How the Breed Got its Name
When I initially saw the breed “Korat” on Wikipedia’s page about cat breeds, I thought it might have been something Dr. Seuss would have put in one of his children’s books, or how it lent itself to becoming part of a limerick: “There once was a man named Borat, Who had a cat called a Korat….” My Dr. Seuss image was further enhanced when I read more about this cat and found out it was blue.
Actually, the name “Korat” comes from a province in Thailand known as Nakhon Ratchasima; colloquially referred to as the Korat province by Thai people. The Thai name for the animal is Si-Sawat, and is known as the Good Luck Cat. Pairs of the animals were often traditionally given to newlyweds or to honor people as gifts, and the cats were so prized by the Thai people that none of them were available for purchasing for years. Nowadays, Korats are not seen in Thailand any longer due to interbreeding, but they are found outside of Thailand as purebreds thanks to the efforts of several dedicated cat breeders. One of these cat breeders was Mrs. Jean Johnson, who lived for a time in Thailand and was so impressed by the appearance of these cats that she inquired all around as to how she could get one, but found out it was virtually impossible:
One of the First Korat Breeders
Excerpt from: Discovering THE “KORAT” written by Mrs. Jean L. Johnson and published in Cat Magazine – May, 1961*
“…they said, these cats were so highly prized by their owners that I could never hope to buy one. At this point I would always feel that the conversation, somehow, had gone astray, and that they were telling me about some member of the wildcat family in which I was not interested. During our stay in Siam, whose name had meanwhile changed to Thailand, I saw only five or six specimens of the gray Korat cat. All of them were owned either by members of the Thai government, the Thai nobility, or high ranking representatives of foreign governments. The conditions of their ownership were such that they were not for sale. They had been given or received under terms of highest honor, esteem, or respect, and endowed by the giver with the attribute of bringing good health and fortune to the recipient. When I left Thailand in 1954 to accompany my husband on a new assignment in Indochina, I had given up hope of ever owning a Korat cat. But I told a Siamese friend that if she were ever able to obtain a pair of Korats to send them to me.”
Jean Johnson was the first Korat breeder in the U.S. Her history making Cedar Glen Cattery in Oregon, began what would later become North America’s Korat community.
Jean Johnson eventually did get a pair of Korat cats, named Nara (the male) and Dara (the female), and she started breeding them in the United States in 1959.
Korat kittens are born with blue eyes, just like other kittens, but their eyes change into an amber color and then into a green as they become adults. Their eyes are very large and are almost human in appearance.They almost always have slate-blue to gray fur, which is tipped with silver and has a shimmering quality. Occasionally a cat will have white spots or faint stripes on its coat: this is not accepted in cat show quality animals. They don’t have another layer of fur or an undercoat, which means they don’t shed large quantities of fur.
Korats are directly descended from wildcats, which they will revert to if they aren’t pampered and loved, and they need to have their nails clipped often. Because they are a naturally bred animal, though, they are capable of great bonding with an owner. They also have a reputation for being more intelligent than some other breeds, and will follow their owner around like a loyal dog.
Recognized Variations and Potential Problems
The Korat body is small to medium in size, and the amount of body fat is low. They have a cobby-type build, though, and are surprisingly heavy and sturdy for their size. Some people prefer what is now known as the Thai Pointed, which has a more moderate build resulting from Korat and Siamese Pointed parentage. Others prefer the Thai Lilac, which has a delicate pinky-gray color rather than the darker gray of a pure Korat. Both varieties are recognized by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and are allowed to be show animals, provided they have undergone genetic testing for Gangliodosis, which was sometimes an inherited disorder in the Korat population. Otherwise, they don’t seem to be susceptible to a lot of health problems other than a tendency to get long claws more quickly than other cats.
See this page for some very cute pictures of Korat kittens and cats
*Book excerpt quoted on kindredheartkorats.com