This is a fascinating breed of cat with very exotic markings, as it is actually a shorthaired cat of Persian type with a flatter face than most shorthaired cats, and as such, it is seen at cat shows in Britain in the longhaired section. They are sometimes referred to as the 'Easycare Persian' and often appeal to cat lovers who like the gentle disposition of a Persian cat, without the hours that must be spent in grooming its longhaired cousin. As Persians have frequently been used for outcrosses to retain the correct type for the breed, some Exotics may carry the recessive longhair gene, which means that when two such cats mate, there is a one in four chance of each offspring being longhaired, which is recognised as an Exotic Longhair in Britain.
This breed originated in the USA in the late 1950s, but it was the concept that came to the UK in the 1980s, rather than a direct import. Breeders of the American Shorthair introduced Persians in their breeding programme at this time with the intention of improving the coat texture of their breed. However, the offspring that emerged from this breeding were cats with a typical American Shorthaired coat coupled with the cobby, compact body and flat 'teddy bear' face more typical of the Longhair. The new hybrid breed gained full recognition in the USA under the name of the Exotic Shorthair in 1966, although there were repercussions for breeders of the original purebred American Shorthair, whose breeding programmes were affected by this hybridisation. The first Exotic Shorthair breeders also out-crossed with the Russian Blue and the Burmese, although since 1987, the only permitted outcross has been a Persian. The idea of a hybrid Persian/Shorthair crossed the Atlantic and the first Exotics in the UK started to appear in the 1980s, as a hybrid of the Persian and British Shorthair, although the coat of an Exotic is denser and softer than the British Shorthair. They achieved preliminary recognition with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1986, eventually gaining Championship status in 1995. In the early days of the breed here, Exotics were always bred from a Persian/British Shorthair cross, but nowadays the gene pool is big enough for Exotic/Exotic and Exotic/Persian matings.
The Exotic Shorthair has exactly the same physical characteristics as the Persian, including the typical Persian 'snub' nose, but with the obvious difference in coat length and texture. It can be bred in the same colours as its longhaired cousin or the British Shorthair, including a variety of spotted colours, and in all, over 140 colour/coat combinations are recognised in this country. Eye colour comes in varying shades of orange, copper, green or blue equating to that seen in the older breeds from which it derives. The coat is dense, plush and soft in texture, standing out from the body due to the density, rather than being flat or close lying like many other shorthaired breeds. The short legs are thick and strong, the length being more discernible without the long flowing hair to disguise it. The same applies to the tail, which is quite short with a rounded tip, but in proportion to the body length.
Exotics make very good pets and loyal companions, as they are usually relaxed, confident and affectionate like their longhaired cousins, although they tend to be a little livelier as they are more curious and playful. They have a very gentle nature and enjoy curling up on a lap, and are generally a very people-orientated breed. However, they are not demanding in the way that many of the shorthaired breeds can be, and also have very quiet voices although they rarely meow. They are happy to integrate with other family pets, and don't like to be left alone. They will appreciate having a feline companion, but one of a similar disposition rather than one of the more extrovert breeds. They will appreciate some gentle sound if their owners are out, such as a radio tuned to a station with speech rather than music. Their calm nature makes them an idea choice for people living in an apartment, as they tend to relate more to their humans than to their environment.
The Exotic often lives into the mid teens. They can be prone to the same health problems as the Persians due to their short, flat faces and, in particular, to breathing difficulties, skin and eye problems in extreme cases. In common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
This breed is not a fussy eater and will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. As this is not a particularly active breed, they can be prone to obesity, and careful attention should be paid to portion control at mealtimes - they need about 70 calories of food per Kg bodyweight per day. Cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. Due to the shape of their faces, their eyes may require regular cleaning to prevent crust buildup and tear staining, and a either a clean damp cloth can be used for this or a proprietary cleaning product can be purchased from good pet stores. The Exotic does not need the intensive grooming programme of the Persian, and they do not shed huge amounts of hair. They will largely take care of their coat themselves, but it is nevertheless a good idea to brush and comb them throughly at least once a week, to prevent the build up of loose hair which could result in furballs.