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Although the Khao Manee is very new to Britain, it is actually a very ancient pure breed of shorthaired cat originating from Thailand, rather than being a new breed or a hybrid cross. It is considered to be the fourth native Thai breed, alongside Siamese, Burmese and Korats, and until 2009, was unknown outside of Thailand. Numbers have been falling in its native land with the breed subsequently becoming very rare, and Western cat breeders are now working alongside breeders in Thailand to ensure that this beautiful and very ancient breed does not become extinct. The name 'Khao Manee' literally means 'white gem', and these cats have pure white coats although variants occasionally appear, and kittens are sometimes born with a small dark mark on the top of their heads, which disappears by the time they are about a year old.
As with all the ancient cats of Thailand, the history of the Khao Manee is well documented in its native land. It was first mentioned in the Tamra Maew, a very famous book of cat poems first produced in the mid fourteenth century, where it was referred to as the Kao Plort, literally meaning 'all white', and where it is claimed that it would bring 'long life and title' to any household in which it lived. However, for many years only the Thai Royal Family was permitted to breed the Khao Manee, including King Rama V in the late nineteenth century who was also known as a loyal supporter of the Siamese. The first Khao Manee to arrive in the UK, called Odyssey ChaWee of Ayshazen, was imported from the USA in 2009 by British breeder Mrs Chrissie Russell. Several other breeders have now become interested in preserving the breed, importing cats from the USA and from Thailand, and in 2011 a specialist club was set up, which is based in the UK but open to members of all nationalities. The Khao Manee breed was first recognised in Britain by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 2010, and can currently be shown on exhibition only at GCCF shows, until it has passed the necessary criteria in terms of numbers and a recognised Standard of Points needed to achieve higher recognition which will allow it to be shown in competition.
This pure white cat of 'foreign' type has a short, close-lying white coat, with eyes that can be blue, yellow, amber or green, although it can take around 5 months for the true colour to develop. Each eye can be bicoloured in itself, although the most popular eye-colour both in Britain as well as in Thailand (where it is still considered to be the best and the most lucky) is odd-eyed with one blue eye and the other a different colour from the permitted list of eye colours. The first British Khao Manee has one blue eye and the other a deep shade of yellow. There is nothing 'extreme' about this breed, with a solid muscular body and neck, legs, body and tail of medium length. The ears are medium to slightly large, and are held high on the head, with a slight angular set. Nose and paw leather is pink, as are the lips and skin.
This breed is known for its superb temperament, and is very much a 'lap cat'. It has a very extrovert and affectionate nature, and together with its high intelligence, makes the Khao Manee an ideal family pet. Like the other Thai breeds it is a very vocal cat, with a loud voice when it wants to get its point across clearly. It is a very inquisitive breed and will want to investigate behind every closed door and cupboard, as well as trying to balance on shelves and mantelpieces. Because it is such a sociable cat, the Khao Manee relates to well to human company and will adapt well to indoor living, not feeling the need to go out. However, it will need company, and will not appreciate being left alone for hours at a time - another feline companion, especially another cat with a similar extrovert personality, will be much appreciated.
The life span of the Khao Manee outside of Thailand is not yet known, although it would appear to be a long-lived variety in its native land. Some breeds of pure white cats (especially those with blue eyes) are prone to deafness in one or both ears, and it is not yet known how prevalent this is within the Khao Manee breed, although extensive genetic research is currently being undertaken in the USA. Anecdotally it would appear that it is less common, possibly due to many centuries of white-to-white cat breeding in Thailand, but the results of testing should be known in due course. In common with other cats, the Khao Manee needs annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
The Khao Manee will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese, preferably shared with its humans if care is not taken! However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. The breed has a short coat, which will not need much grooming, and stroking (particularly with slightly damp hands) will normally remove any dead hairs as well as being a source of enjoyment to the cat, and a dry chamois leather will bring up a wonderful sheen on the coat. If the Khao Manee is to be a pet, and not used for breeding, it should be neutered at around 6 months of age as it is a breed that matures sexually at a young age.