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The Havana Brown cat

The Havana Brown cat

 

Havana Brown cat

I love chocolate in all its forms, including the “chocolate delight” that is the Havana Brown cat.

 

This breed of cat didn’t come about by accident. I’m oversimplifying here, but some serious cat breeders in the 1950s got together and said, essentially, “I think we need a chocolate-colored cat.”

 

The Havana Brown was the lovely result. Today, this breed is incredibly rare. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 1000 of these cats in the world, and only some 25 or so get shown every year. The photos in this post may be the closest some of us come to ever seeing a real Havana Brown.

 

What does a Havana Brown cat look like?

 

 

The Havana Brown is a solid-brown-colored cat with green eyes. In the cat world, “solid-colored” is usually described as “self.” Thus, the Havana Brown is a self-brown cat.

 

The coat of a Havana Brown is a particular kind of brown. Some describe the color as a rich, warm mahogany, or brown with reddish undertones, as opposed to black-brown, like the coat of a Burmese.

 

Havana Brown cat in a Mega Milk Carton

The coat, which is short to medium in length, is notable not just for its color, but for its smooth, lustrous texture. Some compare the feel of Havana Brown fur to the texture of a mink coat.

 

A Havana Brown is medium in size, about six to 10 pounds, with males weighing more than females.[1]  The body of a Havana Brown is firm and muscular, “exhibiting a sense of power yet also elegance and gracefulness,”[2] according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the world’s largest cat registry.

 

A Havana Brown’s face is very distinctive. The eyes are strikingly green, and the ears are large and forward tilted, as if the cat is hanging on your every word.

 

The shape of the head is also unusual and sometimes compared to a lightbulb[3] with a rounded head and cylindrical muzzle. A flourish of color-coordinated chocolate-brown whiskers set off prominent whisker pads.

 

Note that Havana Browns often have very sparse hair on the chin and lower lip. This is a feature of this breed, and not a health concern.

 

The adorable little Havana Brown nose leather will be either brown or pinkish. The toe beans are rosy-hued, too.

 

 

What is the personality of the Havana Brown cat?

 

Before you decide if you need this cat, you need to know that this cat, if you bring one into your life, is going to need you.

 

Havana Browns need their people. They like to follow their guardians around the house like puppies, “helping” with all the chores. Don’t get this cat if you travel frequently. Don’t get this cat if you think you can leave him overnight and have a neighbor step in just to freshen the water bowl.

 

According to one breeder, “HB's will become depressed, lethargic and often physically ill when their owner is gone for long absences.”[4]

 

Every cat is an individual, of course, and some Havana Browns can be more reserved than others, but, in general, this breed is alert, intelligent, warmly affectionate, and charming. They are outgoing and enjoy kids, dogs, and other cats. Most come rushing to the front door when new people stop by.

 

They are playful, and sometimes mischievous, but never too wild. After playing, their second-favorite activity, according to the CFA, is napping. They’re talkative, but tend to communicate with a sweet, soft voice.[5]

 

 

Some quirky Havana Brown behaviors

 

Havana Browns have a few behaviors that are unusual for cats and specific to this breed.

 

For one, they like to use their paws. A Havana Brown might reach out to gently touch you with a paw to get your attention or express affection. Havana Browns also use their paws to touch and investigate new things in their environment.

 

Havana Browns love to play fetch and also like carrying toys and little objects around the house in their mouths.[6] Have you lost a glove? Check for it in one of your Havana Brown’s favorite hiding places.

 

And here’s a weird one: Havana Browns love to play with and groom human hair.[7]

 

The history of the Havana Brown cat

 

Tamra Maew

The Havana Brown cat has a short history. But let’s step back a few centuries first and talk brown cats in general.

 

Brown cats have been around forever. Solid-brown cats were described in the Tamra Maew – The Cat-Book Poems – that were written in Siam (now Thailand) at least 700 years ago.

 

The Tamra Maew contains drawings of cats that resemble modern-day Siamese, Korat, Konja, and Suphalak cats. The drawings depict brown, color-pointed, black-and-white, and silver-blue cats. We also know that brown cats were among the first cats imported to England from Siam hundreds of years ago.

