Pedigree or moggy

Most folk who have set their heart on buying a pedigree cat know exactly what they want, so that they may pursue the hobby of cat showing and/or breeding or merely cherish a specimen of what they believe to be the most beautiful variety of cat.

Many cat shows, however, have classes for pet cats which do not have pedigrees. These are not judged by a breed standard though they must be used to being handled by strangers and be in good health. Many children’s cats, if well looked after, win prizes at shows.

Pedigree cats can, of course, command high prices, whereas it is possible to obtain a ‘pet’ cat in return for little or no charge or by making a donation to an animal charity.

The oldest animal charity in Britain devoted solely to cats, is The Cats Protection League based in Horsham, West Sussex. This organization whose work is carried out through fifty branches in Britain, staffed by voluntary workers, rescues strays, unwanted, and sick cats, and rehabilitates, and rehomes them where possible. It informs the public on the care of cats and kittens and, because there are so many unwanted cats in their care, encourages the neutering of cats not required for breeding.

Unusual breeds of cats

There are a number of fascinating cat varieties which you may not be able to see in many places.

The African Wild Cat comes from the open woodlands of Africa and south-east Asia. It has tabby markings, its basic colour ranging from grey to tawny yellow. It stands 35 cm (14 in) high at the shoulder, which is rather larger than most domestic cats. It appears that this variety was successfully tamed by the Ancient Egyptians, as its mummified remains have been found. Other small, wild cats, all of which are closely related, include the Black-footed Cat from South Africa, the Chinese Desert cat, the Jungle Cat of southern Asia, the Sand Cat from North Africa and the Leopard Cat from western Asia.

American Short-hair

The American Short-hair has longer legs and nose than the British type; its muzzle is more square and its fur of harsher texture and of a wider colour range. Incidentally, the colour tortoiseshell-and-white is, in the USA, referred to as calico.

American Wire-hair

In 1966 a chance mutation produced a kitten with coarse, wiry hair in the litter of an American farmyard cat. By selective breeding this was introduced into American Short-hair types from which the breed differs only in coat texture.

Bombay Cat

This is an American breed. It is jet black and was produced by crossing American Short-hairs with the Burmese.

Cymric

This is a long-haired variety of Manx cat produced by chance mutations. It is tail-less.

European Wild Cat

Rarely seen these days, except perhaps in the Highlands of Scotland. It has large, tabby markings and is distinguishable from the domestic cat by its larger skull and teeth and its tail which is rounded at the tip.

Egyptian Mau

Fascinating cats with tiger marking, bred artificially to resemble the cats of the Ancient Egyptians. The Americans recognize the breed in silver and bronze. In Britain, it has been developed from Siamese and has evolved of more foreign type, with a scarab-type (beetle-shaped) mark on the forehead.

Feral cat

Not altogether an unusual species, because it is a domestic cat, turned wild. Feral cats are distinguishable from the European Wild Cat by their pointed tail-tip and smaller head. Most domestic cats could fend for themselves if called upon to do so and, after several, generations of living wild, would tend to revert to tabby coat patterns.

Japanese Bobtail

This is an ancient Japanese variety, unlike any other. Its tail is approximately 10-12 cm (4-5 in) in length, but is held curled so that it tends to look much shorter. Its back legs, which are long, are generally bent, which gives the back a level appearance. The Japanese Bobtail is tri-coloured, red, black and white, (some other colours are accepted in the USA). This cat is said to shed less of its hair than other varieties.

Maine Coon cat

Probably evolved through crossings between the short-haired cats of settlers and Angoras brought by sailors from the east. Requires less grooming than most long-hairs.

Peke-faced Persian

This is a breed of long-hair, recognized only in the USA, and developed from Red Self and Tabby Long-hairs with heavy jowls. It is unusual in that the nose resembles that of a Pekingese dog. However, as it can lead to breathing problems and trouble with tear ducts (as indeed suffered by the Pekinese), there is some controversy as to whether this type should be perpetuated.

Ragdoll

This mutation developed in California from a Persian whose kittens, quite remarkably, seemed impervious to any form of danger, or pain. They are sensitive and extremely vulnerable cats, very loving and like the Birman in appearance.

Scottish Fold

This mutation has the disapproval of a number of feline authorities. It has drop ears and was developed from a kitten of this type born in Scotland. Think of a tabby with the ears of a British boxer dog – but in proportion to head size of course!

