[Typed in by Martina iljeg, Delta Pelegrino cattery]
A FAMOUS publisher once gave the following advice to a young author: 'Never take it for granted that your readers have any previous knowledge of your subject, but credit them with ordinary intelligence'. To all feline fanciers the heading of this chapter is a familiar household term, but to novices in the cat world and to outsiders the term 'blue' as applied to a cat may sound rather absurd. Truth to tell, the name is misleading, and yet the same is used in describing certain breeds of domestic animals, such as dogs, rabbits, etc. There is also a fur much used for trimmings of ladies' jackets, etc., called blue fox, and this is very much akin to the colour and texture of the fur of the blue Persian cat, which, however, varies in tone from a dark slate to a pale lilac-blue.
It is over twenty years ago since I exhibited the first 'blues' at the Crystal Palace Cat Show, and they created quite a sensation, for no one seemed to have seen any cats of this peculiar shade before. Some called them grey or lilac, and others London smoke or slate colour. One of my pair of blue kittens was quickly claimed at catalogue price, and I bought in the other, fearing I should lose her also. She, in her turn, became the mother of many celebrated blues. In those early days of the fancy blue Persians were entered in the 'any other variety' class, and most of the specimens exhibited were in reality blue tabbies. For some years this state of things continued; but Mr. A. A. Clarke, so well known as one of the pioneers of the National Cat Club, and as a breeder, exhibitor, and judge, agitated with other fanciers, myself amongst the number, to obtain a better classification for the self-coloured blues, and in 1889 the schedule at the Crystal Palace Show contained a class for 'Blue-self-coloured without white'. For some time this breed of cats was termed 'self blues', in contradistinction to the many blues with tabby markings which were formerly so very common in the fancy.
In 1890 it was decided to divide the sexes in the blue cat classes, and let the kittens compete with black and white. The result was an entry of eight in each class, my famous 'Beauty Boy' taking first in the male, and Mrs. H. B. Thompson's celebrated 'Winks' first in the female division. Al Brighton in the same year the 'self-blue' class was adopted with success.
The famous blue stud cats of that period were Mr. A. A. Clarke's 'Turco', Miss Bray's' 'Glaucus', and my own 'Beauty Boy'. Amongst other exhibitors of blues about this time I may mention Mrs. Warner (now the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison), Mrs. Vallance, Mrs. Wells, Mrs. Hunt, Mrs. H.B. Thompson, Mrs. Ellerton, and Miss F. Moore. In 1891 blues came very much to the fore, and the entries at the Crystal Palace numbered 15 males and 17 femals. At Cruft's Show in the year 1894 a grand blue, called 'Wooloomooloo', was exhibited by Mrs. W. R. Hawkins, and this cat became one of the most famous of stud cats. Many of the finest blues of to-day are descended from this noted sire. Mrs. H. B. Thompson's 'Don Juan' was for many years greatly in request as a stud cat, and many beautiful blues claim him as their ancestor.
A little later 'Moko' became famous as the sire of a sensational kitten exhibited by Mr. C. W. Witt at the Westminster Show of 1900. 'Moko' was sold at a high figure to Mrs. Barnett, and is now in the possession of Mrs. Singleton, of Yeovil. Mr. A. A. Clarke was considered the best judge of this variety, and at the Palace and Brighton he did much to encourage the breed by offering handsome special prizes in the blue classes.
It is true that the prize-winning cats of ten and fifteen years ago would have had but a poor chance in the present-day competitions, chiefly for the reason that cats of the past could look at a judge with bright green eyes and yet be awarded the highest honours. Nous avons change tout cela, and now a blue cat without the much-to-be-desired orange eyes fetches but a small price, and is at a great disadvantage in the show-pen. An up-to-date judge may, however, be led into giving too great a prominence to this point and thus sacrifice soundness of colour, shape, and form. Then, again, I remember when a white spot on the throat of a blue Persian was not considered a serious defect; now a few straggling white hairs will cause anguish to the owner, and a judge will promptly put down the specimen for this blemish.
Blue cats with white spots used to be relegated to the 'any other colour' class; but recently both the National Cat Club and the Cat Club have wisely decided that such cats should be judged in their own classes. However, I think that owners of these specimens would do well to keep them away from the show bench, where the competition in blues is now too keen to give any chance for defective cats to have a look in. I may mention that the nose of a blue Persian is a few shades darker than its fur, and the toe-pads yet a little darker.
