In this flame point Himalayan kitten breeder interview, Mary Burkwit shares her expertise and history with this unusual and lesser known variety of Himi.
Flame Point Himalayan Kitten Breeder Interview with Mary Burkwit
LoveToKnow (LTK): Mary, tell us a little about your history with cats. What was the first cat you ever owned?
Mary Burkwit (MB): My parents provided cats and kittens as pets since I was young. Our family cats did have kittens, and I learned a great deal about birthing from my mother who was a nurse. I learned how to handle cats properly from both of my parents as a child. After graduate school, my first pedigreed cat was a retired breeder, a Tortoiseshell Persian named Tiffany, who was eight years old. Although I thought I knew a lot about cats, I learned a great deal more from my mentor from whom I adopted Tiffany. For example, every pedigreed cat has a weakness because they are from a smaller gene pool than the typical
Domestic Shorthair or Longhair Felines. I respected my mentor and followed her advice carefully. For example, Himalayans have a very sensitive digestive tract, so it is imperative that you feed the same high quality food so as not to upset their regular diet. A great part of my success is that I followed the advice of my mentors and continue to learn from them.
LTK: How did you first begin breeding cats, and why did you choose Himalayans?
MB: In the 1990s, I took a friend who suffered from major depression to Lollipop Farm, the local Humane Society. She needed a companion cat to help with her depression, and I went with her to help her select one. The people at the farm refused to allow her to adopt a cat after she was open about her depression as a major reason for wanting to adopt. I advocated that this was discrimination, especially since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was enacted, but they still refused to allow her to adopt. At that time, I decided to breed kittens myself so that persons with disabilities could have kittens that I raised for therapeutic reasons.
I did a great deal of research into the different breeds, and I did have some experience with the Persians and Himalayans by that time. Research indicated that the Persian breed and Himalayan variety was a good match for pet therapy purposes, so I was grateful I already had some familiarity with that breed. One flame point Himalayan kitten, Braveheart, stood out from the other kittens I had experience with, so I decided to specialize in flame and cream point Himalayan Persian kittens.
LTK: Please describe a Himalayan's personality for someone who might be considering this breed, but is not yet sure if this cat would be a good match for her family.
MB: Compared to other breeds, Himalayans are calm. They will spend time lounging near you and follow you from room to room like a puppy dog. Yes, the Himalayan will play when you get out a toy and interact with you; this strengthens their emotional bond with you. Himalayans tend to get along with other pets and family members. When you come home, your Himalayan will greet you at the door and probably enjoy scratching on something to express his joy in seeing you. The Himalayan will also snuggle up to you in bed when sleeping. Such a warm display of affection and great tolerance for chaos of a busy family is what drew me to select the Himalayan.
More About Flame Points
LTK: You breed some rare colors such as the flame point Himalayan and cream point. What are the ideal characteristics for these color points?
MB: Rumor has it that the red gene, responsible for the flame point and cream point, tends to bring out the humorous and silliness of the Himalayan, and it's something I have witnessed. This outgoing personality is very appealing and keeps people laughing at their antics. Socially, the silliness combined with the calm, warm personality of the Himalayan makes for a wonderful companion.
Flame point Himalayans are unique in that their body coat remains very white, and their red color points do not spread as they grow older compared to other colors of the Himalayans. As most Himalayans grow older, the color of their points along with a rich cream color eventually spreads to other areas such as their back. The flame point coloring tends to remain on the points, including the mask of the face, ears, paws and tail.
Advice About Choosing a Kitten
LTK: What would your advice be for someone who was considering purchasing a kitten from a breeder? Any certain questions he or she should ask the breeder to be sure the breeding program is solid and the kittens will be as healthy as possible?
MB: Purchasing a kitten or cat from a breeder is the best option, if possible, because you can learn about the conditions in which the kitten was raised. Evaluate a Himalayan Breeder with the following criteria:
- Does the kitten live with its natural mother until at least 12 weeks old? This is a better option than purchasing from a pet shop or shelter where kittens are mixed in with other cats usually at too young an age for their immune systems to handle. Kittens should be with their natural parents until they are 12 weeks of age or older.