 

But those brown cats are not Havana Browns.

 

In the late 1800s, self-brown cats, called Swiss Mountain Cats, were exhibited at cat shows. Swiss Mountain Cats were not Havana Browns either.

 

Then, solid-brown cats fell out of favor. In 1930, the Siamese Cat club discouraged the breeding of “any but blue-eyed Siamese.”[8] That could have been the end of the road for self-brown cats.

 

The first Havana Browns

 

havana brown

But in the 1950s, a group of breeders, who first called themselves The Havana Group and then changed their name to The Chestnut Brown Group, decided to try to recreate a solid-brown cat. They understood cat color genetics and so bred Siamese cats to ordinary domestic black cats to try to produce that special chocolate color.

 

In 1952, the first all-brown kitten was registered in England as a Chestnut Brown Foreign. His name was Elmtower Bronze Idol. I hope he had a nickname.

 

That should have been the beginning of things for Havana Browns, but it was nearly the end. Brown kittens were being born, but many had a genetic problem, called “split foot.” Breeding came to a halt. [9]

 

Meanwhile, brown cats that had already been exported to the U.S. became the foundation for the American-style Havana Brown breed that we know today.

 

Widening the Havana Brown gene pool

 

Breeders did understand that the gene pool for this cat was too limited. The Winn Feline Foundation, a non-profit that supports research into cat genetic health, funded a project to analyze the genetics of the Havana Brown breed.

 

With this information, the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California, Davis helped breeders develop an outcrossing program to introduce some genetic diversity.

 

Breeders asked the CFA to “open” the breed to allow breeders to follow these recommendations and still be able to register their cats. The CFA granted permission to add genetic diversity from some very specific breeds and cat colors, including unregistered black or blue domestic shorthairs, certain colors of Oriental Shorthairs, and chocolate-point and seal-point Siamese.[10]

 

These efforts saved the breed from itself.

 

How did Havana Browns get their name?

 

By Mjm91 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17966053

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: no one knows for sure where the name “Havana Brown” comes from.

 

There are two likely possibilities. One, is that the cat’s name was inspired by a solid-brown rabbit breed called the Havana Rabbit.

 

The other possibility is that the burnished coat color of the Havana Brown reminded someone of tobacco. The color of Cuban cigars is similar to the brown of the Havana Brown cat.

 

But Havana Browns otherwise have no connection to the city of Havana in Cuba.

 

What are the genetics behind a chocolate-brown coat?

 

Havana Brown cat

Cat coat genetics are really complicated. Really. But we’re going to keep it simple here.

 

To start with, there are only two “real” coat colors for cats: orange and black. All other coat colors originate with either orange or black.

 

(Read more about orange cats in this post, "Fun facts about orange cats.")

 

The black gene comes in a few versions, called “alleles.” There’s a black allele, but there’s also chocolate and cinnamon (reddish-brown) alleles.[11]

 

Brown is recessive to black in cats. That means that in order to get brown kittens, both parents have to be brown themselves, because brown cats can pass on only brown genes to their babies.

 

The other possibility is that one or both parents could be black, but with “hidden” brown genes. A kitten would still have to get two brown genes from its parents to be born brown.[12]

 

When are Havana Browns not brown?

 

Let’s take one more step in the cat-color genetics discussion.

 

There are also modifier genes that can alter basic coat colors. One of these is the “dilute” gene that – for lack of a better description – washes out the original coat color.

 

If a cat has the genes for a solid-brown coat and also has the genes to dilute that solid-brown color (he needs two of them for the dilution to work), he will be born with lilac fur. Lilac, sometimes called lavender, is an almost pinkish, dusty, lighter brown color.

 

Not all the breed registries accept Havana Browns with dilute genes. But The International Cat Association (TICA) does. Havana Browns with a dilute coat color are known simply as Havanas.[13]

 

Are Havana Browns hard to take care of?

