Khao Manee White jewel with colourful eyes
The Khao Manee (cow man EE – meaning ‘white jewel’ in Thai) has been bred and known in Thailand for hundreds of years, but only in the past few years have cat fanciers in Europe and the US come to know and appreciate this breed. Most stunning attribute of this breed is the eyes, one blue and the other yellow, green or gray or both eyes of the same colour. The fur of Khao Manee is always snow white, with an unusually soft texture and temperament very affectionate and sweet. When you hold a Khao Manee it ‘melts’ into your arms. Here is more about this wonderful breed.
The first Khao Manee in the US was imported by Colleen Freymuth of AZ from 1999 to 2001. Subsequently, a French Korat breeder acquired six cats from Colleen and began his breeding programme in France. I brought a pair of French born Khao Manee in October 2006. This pair produced two male kittens. These lovely boys needed girlfriends, so I with a companion made a trip to Bangkok in October 2007, hoping to be able to find some beautiful, healthy and unrelated Khao Manee.
During our long trip to Bangkok, we found two beautiful females at a fairly well-known breeder and a male and a female from an ‘upscale’ pet store. Neither would divulge the pedigree or source of the cats, which is not how we had imagined. Two days before we left Bangkok, we were able to meet with a ‘former’ breeder, who had a friend breeding Khao Manee just outside the city. Then we bought a gorgeous young stud male and three young kittens from him. In Bangkok, we were lucky to find Dr Sumalee who arranged FLK and FIV tests for the cats.
In order to book flights with cats, they must have all their immunizations and a veterinarian’s certificate of health. Only United let us fly all the way home with several cats in carriers. Since then, I have been able to make contact with several more Khao Manee breeders in Thailand and have shipped cats directly to the US. So far, 175 Khao Manees have been registered in TICA and 65 KM litters have been registered. More than 15 TICA member Khao Manee breeders have registered KM litters. It is expected that the Khao Manee will reach full Championship status within a year.
The history of the Khao Manee probably began when the Thai people developed the Khao-plort, an all-white cat with ‘mercury’ coloured eyes (most likely gray-blue eyes). The Khao-plort is described in the Tamra Maew, the Siamese Cat Poems of Thailand that are 200 to 700 years old. It is not certain when the cat fanciers of ancient Siam began to favour odd-coloured eyes in their Khao-plort cats, but they must have done so by about 100 years ago at latest. The cats at that point came to be called Khao Manee, which means ‘white jewel’.
The ideal Khao Manee cat is medium size, descended from and resembling the native Thai breed. It is a shorthaired, completely white cat with odd-coloured eyes, but same-coloured eyes are perfectly permissible. Indeed, the original eye colour of the breed may have been limited to blue. Like other native cats of Thailand, they should have characteristics suitable for the hot, wet, tropical climate, including a lithe, but not extreme, body, medium length nose (handles hot air better than short noses), a very short smooth coat, and muscular and athletic but never bulky body. Preserving the resemblance to native Khao Manees includes, for example, preserving the natural sexual dimorphism. (Males should typically be 8 to 11 pounds and may have slightly heavier boning than females. Females should typically be 6 to 8 pounds.) It implies that characteristics more typical of western breeds, such as very round heads or copper coloured eyes, are to be avoided.
Personality of the Khao Manee, like that of all the native cats of Thailand, is communicative, though not necessarily noisy. They are active, playful, curious cats. They love to interact with people and hate to be left alone and ignored. The Khao Manee is highly intelligent. This is not a reserved, self-sufficient, independent breed. But it is a great breed for those who like cats who are all but human in their personalities and needs.
I have been ‘crazy’ about odd-eyed white cats since I first saw a photo of one as a 10-year-old girl. As a young girl, I had white-blond hair and a blue and a brown eye that were strikingly different and often noticed. My eyes are still different colours,
but now more green and hazel. Although I was not allowed to have a cat as a child, I acquired my first odd-eyed white cat, a long-haired female barn cat, in the summer of 1980. ‘Mona Missekat’ lived to be nearly 30 years old, passing away in 2010.
(Janet Poulsen is a Speech Language Pathologist working with students in public schools and is the TICA Khao Manee breed section chairperson.)