Development of the Highlander cat breed began in 2004. The early name for the breed was the Highland Lynx, but, unlike the development of the Desert Lynx, no wild cat genes were used. Instead, the name is meant to describe a domestic cat with a powerful "big cat" look. In 2005, breeders settled on the name Highlander and set about defining the breed and its characteristics as they worked toward championship status in The International Cat Association (TICA) – one of the largest cat registries in the world. Selective breeding has contributed to protecting the Highlander’s unique features and enhancing the bloodlines.
The cats used to develop the breed were carefully chosen from the general domestic gene pool and not from any existing recognized breed. The ears are the most striking feature of the Highlander. The loose curl is the result of a single dominant gene for relaxed curl in the ears. Not the same gene that causes the curl in the American Curl, this relaxed gene is thought to have come from breeders in Canada who were working on developing a breed called the Hemingway Curl. TICA recognized the Highlander for competition in the Preliminary New Breed class starting May 1st, 2008.
The Highlander has a long sloping forehead and blunt muzzle with an extremely wide nose. The eyes are wide-set and the ears are upright with a slight curl and turn in the backward direction. Some have polydactyl (more than five) claws. The body is stocky and very muscular. Flexible long hind legs combine with rippling muscles that develop in the torso from this cat’s active lifestyle. The feet are large with prominent knuckles. These are big powerful cats and their average weight ranges from twelve pounds for a “small” female, to over twenty pounds in a large male! Despite the "big-cat look,” the Highlander is an affectionate, friendly, and playful cat. This breed also loves water.
Like a happy, excited dog, this cat expresses itself by wagging its unusual tail. The tail ranges in length from two inches to hock length, which is a shortened span extending down to mid-leg. It is thick and ideally straight although sometimes slight twists and kinks may be discerned. It also has a fat pad at the end. More like a dog than a cat, Highlanders can fetch, beg, roll over, and even like to be walked on a leash, as do a variety of other cat breeds.
The striking look of the Highlander attracts immediate attention which serves to please the cat who prefers to be the center of attention. Reflecting its domestic feline heritage, the Highlander comes in both short- and long-haired versions. The coat may be spotted, have lynx points, or solid points. Cat experts compare the short-haired Highlander to a small cougar, and the long-haired Highlander to a lynx.
Highlanders are the clowns of the cat world; they love to play and chase things, even something as simple as a wadded-up piece of paper. They also love human company and will be there to greet you at the door and show off for your visitors. They are relatively quiet cats but they are very high energy. All this energetic activity helps build the powerful musculature that is so characteristic of this breed. The Highlander thrives in a home where it can interact regularly with its people, whom it adores. It cannot tolerate isolation, so a companion animal of similar energy-level should be provided to keep a Highlander happy.
Highlanders adjust well to just about any type of household pets including dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, rabbits, and assorted reptiles. They also greatly enjoy the presence of children. And while they are very active cats, they are not curtain climbers.
The fur has a ticked tabby pattern with various shades of marking color and ground color. The outer tipping is the darkest and the undercoat is the ground color. The so-called “leopard pattern” is a spotted tabby pattern, with a dorsal stripe running the length of the body to the tip of the tail. The stripe is often composed of spots. The markings on the face and forehead are typical tabby markings. The underside of the body has distinct spots, and the legs and tail have a bar pattern. In the sepia, mink, and snow subdivisions, “ghost” leopard spots are the preferred body markings. Highlanders may also be born with a tawny or tortie pattern. Colors may be Sepia, Mink, Snow, Blue, Orange, Cream, Fawn, Silver, Ebony, Bronze or Chocolate—a great range of lovely colors.
The Highlander is still a rare breed, but with careful research, you can find a reputable breeder with kittens for sale. This is a very active breed for active people. The Highlander is not the right choice for you if you lead a very sedentary life. However, if you are willing to play actively with your cat as you would a dog, you will be rewarded with plenty of love in return.