A CFA Breed Club ~ Northwest Region

The Havana Brown

By Kathy Staley-Pucci

    The uniqueness of the Havana Brown is strikingly apparent at a glance.  The magnificent color and coat - most often compared to the feel of a luxurious mink - is this cat's crowning glory.  The color should tend toward a rich, warm red-brown, rather than a black-brown.  The coat length should be short to medium, smooth and lustrous.  The Havana is the only breed of cat whose standard requires a specific whisker color:  The whiskers must be brown to complement the coat color.

     The Book of the Cat reveals that solid brown cats were among the early Siamese (traditionally thought of as pointed cats) to arrive in the West.  During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, self-brown cats were shown in England and Europe, and a brown cat took first prize at a show in England in 1888.  In the late 1920's, the Siamese Cat Club of Britain stated, "The club much regrets it is unable to encourage the breeding of any but blue-eyed Siamese."  Thus, solid brown cats with nonblue eyes were banned from competition in the Siamese class and became virtually extinct.  It was not until the early 1950's in England when five dedicated British women isolated the genetic design to produce a self-chocolate brown shorthaired cat.  The color they were striving for was the chocolate point coloring of the Siamese, as opposed to the sable coloring of the Burmese.  These pioneering fanciers discovered that a black shorthair and a seal point Siamese carrying the chocolate gene was the winning combination.  Their first kitten to be registered in England, Elmtower Bronze Idol, was the product of a seal point Siamese carrying the chocolate gene mated to a black shorthair, also carrying chocolate.

     Bronze Idol became the foundation for the new Chestnut Brown Foreign breed in England, later renamed Havana.  Controversy surrounding the naming of the breed still exists.  Historians differ as to whether the name Havana derived from the rabbit breed of the same color or was inspired by fine Havana tobacco.  In recent years, "A Havana Is Not A Cigar," jokingly became a catchy phrase among several breeders.

     Havana enthusiasts have Elsie Quinn of Quinn Cattery in California to thank for importing the first Havana into the United States in the mid-1950's.  After the breed was accepted for championship competition by the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1964, the offspring of that import, Quinn's Brown Satin of Sidlo, was the first cat to achieve grand championship status.

The Havana Standard

     A breed's standard should be a guideline for the ideal.  On the theory that no cat is perfect in conformation, the standard attempts to explain in detail what breeders should strive for in breeding programs.  The overall impression of the ideal Havana Brown is a cat of medium size with a rich, solid mahogany-colored coat and excellent muscle tone.  The cat's distinctive muzzle shape, coat color, brilliantly green expressive eyes and large, forward-tilting ears are comparable to no other breed.

     Slightly longer than wide when viewed from above, the Havana's head narrows to a rounded muzzle with a pronounced break on both sides behind the whisker pads.  Numerous references to this one-of-a-kind muzzle include a "corncob" or "the end of a light bulb."  Some breeders refer to the muzzle as a "protrusion to the face rather than an extension of the head."  The somewhat narrow muzzle and the whisker break are distinctive characteristics of the breed.  When viewed in profile, a distinct stop exists at the eyes, and the end of the muzzle appears almost square.  Ideally, the tip of the nose and the well-developed chin form an almost perpendicular line.  Large, round-tipped ears, wide-set but not flaring and tilted forward, always give the cat an alert appearance.  Previously referred to as "antennae to the world," the Havana's ears are most expressive and are in constant motion.

     The eyes of a Havana are a mesmerizing green; the deeper the green, the better.  Oval and set wide apart, the lower placement of the eyes on the head, closer to the muzzle, results in the appearance of a high forehead.  This feature gives the cat the pleasing expression of looking through imaginary bifocals placed low on the nose. 

     Though medium in size and bone, the body type of the Havana lies somewhere between the slender/tubular and short/cobby breeds.  The cat stands relatively high on its legs, and the hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs.  As in most breeds, females are slightly smaller, weighing approximately 6 to 7 pounds, while their male counterparts can tip the scales 9 to 10 pounds.  Overall balance and proportion rather than size are the determining factors in the judging ring.

Personality Plus

     If you are intrigued by the appearance of this beautiful cat, you will be equally entranced by its personality.  Many owners fall in love with the breed at first sight and find no other cat-person relationship so rewarding or satisfying.  The Havana has learned the art of give-and-take and is extremely adaptable in any situation.  Havanas are even-tempered, quiet, affectionate, gentle, social and highly intelligent.  Human companionship is a necessity for this breed; they are people-oriented cats and choose to plan an active role in your life.  Generally speaking, independent would not be a word used in describing a Havana.

     First-time owners marvel at the case of introducing a Havana into their household and diversified lifestyles.  Whether there are children at home who want a doting playmate, an elderly person wanting a loving companion, or any age in between, the adoring Havana is the cat for you. 

     In talking with Havana owners across the country, they agree that the cat instinctively molds itself to your habits and is more doglike in temperament because it seems willing to please.  I understand that many owners have experienced great success in leash training their Havanas.  These cats are equally comfortable with the family dog.  My Doberman Pinscher was particularly fond of one of my male studs and insisted on grooming him.  The cat was more than willing to take it in stride and relished the attention.

     Havanas love to play and enjoy carrying things in their mouths.  If you've misplaced a pen or an earring, chances are this cat has it among its toys and will most likely return it to you during the next game of fetch, which is a favorite.

     One of the Havana's most endearing qualities is that it touches you with its paw.  A typical pose for the Havana is to elevate and greet people with an outstretched paw.  This is not to be mistaken for a "wounded paw."  I like to think it's the cat's way of extending a paw in friendship.

     Havanas love to engage in mutual grooming sessions.  At times, this act may include the cat's owner.  Don't be surprised if you are awakened one morning by your Havana on your pillow performing this obligatory grooming function.  Because of their short coat and excellent grooming habits, the havana is an easy keeper.  As with any pet, your grooming efforts should include a once-a-week brushing to remove any loose hairs and nail clipping.