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As with all major acquisitions (most importantly the living variety) I would always recommend that extensive research should be undertaken. It was the undertaking of this vital research that led me to the superb publication upon which I have now become reliant for not only tips but life saving information.
What is it that I praise so highly I hear you ask?
A publication as appealing as it is informative – Himalayan Cats, by J. Anne Helgren.
Purchased from Amazon.co.uk (£7.22 inc p+p) Himalayan Cats is a superb resource of facts and information for both potential and experienced owners alike. The book is divided into eight main sections which guide the reader through every aspect of care and consideration. It would be impossible to fully recount all the information contained within this book but I shall attempt to give a broad overview of the key areas that may be of interest to any potential reader.
What is a Himalayan? -------------------------
This chapter deals with the origin of the breed, an overview of the breed standard (that is the characteristics such as body shape and colouring) and the temperament of the cat. Himalayans (affectionately known as Himmies) are quoted as being “sweet, gentle, alert and playful” – all qualities that I can vouch for in the pair of Seal Points that I purchased roughly one year ago. Although they may appear haughty and aloof, nothing could be further from the truth – they are as loving as any cat owner could want.
This chapter explores all the issues surrounding the acquisition of such an animal. I was very impressed with the emphasis placed upon careful consideration and the book refers to a number of factors – time, finance, emotion, housing and other pets are all examined in detail to enable the reader to make an informed decision.
Once you have decided that the breed is right for you, you then have to consider which Himalayan is best. Some owners may expect cats to be of show quality, whereas other owners may wish to ensure that their cats have good potential for breeding quality cats. A cat that is not of suitable quality to show or breed is generally known as ‘pet quality’ – recommended by the book on grounds of cost.
The book offer tips and advice on what to look for in a kitten and how to select a good breeder. The book offers a glossary of recommended publications and listings of breeders – unfortunately these are all based in the United States so UK readers will have to do a bit more research. It is worth noting that most breeders will expect you to sign a contract – these may include many clauses and as with any such agreement you should always read the small print carefully. I particularly liked the section on “Questions You Should Ask” as this was very useful to me when acquiring my pair.
Understanding your new companion --------------------------------------------
This was perhaps the most fascinating section for me. This chapter provides a real insight into cat behaviour. Understanding why your cat behaves in a certain way, and how you may respond to get the most out of the relationship is fundamentally important. This sort of information would be of great interest to any cat owner – did you know that when a cat brings home prey he/she is attempting to teach you how to hunt and showing that she accepts you as a family member? If you scream and jump in the air you may offend your feline companion!
Acclimation and daily life ------------------------------
This is probably the most practical section of the book, because it provides all the dos and don’ts of caring for your cat, from kitten through to adulthood, and even for the possibility that you acquire more cats. The beginning of the chapter reads rather like a kitty shopping list with an enormous list of supplies that you require – it will come as no surprise that caring for your cats properly is not cheap! Once again I learnt a lot of things from this chapter – did you know that plastic dishes can give cats acne? No – neither did I! Throughout the narrative of the chapter, the author has highlighted “My Tip” in bold type with plenty of practical and realistic advice.
The book provides full instructions for how to do all those things that the vet would normally do – declawing, dealing with problems etc – although this is no substitute for good quality veterinary advice. Another positive feature about this book is that the author has challenged existing practices – she discusses the issues around declawing for instance, not just assuming that you should do it for the sake of it.
This chapter is highly useful (but absolutely terrifying!). By the time you have absorbed all the information here you may be too worried to let your cat out of your sight! Joking aside, this section lists all the common hazards that your cat may face and offers sensible advice on reducing risks. For instance, you may never have considered the hazards posed by your cat stepping in antifreeze spilled near your car and then licking her paws – feeding her crushed activated charcoal tablets may be the difference between life and death. Again, because the book is American so some of the references are not relevant – we are fortunate enough not to have to worry about rabies, for example.
Given the nature of this breed, grooming is an extremely important part of caring for your cat. This chapter explains what you should do, how you should do it and what the best instruments are for doing it with. Mixed in with all the text and photographs are a number of illustrations, included to help show you how to do something and there are step by step instructions for most procedures. Once again, there is a lot to be learnt here – I never even considered the need to bathe my cats.
Nutrition and feeding --------------------------
Another one of my favourite chapters. I was extremely impressed with the content of this section, and the level of detail provided into an ideal feline diet. All the dietary needs are listed here, along with a guide to all the different types of cat food and relevant sections referring to the different stages of your cat(s) life. There is some extremely useful consumer advice on cat food nutrition labelling (something I’d never thought about) as well as guidance on what treats are best.
Health care and diseases -----------------------------
Probably the most daunting section but in fact probably the most important. This lengthy chapter details all the likely, and not so likely conditions or diseases that your cat may suffer from. Plenty of advice is given on what symptoms to look for, how to treat the condition and also some essential supplies to keep in the cupboard that may just save a feline life. There is guidance on which vaccinations should be given (and when) and there is even a guide to giving your cat mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (watch out for fish breath !)
Sexual behaviour/Breeding Your Himalayan -----------------------------------------------------
Inevitably, the book goes into some detail about recognising different traits within either sex of the breed. This section may not appear relevant if you do not intend to breed, but can provide a fascinating insight into the cats’ behaviour.
The final section in the book gives the rundown on how to go about entering the cats into shows, which shows to pick and all about how the cat shows work. This was of limited appeal to me, simply because I do not formally show my cats, but the level of detail provided was such that even an experienced show cat could learn a thing or two.
One of the reasons that this book is so outstanding is that it is relatively concise (just over 100 pages) but is absolutely jam-packed with gorgeous pictures and fascinating facts. Himalayan Cats is not the sort of book that you would read once – rather like my two furry feline friends this book has become something of a lifelong companion!