By MARLENE HOWES, Honeymist Persians
WHERE have all the show cats gone? Where have all the breeders gone? Where have all the exhibitors gone?
I have before me some National Cat Club catalogues from the 1970’s and the 1980’s. The entries for many classes, especially the Longhair Blues, Creams, Blue-Creams, Colourpoints and Chinchillas were 12 to 20 exhibits per class. In the 1979 National Show, there were 68 Blue kittens and 50 Cream kittens entered. More entries in one class alone than the entire amount as most shows today.
For a decade, I have tried to forewarn breeders, exhibitors, judges and the GCCF of the consequence of allowing its rules and standards to be broken by individuals and small groups, in particular, judges who have refused to follow the breed standards and veterinary defect list.
These people have manipu-lated Breed Clubs and Breed Advisory Committees for their own benefit rather than for the good of the Club, Breeds and the Cat Fancy. Having ruined the Persian Section, those judges responsible are now moving across the board to judge other sections.
For decades, from the early 1900’s, numerous breeding lines were built up by the cat breeders to produce the best cats (in particular Persians) in the world.
By the 1960’s, through to the early 1990’s, our cats from Britain were world acclaimed. We had perfection in the Persian cat, as was the case with other breeds, now drastically altered, such as the Siamese breed. Why change these animals?
In the 24th February 1995 edition of CATS, renamed OUR CATS, I wrote, “The Perfect cat should always conform to the Standard of Points” - Let common sense prevail!” I expressed my concerns about the introduction of the ultra-type cats. The illustration of four of my Blue-Creams bred over three decades, showed that with good knowledge of your breeding lines, a breeder can retain the same look for decades. Persians did not turn into gremlins due to evolution.
In the 30th August 2002 edition of OUR CATS, I wrote Cat Shows in crisis, the “Governing Body” heading towards crisis and pedigree cats in peril.
My letter was clear for all to see and, regretfully, my predictions were correct.
If any person is of the opinion that the cats on the show bench today are superior in quality to the cats of the last century, think again. In the words of one judge, speaking about Persian exhibits at a recent show, “They are abysmal, lacking in quality and full of fauls and defects”. At another Championship Show, a judge withheld the Best in Show award
on the Persian Self Cat, Kitten and Neuter.
It is certainly the case that the same ‘handful of cats’, in the Persian Section are winning the major awards show after show, and it is the same judges making the awards. There are also a few judges consistently giving the awards to cats they have bred.
What went wrong?
Clearly, the beginning of this failure has much to do with the Persian Section of the fancy. For decades, Longhairs were the number one breed for registrations, and had the largest breed entries at cat shows.
Twelve years ago, a group of people clamoured for the acceptance at shows of the “ultra-type” of extreme type Persian cat. Their determination to have these cats accepted and winning on the show bench led to the GCCF rules, Standard of Points and Defect List being totally disregarded by some judges. This group of people also manipulated the Breed Clubs and BAC’s.
Once winning on the show bench, these cats were fetching high prices, and quickly grew in popularity. A number of judges who enjoyed their judging engagements then followed the swing to keep popular.
The breeders of the traditional type Persians were often beaten by faulty cats displaying horrendous deformities such as twisted faces, twisted jaws, deep guttering on faces, non existent nose leathers with pin holes for nostrils. If there were no ultra-type cats in the class, some judges would withhold certificates and Best of Breeds, telling exhibitors they would like a shorter nose. This is now normal practice.
Who is going to enter under such judges? The few remaining Longhair exhibitors of traditional cats are certainly making it known that they disapprove of the judging. They are keeping their cats at home. At a very recent Championship Show, there was one Self Persian entered out of the cat, kitten and neuter classes. This has never been known before.
Complaints to BAC’s regarding judging has been totally ignored, or not dealt with in a satis- factory manner, and numerous breeders and exhibitors have given up exhibiting, many have given up breeding cats completely.
I have no words strong enough to describe those people responsible for trying to phase out the traditional, much loved and admired Persian cat.
The majority of the huge selection of Persian breeding lines are now extinct. Those wonderful breeding lines have been replaced with countless unhealthy, faulty, imported cats, many of which died very young. Those cats which were used for breeding carried PKD and other diseases, which have helped to destroy the sturdy English lines, many of them living until their late teens or early twenties.
The most important and most popular of the Persian breeds, Blues, Creams and Blue-Creams, with pure breeding lines, are almost wiped out. There are now only a handful of breeders with pure bred Blues, and about the same amount of breeders with pure bred Creams and Blue-Creams.
To maintain the wonderful coat colours we once had in these breeds, they must be bred only to each other.
