Vital Stats:Life Span: 10 to 15 years
How did a brown cat of Southeast Asian origin, believed to offer protection from evil, come to be known as a Swiss Mountain Cat, and how did it then adopt the name Havana Brown? The full answers to those questions are lost to history, but what appears to have happened is that solid-brown cats of Siamese type from Thailand were exhibited in Britain in the 1890s. Somehow during that time they acquired the moniker Swiss Mountain Cat.
In 1920, the Siamese Cat Club of Britain decided that brown cats without blue eyes were no longer desirable, and that was that. Breeders lost interest in them until the 1950s, when a group of British cat breeders set themselves the task of determining the genetic makeup of a self-brown (solid-colored) cat. They eventually produced a male chestnut-brown kitten, the result of a cross between a shorthaiared black cat and a chocolate-point Siamese.
Russian Blues and Burmese may also have played a role in the development of what came to be known as the Havana Brown (whose only connection to Cuba is the supposed resemblance of his color to that of a fine Havana cigar). But as it turned out, according to an article in the 1982 CFA Yearbook, the most successful and most often used breeding to produce a self-brown cat was between a black shorthair and a seal-point Siamese carrying the chocolate gene.
The cats, which also went by the name Chestnut Foreign Shorthair—as many aliases as they had, they might well have been Cold War Cuban spies—were first exported to the United States in the 1950s. It was then that the breed began to go two different ways. In Britain he is now considered to be a brown Oriental Shorthair. In the U.S., he is known as the Havana Brown and has a body and head type that distinguishes him from his British cousin. The Cat Fanciers Association recognized the breed in 1964.
The Havana Brown is a rare breed, so much so that his genetic diversity is threatened. It has been propped up by an outcrossing program begun in 1998, which permits the cats to be bred to unregistered black or blue domestic shorthairs or certain colors of Oriental Shorthairs or chocolate-point or seal-point Siamese. The kittens produced by those breedings can then be bred to Havana Browns. If those kittens have the Havana Brown coloring, they can be registered as Havana Browns.
The Havana is a medium-size cat weighing 6 to 10 pounds.
The rich tobacco-colored cat known as the Havana Brown may or may not be named for the addictive leaf, but the cats themselves are addictive to the people who come to know them. They are outgoing and friendly. Expect one to follow you around the house as you go about your day.
Like most cats with Siamese ancestry, the Havana can be demanding and talkative, but his voice is softer and his personality more subtle. He is smart and likes the challenge of teaser and puzzle toys. When he is through playing, the affectionate Havana will happily ensconce himself on your lap.
The Havana Brown’s short, smooth coat is easy to care for with a quick weekly combing. Polishing it with a chamois will make it shine. A bath is rarely necessary.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection.
Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene.
It’s a good idea to keep a Havana Brown as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Havana Browns who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Havana Brown’s distinctive color extends even to his whiskers. He is the only cat with a breed standard that spells out whisker color: brown, of course, complementing the coat color.
Looking out from all that minky-brown richness are vivid green eyes with an oval shape. The Havana is also distinguished by his uncommon head shape; it’s longer than it is wide. Large ears tilt forward.
He has a firm, muscular body covered in short, smooth fur in a rich, warm reddish-brown. Kittens and young adults may have the barest hint of tabby markings, which disappear as they mature. The nose leather is brown with a rosy flush, and the paw pads are a rosy brown as well.
Children And Other Pets
The Havana Brown is playful and smart and can be a good friend to a child who treats him nicely. He’s one of those cats who enjoys playing fetch and learning tricks, and his energy level means he won’t wear out before the child does. He is happy to live with other cats and cat-friendly dogs, too, thanks to his amiable disposition. Introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.