In the late 1950s American Shorthair breeders, motivated by the popularity of the Persian, secretly began to mix Persians into their American Shorthair bloodlines to improve body type and to introduce the beautiful and favored silver Persian color into the American. (At that time and until 1965 American Shorthairs were known as Domestic Shorthairs.) Because of this hybridization, the American Shorthair conformation went through a period of remodeling in the 1960s. The boning of the American grew heavier, the head rounder, and the nose shorter, and the coat became denser and longer. Because the Persian?s conformation was popular (and still is), the hybrids did well in the shows, although they were not a recognized breed at the time.Other American Short-hair breeders, appalled at the changes occurring in the breed, became determined to disallow any Americans that showed signs of hybridization. Exotic Shorthairs might have remained illegitimate if it wasn?t for the efforts of CFA judge Jane Martinke. She was the first to suggest that these hybrid American/Persian mixes should have a room of their own, rather than be allowed to rearrange the furniture in the American Shorthair?s suite.
The Exotic Shorthair was first accepted for Championship status by the CFA in 1967. CFA breeders were then allowed to shift their American Shorthair/Persian hybrids into the newly formed Exotic Shorthair classification.
Few breeders chose to transfer their cats to the new class, however, and the breeders who did decide to work with the Exotic had a long road ahead of them. Because of the initial resistance to the new breed and because few Persian breeders would allow their cats to be used in the Exotic breeding programs, progress was very slow.
At first, Exotic breeders used Burmese and Russian Blues in addition to American Shorthairs to introduce the shorthair gene. The breeders used the shorthaired breeds just often enough to keep the shorthair gene in the bloodline.
As the breed began to gain in popularity, and as the gene pool grew larger, the CFA began limiting the outcrosses. In 1987 the CFA closed the Exotic to shorthair outcrosses altogether, leaving the Persian as the CFA?s only allowable outcross.
Even with the slow start, the Exotic made steady progress with the help of the devoted advocates of the breed who saw that a Persian in a Shorthair?s clothing would make a valuable addition to the cat fancy. In 1971 the first Exotic Shorthair achieved the status of Grand Champion. In 1991, an Exotic was the CFA?s Cat of the Year, and in 1992 the CFA?s Best Kitten was also an Exotic. Today, the Exotic has a large following among cat fanciers.
Some folks who don?t appreciate that laid-back, mellow personality label Persians and their relatives ?furniture with fur,? but in truth Exotics are playful and enjoy a good game of catching the catnip mouse between bouts of catching a few ZZZs. Because of the American Shorthair influence, Exotics are reported to be livelier than Persians, although some breeders say that the two breeds are very similar in temperament.
Undoubtedly, the Exotic personality is, if not identical, very much like the Persian?s?quiet, loyal, sweet, and affectionate. They want to be involved in their favorite humans? lives and will quietly follow them from room to room just to see what they are doing. They also enjoy hugs and cuddles, and lavish their humans with purrs and licks of affection until the thick coat drives them away to lounge on cool kitchen linoleum or cold fireplace bricks. Fanciers point out that because of the short coat, they can spend more time playing with their Exotics than grooming them.
To maintain the Persian body type, coat, and diversified gene pool, it is necessary to breed back to the Persian. Roughly 50 percent of kittens from Exotic/Persian matings will have long hair if the Exotic parent carries the recessive longhair gene. Even when Exotic is bred to Exotic, the litters can contain longhairs if the longhair gene is present in both parents. This slows the process of reproducing Exotics and can be disappointing, because in the CFA Exotics with long hair cannot be shown as either Exotics or Persians. However, a movement is currently underway among breeders and fanciers to have longhaired Exotics accepted in the CFA, although it?s not certain if it will succeed. Some fanciers favor creating a new shorthaired Persian division, and others favor a longhaired and shorthaired division for Exotics.
Other associations handle the longhaired Exotics differently. For example, TICA allows them to be shown as Persians, ACFA recognizes them as Long-haired Exotics, and UFO, CFF, AACE, and CCA recognize them as Exotic Longhairs.