As will be seen form the standard of points for blues, which will be found later on in this chapter, the highest marks are given for soundness of colour. There is a tendency to breed very light blues, and popular fancy favours this particular type. I am inclined, however, to prefer a good sound medium blue as being the best and safest for breeding purposes. The lovely pale blues are beautiful to look at, but are seldom absolutely sound in colour. Blues, whether dark or light, should be the same tint throughout, so that when the coat is blown apart the colour at the roots is the same as at the tips. A white undercoat is a serious blemish, and this often appears when silver blood may be traced in the ancestry of a blue cat. We have quite dropped the term of self-blue, and yet this well expresses the uniformity of colour which is so desirable. As tiny kittens blues frequently exhibit tabby markings; but fanciers need not worry over these apparent defects, for as the coat grows the bars and stripes are no longer visible.
It also sometimes happens that a kitten exhibits quite a light ruff, but this is generally shed with the second coat, and eventually disappears. There are some cats erroneously called blues by novices in the fancy, but which in reality are blue smokes. These have probably been bred from blues and smokes, and thus the type of each is seriously damaged. If it is desired to breed sound-coloured blues, then it is undesirable to cross them with any other colour save and except blacks. I have found good results from mating blues and blacks, more especially with a view to obtaining the deep amber eyes of the black Persians which, for some reason or other, are generally larger, rounder, and deeper in colour than what we can produce in blues. Certainly all broken breeds and tabbies should be avoided when mating blues. I have heard of white cats being bred with blues to get a pale tint of blue; but white toes, chests, and spots have often been the results of such experiments. I have bred blue Persians ever since I took up the fancy, which is longer ago than I care to remember, and I have found them strong and hardy cats, requiring no special food, and enjoying the best of health without any cosseting or coddling. I do not consider that blues usually obtain any great size or weight, nor are they generally massive in build or profuse in coat.
Blue and Cream Persians."
Ten or fifteen years ago I used to have my blue kittens bespoken for about £5 each before they were born; but nowadays, when blues are so plentiful, one must be content with lower prices, and the average sum for a good blue kitten is three guineas. Still, I am sure that for beginners in the fancy, wishing to combine pleasure and profit, there is no better investment than a good sound blue queen with orange eyes. The demand for blue kittens is really larger than for youngsters of any other breed. They make superb pets, but it is to be regretted that blue neuters are generally spoilt with green eyes, doubtless for the reason that the possession of good orange eyes tempts the owner or purchaser to reserve the specimen for stud or breeding purposes.
As one of the first breeders and exhibitors of blue Persians I feel I am in a position to speak with authority, and I am of opinion that no breed has made such rapid strides, either in improvements or popularity, as blues. In this statement I am supported by our best professional judge, Mr. T. B. Mason, who, writing to me on the subject, says: 'I find ten good blues at the present time to one we came across two or three years ago. I am of opinion that in no colour of cats have we seen more distinct progress than we see in blue Persians'. Such a statement, coming from our most able and ubiquitous judge, is a valuable one. Mr. Mason has had a large experience in cat judging during the last few years, and his duties take him north and south, east and west.
As regards the breeding of blues, I consider that to obtain the true sound colour blues should only be bred to blues.
I have often, however, observed that a kitten of unsound colour is to be found in litters bred from two sound-coloured blues; the kitten may have a white undercoat or be full of white hairs, or have a shaded ruff; but experienced breeders will soon discover that such blemishes are but temporary, and that the ugly duckling of a family may develop into the flower of the flock. It is, therefore, very interesting to make experiments and to keep an apparently worthless specimen to see what it turns into when the first months of infancy are passed and the kitten coat has been shed.
