One of the most remarkable traits of the Domestic Longhair cat is that they are just typical cats… with long hair. In other words, Domestic Longhairs are breed-less. They are a product of willy-nilly cat pairings; a typical Felis silvestris catus, but with flowing locks, arrived on the scene without the guiding hand of Homo sapiens.
Do not get them confused with their purebred American cousins, the American Longhair cat. The American Longhair cat has a distinct family tree that’s been pruned by people. They can trace their lineage. The lineage of a Domestic Longhair cat, on the other hand, is shrouded in mystery.
But that doesn’t mean these highly-varied, longhaired, mixed-breed kitties aren’t special. They have plenty to help them stand out from the crowd. That’s a fact that has made them the second most popular housecat in the whole U. S. of A., the leader being their partners in genetic-diversity, the Domestic Shorthair.
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A Hairy History
Getting to know the history of the Domestic Longhaired, means getting to know their genes. The gene carrying the long hair trait in cats is recessive. That means the result of a shorthaired cat mating with a longhaired will only be shorthaired kittens. However, if the shorthaired offspring were to mate with each other, a handful of longhaired kittens might be born.
Natural Selection. Maybe.
The ultimate origin of the Domestic Longhair is based on speculation, but it’s thought that the recessive gene for long hair was naturally selected in cat populations hanging out in colder climates. In the northern reaches of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the luxurious coats of longhaired cats offered great protection from the weather.
There is a precedent for this. The meme-able and reclusive internet darling called the Pallas cat lives in the wild in Central Asia and sports long, fluffy hair (and an adorable grumpy face). In fact, at one time it was thought that Pallas cats bred with domestic cats to create longhairs. That idea was later refuted.
Plague Fighters and Immigrants
While humans would eventually breed longhaired cats to have traits like those seen in today’s modern Persians and Russian Blues, the scrappy Domestic Longhaired persisted. They were first documented in Italy around the middle of the 16th century. It’s thought that their presence in Europe during that time was likely due to soldiers who returned from the Crusades with longhaired cats. It turns out it’s a good thing they did.
As the plague swept across Europe in the mid-1600s, Domestic Longhairs proved useful. Because of their fine moussing skills, they helped control the rat population that carried the disease-spreading fleas. Where the church had once banned them, the cats worked their way back into a beneficial relationship with people.
Domestic Longhairs would later make it to the shores of America as ship’s cats. Some of these cats may have differentiated, becoming the much-loved Maine Coon breed. Others continued to splash around in their wide gene pool, creating the amazing longhaired varieties seen on our shores today.
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Humphrey: An Historic Domestic Longhair
One of the most famous Domestic Longhairs in the world is a former London street cat turned political ambassador named Humphrey. This black and white phenom was found as a stray next to the British Prime Minister’s private residence, 10 Downing Street, when he was just one-year-old.
He must have charmed the governing elite. Shortly after being found, Humphrey was promoted from area stray to the position of “Mouser to the Cabinet Office.” The title was apparently well earned. Humphrey was said to be really good at his job, and the British government paid for his food for the equivalent of $200 a year.
Humphrey attended to 10 Downing Street during the residency of three Prime Ministers, and he was loved by both the public and the press. But after a life of great renown and global politics, Humphrey was retired to a quiet country home where he lived to a ripe old age of 18.
Domestic Longhair Traits: Typically Atypical
The mixed ancestry of Domestic Longhair cats means they present an entire rainbow’s worth of colors, as well as the physical traits and characteristics of an entire cat menagerie. The one thing that all Domestic Longhairs share, besides their somewhat generic name, is that hair… long beautiful hair! Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen… you get the drift.
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A Coat of Many Colors
The Domestic Longhairs’ coat is generally two to six inches long. They can sometimes sport fancy neck ruffs, too. They may also have ear tufts, as well as tufts on the bottom of their paws. The latter is likely a holdover from cold climate ancestors who may have used the trait as a kind of snowshoe, or even desert cats who used similar tufts to stay stable on sand.
Variety is the name of the game for the color of these kitties. They present huge varieties of patterns and hues that, when matched with a spectacular variety of eye colors, combines to create a longhair cat for every type of person. Which might be the point considering how the word “domestic” is part of their name. Very clever, indeed.
Here are some colors you might find a Domestic Longhair wearing:
- Patched Tabby
- Solid Black
- Patched Faun
A Very “Regular” Body
Body-types for the Domestic Longhair will be largely influenced by whichever breed trait in their mixed genetic pool floats to the surface. Faces may be elongated or shortened, bodies can be muscular or sleek. That said, their weight and length are generally in the mid-range of all cat breeds. Think eight to 15 pounds depending on sex, with a body length of around 18 inches and a tail length of approximately 12 inches.
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Personality of Domestic Longhair Cats
One of the wonderful things about these cats is that they are neither too aloof nor too needy. Some might be quieter than others. Some might be more affectionate. And while not extreme, the range of personalities is likely as diverse as those of your friends and family.
A personality trait Domestic Longhair cats do share is the desire to hunt. After all, the mousing skills of the domestic cat have often been credited as the reason humans have cohabitated with these fluffballs for so very long. Because of that, you can expect your average Domestic Longhair, particularly if they’re young, to enjoy some time stalking interactive toys.
The biggest issue with Domestic Longhair cats is that hair of theirs. Not all longhair cats are particularly good at grooming their own coats. Unlike some longhair breeds that have relatively trouble-free fuzzy coats, like the Maine Coon, many of these fuzzy felines require more than just their own tongue to keep them mat free.
Expect to put in some regular grooming time, somewhere around 20-minutes a week, in order to keep your longhaired kitty mat and hairball free. If your cat does develop mats, a professional groomer that specializes in felines may be the way to go. You don’t want to injure your cat, or yourself, when trying to fix a hairy problem.
Of course, keeping any cat healthy requires a trip to the veterinarian shortly after adoption. Your DVM will be able to give you a full checkup and help you with the nutritional and health needs of your cat. Not sure where to start? Check out this handy infographic on your kitty’s first vet visit.
Finally, keep in mind that The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) suggests that all cats be kept indoors. It’s really the best method to protect them from injury, illness or contagious pathogens associated with stray cats. And because Domestic Longhair cats are known hunters, keeping them indoors will also protect the furry and feathered creatures around your home.
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Health Issues and Top Claims
Thanks to their mixed breeding, there aren’t any health problems linked specifically to Domestic Longhair cats. That said, health issues that affect cats in general, including arthritis, kidney disease, upper respiratory infection and cancer, can still affect Domestic Longhair cats.
Here are the Top Pet Insurance Claims* for the Domestic Longhair:
- Kidney Disease
- Chronic renal failure
The good news is that cat insurance can provide reimbursement for the treatment costs of issues like these, as well as the routine preventative care that will make you a truly above average Domestic Longhair cat pet parent. Get your free quote now.
The good news is that cat insurance can provide reimbursement for the treatment costs of issues like these, as well as the routine preventative care
Adopting a Domestic Longhair Cat
The estimate is that 1 in 10 domestic cats in the U.S. is a Domestic Longhair. That’s a ton of fuzzy felines. And given their incredible population, it’s inevitable that you will see plenty of perfect Domestic Longhair felines in your local shelter.
The nice thing about the variety is that you can spend time in finding the hairy soulmate for you. And once you find them, do not hesitate to get them spayed or neutered. The procedure lengthens their life and protects them from possible health issues. Not to mention, it keeps your home free from unexpected furry litters.
Visit the ASPCA’s website to find a shelter in your area. Also, find out what you need to know about bringing home a new kitten from the adoption process to basic kitten care.
* Internal Claims Data, 2015