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.

Breeds of cats

Nothing is more praiseworthy than to give a home to a pet cat especially if it otherwise faces destruction. Many pet lovers do, however, experience disappointment, when having rushed out and bought the first cat, dog, or even pet rabbit or guinea pig they see advertised, they discover too late the wide choice of types they might have chosen from had they gone into their purchase more carefully.

The best way to choose a pet is to decide the breeds which take your fancy – for instance most people have a preference for either long-coated or short-coated varieties, and then visit a cat show in your area where you will have a chance to talk to cat breeders and find out if, and when, kittens of the type you most like are available. Cat breeders are not unscrupulous people out to take your money. Most likely they began by excitedly purchasing their first pedigree kitten just as you are doing, became interested in the breed, and gradually discovered the pleasure of breeding and showing.

In Britain, you will be able to find out when cat shows are being held in your area by ordering the newspaper, Fur and Feather from your newsagent, or by writing (enclosing a stamped addressed envelope), to The Secretary, Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. The Council can also advise on specialist cat clubs and societies; there are, for instance, clubs catering for the needs of almost every pedigree variety, as well as general regional cat clubs. Best known venue of the Cat Fancy is of course the National Cat Club Show, which is held at Olympia, west London, in December.

Listed is a schedule of the pedigree cat varieties with their breed numbers allocated by the Governing Council of The Cat Fancy. Basically, breeders found that by mating different cats together new kinds could be made. Today these are divided into two main sections; cats with long fur, whose ancestors came from Ankara (then Angora) in Turkey and Iran (then Persia); and those with short fur. Cats with short coats are again divided:

1 Those with short fur, round heads, big rounded eyes and shortish thick tails, known as British cats (said to be descended from the cats that came with the Romans).

2 Foreign short-hairs, with longish heads, almond-shaped eyes, and long thin tails, which came in the first place from cats brought from the Far East.

3 Siamese, of similar shape, but having pale fur on the bodies and dark faces, ears, legs and tails.

4 The Rex, slim cats, but unusual in that the fur is very short and curly.

Over eighty breeds of cats, including colour varieties, are recognized today, most of which have developed in the last thirty years. Only a handful are of ancient origin: the best known is the original seal-point Siamese, from which several other colour-points have been produced by selective breeding. Even now, however, only about 5 per cent of British cats can boast a pedigree and most of these are Siamese, Burmese (developed in the 1930s in the USA!) or Abyssinian (developed in Britain, possibly from a cat brought back from Abyssinia in 1868).

Crossbred ‘moggy’ cats come in a wide variety of colours, with virtually all tortoiseshell cats female, but not all ginger cats male. Genetically, short-coats are dominant to long-coats, so most moggies are short-coated.

Owning a Pedigree Cat

To many people, part of the pleasure of owning a pedigree cat is the opportunity it provides to take part in cat shows. There is obviously a great deal of know-how to be learnt before success is likely. At the same time, a cat that falls below the standard of its own particular class is unlikely to be a potential winner. In most countries where pedigree cats are bred and shown as a hobby, there are governing bodies responsible for administration, both of the registration of pedigrees and the organization of shows. In America, as in Australia, there are several governing bodies covering these matters but in Britain everything is controlled by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. There are many clubs in Europe, some but not all of which are affiliated to the Federa-tion Internationale Feline de l’Europe (F.I.F.E.). South Africa has a Governing Council of the Associated Cat Clubs of South Africa, while in New Zealand there is a body similar to that of Britain, namely the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of New Zealand.

Apart from the European Federation there is no international body coordinating the cat fancy worldwide. The advantages of such a body would be considerable as it would enable the standardization of points for the different breeds and the actual breed numbers given.

European cats’ interests are controlled by individual clubs which register their own cats. In Britain, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy is responsible for the registration of all pedigree cats and the administration of rules under which pedigree cats may be entered in shows.

It is reasonable to assume that if a cat has been born into a pedigree litter, the breeder will have registered it as a pedigree kitten and its registered name and number should appear on the pedigree form which the breeder should supply with the kitten when it is purchased. This name and number will be unique to the kitten, and must be used if the kitten is entered for a show.

A kitten’s pedigree, which shows thirty-two parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, should give some indication as to its qualities. If in its ancestry there are a number of champion cats, it is reasonable to assume that the kitten has the potential to be a winner. Of course, much depends upon how closely the kitten resembles its championship ancestors in conformation, coat colour and weight of bone, for a string of champions in the pedigree is no guarantee that your own kitten will be a perfect specimen.