by Cheryl Coleman
When I started my initial research in order to purchase a Korat almost eight years ago, I never imagined that I would become so mesmerized by the beauty and intelligence of what many call "just another blue cat." Well, guess what - the Korat is not just another blue cat! Underneath that silver-blue exterior is a feline with remarkably human characteristics - and a history that has spanned hundreds of years.
Many people already know the history of the Korat, but it's always good to do a quick review! The Korat was discovered in Ampur Pimai of the Korat province in Thailand. The earliest known record of the Korat appears in The Cat-Book of Poems or Smud Khoi of Cats, produced in 1350-1767. This book presents the seventeen "good luck" cats of Thailand, including the Korat, and is presently located at Bangkok's National Library. It was named by King Rama V when he was asked where that cat had come from. There is much tradition and folklore behind the Korat. According to one of these folk tales, Korats with kinks in their tails are said to increase your luck.
The Thai people refer to the Korat as Si-Sawat cat (see-sa-what), but another Thai name and description of the Korat is as follows:
"The cat Maled has a body colour like Dok Lao.The hairs are smooth, with roots like clouds and tips like silver.The eyes shine like dewdrops on the lotus leaf."
Translation: Dok means flower, and lao is an herb, like lemongrass, with silver-tipped flowers.
The first Korats were imported into the United States by Cedar Glen Cattery in Oregon. They obtained a brother and sister - Nara and Darra on June 12, 1959. These cats were from the Mahajaya Cattery of Thailand.
But it wasn't until March 1966 that a Korat and Siamese breeder from Maryland moved at that year's annual meeting that the Korat be accepted into championship status. The motion was carried.
The first Korat Grand Champion in CFA was GC Jalna's Ming-Ti of Chu'n Ch'i, a male, and the first female Korat Grand Champion (the third Korat to grand in CFA) was GC Malaid's Doklao Noi of Si Sawat (imp.).
Not Just Another Blue Cat
The Korat has a unique color matched by no other breed in the cat fancy. It is defined as silver-tipped blue, and it gives off an aura, or shimmering effect. The Thais describe this color as "rain-cloud gray," and the silvering effect as "sea foam." The color appears to absorb light, giving a "halo" effect. It is a single coat, short, and close-lying. The roots are light silver blue with the color increasing in shade up the shaft to a deeper blue until it reaches the tips, which are silver. The silver tipping is more prevalent on the muzzle and toes. The Korat is also only one color - silver-tipped blue; there is no other color accepted.
Another unique feature of the Korat giving it a captivating mystique is the head structure. This is the cat with five hearts, three of which are on the head. Looking at the Korat straight-on, you see the Valentine-shaped heart of the head, which can be gently traced around the head. The second heart is found by looking down over the top of the Korat's head, and the third heart is the nose. The other two hearts, which are not part of the head, are the muscular area of the chest when the cat is sitting, and the most-commonly-forgotten one, the heart inside the cat! As the cat matures, the heart shapes on the head become more pronounced.
The remaining features complete the overall beauty of the Korat. The eyes are large, wide-open, luminous, alert and always observant. The color is peridot green in the mature cat (two to four years of age), but kittens have an amber to golden-green eye color which gradually changes as they mature. The eyebrow ridge across the top of the eyes further accentuates and clarifies the heart-shaped face, and the ear set is a continuation of this heart-shape. The ears have rounded tips, with a large flare at the base. They give the Korat a very "alert" expression, complementing the heart shape, and not sitting too low or too high on the head.
The body is semi-cobby, with a tapering at the waist. The Korat does not appear to have much weight, but when it is lifted, one finds an unexpected weight - its heft is like lifting a stone. The feeling is that of a firm, steel-spring, with the Korat's body being compared to that of a body builder! The bulk of the weight is carried towards the front through rounded, well-developed, muscular shoulders. The neck is fairly short and heavy, connecting to a broad chest, with the shoulders somewhat wider than the chest. This body was designed by nature to be that of a surviving animal: graceful (even though it has the look of tremendous strength) and agile enough to move quickly.
The Korat is possibly the cat in the fancy that most closely resembles its original look - more than any other breed. Comparing a Korat from the earliest pictures to one from today, one finds little to no difference in the cats; they are, without a doubt, both Korats.
A friend of mine asked me why someone would choose to work with Korats rather than with one of the more popular breeds. There are numerous reasons why anyone starts working with a particular breed; but when it comes down to looks, personality and intelligence, the Korat has it all - especially intelligence. Korat owners will readily tell you it's the most intelligent cat in the fancy. Korats are extremely expressive. You can look at Korats and almost KNOW what they are thinking; and the scary part is they DO KNOW what YOU'RE thinking, as well! It's a look which wins you over completely! Once you meet and live with a Korat, you'll understand. They are extremely observant, will watch everything you do and then try to duplicate it. I talked with one breeder who used to give her Korat a treat from a plastic container. Within a month, her cat was OPENING the container, helping herself to the treats! My first Korat knew how to change the radio to the station she liked. We'd set it in the morning to one station, and when we got home it was on "light jazz." After the second time, we left it on the jazz station and it stayed on that channel. So, when she birthed her kittens she had the music SHE liked!
Korats are extremely loyal to their owners, giving their total love and respect. My favorite story depicting what "Korat Loyalty" is, comes from Saang Jahn cattery. The owner was bathing one of her whole males when the phone rang. She looked at the cat and told him to stay in the sink and wait till she returned. Well, she was on the phone a little longer than she had anticipated, and just knew when she returned that he would be gone. When she did get back to him, there he sat in the sink, shivering, with the expression: "Mom, I thought you'd NEVER get back!" How many cats do YOU know that would be so patient?
