The Korat cat
The Korat, a silvery-blue cat from Thailand, is a truly ancient breed of cat. (Well…probably.)
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you know that many cat breeds that claim to be ancient, aren’t. But the Korat is one of the few cats that have likely changed very little over the centuries.
It’s actually a little more complicated than that, because the Thai people have a very different way of looking at cat fancy than their Western counterparts. But we’ll dive into that in a minute.
The Korat is an unusual cat in many other ways, too, and it’s important to understand who this cat is before adding one to your household. It’s easy to get drawn in by a Korat’s striking beauty and big personality, but they’re not for everyone.
How do you pronounce Korat?
I can’t have everyone mispronouncing this breed’s name in their heads through this entire blog post, so, before we get started:
Korat is not pronounced “CORE-rat,” which is how I pronounced it before I knew better.
Korat is actually pronounced “Koh-RAHT.” The “Koh” sounds like the “co-” in “co-captain.” The “RAHT” sounds like what happens to garbage when you don’t take the trash out.
Note that the second syllable is the one you emphasize.
This might help. Click on the blue pronunciation bubble at the top:
Where did the Korat get its name?
Korat was the unofficial name of the former Thai capital. But that’s not what the Thai people call this cat.
In Thailand, the Korat is the Si-Sawat.
Sawat means a few different things. In Thai, it’s the word for a grayish-light-greenish color. Grayish-green is also the color of the seed of the Look Sawat, a non-edible fruit that grows wild in Thailand.
Sawat also means good fortune or prosperity, and it’s the reason this cat is sometimes given as gifts to foreign dignitaries, used in rain-making ceremonies at the end of a dry season, and given in pairs to brides on their wedding days.
What is the history of the Korat cat?
At the beginning of this post, I said that the Korat cat is “probably” ancient. In truth, no one really knows how long Korats have been running around Thailand.
Was the Korat pictured in the Tamra Maew?
There’s a collection of Thai manuscripts called the Tamra Maew, which means “The Cat-Book Poems,” which some say date to the Ayutthaya Kingdom in Siam. Ayutthaya was the center of power in Southeast Asia from 1351 to 1767, and Siam is modern-day Thailand.
The Tamra Maew contains paintings with short descriptions of the different types of cats that lived in Siam, and what might happen to someone keeping one of these cats. Certain types of cats were thought to bring luck, while others were considered to be unlucky.
Many people think that the Tamra Maew is a window into cat-dom thousands of years ago.
But, one of the problems with the Tamra Maew is that it’s impossible to date. It was handwritten on palm-leaf or bark parchment, and when an individual manuscript started to fall apart, it was carefully copied by hand. The damaged pages were discarded.
In fact, the Tamra Maew could be thousands of years old, or as few as 700 years old.
Another problem with the Tamra Maew, from the point of view of understanding Korats, is that the illustration of the cat that could be the Korat isn’t detailed enough to be definitive. It could be a Korat, or it could be some other type of cat that doesn’t even exist anymore.
When was the Korat introduced to the Western world?
Korats were first shown at cat shows in Great Britain in 1889. They were shown as “blue Siamese” but they didn’t look like Siamese cats, and consequently, didn’t do well in shows.
The first Korats to be imported to the U.S. didn’t arrive until 1959! Nara and Darra were brother and sister, and almost every Korat in the U.S. today can trace their history back to these siblings.
Interestingly, the gene pool was widened by importing more Korats, rather than by “developing” the breed domestically, the way other cat breeds from Thailand, including the Siamese and Burmese, were.
“Developing” usually involves selectively breeding for specific physical characteristics, like a particular body or head shape, and sometimes introducing other breeds into the mix to achieve a certain look.
The Siamese cat is a great example: today, we have exotic-looking Siamese cats with wedge-shaped heads, slithery bodies, and deep blue eyes. Traditional Siamese have rounder heads and chunkier bodies. (Read more about Siamese cats in this post.)
Amazingly, the Korat is one of the very few breeds that have not changed in appearance over the centuries. If you get a Korat today, it will probably look very much like the Korats who roamed the streets of Siam hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.
Cat fancy in Thailand, and what it means for Korats
The cat registry in Thailand is called TIMBA, which stands for The International Maew Boran Association. Maew Boran means “ancient cat,” and this organization registers what the Thai consider to be the natural Thai cat breeds.
What Westerners consider to be separate breeds that originated in Southeast Asia, such as the Siamese, Burmese, Suphalak, Tonkinese, and Korat (among others), are all just different-colored Maew Boran to the Thai. Because all of these types of cats are Maew Boran, the Thai would not hesitate to cross one of these cats with another.
