Oriental Cat (Foreign Shorthair) Breed Profile

History   Appearance   Temperament   Colours   Health   Lifespan

History of the Oriental cat

Oriental cat

The Oriental cat is a Siamese-type cat but in a variety of coat colours, instead of the colour points, the Siamese has. The breed was first conceived in the 1950’s in the United Kingdom where breeders wanted a Siamese-type cat but in different colours. Siamese were mated to other breeds such as the Russian Blue, Abyssinian, domestic shorthairs to achieve this and the first “oriental type cat” was the Havana, a beautiful brown cat.

Just to confuse matters a little, the Oriental is known as the Foreign Shorthair in the UK. White Orientals are known as Foreign White and brown Orientals are known as Havana. Orientals also come in longhair, aptly named “Oriental Longhair”. This article refers to Oriental Shorthairs (Foreign Shorthairs) only.

Orientals were imported to the United States in the 1970’s and the CFA accepted them for championship competition in 1977.

Appearance of the Oriental cat

Oriental cat
Image courtesy Wiktor Kettel, Flickr

The Oriental is a medium-sized, svelte cat. He is fine boned but muscular with a tubular shaped body, long, slender legs with small oval shaped paws, long thin tail tapering to a point.

The head is wedge-shaped, with large ears forming a perfect triangle and almond-shaped eyes.

The coat should  lie close to the body, be soft, fine and glossy, with no trace of a coarse texture. One thing I have noticed on both of the Oriental cats I’ve had has they had a scattering of grey hairs around their neck. I don’t know if this is common in the breed or not and certainly hasn’t been something that bothered me personally.

Oriental cat colours

Oriental cat

All colours and patterns are acceptable except the pointed coat pattern. According to the Cat Fanciers Association, the Oriental comes in 600 colours and patterns in short and long hair.

Temperament of the Oriental cat

Oriental cat

The Oriental is very similar to his Siamese cousin in personality. They are quite talkative (although my two were nowhere near as talkative as Siamese I’ve shared my life with), friendly, confident, outgoing, highly intelligent, lively, sociable, curious, affectionate and stay kitten-like well into adulthood. They are well suited to families and get along well with other pets. They become extremely attached to their human companions. Despite being active, they also love to snuggle on your lap on an evening.

Orientals are very adaptable to walking on a leash. As with the Siamese, Orientals thrive on companionship and like to be around people at all times. A feline companion is recommended if you are out of the house for long stretches.

Oriental cat health

Oriental cat
Image Tomi Tapio K, Flickr

The Oriental is a healthy breed of cat with no real health concerns. That said, when buying a purebred cat, you should always obtain a health guarantee from the breeder.


15 years.

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