a bit more fun-loving and athletic. They tend to be playful without being mischievous and active without being hyper. Some of them learn to fetch. Like Persians, their calm, trusting temperaments make them ideal house cats, and breeders recommend them as indoor-only pets.
Although not usually chosen as Jeopardy contestants, Exotics are nevertheless thought to be smarter than Persians, probably because of the American Shorthair influence. That dash of American Shorthair flavoring is important, because it gives the Exotic its easier-care coat and a temperament that’s a tad livelier than its placid Persian cousin. Exotics love to play in between long naps, particularly when their favorite humans join the fun. As with any breed, however, some Exotics may set a faster or slower pace than their brothers and sisters.