The development of the York Chocolate cat breed started in 1983 in a goat dairy farm owned by Janet Chiefari. It first appeared as a bittersweet chocolate coated female from a cross between a black and white farm cat named Blacky and a neighboring cat named Smokey. Chiefari was immediately attracted to the cat’s look and charm, and aptly named in Brownie to reflect the beautiful brown coat that the cat possessed. Subsequently, Brownie had her own litter of kittens, which included Minky, a longhaired black male with an undercoat of deep brown. Brownie and Minky mated and produced two kittens; one of which was called Cocoa, a brown and white female, and the other Teddy Bear, a solid brown male.
Chiefari was not just taken in by the richly hued, soft and glossy coat of this breed but also by their intelligence and temperaments. She decided to work on understanding all about cat breeding and started her breeding program with Brownie, Minky, Cocoa and Teddy Bear. Much to Chiefari’s delight, the offspring bred true as the cats all produced either solid or bi-color brown. By 1989, the porch of Chiefari’s place was converted into a cattery that housed 27 chocolate-brown cats and kittens.
In the same year, Chiefari’s veterinarian helped to link up Chiefari with Nancy Belser, a Cat Fancier’s Federation (CFF) judge as well as a cat breeder. Belser paid a visit to Chiefari’s farm and agreed that Chiefari’s cat was of a new line. She encouraged Chiefari to show the cats in CFF. Chiefari accepted the invitation and registered Prince, a six-month-old kitten then, under the household pet category. Much to Chiefari’s pride, Prince claimed the first place trophy and also achieved four rosette awards.
Feeling encouraged, Chiefari decided to give her new breed a name –York Chocolate. The first part of the name takes after Chiefari’s home state, New York, which is also where the breed originated while the second part reflects the rich chocolate brown of the breed’s coat. Chiefari continued to register the cat with other cat registries, and in 1990 both CFF and American Cat Fanciers Association accepted York Chocolate as an experimental line. It did not take long for this breed to be granted the Championship status by the CFF in 1993. In 1995, the Canadian Cat Association followed suit.
With the help of the different cat registries, Chiefari went ahead to write the breed standards of York Chocolate. At the same time, this breed continued to go through development by involving domestic, non-pedigreed cats in its breeding programs. Selective breeding was also carried out so as to maintain the standard conformation of certain desirable traits. The York Chocolate breed is still considered rather limited and wider acceptance by more cat registries is being sought.
Physical appearance and attributes
The York Chocolate is a medium to large sized cat that weighs between 10 – 16 pounds. It has a long body with sturdy boning and good musculature. The chest is full and rounded and the rump appears slightly higher than the shoulders. Striking a balance with the body are the medium to long legs that are well muscled. They are complemented with paws that are large, round and slightly tufted. The soft and elegant outline of the cat’s composition is also contributed by its medium to long tail that is comparable to the body’s length. It is wide at the base and tapers to a rounded end as the fur grows into a beautiful plume.
The head is well-proportioned to the body and appears longer than it is wide. The slightly long hair on the face may mask the modified wedge shape of the head. Viewed in profile, the skull and narrow muzzle are moderately rounded. The high and long nose also presents a slight dip at the eye level. Its muzzle follows the lines of the wedged head well with a gently contoured chin. The chin should be in a vertical alignment with the tip of the nose. York Chocolate has large pointed ears that are well tufted. They are broad at the base and tilt slightly forward while continuing the triangular outline of the head. It has a pair of almond shaped eyes that are medium in size; with the inner corners slanting slightly towards the nose. The eye colors can come in striking gold, green or hazel.
York Chocolate wears a coat of medium to long hair that is glossy in appearance and smooth to the touch. Hair texture should be soft and silky to the roots with no wooly undercoat. The composition of the hair texture and length accentuate the body lines, displaying a sense of elegance and grace. Hair on face, belly and lower legs should be shorter than those in the back, sides and upper legs. Slight frontal ruff, ears and toe tufts are desirable. The chocolate brown color of the coat is slow to develop and would become richer as the cat matures. York Chocolate can come in solid chocolate, solid lavender or bicolor that is either in chocolate and white or lavender and white.
Personality and temperaments
This is a breed that is capable of forming strong bonds with its humans. Even though it can do well on its own, the York Chocolate would much prefer human companionship. It takes tremendous joy in being given attention and loves to be petted and cuddled. Thus, it will do well as a lap cat. However, this does not mean that the York Chocolate is a passive cat. It can be as lively and active as the Abyssinian breed, enjoying interactive games as well as playing and running around the house. The York Chocolate does not hide its affection and is always eager to follow you around the house and to welcome you home with its motor purrs. Being quick and fast, this breed is also known to be an excellent hunter. Its even temper and sweet nature have made it a cat that can get along well with children and other family pets.
Care and health issues
This is a naturally robust and hearty breed with no specific health problems. However, it is not to be assumed that the cat would not be susceptible to other common cat ailments. Hence, do ensure that the cat receives vaccination and annual health check up to maintain its overall good health. It is advisable that purchase of the cat be made from qualified and responsible breeders who can produce a written health guarantee of the cat. Under proper care, a healthy York Chocolate should have an average lifespan of between 13 – 15 years.
Grooming the coat of York Chocolate is fairly minimal. It does not shed easily and is self-cleaning. Thus, a weekly brush out would suffice to help remove dirt and dead hair as well as to maintain the coat’s glowing sheen. Do extend grooming and hygiene care to its teeth by brushing it frequently with vet-approved toothpaste. The nails would need to be trim usually once every 2 weeks. Do check the ears for redness and odors and clean them with a damp cloth whenever necessary.
The ideal home
The York Chocolate is an ideal breed for families as it can get along well with children and other pets. Do make sure that young children know how to treat it with gentleness and care. Also ensure that proper introduction of other pets is carried out along with the supervision of their activities. As an excellent hunter, the York Chocolate can do well outdoors. To prevent unnecessary dangers, an ideal outdoor space would be a safe and escape-proof outdoor garden with non-toxin plants. Indoor spaces would need to be large enough for it to run about. Provide it also with cat toys, gym sets and scratching poles to prevent boredom. Moving toys can serve a prey substitute. The York Chocolate is an endearing pet that is loyal and trusting. The family needs to be willing and ready to care for it responsibly, giving it the attention it needs.