I do not intend to discuss the ancient history of cats, or to raise the question as to whether they were amongst the animals who entered the Ark; nor is it necessary to allude to the Wise Men of the East who worshipped the cat as a deity: I wish rather to confine my remarks to cats as they are known to-day. Of these, then, there are two distinctive breeds, viz., the Long-haired or Persian Cats, and Short-haired or English and Foreign Cats.
Lady Marcus Beresford's Blue Persian "Gentian"
In both long- and short-haired breeds there are "self-coloured," "broken-coloured" and "any other coloured" varieties. Apart from the length and texture of fur, the points of the animals are practically the same, whether long-or short-haired. They should be cobby in build and short on the legs, the head should be round and broad, eyes large and full, nose short, ears small and wide apart. So much for the general contour of the cat.
With the majority of fanciers the long-haired cats are the most popular. I will start with the self-coloured longhaired cats, viz., Black, White, and Blue.
I do not think sufficient attention or admiration is given to Black Persians, and very few fanciers have taken up this handsome breed. The Black Class is generally the worst filled at our Shows, and yet a black cat is said to bring luck, and a black cat does not show the dirt! In the early days of the Fancy, the question of eyes was one left in abeyance, but now we have a special standard for each breed, and blacks must have orange or even amber eyes to find favour with the cat critique and judge. Then, again, a white spot at the threat was not formerly considered a very damaging blemish, but nowadays even a few stray white hairs may be a cause of disqualification. At certain times of the year this breed shows signs of rustiness and a brown tinge mars its beauty, but when in full coat the colour should be black as coal with a shining glossiness on the silky fur.
A White Persian Cat, with correct blue eyes, in full coat and spotlessly clean, is indeed a "thing of beauty," but let no one try to keep one of this breed unless they live in the country. A white cat soiled is a white cat spoiled, and I have known a famous prize-winner put down by the judge on account of its dirty condition. A peculiarity of this breed is that the cats are frequently deaf. It is also the only breed which sports odd eyes, and in almost every litter of whites one or more of these curious freaks will appear.
And now to turn our attention to Blues, that lovely breed which has become so deservedly popular. I exhibited the first pair of Blues at the Crystal Palace many years ago, and ever since we have lived and loved together! I am now the Hon. Sec. of the Blue Persian Cat Society, with nearly two hundred members. At all the Shows the entries of Blues outnumber all other classes, and there is a greater demand for Blue kittens than for any other colour.
When Blues were first started the colour was decidedly darker than at present; it was a slate blue, but of late years fanciers have been striving to obtain a paler tone. I think, however, that the "happy medium" is the best. In the standard for Blues the largest number of points is given for soundness of colour, and it is most essential that no shadings or markings should appear in these cats, which should be absolutely level in colour throughout. It is only in recent years that fashion and custom have decreed that Blue Persians must have orange eyes. Certainly they tone best with the colour of their coat, and greatly enhance the beauty of heir appearance. It is a pity, however, to sacrifice other essential points to this one feature. Judges are sometimes inclined to put down a fine specimen which has every point in its favour except the orange eyes. I advise that, if you possess a grand-shaped, fine-coated Blue with green eyes, find a mate with deep amber eyes, and keep your green-eyed puss away from Shows ! Blues may be considered a fairly hardy breed of Persian, and they make lovely pets.
Smokes are rather a neglected variety, and may be said to be a mixture of the three self-coloured breeds—black, white and blue. A perfect Smoke is most difficult to breed, and unfortunately for only a short time during the year do they keep their good looks. When they shed their coats Smokes are often transformed into bad Blacks, and this is disappointing, and specially vexatious to the fanciers who desire to exhibit their cats frequently. The points of the Smokes have been keenly discussed in catty circles and Specialist Clubs. Their coats should be dark cinder-colour, shading to white with a light ruff and ear-tufts; eyes amber. Of late years attempts have been made to cross Smokes with Silvers and Blues, but I consider that Smokes should only be mated with Smokes to keep the correct colour and points.