Recessive White cats

The white coat in these cats is caused by a totally different gene to that which causes the white coat in other, recognized, white breeds.

The white coat of White Long-hairs, British Short-hairs and Foreign Whites is due to a dominant gene. In a cat with one or two of these genes thecoat is white, but the eye colour may be orange, yellow, green or blue.

The recessive white coat is produced by a gene very similar to that which produces the Siamese, and in the same series.

The Burmese cat has less pigment than a fully coloured cat. The Siamese has even less pigment, and has blue eyes. The Recessive White has further reduced pigment so that it has a white coat, but it still has blue eyes with pigment in them: because there is less pigment there is a pinkish glow behind the blue. Although these cats are known as Albino Siamese in the USA they are not true albinos as they do have pigment in the eyes.

As these white cats are produced by a recessive gene they must possess two genes for Recessive White in order to be White, (c^c3)- If a fully coloured cat, Burmese or Siamese which carries the recessive white gene (Cca, c^ca or ^c3) is mated to another cat carrying the recessive white gene, on average a quarter of the kittens will be white.

All white cats, whether their white coat is due to the dominant white gene or the recessive white, are more sensitive to sunlight than dark coloured cats. White cats which are subjected to strong sunlight tend to get inflamed skin where they are unprotected by hair: this may produce sunburnt ears or conjunctivitis. The same effect may be seen in Bi-coloured cats which have a white patch over an ear or eye, and is sometimes seen in the more dilute coloured cats such as lilacs or creams.

Dominant white cats with blue eyes may suffer from deafness. This is seen, not uncommonly, in Long-hair, British Short-hair and “ordinary moggies’. Deafness has not been observed in any of the Recessive White cats bred in Britain (about thirty cats) and has not been reported in the USA.

At present no Recessive White cat, or cat with Recessive White parents or grandparents, can be registered. It has been suggested that these cats should be registered so that their presence in a pedigree shall be obvious.

The cats we have discussed are all recognized in Britain by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and, indeed specimens of all varieties named are to be seen at the National Cat Show at Olympia, London. It is quite likely that different colours of some of these varieties are being, or have been produced, but for which no standard has yet been approved by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.

The Burmese Cat

Burmese is a comparatively new breed to Cat Fanciers and came to Britain from the USA. The little brown cat from which the breed derives, ‘Wong Mau’, was taken to the USA from Rangoon, Burma, in 1933. She came into the hands of a Dr Thompson of San Francisco, USA, who was intrigued by the differences between Wong Mau and seal-point Siamese, the previously known breed of cat from the Far East, and in conjunction with a small group of geneticists and cat breeders carried out a programme of experimental breeding aimed at clarifying Wong Mau’s genetical make up. This proved conclusively that she was in fact a hybrid of Siamese with another distinct breed which they called Burmese. The pure Burmese cats produced in the breeding programme had darker coats than Wong Mau, with less contrast in the coat colour between body and points and when these darker cats were mated together they bred true.

We are told that, like Siamese, these brown cats have been bred in Burma and other parts of the Far East for a very long time and were greatly valued, being the prerogative of the wealthy and of the temples. However true this may have been in the past it is hardly likely to be so now.

Brown Burmese (known as sable Burmese in the USA) are not truly self-coloured cats. Their coat colour shades slightly from a rich dark seal brown on the top of the back to a slightly lighter colour underneath and there is a slight intensification of colour of the points. The kittens when born are a cafe au lait colour which gradually darkens until they achieve full colour at nine to twenty-four months, depending on the particular cat. In these respects they differ from Havanas (the only other short-haired breed of brown cats) which are a uniform brown colour (redder in tone than Burmese brown) all over, the kittens being born the same colour as the adults.

The coat of a healthy Burmese is fine, silky, close lying and has a characteristic natural sheen. The cats are of medium size, strong and very muscular. Other distinctive features are the face (which is short, blunt wedge-shaped, with a short muzzle showing no jaw pinch), the ears (erect, wide at the base with the opening well to the front and with the top of the skull nicely rounded between the ears) and large, expressive eyes ranging in colour from chartreuse yellow to golden yellow. The tail is not whip-shape like Siamese and tapers only slightly to a rounded tip.

