Cat Breeds 101: California Spangled

Cat Breeds 101 - California Spangled
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Photo: Wikipedia – lic. under CC 3.0

Viewed in a vacuum, without anything around it for scale comparison, you might swear you were looking at a leopard; when in fact what you had in front of you was a California Spangled, one of the rarest and most endangered engineered cat breeds in the world.

As fascinating as its physical appearance may be, the history of the California Spangled is even more interesting, due largely to the amount of controversy the breeding of this cat has spawned.

The California Spangled was carefully bred to mimic the look of the leopard, with its characteristic leopard spots. It is the brainchild of anthropologist/writer/cat breeder Paul Casey, who, on a visit to Africa, was aghast at learning that one of the place’s last breeding leopards had become the victim of poachers.

So when he got back home, Casey undertook to breed a domestic cat that looked like a wild cat, hoping that if the animal fur coats being sold in stores looked like the coat of a beloved household pet, the owners of these pets would no longer want to buy poached furs. In 1986, Casey introduced the product of his ten-year labor in a truly Hollywood way: he had the California Spangled featured in a Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, as a $2,800-per-pair his-and-hers gift.

The stunt worked. In a flash, everybody knew what the California Spangled was about, mainly because this singular act created outraged noise from three vocal groups: animal rights activists who were against cat breeding in the first place; the cat breeders, who felt there was already an overabundance of three-spotted breeds; and the Neiman Marcus crowd, who weren’t thrilled at the fact that this breed was created as an anti-fur wearing campaign. [1]

Although there was a scramble for the cats that Christmas season, the breed’s popularity was not sustained, mostly because the supply could not keep up with the demand. Today, there are very few California Spangleds around, which is a bit of a shame, not only because this breed has a noble advocacy but also because the California Spangled is truly a lovable cat.

Affectionate, loyal, friendly, and athletic, with big almond eyes that seem to search deep into their human companion’s soul, [2] the California Spangled could remind one of DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots (except, of course, their coats showed they were totally different breeds). The California Spangled’s coat is characterized by spots, ideally rounded ones, but they may also be triangular, oval, or square. Their coat may be black, white, brown, blue, red, charcoal, bronze, silver, or gold. Whatever the color may be, the spots should always be well defined by a dark contrast. Its ears are medium-sized and rounded. It whisker pads are light and large. Its cheekbones are prominent.

Overall, this cat exudes a wild look – but the moment it starts moving, you will know it for the playful and lovable housecat that it is. [3] Unfortunately, though, if current trends continue, this cat’s numbers will not grow anytime soon; and ironically, it may become as extinct as the large cats it was designed to preserve.

[1] Helgren, J. Anne. Choosing a California Spangled Cat.
[2] California Spangled. Wikipedia.
[3] Syufy, Franny. California Spangle. About Home.

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