I have known a young blue of sound colour completely transformed in this particular by a severe illness. Her fur became a sort of pepper-and-salt mixture-a sprinkling of white and dark grey; but this same cat, contrary to the prophecy of an able judge, has again changed her coat, and is now a perfectly sound blue, even from tip to root. It was evident that her illness had affected her coat, and that when she regained her usual health she recovered her correct coat. As regards the eyes in blues, it is not possible to give any exact time for the change in colour from the baby blue to the dreaded green or hope-for orange. This change takes place gradually, and sometimes the period extends till a kitten is almost a cat. There are many blue cats with what may be called indefinitely coloured eyes; that is, neither orange, nor yellow, nor green. This most unsatisfactory state of thing may be generally accounted for by a circle of green round the pupil, which, according to the time of day, will be wide or narrow. Thus it is that cats with this defect are sometimes described with 'good yellow eyes', and advertised as such, and then, when received by the purchaser, a glint of green is plainly visible in the inner circle. The perfect eye in a blue should be absolutely unshaded; and there are two distinct types of eyes, manely, the golden eye and the orange eye. The former resembles a golden coin in tint, and the latter has the dash of red which is to be seen in copper. Both these coloured eyes are correct, and much to be admired in blue Persians, and no doubt as time goes on we shall find it will be the rule and not the exception to see these perfect eyes amongst the blues of the future. It must, however, be borne in mind that in the point of eyes cats throw back, and two parents with good orange eyes may yet produce one or more kittens with pale eyes of yellow or greenish hue. Although I have dilated at length on the superiority of the orange eye in blues, I do not wish it to be thought that a weedy, boneless cat, even with eyes of deepest hue, would find favour in my sight; for in blues as in all breeds of Persians, what we ought to seed after most earnestly are good massive limbs, plenty of bone, and broad skulls. There are too many Persian cats of hare-like proportions, and we really want some of the type of a good old English tabby introduced into the more aristocratic long-haired breeds.
It will be interesting to up-to-date breeders of blues to hear what the veteran cat lover and fancier Harrison Weir had to say about them fifteen years ago. In his well-known book, 'Our Cats', he thus alludes to the breed:-
Blue in cats is one of the most extraordinary colours of any, for the reason that it is a mixture of black (which is no colour) and white (which is no colour), and this is the more curious because black mated with white generally produces either one colour or the other, or breaks black and white or white and black; the blue being, as it were, a weakened black or a withdrawal by white of some, if not all, of the brown or red, varying in tint according to the colour of the black from which it was bred, dark grey, or from weakness in the stamina of the litter. When once the colour or break from the black is acquired, it is then easy to go on multiplying the different shades and varieties of tint and tone, from the dark blue-black to the very light, almost white grey. If whole coloured blues are in request, then particolours, such as white and black, or black and white, are best excluded.
Many of our leading cat fanciers 'go in' exclusively for blues, and keep faithful to this one breed alone. I give a list of these, and trust I may be pardoned if I have left out the name of any enthusiastic breeder and lover of blues and blues alone: Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Wells, Mrs. P. Hardy, Mrs. H. Ransome, Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Mocatta, Mrs. S. F. Clarke (Louth), Mrs. Cartwright, Mrs. Gregory (Lincoln), Mrs. H. B. Thompson, Mrs. O'Brien Clarke, Miss Jay, Miss Bennet, Miss Messer, Miss Patterson, Miss Goddard, Rev. P.L. Cosway, Mrs. Swanson, Mrs. Curwen, Mrs. Duffin, Mrs. W. M. Hunt, Mrs. Slingsby, Mrs. Singleton, Miss Savery, Mrs. Eustace, Mrs. Hitchcock, Miss Hooper, Miss Violet Hunt, Miss Humfrey, Mrs. Kennaway, Mr. H. Maxwell, Mrs. Ponder, Miss Rigby, and Mr. C. W.Witt.
There are, of course, a large number of fanciers who, amongst other breeds of cats, keep one or two blues, and several keep blues and silver only. I think I may safely say that blue Persians have the largest number of admirers, and certain it is that at all our large shows the blue classes are the best filled. At the Cat Club Show held at Westminster in 1899 the number of entries in the blue female class was a recor one-there were no less than 48, and the blue males mustered 42.
Seeing, therefore, how popular this breed had become, in April, 1901, I founded and started the Blue Persian Cat Society, a book of rules was drawn up, and the following ladies and gentlemen appointed as officials of the society:-
BLUE PERSIAN CAT SOCIETY
Founded April 24th, 1901
Blue kittens bred by Miss Kirkpatrick.
