Although the Highlander cat started its life as an experimental crossbreeding project, they have come to be recognized as their own breed of cat with distinctive traits that come from their Desert Lynx and Jungle Curl cat ancestors. Most Highlanders are muscular, strong cats, but they can still make great family pets and are extremely nurturing felines to have around.
- Height: 10 to 16 inches
- Weight: 10 to 20 pounds
- Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
History of the Highlander Cat
Highlander cats are a young breed of felines. We only have to look back as far as 2004 to find their history. The Highlander came into existence when interested parties wanted to create a domestic cat that retained the look of a wild cat – as is the case with every other cat that has one wild ancestor and one domestic one. The interesting thing about Highlander cats, however, is that they have no direct wild ancestor. They were bred from existing hybrid cats, so this breed has no wild genetics and is a perfectly docile housecat.
The domestic cats that were used to breed Highlanders were very carefully selected, and they weren’t chosen from any existing breed that was registered and recognized by organizations like The International Cat Association. The two cats chosen to breed together and create Highlanders were the Desert Lynx and the Jungle Curl.
The Highlander was originally known as the Highland Lynx before its name was changed in 2005.
The International Cat Association
TICA would come to recognize Highlander cats in 2008 when they registered them as a Preliminary New Breed class in the early summer of that year.
It took until 2016 for Highlanders to move from Preliminary New Breeds to Advanced New Breeds, which put them one class away from being part of the Championship class and being allowed to compete in competitions with other cat breeds.
Thanks to their new status, Highlanders have breed standards that outline their appearance and temperament, as well as a list of Highlander breeders available through TICA’s website.
The International Cat Association splits Highlanders into two categories under the breed’s name: Highlander Shorthair and Highlander. Highlander is the name for the long-haired variant of the breed.
Quick Facts about the Highlander Cat Breed
- They are a newer domestic cat breed that’s been around less than 20 years.
- They have curled ears because of the genetics they inherited from their Jungle Curl parent.
- They have a short, bob-like tail.
- They’re often mistaken as tabby cats with a genetic mutation because of their markings, but they are their own breed of cat.
- Selective breeding took place to create the Highlander breed.
- Some Highlander cats end up with polydactyl feet, which is where a cat is born with extra toes on one or more of its paws.
- It is possible for a Highlander to be born with straight ears.
- Highlanders love water!
- They have no wild cat genes because they weren’t bred from wild cats.
Personality and Temperament
Despite the wild appearance of the Highlander cat breed, cat lovers will be pleased to know that these kitties are very social and loving. Most Highlanders are playful cats that have a lot of energy, so they’ll need owners who are happy to keep up with them and spend time playing with them.
Be sure to have a few interactive toys around for your Highlander Lynx cat and you won’t have much trouble from them. With their polydactyl paws, they can get into a bit more mischief than regular-pawed cats, and they do love to show off their rather athletic abilities.
Highlanders are also fascinated by running water, which sets them apart from most domestic cats; who typically hate being anywhere near bodies of water. This new breed doesn’t mind getting wet, and they may even sit in a bath without fussing.
The defining feature of the Highland Lynx cat is its distinctive ears. They have a loose curl, but it does vary from cat to cat. Highlanders aren’t born with curled ears – they actually curl back during the first two weeks of their life.
We’ve mentioned the polydactyl paws that many Highlanders have. This seems to be a common trait in the breed, though it’s not one that other animals of the feline persuasion tend to carry. It’s usually a rare mutation. The extra toes give Highlanders more flexibility and they can even learn to hold things.
Highlanders also have a naturally short tail, usually anywhere between 2 and 6 inches in length. Not all cats of this breed are born with the same traits, though, so you could have a Highlander kitten with a long tail and curled ears who has an extra couple of toes, or a kitten with straight ears and a bobtail and no additional toes.
They’re considered to be medium to large cats, similar in size and weight to the Maine Coon.
This cat breed can have a range of coat colors and patterns, including spots rather than stripes. They can have long or short hair, too. It seems that the most well-known versions are the standard tabby cat pattern and a similar leopard-like spotted coat. But there’s such a huge range of coats that it’s difficult to pin down the rarities of them. Even the breed standard information from TICA doesn’t list coat colors and patterns for this breed yet. This is likely because Highlanders are still considered a developing breed.
Health and Care
Highlanders have no known health conditions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to common cat health problems. One thing that you do need to watch out for with Highlanders is the issues that can arise from their additional toes.
Polydactyl cats can suffer from infections because of ingrown, embedded, or ripped claws. They can also get skin infections around the claws if they’re damaged. These additional toes can sometimes cause problems with the cat’s joints, too, because they have to adapt how they move to make walking and jumping, etc. more comfortable.
If you see any signs of pain in your Highlander or they’re walking differently, have them checked out by a vet. Habit changes are an easy sign to look for in other pets, it’s no different with your Highlander.
Highlanders like to eat small portions of food throughout the day. Although they have no direct link to a wild cat parent, it’s important to remember that they are closely related to wild cats, which you should bear in mind when considering their diet. This breed of cat enjoys meat, just like any other feline. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they must have meat in their diet to reach their full potential.
Feed your kitty a diet that’s high in meat so that they can get all the fat and protein they need to have energy for the day. At some points, it may feel like you’re maybe feeding them too much meat, but any quality cat food should have a high percentage of meat. Avoid cat foods with filler ingredients and make sure your Highlander and any other pets you have all have access to fresh drinking water.
Caring for your Highlander Cat
Shorthaired Highlanders won’t require much more than the occasional brush to keep their coats shiny and healthy, but longhaired cats from this breed should be brushed more often to help get rid of loose hair and prevent excessive fur from ending up all over your home. Brushing your cats will also help prevent hairballs.
You should not need to bathe your cats. Cats are very clean creatures, and they take care of their own bathing needs. If you do choose to bathe your cat, don’t do it often, and use a quality, cat-appropriate shampoo.
Beyond grooming, just be sure to take time to play with your Highlander during the day. They’ll hugely benefit from some one-on-one time with you, and you get to know your cat better through the actions they take while playing.
Adopting a Highlander Cat
You aren’t likely to find a Highlander in any local shelter near your home. These are a very new breed of cat and they aren’t readily available. Adopting one is almost impossible and they’re expensive to buy, so you should certainly think about whether or not a Highlander is a right cat for you.
If you’re set on trying to adopt one, we’d recommend checking out sites where people are giving up or selling their pet cats. You may stumble across a Highlander there, but it’s still extremely unlikely.
When it comes to buying a Highlander from a breeder, you can expect to pay anywhere around $1,000, but they can cost more depending on their coat color and pedigree.
Be sure to ask breeders for proof of the cat’s ancestry and any veterinary records that the cat or kitten may have. Where possible, also ask to see the mother of the litter and meet the rest of the litter. Never pay a deposit in advance or pay online.
Are Highlander Cats and Lynx Cats two different breeds?
They are, indeed! Though Highlanders were once known as Highland Lynx cats, the Highlander and the Lynx are two distinct breeds of cats. The Domestic or Desert Lynx cat is a cross between a number of breeds, which may include the American Lynx and the Maine Coon.
Are Highlander Cats suitable for new cat owners?
Though pricey, Highlanders make amazing family pets and aren’t difficult to look after. Their polydactyl paws might cause some concern, but the breed is just like any other fully domestic cat. They have no wild cat genes, and they’re very calm and friendly. A new cat owner shouldn’t experience any trouble beyond having an overly curious kitty.