A portrait of an adult Snowshoe cat.
Photo Credit: Iuliia Alekseeva / Getty Images

Snowshoe

The Snowshoe cat is a beautiful breed, celebrated for their striking appearance and engaging personality. This breed is a relatively recent addition to the popular cat world, originating in the 1960s when Siamese breeders introduced a new crossbreeding program. Snowshoes showcase short, sleek coats, which come in a variety of colors, but the classic pattern includes a mostly white body with color points on the ears, face, paws, and tail.

One of the most notable features of the Snowshoe cat is the distinctive “snowshoe” pattern on their paws, which resembles the markings left by a snowshoe in the snow. This breed is also known for their affectionate and social nature. They often form strong bonds with their human companions. Snowshoes are typically vocal and enjoy interactive play, making them well-suited for families and individuals seeking an engaging and loving feline companion.

When considering a Snowshoe, it’s advisable to prioritize adopting from rescue organizations or shelters to provide a loving home to a cat in need. However, if you decide to purchase, it’s crucial to choose a reputable breeder. Conduct thorough research to ensure that the breeder follows ethical practices and prioritizes the well-being of their cats. Reputable Snowshoe breeders prioritize the health and temperament of their cats. They also conduct necessary health screenings, and provide a nurturing environment for the kitties. This active approach ensures that you bring home a healthy and happy kitty while discouraging unethical breeding practices.

Quick Facts

  • Origin: United States
  • Size: Medium
  • Breed group: Natural
  • Lifespan: 14-20 years
  • Coat: Short, silky, and color-pointed, with white feet and face
  • Temperament: Intelligent, playful, and affectionate
  • Exercise needs: Moderate
  • Training: Trainable
  • Grooming: Low-maintenance
  • Max the Roomba Cat, a Snowshoe from Houston, Texas, was known for riding on a Roomba vacuum cleaner.
  • Dusty the Klepto Kitty is a Snowshoe cat from San Mateo, California, steals items from his neighbors’ yards, and is popular on social media.
  • Despite popular belief, the most famous Snowshoe, Grumpy Cat, was not a Snowshoe.
  • Snowshoe kittens are born white, with the coloring appearing several weeks after birth.

Snowshoe Cat Pictures

Snowshoe History

Like his ancestor the Siamese, the Snowshoe is a pointed cat, meaning she has a light-colored body with dark areas in seal or blue: the tail, legs, and ears, plus a mask around the eyes, broken up by an inverted V-shaped marking in white between blue eyes and over the muzzle. Four white paws punctuate the dark legs, with the front paws termed “mittens” and the rear paws “boots.” The body is more rounded than that of the Siamese, with short hair.

The appearance of the Snowshoe harks back to the late Victorian era, with photographic and silk-screen evidence of Siamese kittens with four white feet, but the breed we know today was not developed until the mid-20th century. White-pawed Siamese known as Silver Laces made a brief appearance in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Philadelphia Siamese breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty decided to create a Siamese-type cat with white paws and a moderate body. She called them Snowshoes.

Daugherty began with three white-pawed Siamese kittens and bred them to a domestic shorthaired cat with tuxedo markings (black coat and white belly, chest, throat, and paws — often with a black mask around the eyes). With intelligence from both sides of the family tree and the moderating influence of the domestic shorthair on the Siamese body type and personality, it’s no wonder the new cats were seen to have potential both as companions and show animals.

Daugherty eventually gave up breeding cats, but other breeders who saw merit in continuing to develop the interesting and beautiful cats carried on her work. The Cat Fanciers Federation recognized the Snowshoe in 1982, followed by American Cat Fanciers Association in 1990 and The International Cat Association in 1994. The Cat Fanciers Association does not yet recognize the breed. While the Snowshoe is a distinct breed, the cats are still sometimes bred back to Siamese or Oriental Shorthairs to maintain their traits. It’s not easy to produce kittens with the desired markings, so the breed is uncommon, despite the ubiquity of Grumpy Cat.

Snowshoe Size

This medium-size cat weighs 9 to 12 pounds. Females are smaller, weighing 7 to 10 pounds, although some approach the size if not the heft of males.

Snowshoe Personality

The Snowshoe is a unique individual who is always interesting to live with. A Snowshoe may be the bossy master or mistress of the home, the feline “Mom” who’s always checking in on you, the entertaining clown, or the needy best friend. In whatever guise she comes, you can expect her to be smart, active, and affectionate, although she may take her time warming up to visitors.

