Federation Internationale Feline World Cat Federation
How did a brown cat of Southeast Asian origin, believed to offer protection from evil, come to be known as a Swiss Mountain Cat, and how did it then adopt the name Havana Brown? The full answers to those questions are lost to history, but what appears to have happened is that solid-brown cats of Siamese type from Thailand were exhibited in Britain in the 1890s. Somehow during that time they acquired the moniker Swiss Mountain Cat.
In 1920, the Siamese Cat Club of Britain decided that brown cats without blue eyes were no longer desirable, and that was that. Breeders lost interest in them until the 1950s, when a group of British cat breeders set themselves the task of determining the genetic makeup of a self-brown (solid-colored) cat. They eventually produced a male chestnut-brown kitten, the result of a cross between a shorthaiared black cat and a chocolate-point Siamese.
Russian Blues and Burmese may also have played a role in the development of what came to be known as the Havana Brown (whose only connection to Cuba is the supposed resemblance of his color to that of a fine Havana cigar). But as it turned out, according to an article in the 1982 CFA Yearbook, the most successful and most often used breeding to produce a self-brown cat was between a black shorthair and a seal-point Siamese carrying the chocolate gene.
The cats, which also went by the name Chestnut Foreign Shorthair—as many aliases as they had, they might well have been Cold War Cuban spies—were first exported to the United States in the 1950s. It was then that the breed began to go two different ways. In Britain he is now considered to be a brown Oriental Shorthair. In the U.S., he is known as the Havana Brown and has a body and head type that distinguishes him from his British cousin. The Cat Fanciers Association recognized the breed in 1964.
The Havana Brown is a rare breed, so much so that his genetic diversity is threatened. It has been propped up by an outcrossing program begun in 1998, which permits the cats to be bred to unregistered black or blue domestic shorthairs or certain colors of Oriental Shorthairs or chocolate-point or seal-point Siamese. The kittens produced by those breedings can then be bred to Havana Browns. If those kittens have the Havana Brown coloring, they can be registered as Havana Browns.
The overall impression of the ideal Havana Brown is a cat of medium size with a rich, solid color coat and good muscle tone. Due to its distinctive muzzle shape, coat color, brilliant and expressive eyes and large forward tilted ears, it is comparable to no other breed.
Head: when viewed from above, the head is longer than it is wide, narrowing to a rounded muzzle with a pronounced break on both sides behind the whisker pads. The somewhat narrow muzzle and the whisker break are distinctive characteristics of the breed and must be evident in the typical specimen. When viewed in profile, there is a distinct stop at the eyes; the end of the muzzle appears almost square; this illusion is heightened by a welldeveloped chin, the profile outline of which is more square than round. Ideally, the tip of the nose and the chin form an almost perpendicular line. Allowance to be made for somewhat broader heads and stud jowls in the adult male. Allow for sparse hair on chin, directly below lower lip.
Ears: large, round-tipped, cupped at the base, wide-set but not flaring; tilted forward giving the cat an alert appearance. Little hair inside or outside.
Eyes: Shape: aperture oval in shape. Medium sized; set wide apart; brilliant, alert and expressive. Color: any vivid and level shade of green; the deeper the color the better.
Body and neck: torso medium in length, firm and muscular. Adult males tend to be larger than their female counterparts. Overall balance and proportion rather than size to be determining factor. The neck is medium in length and in proportion to the body. The general conformation is mid-range between the shortcoupled, thick set and svelte breeds.
Legs and feet: the ideal specimen stands relatively high on its legs for a cat of medium proportions in trunk and tail. Legs are straight. The legs of females are slim and dainty; slenderness and length of leg will be less evident in the more powerfully muscled, mature males. Hind legs slightly longer than front. Paws are oval and compact. Toes: five in front and four behind.
Tail: medium in length and in proportion to the body; slender, neither whip-like nor blunt; tapering at the end. Not too broad at the base.
Coat: short to medium in length, smooth and lustrous.
Weight — 2.5-4.5 kg.
The rich tobacco-colored cat known as the Havana Brown may or may not be named for the addictive leaf, but the cats themselves are addictive to the people who come to know them. They are outgoing and friendly. Expect one to follow you around the house as you go about your day.
Like most cats with Siamese ancestry, the Havana can be demanding and talkative, but his voice is softer and his personality more subtle. He is smart and likes the challenge of teaser and puzzle toys. When he is through playing, the affectionate Havana will happily ensconce himself on your lap.
The Havana Brown’s short, smooth coat is easy to care for with a quick weekly combing. Polishing it with a chamois will make it shine. A bath is rarely necessary.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection.
Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene.
It’s a good idea to keep a Havana Brown as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Havana Browns who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Lifespan — 10-15 years.
Best with older children, good with household cats and dogs when raised with them, medium shedding, high sociability with strangers.
The breed is easy going and may be kept and bred without any problems.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Havana Browns are generally healthy, although some may be prone toupper respiratory infections, usually when they are young.