And now for the consideration of Silvers, commonly called Chinchillas, otherwise named Shaded-silvers, and very often labelled " Wrong Class " ! To novices in the Fancy this may sound a little mixed, so let me explain. These beautiful cats have been through stormy waters, so to speak. A Specialist Society was started last year for this breed which also included Silver Tabbies and Smokes. The Silvers were subdivided into Self-silvers and Shaded-silvers. As, however, no Self-silver has yet been born or bred, there was naturally a difficulty in filling any class set apart for these particular specimens at the Shows. So the lightest Silvers were considered eligible, and then came the difficulty for exhibitor and judge to draw the line between the two varieties, and to decide what degree of paleness constituted a Self-silver (so-called) and what amount of dark markings would relegate the specimen into the Shaded-silver class. Naturally it became a Silver puzzle and a Silver muddle. Exhibitors waxed wroth and judges became exasperated. Then the term "Self-silver" was abandoned, but the endeavour to breed a Silver without any shadings or marking is still the height and ambition of many a fancier of this beautiful breed. There is a great fascination about these Silver Persians, but they have been so inbred of late years that great delicacy has resulted, and many a tale of woe has reached me concerning the difficulty of rearing Silver kittens. But I feel sure better times are in store for this breed, and certainly Silvers vie with Blues in popularity. The points of a Silver cat may be summed up thus: A pale shade of silver as free from shadings and tabby markings as possible; eyes green. For some time it was considered that Silvers might have either orange, yellow, or green eyes, but now the highest authorities in the Silver Society incline towards green eyes. I think judges in general give their verdict in favour of this colour, and I am sure they all desire only one class for Silvers and to keep them as distinct as possible from Silver Tabbies; the one class, namely, Silvers, to be as free from markings as possible, and the Silver Tabbies to have clearly defined black markings on a pure silver ground work. It is these markings that give the distinguishing feature to the beautiful breed of Silver Tabbies. I admire the splashed-type more than the delicately pencilled variety. There are very few really good specimens in the Fancy, and it is a great pity some of our clever breeders do not take up Silver Tabbies and try to prevent them from being crossed with nondescript Silvers, thus weakening the markings and damaging the breed.
I think it is generally known in the Fancy that I am partial to Brown Tabbies, and truly I believe they occupy the warmest corner of my cat-loving heart; perhaps, because I first started with a Brownie, or possibly because they have been a very looked-down-upon breed. However, as every dog has his day, so I hope a good time is coming for this truly handsome type of cat, so suggestive of a tiger. In build Brown Tabbies ought to be decidedly large and massive. The groundwork should be a rich tawny colour, with dark black markings very clearly defined; the legs evenly barred, and distinct rings round the neck, like so many chains. What are generally exhibited as Brown Tabbies lack the orange or golden tone, and have too much drab or grey in their colouring. The eyes should be yellow or orange. Any white in Tabby cats is a decided blemish.
Rev. P.L. Cosway's "Imperial Blue"
There is a tendency now to breed Orange cats with tabby heads and legs and self-coloured bodies. This seems a mistake. No doubt an entire Orange cat without any markings would be very handsome, and perhaps some of our enthusiastic Orange fanciers may succeed in breeding such a cat, and also produce blue eyes! At present the classification generally stands for Orange cats, marked or unmarked. The colour of the eyes should be a bronze gold, or hazel brown. Orange females are much rarer than Orange males.
Cream Persians are very much to the fore now, but the name is suggestive of a cat much paler in colour than those seen in the Show pens. These cats should be as self-coloured as possible, without tabby markings or shadings. They are often rather patchy in colour, and lean towards fawn rather than cream. Their eyes should be the same golden or hazel colour as in the Orange breed.
It is seldom a really good specimen of a Tortoiseshell is seen. These tricolour cats of black, orange and yellow should be patched, just like the marks in a piece of tortoise-shell. There should be no streaks, stripes or tabby markings in a good Tortoiseshell cat, and the colours should be well broken and evenly distributed over the body, head and legs. The brighter colours should predominate, and no white is permissible.
To novices only in the Fancy need I remark, that Tortoise-shell Tom cats are extremely rare. Tortoiseshell and white long-haired cats are by no means common. Most of those exhibited have too much white about them, and might justly be called White and Tortoiseshell. To be correct, the black, orange and white should be evenly balanced, and the chest and nose should always be white, with patches of colour on either side of the face.