Korats are either going 100 mph around the house or are in "velcro-kitty" mode! They want to be with you, near you, and helping you all the time. If I'm doing things around the house, I always have several following and "helping" me out! They aren't "in your face," but like to be involved in your activities. There isn't a night that goes by that my husband doesn't have at least four Korats on top of him. It also doesn't matter that there's no room left on him to lay down - they'll position themselves on top of each other, never leaving their initial positions! When we have company, they're always there to investigate. Purses, coats, and anything left out all become the property of the Korat - including your friends!
Play time is very serious to the Korat; my first Korat taught me this. When I took out a feather toy for "Gracie," all six pounds of her trampled over my 15-pound household pet! I'd never seen a cat go after a toy with such vigor! It was "get the toy" at all costs, and half the time she didn't land on her feet! She concentrated so hard on that toy that all her senses went into "capturing" it! Some also enjoy playing fetch. They love to run and play, and won't stop playing even though they are panting and you're exhausted!
What kind of person breeds Korats? Several characteristics that I have seen prevalent in all the breeders is that they are strong-willed and very meticulous when it comes to breeding, maintaining and preserving the lines they work with. Korat breeders are fantastic historians when it comes to the breed. In addition to articles and various pictures from Thailand, I have seen pedigrees from Kon-Lek-Lek and Saang Jahn catteries that note good and bad points on each of the pedigrees. These pedigrees also include pictures of the cats! And almost every pedigree can trace its origins back to the first Korats that were in the U.S., Nara and Darra (unless other imports have been used in the breeding programs in later years). The one consistent trait in almost every Korat breeder or Korat owner I've met is that they would never be without a Korat, even if they were to start working with another breed!
Many have said that Korats are difficult to show, mostly because they're labeled as a "minority" breed (I prefer to call them a "unique" breed). However, as with most young kittens, you need to accustom them to a "show life." They have extraordinary senses of hearing and smell, and can hear things that are far off in the distance (such as a female in season across the showhall). They can also smell things that you may think no longer exist (such as the smell of another male or female). Even perfumes can occasionally get their hormones going! This can sometimes add to the challenge of showing a Korat, because Korats are aware of EVERYTHING!
Korats always voice their opinions in the show ring - both good AND bad! Korats are relatively quiet and not very talkative at home (unless they have something to say, such as "my food dish is getting lowÉit's time to feed me"); however, in the show ring, they will be telling you how they feel about the situation: "Don't lift me high in the air. Keep my feet on the ground. Give me a toy. Put me back in the cage. Take me home!" One particular judge referred to them as the "mother-in-law" cat! I just say they're "opinionated."
When playing with Korats, judges sometimes need to be careful, especially when they get a Korat "wound up." At one particular show a judge was playing with a Korat spay on the table with a sparkle toy. She was "spinning" the cat around the table when the toy slipped out of her hand and flew out into the audience - Korat right behind it! A friend of hers was in the front row, handed her back the toy, and the Korat went right back up onto the table - a perfect example of the "get the toy at all costs" mentality! Judges have many "tugs of war" with Korats and toys on strings. Guess who gets the toy?
It is unfortunate that there are not more Korats for judges to handle, but judges who have seen Korats frequently enjoy handling and recognizing them when they see quality. In the judging ring Korats do not like (and will not tolerate) being held up in the air. They prefer either to keep their hind legs on the table or to have a secure feeling when being held. Their heft does not easily give them a comfort level "high" in the air. Also, Korats should not be stretched; the body is semi-cobby, not long and lean. Lastly, there is no need to overhandle the head. The heart shape of the head can easily be seen by looking at the head straight on, and by looking over the top of the head. An outline of the heart can be gently traced around the face, but if the Korat feels it is being restrained by its head, it may panic. The Korat is extremely responsive to a gentle touch.
National Winning Korats
The first Korat to receive a national win was GC, NW Passport's Munn Kette. "Munn Kette" placed 7th nationally and was Best Cat in the North Atlantic Region in 1981. Other national winning Korats are:
GC, NW Jaltari's Rave Review,
12th Best Cat in Championship (1988);
CH, GP, NW Picat's Phaedra of ltari,
5th Best Cat in Premiership (1982);
and GC, GP, NW Jena's Toot-A-Loo of Soigne,
3rd Best Cat in Premiership (1992).
All of the current national wins have been earned by female Korats. To date, the highest scoring male Korat is GC Passport's Bubba of Mowl Sima.
The Korat is still a "unique" breed that has yet to be found by many. The next time you're at a show, ask a Korat breeder about their cat...you'll get more than you bargained for, and come out of that conversation a lot more knowledgeable about the breed. Korat breeders know their breed, they know their pedigrees, and they KNOW they've got the most intelligent cat around!
I would like to thank all of the people who contributed to this article, whether it was pictures, articles, or just plain history!
1. Daphne Negus, "The Eyes Shine Like Dewdrops on the Lotus Leaf - Korat Story," Tenth Anniversary Edition of The Cat Fanciers' Association Yearbook, p. 244.
2. Norma O'Neill, excerpts from article in "All Cats," Sa-Waht Dee Korat Club Newsletter.
4. Negus, Tenth Anniversary Edition of The Cat Fanciers' Association Yearbook, p. 245.
5. Anonymous, "World's First Korat Grand Champions," copy of article from newsletter