Origin and History
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Siamese breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty originated the Snowshoe breed in the 1960s when one of her cats produced a unique litter. Three of the kittens sported unusual white points and feet.
Hinds-Daugherty attempted to breed more of these kittens by crossing black and white tuxedo American Shorthairs with seal point Siamese. When these offspring were bred to Siamese, they produced kittens with the white points and feet.
Hinds-Daugherty named the breed “Snowshoe” because of its white feet but did not submit the breed for consideration by cat breed associations. Another breeder, Vikki Olander, took on this duty, writing the first official breed description for the Snowshoe.
Thanks to Olander, the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) and the American Cat Association (ACA) awarded the Snowshoe the status of “experimental breed” in 1974. 1983 marked the achievement of CFF champion status by the Snowshoe, kicking off a new wave of interest in the breed.
Today the breed is recognized by the CFF, the ACA, the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), the International Cat Association (TICA), the American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE), the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) does not yet recognize the Snowshoe.
The Snowshoe has experienced a surge in popularity ever since Grumpy Cat (who is possibly a Snowshoe) entered the limelight, but overall the breed is still quite rare due to lack of breeders and difficulty in meeting breed standards.
Coat, Colors & Appearance
All Snowshoes have point coloration – a pale body with darker face, tail, legs and ears. This is inherited from their Siamese origins. The most common point colorations (and the only ones recognized by the ACFA and the AACE) are seal point and blue point with cream, beige or tan body colors.
Other colors are very rare due to the difficulty of breeding Snowshoes. FIFe recognizes chocolate, cinnamon, black, fawn, cream and red point varieties in addition to seal and blue point. They also recognize tortie, tabby, and tortie-tabby patterned Snowshoes. TICA recognizes all colors.
Snowshoe kittens are born fully white and begin developing their point colors at three weeks old. The nose and paw pads can be pink, point-colored or both. Breed-standard Snowshoes will ideally have white color on their muzzles that extends up between their eyes.
White paws should ideally be separated from the light body by a darker point-colored band. The front paws should sport white mittens while the back paws should have white boots – more or less white may disqualify the cat from meeting breed standards.
The Snowshoe’s coat is short to medium length with no undercoat. Some individuals may have a double coat but this is considered a fault. The fur is smooth and soft. True Snowshoes have large walnut-shaped eyes that are strikingly blue. The head should be wedge-shaped, equally long and wide with high cheekbones, topped with medium-large ears.
Snowshoes are medium to medium-large cats, though they tend to be longer than other cats of a similar size. Females tend to weigh 7-10 pounds while males weigh 9-12 pounds. Some Snowshoes tip the scales at 14 pounds or more! The Snowshoe appears to be a lean cat but is actually quite muscular and strong.
The breed’s heritage is easy to see in its personality. Bossy, social Siamese traits really shine through in the Snowshoe, as does chattiness.
If you’re in a house with a Snowshoe, expect to be meowed at a lot as he tries to let you know how he feels about everything! The Snowshoe’s meow, however, is considerably softer and gentler than the Siamese meow.
Snowshoes require a great deal of attention. They hate being left alone for long periods of time and get upset if their favorite person is not around to shower them in attention.
If you show a Snowshoe love, she will gladly return it at every opportunity. Just don’t be surprised if she’d sometimes rather run around than sit in your lap – she may be affectionate but she’s got plenty of energy too.
Curious and intelligent, Snowshoes enjoy many different activities. They can learn tricks, play fetch and may even teach themselves to open doors. Some Snowshoe owners even report that their cats love swimming! Snowshoes love climbing and being as high up as possible, so a good-sized cat tree (or sturdy furniture) is a must.
Most Snowshoes enjoy being around children, other cats and even dogs. In fact, if a Snowshoe owner is regularly away from the house, a companion cat is recommended to prevent loneliness.
Children love Snowshoes, and that love is reciprocated by the cats, as they love cuddling, are not easily scared and do not generally mind noisy environments. Snowshoes may take a moment to warm up to strangers, but with a little time and kindness they’ll be chatting up any visitors like old friends.
Overall the Snowshoe strikes an ideal balance between affectionate and energetic. Their activity level makes them less prone to obesity than some lazier breeds, but they are not so high-strung that they’ll drive you up the wall.
Grooming and Care
The Snowshoe’s short to medium length coat is easy to care for. It does shed its coat with the seasons, so if you’re looking for a low-shed cat, the Snowshoe is not for you.
A twice-weekly brushing is usually enough to keep the coat in top shape, and the Snowshoe loves affection and attention so much that you may find yourself being begged for a brushing!
Other than brushing, a Snowshoe will take care of all its own grooming, making it a great breed for anyone looking for a low-maintenance (but still beautiful) cat.
As with all cats, dental care is extremely important to prevent tooth and gum disease. Daily tooth brushing is best if you can convince the Snowshoe to accept it.
Overall, the Snowshoe breed is quite healthy, especially compared to breeds such as Persians that are known for their health issues.
Because the Snowshoe breed is so rare, there are no studies available to suggest which health conditions the Snowshoe is predisposed to. However, vets suggest that because of its lineage the Snowshoe may have a higher chance of developing the following conditions.
- Heart Disease: Siamese cats have a higher than normal risk of heart disease, and this may be inherited by Snowshoes. Heart disease takes many forms and can only be diagnosed by a vet, but the most common symptoms are weight loss and lethargy.
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases: Siamese cats are also prone to these, which include bladder stones and urinary tract infections. These commonly present as urinating outside the litter box. A Snowshoe who does this should be taken to the vet for treatment.
- Allergies: Symptoms are similar to those in human allergies – sneezing and itching. A Snowshoe that licks and scratches constantly may have allergies and should be seen by a vet.
What Makes the Snowshoe Different from Other Breeds?
Snowshoes are great for those who want the stunning looks of a Siamese without the noise. They strike an ideal balance between independent and affectionate, making them a great choice for families.
Their entertaining antics and ability to learn tricks make them a joy to be around. Easy to groom and care for, they’re also ideal for those who are new to cat ownership.
Buying a Snowshoe
Those interested in buying a Snowshoe can find a list of breeders here, though there may be a long wait as there are not many Snowshoe breeders. Prices can vary as well. Blue Eyes Cattery lists its price per kitten as $1800 all-inclusive.
Adopting a Snowshoe
If you would prefer adopting to buying, a good place to start is the Snowshoe Cat Rescue Network, which connects prospective Snowshoe owners with cats in shelters or foster homes. They also help with rescuing other breeds.