The chief objects of this society are as follow:- To promote the breeding and exhibiting of blue Persian cats; to define precisely, and to publish a description of, the true type of blue Persian cat, and to urge the adoption of such type on breeders, exhibitors, and judges, as the only recognized and unvarying standard by which blue Persian cats should be judged; the improvement of the classification, and, if necessary, the guaranteeing of classes for these cats at shows supported by the society; the selection of specialist judges to make the awards at such shows. The annual subscription to the Blue Persian Cat Society is five shillings, payable by each member on election. At the general meeting of the society, held in April, 1902, the number of members on the books was 183, and the honorary secretary reported that during the past year twelve cat shows had received the support of the society, and numerous handsome challenge prizes, badges, and specials had been offered for competition.
The following is the standard of points drawn up by the committee of the Blue Persian Cat Society and approved of by the members of the society:-
STANDARD OF POINTS FOR BLUE PERSIAN CAT
Coat (30) - Any shade of blue allowable; sound and even in colour; free from markings, shadings, or any white hairs. Fur long, thick, and soft in texture. Frill full.
Mrs. Robinson's blue kittens.
Members should not be deterred from showing their cats if they do not come up to the high standard set forth in the above definition.
It is true that very few, if any, blue Persians come up to the high standard here given, but still there is a very marked improvement in the breed during the last year or two. The number of green-eyed blues are steadily and surely decreasing, and the colour of the coat and size of head are points that have been carefully attended to. In reading the list of blue cats placed at stud in the columns of the cat papers we cannot help being impressed with the enormous strides made of recent years in this breed of cats alone. In a recent copy of Our Cats I counted twenty-five stud advertisements of blues, and this does not nearly represent the entire number of blues used for stud purposes by fanciers. This breed of Persians has become very popular in America, and several fine cats have been exported, and have carried off the highest honours at the New York Cat shows, held under the auspices of the Beresford Cat Club.
Mrs. Clinton Locke, the president of the club, is an enthusiastic breeder and admirer of blues, and has possessed the finest specimens among American fanciers.
The names of two good 'all-round' judges appear on the blue Persian list, namely Mr. C. A. House and Mr. T. B. Mason, and exhibitors of this special breed-as, indeed, of any other-may feel quite sure that their precious pets will receive justice at the hands of these two careful adjudicators.
Mr. E. Welburn, also a blue Persian judge, was long known and respected in the fancy, and his death in 1902 was a great loss to the cat world. Two silver bowls have been subscribed for by his many admirers in memory of this upright judge, and these are competed for annually at the two largest shows of the National Cat Club and the Cat Club.
Miss Jay and Miss Frances Simpson have frequently given their services as judges at some of the shows which have received the patronage of the Blue Persian Cat Society.
In conclusion, I would say that I am very hopeful of being able at some future time to hold a show for blue Persians, and by dividing and subdividing to give an attractive and liberal classification.
I have pleasure in giving a short account, with illustrations, of some of the catteries belonging to blue breeders.
Mrs. Wells' cattery.
Mr. Wells, of Isleworth, was one of the first exhibitors of blue Persians, and has been faithful to this breed for many years. She has wonderfully well-planned catteries, and, having plenty of space at her command, the cats are able to enjoy lots of liberty in large wiredin runs, planted with shrubs, and with an abundance of grass. Mrs. Wells' blues are noted for their wonderfully fine coats. Her stud cat 'Blue Noble' has sired many noted winners, and 'My Honey', a lovely queen, has the deepest orange eyes I have ever seen. Mrs. Wells takes the greatest interest in her cats, and each and all are pets; in fact, so great is the care and devotion bestowed upon them that Mrs. Wells is very seldom persuaded into exhibiting any of her beautiful blues, and never lets them attend any shows unless she herself is able to accompany them.
Mrs. Wells' cottage is situated in a most rural district of Isleworth, and one might fancy oneself miles and miles away from the busy haunts of men. At the time the photos illustrating these catteries were taken Mrs. Wells had eighteen blue kittens, besides several grown-up representatives of her favourite breed. At one time Mrs. Wells was bitten with the silver fever, and began to breed this variety; but the litters did not give satisfaction, and she determined to return to blues-with what success can be learnt from a visit to the gardens at Isleworth.