(*Note: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)

 

Havana Brown cats require a minimum of grooming and rarely need a bath.

 

Rub the body down with a soft rubber brush occasionally, clean the ears, brush the teeth, and your Havana Brown is good to go.

 

Silicone Brush by CeleMoon

MindUp Cat Toothbrush

Virbac CET Enzymatic Toothpaste

Virbac Epi-Optic Advanced Ear Cleanser 

Cliganic Premium Cotton Rounds

 

Is the Havana Brown a healthy cat?

 

Yes. Today’s Havana Browns seem to enjoy good health.

 

Some do appear to be prone to developing calcium ocylate stones in the urinary tract.[14]

 

Why you have to be careful if you want to buy a Havana Brown kitten

 

Havana brown cat in a Mega Milk Carton

You’ve decided you must have a Havana Brown kitten. But they are so hard to find!

 

Understandably, there is demand for this special, and rare, breed of cat. Bad things can happen when demand outstrips supply.

 

Anyone can set up a pretty website on the Internet and call themselves a cat breeder. It doesn’t take a genius to churn out brown kittens.

 

But that does not mean that you will be buying an actual Havana Brown. And even if you are, it doesn’t mean that you will be buying a kitten that will have the good health and charming personality of a well-bred Havana Brown.

 

And worst of all, if you purchase from an unscrupulous breeder, who only cares about making money, you may be unknowingly contributing to “kitten mills” in which sad breeder cats are kept in miserable conditions, bred continuously until they are worn out, and eventually put to death.

 

Do your homework before buying a Havana Brown. Make sure that you are buying from a breeder who is registered with a major cat registry. Buy only from registered breeders who raise kittens on a small scale inside their own home. Visit that home so you can see for yourself the condition in which the cats are kept.

 

Reputable breeders should want to know a lot about you, too. They should ask lots of questions about your household and require a lengthy application from you. Reputable breeders will also offer a health guarantee, should a genetic or infectious disease arise with your new kitten.

 

Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to be scammed, or cats to be harmed, in your rush to own a rare breed of cat.

 

Love Pinterest? Here's a Pinterest-friendly pin for your boards!

 The Havana Brown Cat - Pinterest Pin

 

DAwn and Timmy
Dawn LaFontaine

Dawn LaFontaine is a lifelong animal lover who always seems to have a little pet hair in her keyboard. Her blog, Kitty Contemplations, helps cat guardians better understand and care for the special beings they share their lives and homes with. Her cat-products business, Cat in the Box, sells beautiful, well-made, and award-winning products that she designed to meet the biological needs of cats.

 

 

_______________
FOOTNOTES

[1] “Havana Brown Cat Breed Information.” Vetstreet, http://www.vetstreet.com/cats/havana-brown#1.

 

[2] “About the Havana Brown.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc, https://cfa.org/havana-brown/.

 

[3] “About the Havana Brown.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc.

 

[4] “Composercat Havana Browns - about the Havana Brown.” Atom, https://www.composercat.com/about-the-havana-brown.

 

[5] “Havana Brown Cat Breed Information.” Vetstreet.

 

[6] “Havana.” Petfinder, https://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/havana-brown/.

 

[7] “Havana Brown.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havana_Brown.

 

[8] “Havana.” Petfinder.

 

[9] Hartwell, Sarah. “Early Foreign and Oriental Cats – Non-Colourpointed Kin of the Siamese.” Messy Beast, 2019, http://messybeast.com/oriental-history.htm.

 

[10] “About the Havana Brown.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc.

 

[11] “Cat Genetics: A Progressive Look at Coat Colors & Patterns.” Tails & Tips, 19 Feb. 2021, https://lizskittybootcamp.com/2020/08/24/cat-genetics-a-progressive-look-at-coat-colors-patterns/.

 

[12] “Brown (Chocolate and Cinnamon).” Brown (Chocolate and Cinnamon) | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, https://vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/brown-cat.

 

[13] “Havana Brown Cat Breed Information.” Vetstreet.

 

[14] “Havana Brown Cat Breed Information.” Vetstreet.

 

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