The cats are alert, active, intelligent and extremely friendly and affectionate, and it is undoubtedly these character traits which have been mainly responsible for their rapid growth in popularity. The kittens are most attractive in appearance, full of character and quite fascinating to watch.

Until 1955 most people thought of the Burmese as the brown cat and it is probably the brown Burmese with its beautiful eyes, which should be any shade of yellow from chartreuse to amber (golden yellow preferred), which is most popular. The Burmese does, however come in delightful colours of blue, chocolate, lilac, red, tortoiseshell, cream, blue cream, and chocolate and lilac tortoiseshell.

The Foreign White Short-hair

The cat to surpass all other cats – that is how, naturally enough, the Foreign White Cat Fanciers’ Association describe this variety. It represents a dream come true for its pioneer breeders who, more than sixteen years ago started work on the development of a pure white blue-eyed cat with Siamese body type and sound, lovable temperament. Today it is clear that the careful and selective breeding by those early breeders has brought success, for judges regularly comment on the wonderful temperament of Foreign Whites; and the beauty of the breed, with its shining, glossy white coat, long svelte Siamese lines and deep, deep sapphire blue eyes is apparent for all to see.

The breed was recognized for Championship breed status in June 1977. The first Champion was John Harrison’s ‘Scintilla Jou-Lin’. The first Premier was Eileen Scott’s ‘Alexa Jasper’ and the first Grand Champion, Pat Turner’s ‘Scintilla his-Ch’i’.

At the 1977 Supreme Show of the GCCF (five months after full breed status had been granted) Scintilla his-Ch’i became Best Foreign Short-hair Kitten and finally Supreme Kitten. The following year the best Foreign Short-hair Kitten was again a Foreign White.

Not only are Foreign Whites successful at shows, they are also the most wonderful and lovable pets. In fact, ownership of a Foreign White is addictive, most owners deciding that two or more Foreign Whites must be better than one. For this reason kittens are usually in short supply and breeders with Siamese are often advised to mate their Siamese to a Foreign White stud rather than wait for a kitten from another breeder. Matings between Siamese and Foreign White produce 50 per cent Foreign White kittens.

Lists of Foreign White studs and kittens for sale are kept by the Foreign White Cat Fanciers’ Association. This club was formed by the breeders who developed the breed and members are offered a complete service of meetings, advice, annual medal awards, trophies for wins at shows and participation in a specialist show run by the club.

The Black Cat

The Black Cat was, in the Middle Ages, thought to be a creature of evil, the instrument of Satan. Nowadays, it is an omen of good luck and we believe that good fortune will befall us if a self-coloured black cat should happen to cross our path. Short-haired Black cats are, however, more frequently seen than the long-haired variety. The broad-headed Long-haired Black with its blazing orange eyes and, questionably, sinister look could well be the instrument of supernatural powers. Nowadays, however, it is more likely to be a much sought-after and rightly pampered pet.

The Bi-Colour Long-hair

At the turn of the century short-haired bi-coloured cats were being shown and a list of acceptable colours that could combine with white were set down by Mr Harrison Weir, but the long-haired bi-colours had to be shown in any other colour classes, being black and white, blue and white, orange and white, and tabby and white. Bi-coloured cats have been seen in Britain for many years and generally acquired as pets. It was not until 1966, following the discovery that by selective breeding they might assist in the breeding of Tortoiseshell-and-whites, that a standard was granted by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy based on Dutch rabbit marking. It will have been noticed that the cat and rabbit varieties have many similar names and groupings. Indeed the newspaper Fur and Feather caters for fanciers of both animals.

The Blue-Cream Long-hair

The Blue-Cream has been evolved through the mating of Blue and Cream Long-hairs, sometimes the mating of a Tortoiseshell with a Blue or Black Long-hair. Breeders in Britain have gone to immense trouble to obtain the coat of soft and good texture of blue and cream intermingled. This is the required standard in Britain and in Europe but the coat patched, as in the tortoiseshell, is liked in the USA.

The required colours should be pale pastel shades without any trace of red, and, as with so many other breeds, patching is considered a fault. This is a cobby cat with a broad round head and tiny ears, and what looks like a gentleman’s beautiful side whiskers. Again most Blue-Creams are feminine so crossbreeding is necessary to ensure continuity, usually by mating a cream female to a blue male.

