|This article does not cite any references (sources). (March 2008)|
Sokoke, neutered male
|Hybrid cat (Felis catus × F. silvestris lybica)|
The Sokoke is a more recently developed natural breed of domestic cats, recognized by two major cat pedigree registry organizations as a formal cat breed. It is named after the Arabuko Sokoke, the environment of the Kenyan Khadzonzo landrace it was developed from.
The original Khadzonzo landrace
The distinctive, free-roaming feral cats of the Kenya coastal area – found from city streets to the Arabuko Sokoke forest – were "discovered", in the Western cat fancy sense, by horse breeder and wildlife artist Jeni Slater in 1978. Now recognized by four Internationally recognized Feline registering bodies (TICA, FiFE, CCA, and GCCF), the Sokoke is a Native, naturally occurring Breed. Recently published DNA study for the Cat Genome Project, headed by Dr. Leslie Lyons has determined that the Sokoke, Cats of Lamu Island,and spotted streetcats of Eastern Kenya's Coastal area share DNA, and are now put in the New Feline Racial Group (there are now 12 known Feline Racial Groups) called Arabian Sea. Their shared DNA is Asian domestic and Arabian Wildcat derived. Advances in DNA sequencing have now resulted in an ambitious whole body sequencing Project, called the 99 cat Genome Project, which the Sokoke is taking part in. This may reveal much more about the origins and connections the Sokoke may have to other cats.
Gloria Moeldrop, a friend of Jeni Slater's, brought some of the cats home with her to Denmark to breed, because Slater feared for the survival of the cat in Kenya. In 1990, Moeldrop imported more cats from Kenya to strengthen the breeding stock. The cats were first shown in Copenhagen in 1984. The formal breed was officially recognized by the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) in 1993, under the name Sokoke, for the Sokoke forest. Jeannie Knocker, an English lady residing near Jeni Slater's in Kenya, gathered several found cats near the borders of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and kept them penned, producing litters that were exported to the US and Europe,registered,and became known as the New Line cats. The Sokoke is also currently registered by The International Cat Association (TICA), based in the United States, in which it is eligible to be shown in the Preliminary New Breed class at TICA-sanctioned shows. It is also recognized by CCA in Canada and GCCF in UK.
Their bodies are long and thin, with long legs. The back legs should be longer than the front legs, similar to those of a wildcat. They also have a unique tip-toe gait, in part due to a straighter stifle as well as the longer back legs.
Sokokes have blotched tabby coats in shades of brown, with amber to light-green eyes. The centers of the patterns are hollow-looking due to the agouti gene producing a "salt and pepper" look. Their coats are short and coarse, with little to no undercoat. Recessive colors and traits are rare. Noted so far (and not accepted for showing) are seal lynx point, melanistic (black), and blue (i.e. bluish-gray) colors, long-haired kittens rarely known. A special pattern trait is agouti body-ticking that can extend all the way to the tip of the tail. "Chaotic", "chained", and "clouded" marbling patterns have been seen with the advent of the New line, with deviation away from the typical modified classic tabby pattern.
Sokoke cats are very active and enjoy climbing. They tend to be vocal toward human keepers and other cats they cohabit with. They bond deeply to each other, as well as their owners. This trait makes re-homing harder for them, with a longer adjustment period expected in adult cats and older, already-bonded kittens.
The Sokoke does best in a controlled environment, because of their limited resistance to common New World cat illnesses, often found in catteries and multi-cat homes. Like all of the short-haired Asian group of cats, they do not thrive in extreme cold temperatures for extended periods of time. However, contrary to previous reports they can be acclimated to colder climates, and do not require special housing any more than similar short-haired, Asian-group cats.
Their expected lifespan is the same as any purebred domestic cat, with 15 years an average old age.
It is typical for the male to help raise the kittens, getting in the nest box with them. If left together, the mother will often wait months to wean her kittens, even though their development is fairly rapid once they leave the nestbox Breeders expect one to two litters per year, per breeding pair. Sometimes two litters may come closely in a row, with a longer period of time before further reproduction. Sexual maturity is usually reached at around eight to ten months of age.