And now to consider the Short-haired breeds. My remarks as to the Black, White and Tabby long-haired cats equally apply to the short-haired varieties. The Blacks must have no white, and the Whites be pure in colouring. The eyes of the former should be orange, and of the latter blue. It will be easily understood that the markings in the Tabby short-haired cats are much more vivid and distinct than in the long-haired breeds. There are also* Spotted Tabbies, but they are rare. In these there should be no lines whatever—not even rings. The more the spots appear to the exclusion of any other markings the better the specimen. I have never seen or heard of an Orange-spotted Tabby.
The commonest of all cats are Short-haired Tabbies and Whites, and Blacks and Whites. We see these specimens on many doorsteps. The markings are sometimes quite grotesque in their distribution. It seems almost a pity to so far encourage these cats as to give classes for them at our Shows. The "Any other colour" class is set apart in both the long- and short-haired sections for this description of cat, and for those that cannot really be properly classed, such as very light Smokes, Tortoiseshell Tabbies, and Blue Tabbies. Formerly Self-coloured cats with white spots were entered also in this class, but it has wisely been decided that these must take their chance in their own classes. The Blue Short-haired cat, commonly called Russian, has a coat resembling plush in texture. These cats are supposed to have first come from Archangel, but the best authorities seem to agree in believing they are not a distinct breed, and therefore they are now classed at our Shows amongst the short-haired English varieties. Blues should have deep orange eyes, and the colour of coat may be light or dark, but must be even throughout, without any appearance of stripes or markings. A white spot, as in other self-coloured cats, is a blemish.
The interest in Manx cats is rapidly and surely increasing. These quaint pussies are very intelligent, faithful and affec-tionate,but I must confess the love of this particular breed appears to me to be an acquired taste. The first, and all-essential point, is that a Manx cat should have absolutely no tail: one should be able to feel where the backbone ends. Some Manx cats have a tuft of skin or hair, or a stump, but such appendages count against these specimens in the Show pen. The fur of the Manx cat is longer and softer than is found in the ordinary short-haired cat; its hind legs resemble those of a rabbit; and the absence of tail gives an appearance of still greater length of limb. Self-coloured Manx cats are much rarer than Tabbies, and I know of a Tortoiseshell Manx—needless to say, a female.
Perhaps the most difficult cat to breed and rear in this country is the Siamese. Some fanciers declare these cats cannot stand our climate, and others attribute their great delicacy to those terrible pests—worms—to which this breed is very subject. Certain it is that breeders of Siamese have much to contend with and many disappointments to suffer. The Royal Cat of Siam, so called from the original breed being kept in the Palace of the King of Siam, is one of the most fascinating cats to keep as a pet. They have wonderful intelligence, and seem to have great powers of attaching themselves to human beings. In colouring they resemble pug-dogs. When born they are nearly white, and gradually turn a pale fawn. Their ears, muzzle, tail and legs should deepen to a dense brown chocolate colour. The markings of the ears should be sharp and distinct. The eyes should be a lovely bright blue, large and round. On the question as to whether the tail of a Siamese cat should be kinked or not kinked, no two opinions appear to agree, though H.M. the King of Siam is quoted as saying they ought not to be. A rather strange characteristic of this breed is the tendency to darken in coat as they grow in age. For this reason it is well to have the classes at Shows divided according to age. Siamese cats may be said to be in their prime at a year old; after this their colouring becomes blurred.
The only other foreign cat that calls for attention is the Abyssinian or Bunny cat, and it is not often that specimens are exhibited at our Shows. We have no special fanciers of this breed. The fur has a groundwork of reddish-brown ticked with darker brown markings. The coat should be close and soft.
The "Maltese" (Short-haired Blue) cat of the United States is not known by that name in England, nor has the American "coon cat" or the Mexican hairless cat yet been seen on our Show benches. References to the two former of these will be found on a later page.
* Strictly, of course, this is a contradiction in terms, for "Tabby" means "Striped." Still the name "Spotted Tabby" has become established and is intelligible.