Like his ancestor the Siamese, the Snowshoe is a pointed cat, meaning she has a light-colored body with dark areas in seal or blue: the tail, legs, and ears, plus a mask around the eyes, broken up by an inverted V-shaped marking in white between blue eyes and over the muzzle. Four white paws punctuate the dark legs, with the front paws termed “mittens” and the rear paws “boots.” The body is more rounded than that of the Siamese, with short hair.
The appearance of the Snowshoe harks back to the late Victorian era, with photographic and silk-screen evidence of Siamese kittens with four white feet, but the breed we know today was not developed until the mid-20th century. White-pawed Siamese known as Silver Laces made a brief appearance in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Philadelphia Siamese breeder Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty decided to create a Siamese-type cat with white paws and a moderate body. She called them Snowshoes.
Daugherty began with three white-pawed Siamese kittens and bred them to a domestic shorthaired cat with tuxedo markings (black coat and white belly, chest, throat, and paws — often with a black mask around the eyes). With intelligence from both sides of the family tree and the moderating influence of the domestic shorthair on the Siamese body type and personality, it’s no wonder the new cats were seen to have potential both as companions and show animals.
Daugherty eventually gave up breeding cats, but other breeders who saw merit in continuing to develop the interesting and beautiful cats carried on her work. The Cat Fanciers Federation recognized the Snowshoe in 1982, followed by American Cat Fanciers Association in 1990 and The International Cat Association in 1994. The Cat Fanciers Association does not yet recognize the breed.
While the Snowshoe is a distinct breed, the cats are still sometimes bred back to Siamese or Oriental Shorthairs to maintain their traits. It’s not easy to produce kittens with the desired markings, so the breed is uncommon, despite the ubiquity of Grumpy Cat.