Miss Gertrude Jay started cats in 1891, and her name will always be connected with blues. Nothing has ever been exhibited to compare with her wonderful female 'The Mighty Atom' as regards beauty and shape of head. This cat, now, alas! no more, swept the board wherever it was shown. Twice she carried off the highest honours for best cat in the show at the Crystal Palace. It is true that this grand specimen lacked the orange eyes, but no judge could pass over such a perfect type of cat, despite her one fault, and thus 'The Mighty Atom' reigned supreme. 'Trixie' and 'Doris', two of Miss Jay's noted blues, have also both won specials for the best cat in the show at the Crystal Palace. Miss Jay is fortunate in having some descendants of these precious cats in the luxurious catteries at Holmwood (of which an illustration is given). Many lovely blues may be seen reveling in the well appointed houses set apart at the end of the long terrace for their special use. Miss Jay about a year ago retired from the cat fancy, and withdrew her name from the two clubs; but she is still a vice-president of the Blue Persian Cat Society, and often acts as judge. Her name always draws a good entry, and, as a well-known fancier once remarked to me, 'You can be sure of getting your money' worth when Miss Jay has the handling of the classes'. The following few remarks from Miss Jay on her method of judging will be read with interest:-
I fear my way of judging is unlike most other people's, because I do not judge by points unless it comes to a close fight between two cats. Of course, I consider shape and colour first, and then I mark all those unworthy to be in any prize list; next get to work with the remainder, and this I do, as I say, unlike most other judges, for I pick out the cat that I would soonest have given to me that day, with the object of showing it again at once. The point to be decided is the best cat that day. It is no use beginning to think which cat will be the best in a month's time or which cat might have been best a month ago; it is there that day-which is best? And, to my mind, if I award first to the cat I would rather have, with the one object of continuing to show it, that surely must be the best cat in my opinion, and to that cat the first card goes. And so on through the class, only giving one V.H.C., one H.C., and one C., unless the class is a very large one. I know some judges who say commended cards are very cheap, and they please the exhibitors. True; but are you not pleasing them in a wrong way by making them think their cat is better than it is?
Mrs. Herbert Ransome is well known in the feline world as a successful breeder of blue Persians, and as the hard-working secretary of the Northern Counties Cat Club, and more recently as the editor of Our Cats. Her two blue stud cats, 'Darius' and 'Darius III', have earned a great reputation, not only in the show-pen, but as the sires of many lovely prize-winning kittens, notably 'Orange Blossom of Thorpe', owned by Mrs. Slingsby, of Ouseburn, Yorkshire.
It is only of recent years that the name of Mrs. Paul Hardy has become known in the feline world as a breeder of blue Persians. Mrs. Hardy was a member of the Cat Club Committee, but on her removal to some distance from London she resigned her post. To her the Cat Club is indebted for a very beautiful design of a medal which, in silver and bronze, is competed for at the Westminster and other shows (see illustration).
Cast of the cat club medal.
Her first adventure into the domain of cat-keeping was in the case of a very fine blue cat named 'Juliet', whose first few litters were not a great success, so that sensible cat took matters into her own hands. She chose for her mate the raggedest black tom she could find, and though, of course, the results of this mesalliance were not at all satisfactory from the show judge's point of view, in later years, when suitably mated, 'Juliet' did not once throw back to a wrong-coloured kitten. I am not sure that I can follow Mrs. Hardy to the logical conclusion of her deductions from this fact, but I think it is worthy of notice by those extremists who hold the view that an incorrect mating in the first instance spoils a queen for the rest of her life.
It was at the Crystal Palace show of 1897 that Mrs. Hardy exhibited her first litter from her blue stud 'Wooshoo', and she was then awarded a first, a special, and two or three silver medals. Another famous cat in Mrs. Hardy's establishment was a blue, named 'Mark Antony', who met with success at several Scottish shows. Later he came under the notice of Mrs. Mackenzie Stewart, into whose hands he passed, and received a good deal of favour at the hands of the judges. From Mrs. Stewart he passed into the possession of the late Dr. Longwill, and was sire of the famous Crystal Palace winning female blue, 'Dolly Gray', in 1902.
