Designer cats for those with cash to spend

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - For cat lovers with exotic tastes and deep pockets a California biotech company has created a hybrid breed that resembles a mini leopard and sells for $22,000.

The Ashera is a mix between an African Serval, an Asian Leopard and a domesticated cat that can weigh up to 30 pounds . A hypoallergenic version is also available with a price tag starting at $28,000.

“It’s exotic, but under the skin it’s a domestic house cat, very easy to take care of and extremely friendly,” said Simon Brodie, the founder of Lifestyle Pets that developed the breed.

“Everybody has thought at one time, wouldn’t it be great to have a leopard at home, or a tiger. Obviously you can’t and this is about the nearest thing to it,” he added in an interview

The Ashera is not as aloof as some cats, is very vocal and can open doors and walk on a leash, according to the company.

“They’re more dog-like than anything,” Brodie said.

Many customers are first-time cat owners or dog lovers who are attracted to the canine-qualities and the relatively self-sufficient nature of cats. Most of the 100 Ashera cats sold this year by the company have been to customers in Russia and China.

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The Ashera is just one of a growing breed of designer cats. Other hybrid varieties include the Toyger, which is a cross of a Bengal and a domestic cat, the Chausie, a mix of jungle and domestic cats, and the Savannah, which resulted from breeding an African Serval and a house cat.

Brodie admitted there were similarities between the Savannah and Ashera but said consistency in size and temperament were key differentiating factors.

“Anybody can throw the ingredients in, but unless you know what ingredients are the best ingredients in the best percentages, you’re not going to produce the same final product,” he explained.

The Savannah is classified as an African Serval bred with any domestic cat, according to the International Cat Association. The Ashera’s domestic cat component is a specific one that Brodie said won’t be revealed.

“Is it a status symbol? I guess to an extent it is. But so are million dollar racehorses,” said Brodie.

Reporting by Naomi Kim; editing by Patricia Reaney