Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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A cross between the plucky Maltese and gentle Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the Cav-A-Malt has a winning personality. Tolerant of children and devoted to its family, this designer dog loves a fuss and a cuddle. Beware of any clingy behaviour though, which should be nipped in the bud early on.

Petite and long-furred with floppy ears and kind eyes, the Cav-A-Malt could easily be mistaken for a child's teddy bear! Their coat is usually long and soft, though many will groom it so that it is shorter and more manageable.

About & History

While it is true that absolutely any purebred dog can be used in the creation of a ‘designer dog’, it tends to be the small, fluffy ones that are used most often. Designer dogs are created when two different purebreds are mixed together, resulting in an F1 hybrid. These hybrids can be bred together and, in doing so, a brand-new dog breed is created. Though none of these new breeds are recognised by professional bodies, such as the UKC or AKC, they are very popular amongst the general public and many make superb pets.

As the Maltese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel share many positive attributes, such as docile natures and happy-go-lucky attitudes, it is no surprise that they create a sweet-tempered (and incredibly cute!) puppy, known as the Cav-A-Malt – also known as the Maltalier. Experts are unsure as to the location and date of the Cav-A-Malt’s creation, though the first pup was likely produced some time 20 to 30 years ago. Over time, this breed has grown in popularity internationally and is now frequently seen in America and Europe. With such a short history, we must look to the parents of the Cav-A-Malt to form an idea of their past.

The Maltese

The Maltese first established itself somewhere to the east of the island of Malta, possibly on the Croatian island of Meleda (now called Mljet). Throughout history, they have been loyal and prized companions who were revered by their masters. In fact, it has even been proven that Maltese dogs would be buried in tombs in ancient Greece, exemplifying their social status at the time. Though the original Maltese existed more than 2,000 years ago, the breed almost became extinct in the 1800s when misguided breed fanciers attempted to make them smaller.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or ‘Cavie’, originates from sporting stock and were used by nobility to hunt. Over the years, however, these Spaniels were crossed with less athletic breeds in an effort to make them look a certain way, resulting in a modern dog that is less able and active. Regardless, they are a very popular pet all around the world and have even been owned by the likes of President Reagan and Frank Sinatra.


With a relatively domed head, circular brown eyes and silky, pendulous ears the Cav-A-Malt is undeniably adorable. Their muzzle is quite short and they often have the ‘loose’ upper lips of their Cavie parent. Though quite petite, their bone structure should not be too delicate and their limbs have a good muscle covering. The tail of the Cav-A-Malt is variable, with some exhibiting the curled over tail of the Maltese, while others have the plumed, curved tail of the Cavalier.

The fur of the Cav-A-Malt tends to be long and wavy though many owners will opt for a shorter, curlier coat at the groomers. Black, tan and white are the most common colours but pups may also have red fur and it is not unusual for a dog to be bi-coloured or tri-coloured. A small dog, most stand at a height of 25cm to 35cm when fully grown. Similarly, they will rarely reach weights of more than 6.5kg with the smallest individuals weighing in at around 4.5kg.

Character & Temperament

The personality of the Cav-A-Malt is just what you are looking for when it comes to a family pet. These docile dogs are sweet-natured and full of fun. They relish spending time with people and other animals and are incredibly sociable. They do, however, demand a lot of attention and do not cope well if left alone for long periods of time.

Friendly with strangers, the Cav-A-Malt makes a terrible choice of guard dog. Tolerant of all people, hostility and aggression do not come naturally. While not a particularly energetic dog, they can experience sudden bursts of energy when they will race about for several minutes, creating their own fun. Most will enjoy curling up with their owner on the sofa at the end of the day and make superb lap dogs.


A good dog for the novice owner to learn to train, most Cav-A-Malts make training a doddle and enjoying participating in the sessions. They can master obedience quickly and do well when it comes to socialisation. Some will have shorter attention spans than others and may need to repeat the same task several times before mastering it.

One potential issue you may experience with your Cav-A-Malt is ‘small dog syndrome’. While not as common as in other small breeds, this behavioural issue has been reported in this designer dog. Those with ‘small dog syndrome’ can act inappropriately standoffish, particularly with those not in their inner circle. Some will yap incessantly and others may even snap when provoked. These dogs are fearful and often defensive of their resources, such as their toys and food. Many become excessively protective of their owners, panicking if others approach them. This syndrome can be both avoided and treated with the correct training. Owners should remember to treat their Cav-A-Malt like the canine that it is and not to pander to its whims and ‘baby’ it. As with any sized dog, growling and disobedience should never be tolerated.


While it has been proven that hybrid animals experience better health than their parents due to ‘hybrid vigour’, this does not make them exempt from developing certain health conditions. In the Cav-A-Malt, we should monitor for:

Ear Infections

Floppy, large ears are cute to look at but predispose a dog to developing ear infections. Any time the dog gets wet, such as in the bath or during a swim, owners must ensure they dry the ears out thoroughly afterwards.

Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral Valve Disease is a condition of the heart whereby the mitral valve (bicuspid valve) deteriorates and cannot function adequately, leading to heart failure over time. Studies have shown that the Cavalier can be 20 times more likely to develop this condition than the average dog, putting the Cav-A-Malt at high risk.

Patellar Luxation

The patella is also known as the kneecap and a normal patella will sit in its groove at all times. For dogs that experience patellar luxation, the kneecap will shift out of its place and become dislocated. This abnormal shift can cause an awkward gait, pain and may also lead to the development of osteoarthritis over time.

Vets will perform orthopaedic examinations and imaging studies to diagnose the issue. While non-surgical treatment may work for those with incidental luxations, orthopaedic surgery is often the best option to resolve this defect.

Exercise and Activity Levels

With low exercise requirements, many with less active lifestyles, such as pensioners, find that the Cav-A-Malt makes a good pet for them. As long as they have a few short walks a day to stretch their legs and do their business, they are quite content to spend the rest of their day indoors. It is, however, important to ensure that their minds are not under-stimulated and that they receive plenty of attention. They enjoy play time, canine puzzles and activities just as much as the next dog.

The ideal choice for apartment living, the Cav-A-Malt does not require much space and does not necessarily have to have garden access.


Brush the coat of your Cav-A-Malt a few times a week to prevent tangles from forming and pay particular attention to areas, such as the face, ears, armpits and tail. Baths will not be needed frequently and most should only be bathed a few times a year.

For tear staining, consider the use of an eye cleaner each morning. The ears of the Cav-A-Malt should be cleaned out as needed, which may be every week for some. As the Cav-A-Malt is a small breed with a small jaw they are prone to overcrowding and dental disease. Keep their teeth and gums in good health by brushing them every two days.

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