In the craze for extreme type in these cats, breeders and judges unfortunately forgot that other factors, such as coat colour, eye colour and the health of the animals, are of the utmost importance.
It now appears Bi-colours and Tri-colours are the most thriving breeds. They win the majority of major awards at shows these days, having had their breed standards drastically altered to such a variance of colour, they certainly have a greater advantage over other breeds who have a defined coat colouring.
The Chinchilla Persian, of course, is almost classed as a separate breed from the other Longhair Persians, and have been allowed to keep a nose. This has given the breed an advantage in popularity with the general public and in photo coverage in magazines and adverts because it has an acceptable face.
The Ultra Persian is unacceptable to the majority of people who see them, and are often described as “those ugly things”. They are deplored by the majority of the veterinary profession, many of them now advising clients not to buy Persians. Some cat magazines write health warnings on them.
In OUR CATS, No. 1116, 18th May 2007, Nick Mays wrote, “Pedigree cats under threat in LA and UK too?” ‘It is obvious the follies and ignorance of animal breeders are not acceptable in todays world, and Persians are in danger of being one of the banned breeds’.
I recently read in a magazine feature, written by a well known vet, that there are now thought to be in excess of 250 inherited diseases in cats, and the number is growing. Clearly a number of these diseases are attributed to the modification of the Pedigree cat. As always, the Persian and Siamese breeds were mentioned, along with oddities such as Sphynx and Munchkins.
It should be remembered that whenever the characteristics of a show animal go wrong, and this has happened in many breeds of dog, it is usually the show judges who are largely to blame. The reason being, breeders will exhibit and try to produce whatever the winning show animals look like. Eventually, of course, there is no choice other than what the breed has become.
It is noticeable that many of the breeders who craved for the Ultra Persian to become accepted on the show bench disappeared from the Cat Fancy within a few years of the realisation of their aims. Other breeders got on the bandwagon, made a mint from their faulty Ultra kittens, then disappeared from the Cat Fancy when all the problems started to emerge.
What went wrong?
They were once dedicated people who tried to produce kittens to Breed Standards for health, beauty and temperament. From a huge choice of cats most known breeders produced kittens with a look slightly distinguishable from another. Top winning males were usually available at stud, and for many years, breeders would study their progeny and breeding line, selecting those lines they considered most suited to their queens.
Many of today’s breeders have a prefix, breed kittens from various acquired cats, often only having one or two litters, before selling or losing them, then buy another lot. These breeders never establish their own breeding lines. What they produce is pot luck, and they cannot really know what good or bad features are carried in the lines. A knowledgeable breeder should be able to eradicate faults, not invent them.
There has been much talk about an intended ban on white pedigree cats because so many are deaf. The reason there are so many deaf white pedigree cats is because people have knowingly bred from their deaf cats. I have a white line descended from Grand Champion Honeymist White Snowgrace, born in 1977, which has only ever produced orange-eyed kittens, and has never produced a deaf kitten, even from a white to white mating.
How do novice breeders select their foundation stock these days?
There was once a time when the top winning cats were worthy winners. A Champion cat that had gained a Title over 20 cats in a class at three shows under knowledgeable judges was really a cat to be proud of. Titles today are not worth the value of the paper the certificates are written on. Cats can become Imperial Grand Title winners or UK Title winners without any competition whatsoever.
Then, of course, there are those shows when the Imperial winner is withheld in the Open Class by a different judge. There are so few entries at shows these days, and such is the variation of judging, that, providing exhibitors are prepared to travel around the shows, they generally get the Title, even if they have three certificates withheld for every one awarded.
What does this tell us about show winning cats? It is not surprising that entries continue to fall rapidly. Of course, there are always the judges show reports to read about the exhibits. Unfortunately, at some shows, there is such a variation on the description of a cat by different judges that it is almost impossible to believe it is the same cat. What does this tell us?
There are seldom Best in Shows as we once had at every show, all Best of Breed winners going across a table before a panel of judges. What kind of a Best in Show is it when one judge walks down the row of cats, kittens and neuters, where often owners are sat by their pens, and select one animal out of the lot? At least the other cat societies holding shows in Britain give exhibitors and the public a professional looking Best in Show.
Change or sink
Following a century of flourishing GCCF shows, in less than a decade, our breeding lines have been destroyed, our clubs are falling apart, our shows are diminishing and now OUR CATS paper is to be dismissed by the GCCF. What is now left? It is widely said that this fancy is headed for a total disaster. Our Cat Fancy has been left in the hands of the wrong group of people for too long. Changes must be made in haste.