They are also comfortable adding random-bred cats that match the descriptions of cats in the Tamra Maew to their breeding programs. These off-the-street cats may add their own, unexpected genes to the pool.
It’s a very different way of thinking about cat “breeds” than Western cat fancy. In Western cat fancy, cats must be bred to their own kind for a certain number of generations for one of their offspring to be considered purebred.
In conclusion, a Thai Korat could have the genes of any number of what Westerners consider different cat breeds in his background.
What does a Korat look like?
My, oh my…is this a pretty cat.
The Korat only comes in one color: silver-tipped blue. The “blue” is really gray, but each individual strand of fur starts out lighter at the roots, gets darker as you go up the shaft, and finishes with silver at the tip. The silver tipping makes the whole coat glimmer.
The Thai people describe the coat color as “rain-cloud gray,” and the silvering as “sea foam”
The coat itself is a single coat of guard hairs, which, in the Korat, are short and lie close to the cat’s body. It looks glossy and feels oh-so silky.
You can read more about the different types of cat hair-coats in this post, “Why does my cat shed so much?”
A Korat’s eyes are almost always peridot green, although amber is also accepted. Korat kittens usually start out with amber to golden-green eyes, and it can take a Korat two to four years for her true eye color to develop. The eyes themselves are quite large, giving the cat an alert expression.
A Korat’s face is what some people call heart-shaped. There’s kind of an eyebrow bridge that forms the top curve of the heart, and the sides of the face taper to a gentle point at the chin. The ears have rounded tips and a wide base.
A Korat weighs between six to 10 pounds, with females weighing less than males. A Korat’s shoulders are round and muscular, with a short, heavy neck and broad chest. These cats feel heavier than they look. One writer described the sensation of lifting a Korat as the “feeling of [holding] a well-coiled spring.”
What is the personality of Korat?
For people who love Korats, there is no other breed.
They are loyal and form very strong bonds with their guardians. A Korat sometimes chooses a single member of the family to follow around the house (and to sit as close as possible to them on the sofa), but they are open to cuddling and attention from everyone. They’re even well-suited to living with gentle children.
Although Korats love attention, they’re not sit-around-the-house cats. When Korats aren’t clinging to their favorite person, they’re careening around the house at a million miles an hour.
Korats take playtime very seriously. A Korat might become so intensely involved with a toy that he might not stop playing even if he’s panting and exhausted.
A Korat has outstanding problem-solving skills and loves puzzle toys and learning tricks. On the flip side, she can also use that intelligence to figure out how to open cabinet doors.
Because Korats are so smart and active, they need company and intellectual stimulation. If you’re not home a lot, the Korat really isn’t the cat for you. If you’re looking for a lap cat, the Korat isn’t the cat for you either.
The Korat is the kind of cat for someone who wants an interactive, involved relationship with their cat.
If you have other pets in the household, you should probably seek out another breed of cat. Korats can be territorial and even bossy toward other pets. The best company for a Korat, besides you, is probably another Korat.
What is the difference between a Russian Blue and a Korat?
For the uninitiated, it can be hard to tell these two charcoal gray cats with green eyes apart. But they are quite distinct from each other in appearance, and their personalities couldn’t be more different.
The coat. Russian Blues have a thick, double-coat, while Korats have a silky, short single-coat.
The ears. Russian Blues have pointed ears that are positioned more to the side of the head, while Korats have rounded-tip ears that sit directly on top.
The eyes. A Russian Blue’s eyes are more almond-shaped, while a Korat’s are bigger and rounder.
The body. A Russian Blue has a more delicate build, with a long body and neck, and slender legs. A Korat is compact and muscular.
The personality. The Russian Blue enjoys peace, is well-behaved, and reserved. The Korat is confident, playful, and sometimes a little ornery.
Is the Korat a healthy breed?
In general, the Korat is a healthy cat, but like other pedigreed cats, is prone to certain inherited disorders.
Korats are known to suffer from gangliosidosis, an inherited enzyme deficiency. This disease can cause paralysis.
Luckily, DNA testing can be used to detect the mutation that causes gangliosidosis. Any responsible breeder will identify carriers and exclude them from their breeding stock.
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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.
 Breeds Originating from South-East Asia, messybeast.com.
 “The Korat.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc.
 “The Korat.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc.
 “Korat: VCA Animal Hospitals.”
 “What Is a Korat Cat? Personality and Lifestyle.” ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, ASPCA Pet Insurance, 20 Jan. 2022, www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/korat-cat-facts/.
 “The Korat or the Russian Blue.” MORAKOTPL KORATS, koraty.pl/wp/the-breed/differences-between-the-korat-and-the-russian-blue/. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.