The Spangled Cat was bred in the 1980s to resemble wild cats like the ocelot and leopard. Although they were initially expensive due to their rarity, the breed has since been overshadowed by the Ocicat and Bengal.
At first sight this cat looks like a miniature version of the leopard. In fact, the California Spangled Cat's long, cylindrical body helps it move like a hunter on the prowl. Often in the shape of blocks, these leopard-like spots especially stand out when they are in contrast with the coat's background color.
The California Spangled Cat is energetic, active, and, though it sports a wild look, easy to tame. Affectionate and intelligent, it will return its owner's love in full measure, though it will also scheme to get its way.
A born athlete, the California Spangled Cat is capable of acrobatic high jumps. Therefore, it would be prudent to keep fragile valuables safely stored. The cat is also fascinated by moving objects and loves to hunt.
Paul Casey, a physicist and screenwriter from Los Angeles, is credited with launching the breed. Determined to create a cat with a wild look, Casey drew his inspiration a cat with glamorous coat (like that of a leopard or cheetah) from a conversation with the late anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey.
While he was working at the Olduvai digs in Africa in 1971, Casey was shocked to learn that one of the last leopards in the area had fallen victim to poachers. Casey and Leakey came up with the idea that if people owned a domestic cat which resembled a mini-leopard they would show greater inclination to conserve the wild beast.
Casey went about his mission scientifically, and in the early 1970s made an 11-generation blueprint, beginning with a female Traditional Siamese (also called the Old Style or Applehead) and a long-haired, spotted silver Angora. The result of this union was a silver male with block-shaped spots. Casey then added British Shorthair, American Shorthair, spotted-brown tabby Manx, and Abyssinian to create the core bloodline. Each breed was introduced according to plan, and mating results were recorded on a computer. In the final generation, street cats from Malay and Egypt were added to achieve a wild look.
By 1985, Casey achieved the desired look, which was immediately lauded by a small group of cat fanciers. Casey would eventually form the California Spangled Cat Association (CSCA), whose aim was to take measures to protect all endangered wild cats as well as to promote the Spangled Cat. In 1986, Casey introduced the Spangled Cat to the public through an advertising campaign with the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, where he sold them for $1,400 each. However, protests from animal activists would ensue because the catalog also featured fox, beaver, and ermine coats.
Despite the public relations controversy, the new cat became a hot commodity, especially since demand far exceeded the supply. Media outlets sought every opportunity to interview prospective owners. This newfound publicity helped Casey spread his message of conservation, but greatly depleted his stock.
Though breeders all over the world are working hard to make the California Spangled Cat more popular, there are only around 200 such cats in existence today. It has also proved more successful abroad than in its native country.
The breed is slowly inching its way towards attaining Championship Status from The International Cat Association (TICA) and American Cat Association (ACA) -- it has been accepted for New Breed and Color status.
The breed now has two International Grand Champions in Europe. And in 1994, a Grand Champion Spangled named Lassik won Best of Show at the summer competition in Paris.