A Snowshoe usually chooses a favorite person in the family, but she maintains cordial relationships with everyone. She stays close to the favored person and can often be seen leading them to something of the Snowshoe’s interest. Snowshoes are smart and will often learn to open doors or perform tricks, including running feline agility courses. They like to play fetch, may walk on leash, and enjoy dabbling in running water. Some even take to swimming.

This is an active cat who can often be found perching on top of the refrigerator or some other vantage point from where he can survey all that’s going on. Thanks to their Siamese heritage, Snowshoes tend to be “talkers.” Fortunately, they have a soft, melodic voice that’s easy on the ears. Plan to carry on many interesting conversations with your Snowshoe; she’ll want to know all about your day, how you feel about the local school board election, and whether you think dinner will be soon. He won’t hesitate to register any complaints with you about her meals or accommodations, but this sweet-tempered cat knows you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Snowshoes are mellow and generally get along with other pets, including dogs. That said, it’s certainly possible to end up with one who prefers to be the center of your world and will do best as an only cat. Choose a Snowshoe if you will enjoy spending time with and interacting with your cat. A Snowshoe likes company and would prefer not to be home alone all day. If you work long hours, she’ll appreciate having a feline or canine friend.

Snowshoe Health

Both pedigreed and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. The Snowshoe is generally healthy, however. Occasionally, a Snowshoe may have a kink in her tail or crossed eyes — vestiges of her Siamese ancestry — but those cosmetic flaws don’t affect her health or ability to be a great companion. These are common cat issues that may arise, but not specific to the Snowshoe:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): HCM is the most common heart condition in cats, and Snowshoe cats can be susceptible. It’s essential to have regular veterinary check-ups, including cardiac evaluations, to monitor and manage heart health.
  • Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease is a common concern in older cats, and Snowshoe cats are no exception. Regular veterinary check-ups can help monitor kidney function.
  • Respiratory Problems: Snowshoe cats, with their Siamese ancestry, may be more susceptible to upper respiratory infections and related issues. Proper vaccination and maintaining good overall health can help reduce the risk of respiratory problems.

Snowshoe Care

Brush a Snowshoe’s short coat once or twice a week to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing.

It’s a good idea to keep a Snowshoe as an indoor-only cat to protect her 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. Snowshoes who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have a unique and beautiful cat without paying for it.

Snowshoe Coat Color And Grooming

The Snowshoe has a short, smooth coat that’s easy to care for. Snowshoe kittens are born white. Their points (dark or patterned areas of fur on the tail, legs, head, and ears) begin to develop when they are a few weeks old and darken as the kitten matures. The body is usually a light cream color ranging to beige or tan with seal or blue points.

Other point colors such as chocolate or lilac are difficult to produce and rarely seen. Those colors also provide little contrast with the white paws. Paw pads and nose leather can be pink; the same color as the points; or a combination of the two.

Because the Snowshoe’s pattern is recessive and involves several gene factors, it’s difficult to consistently achieve the desired look. No cat has perfect markings. Those who come closest to the ideal — the ones you’ll see in the show ring — have an inverted white “V” between the eyes and over the muzzle, two white mittens in the front and two white boots in the back. The more symmetrical the markings, the better.

Markings that are acceptable but not preferred include a blaze on the face or white markings on the chin, throat, and stomach. It’s best if all four feet are solid white with dark points separating the white foot color from the light body color. White that goes too high or too low on the leg or face is a flaw and may put a kitten into the “pet quality” category depending on her other qualities. In a perfect world, a Snowshoe won’t have spots of the point color in the white areas or white streaks (called runners) going from the white areas into the points.

A Snowshoe glances at you with large, wide eyes of sparkling blue. The eyes are described as walnut-shaped: larger and rounder than the Siamese eye, but not as round as the eye of a Persian. The rectangular body is firm and muscular, but never bulky. The Snowshoe resembles a runner, not a wrestler, but is more powerful than she looks. When you pick her up, you may be surprised at how substantial she feels. Medium-large ears top the slightly rounded head, which should be as wide as it is long. Medium-size paws are oval and taper to the toes.

Children And Other Pets

The active and social Snowshoe is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. She will play fetch as well as any Retriever, learns tricks easily, and appreciates the attention she receives from children who treat her politely and with respect.

Snowshoe Rescue Groups

Statistics

Life Span
14 to 19 years
Length
Medium to long
Weight
7 to 12 pounds
Country Of Origin
Philadelphia, USA

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