The Chinchilla Cat

The Chinchilla is one of the prettiest of cats with long coats and is often spoken of as the glamour girl of the cat world, the pure white fur being tipped with black giving almost a fairy-like look. The head is broad, with small ears, and the eyes a beautiful sea-green colour.

The kittens are dark when first born and it is hard to believe that they will soon grow into such beauties. They make delightful pets but it should be remembered that their long coats need some grooming every day.

The Birman Cat

To appreciate the legend which is about to be told, one must visualize the beautiful temples in the ancient land of Burma. The magnitude of the Buddha idols helps to impress upon us the deep religious faith the people have. Their belief in the reincarnation of souls and their deep respect and love for their priests provide the setting for this legend. Their watchful and loving care of the hundred white cats (Temple Cats) is due to their belief that the priests are returned to the temple in the form of the sacred cats of Burma known as Birman Cats. The origin of the whitegloved feet and the colouring goes back to before the birth of Christ.

Centuries ago the Khmer people of Asia built beautiful temples of worship to pay homage to their gods. The temple of Lao-Tsun housed a beautiful golden goddess with sapphire blue eyes, who watched over the transmutation of souls. Mun-Ha, one of the most beloved of the priests, whose beard had been braided with gold by the great god Son-Hio, often knelt in meditation before the golden goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. Sinn, a beautiful and faithful white temple cat, was always at his side, and shared his meditations. As the holy priest prayed, the sacred cat would gaze at the brilliant goddess. One night as the moon rose and Mun-Ha was kneeling before the sacred goddess, raiders attacked the temple and Mun-Ha was killed.

At the moment of Mun-Ha’s death, Sinn placed his feet upon his fallen master and faced the golden goddess. Immediately the hairs of his white body were as golden as the light radiating from the beautiful golden goddess, her beautiful blue eyes became his very own, and his four white legs shaded downwards to a velvety brown; but where his feet rested gently on his dead master, the whiteness remained white, thus denoting their purity.

The next morning the temple radiated with the transformation of the hundred white cats, which, like Sinn, reflected the golden hue of sunset. Sinh, the golden cat of Burma, never left the throne after his master’s death. Then seven days later he too died, carrying with him into paradise the soul of Mun-Ha his beloved master.

Since that time, the followers of Buddhism guard very carefully and gently the sacred ones within whose bodies live their beloved priests. Only a few (and they must be worthy in deed and manner) are permitted to possess one of these beautiful creatures. The people lived peacefully till the advent of Brahminism. The Brahmins felt that the Kittahs (priests) were practising a false religion, so they raided the temples and killed many venerable priests.

At this time two men, August Pavie and Major Russell-Gordon, two Englishmen who were residing in France at the time, journeyed from France to Burma. They were able to penetrate and bring protection to the lost Kittahs against the aggressive Brahmins. They were then able to see the hundred sacred cats and learn their legend.

Many of the Kittahs escaped and crossed the mountains of Burma into Tibet, taking with them their sacred cats. They then formed a new subterranean temple of Lao-Tsun, the dwelling place of their gods. This temple is a marvel of marvels in Indo-China. Not far from a lake, it is hidden in a mass of immense peaks. .

The two men returned to France, and because of the great love the Burmese people had for August Pavie and Major Gordon-Russell, who had protected them against their enemy, a pair of the sacred cats was sent from the beautiful temple of Lao-Tsun to France, as a gesture of gratitude, in 1919. The ocean trip proved tragic however, for the male died. But it was found that the female was pregnant and thus the breed survived and became recognized in France in 1925.

The French breeders also had troubles of their own as, at the end of the Second World War only one pair of these sacred cats of Burma was left. The name Birman is derived from the French. (Burmese cats are totally unrelated.)

These cats have a wonderful temperament. They are sweet, gentle and very loving with a small voice. And they are very beautiful. They walk with a tiger-like gait. They should have deep blue eyes, long-haired coats and points like the Siamese; but with four white feet, on the back legs ending in a gauntlet-like spur, reaching to the first joint.

There are now blue Birmans as well as seal Birmans.

In the seal-point, the body fur is a clear pale beige, slightly golden, with dark brown points, and in the blue-point Birman the body fur is bluish-white, rather cold in tone with blue-grey points. Chocolate-brown and lilac-point Birmans are also now appearing. The Birman has a longer body than most long-haired cats and its head is not so broad.