- Does the kittens grow up interacting with their father or the dominant cat in the household in social family activities? Although a kitten can care for itself physically by eight weeks old, it learns how to interact with people by watching how the dominant cats in the household relate to humans from eight weeks and older. Some breeders lock up their intact male cats because they spray, so they rarely interact with the kittens in a family setting. I trained my dominant male cat, Braveheart, to wear diapers so he can come out of his room and exhibit his social personality. The kittens look up to him a great deal and follow his lead. A social father cat is a great indication that you will get a social well adjusted Himalayan Kitten. One really great resource on this is The Influence of the Father on Kittens' Temperaments, 2004, Sarah Hartwell.
- Do the breeders welcome you to their location where they raise their kittens at a legitimate address? Be suspicious of breeders who do not disclose a true address because if a problem occurs later, you cannot proceed. A good breeder will let you come over and look at their general environment. Some breeders may restrict you from specific areas for health reasons, like walking into a room where newborn kittens are. Ask to see where the males are kept to make sure their living quarters are spacious. Breeding cats need natural sunlight, and it is unacceptable to house breeding cats in a basement of a house. Living in a basement will block regular sunlight and make breeding cycles irregular. If cats are kept in quarters outside the home, do the breeders bring them indoors to interact with a typical family environment?
- What does the breeder feed her Himalayan cats and kittens? Top quality foods are the best investment breeders and cat owners can make in their Himalayans. Since the Himalayan has a sensitive digestive tract, it is imperative that you continue to feed your kitten the same food as the breeder. The breeder should educate you about this and be able to explain why they selected the foods that they use. A breeder should question you, the potential owner, about whether you are willing to follow their feeding instructions.
- What vaccines does the breeder recommend? Himalayans should remain indoors so in my opinion there is no reason for them to receive a vaccine for Feline Leukemia or FIV. The FIP vaccine is not recommended. The Chlamydia portion of a four part booster vaccine is not recommended because it is not very effective and tends to cause reactions. Therefore, the only three things that should be in your vaccine are Panleukopenia, Rhinootracheitis, and Calici. No surgery or rabies vaccine should be administered within two weeks of each other. It is unacceptable that both a rabies and distemper vaccine are given in the same visit or combined with surgery. It is an unnecessary risk, and a good breeder should educate new owners about this.
LTK: Speaking of health, what are some particular issues that one should watch for in the health of a Himalayan?
MB: Himalayans are a division of the Persian breed, so one genetic risk is Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). Responsible Himalayan breeders should submit their breeders to a simple DNA test to rule PKD out of their breeding cats. You can test your own Himalayan or Persian for this genetic disorder by swabbing the cheek of your cat's saliva and sending the collected DNA to a laboratory for analysis. The original place where testing was developed was UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
When purchasing a Himalayan, be sure to get a health guarantee for your cat or kitten. As a breeder, my health guarantee is that your kitten is free of PKD, Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) with supporting proof that the parents are negative. Since the kittens are raised in a "closed cattery", there is no chance that these disorders can enter. Look for a health guarantee that promises that none of the cats in the cattery have ever been exposed to Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and that their laboratory titer level for the Coronavirus is low or even 0. A cat can live a normal life with the Coronavirus, but if it mutates, it can become FIP which is a slow death where there is no cure and can take months of expensive testing to make a proper diagnosis. No one can afford this type of heartbreak. Kittens are guaranteed against upper respiratory infections, fleas, worms, ear mites and fungus for a determined amount of time after purchase. In addition, each cat/kitten has a one year from date of birth replacement or refund guarantee against hereditary or congenital defects that affect the life of the cat.
Declawing a Himalayan can be very detrimental to the health because Himalayans use their claws to pull out dead hair from their thick fur. Grooming is especially important for this breed because they have a thick undercoat of fine fur that should be combed daily. Declawing Himalayans takes away their natural grooming tools. Also, Himalayans and most cats communicate with people in their scratching behavior. Have you noticed that when you settle down to relax in a room, such as in front of the TV, that your Himalayan will find a nearby visible place to scratch? This is his way of telling you that he looks forward to bonding with you. Scratching behaviors are very important and give people a way to communicate directly with your Himalayan, so declawing is very damaging. The behavioral and grooming aspects of keeping a cat's claws intact are so important that you are not allowed to bring a cat into a CA show if it is declawed.
LTK would like to thanks Mary Burkwit for such wonderful and extensive information on flame point Himalayans. You can visit Mary's website at FlamePointCat.com..