Mrs. Hardy's success has not been achieved without some set-backs, more particularly of recent years, since her cattery has been enlarged, and she has had to fight her way against disease and death. Her own account is so vivid that I quote it, so that fanciers in a like evil condition may fight for the lives of their pets to the last:-
I was singularly free from illness of any kind amongst them, and I lived for some time happy in the belief that the Persian puss was in no wise different from her short-coated sister in the robust possession of nine lives; so I added cat unto cat, and bred for show; when swiftly Nemesis overtook me. I showed five full-grown cats at the first Westminster show, and twenty-four hours after the show was over my best blue queen, a young beauty whose proud owner I had been only for one brief month, died of acute pneumonia. A few days later influenza showed itself amongst the others, and all four were down with it.
What a time I had, with the experiences of a ward-nurse! But I pulled them through, all but one young kitten of four months, in whom acute laryngitis developed, and so she had to be put to sleep.
'Wooshoo' was given up by the vet., as he piled so many complications into his system one after the other, developing bronchitis, gastritis, and jaundice on the top of the original complaint. Poor fellow, for twenty four hours he lay unconscious, but I kept his heart going by doses of pure alcohol every two hours, while I fought the disease with hot fomentations, medicated steamings, and other proper remedies.
For just one month I had to hand-feed him, and then one afternoon it occurred to him he might try his minced oyster by himself, greatly to my joy and triumph; and when he feebly washed his face afterwards I felt like setting the church bells ringing!
I am convinced, in serious cat illness, it is the night nursing that does the trick and determines whether your patient is to live or die. It is somewhat of an effort, I admit, to have to arise two or three times in a night (nearly always in the bitter weather, when these epidemics occur), and, in my case, to be obliged to dress and go out of doors to the stableyard, with a dimly burning lantern.
Miss G. Jay's cattery.
In every cat lover's career there must be some such saddening memories. Saddest when, after the efforts of the night, and you have left hopeful the morning will bring improvement, you return in the early dawn to note on entering a sign that causes your heart to beat heavily - your patient's bed is empty!
You know what that means, and look round. Yes, there in a corner, flat, stiff, and draggled, where he has crawled in the last uneasy seeking for air, is your poor pet, still for ever!
Mrs. Hardy, in connection with illnesses, has some advice to offer as regards medicines which she has tested herself, and which I think will be of service to my readers:-
While not intending to say anything authoritatively upon the subject of remedies for various cat ills, all of which will be most ably and exhaustively gone into by the writer of later chapters in this book, I might perhaps mention one or two things of which I have had personal experience, restoratives rather than drugs, which I now keep always at hand.
One is a preparation of beef called 'Somatose'. It is sold in I oz. or 2 oz. tins, is in the form of a fine soluble powder, and has this advantage over certain beef essences-that it will keep good any length of time, and has not to be used up directly the tin is opened; while it is no more expensive, and a little will go a long way if used as directed.
I make it by putting some boiling water into a saucer, sprinkling about a teaspoonful on the water, and allowing it to dissolve slowly till cold, when it would look like weak tea. It is a most powerful restorative and stimulant, and given cold in teaspoonful doses can be retained in the worst case of stomach irritation.
Rev. P. L. Cosway's "Imperial Blue."
A second good thing is Plasmon powder. I was recommended to try this by a cat lover, for a case of dyspeptic sickness of a chronic character. For delicate kittens it is most valuable, and I believe the very worst cases of diarrhea or dysentery can be cured, and the patient saved to grow up strong and healthy, if a diet of Plasmon jelly, given cold, with alternate meals of Somatose, also given cold, be persevered with until the bowels are normal. Never give milk in any form, either plain, boiled, or in puddings, to a cat that is suffering from looseness of the bowels. Another little hint I may be allowed, perhaps, to give: Don't wait for illness to come before you train your kittens to take medicine from a spoon.
I teach all my youngsters to drink easily from a spoon, beginning with something nice-sweetened milk or the like, going on to cold water and, when necessary, a drop or two of Salvo's Preventive in it. Then, when it becomes necessary for a real nasty dose, they are not in the least nervous of the spoon beforehand, and the dose is down and gone before they discover anything unusual. Never have I to wrap cloths round any of my cats, or get people to hold them by main force; but some cats will nearly turn themselves inside out when a spoon is held to their mouths! All the fault of early training. Badly brought up! You must be very patient with a young kitten; never do anything in a hurry. When once you have gained a cat's confidence it will let you do anything to it.
"Un saut périlleux."