Who’s Your Father?

Posted by Theresa Blood on

Encounters With Pedigree Cats.

Cats have never been subject to the kind of selective breeding which has given us dogs of all shapes and sizes. They are naturally highly adept at pest control, so there’s been no call for human intervention to create a superior mouser. Cats don’t really have the work ethic for any other occupation, so people haven’t felt much need to interfere with feline reproduction. Consequently, the vast majority of pet cats in the world today came into existence without any meddling from humans. Nevertheless, a number of pedigree breeds have been developed by enthusiasts over the last century or so. New breeds, or varieties of existing breeds, are being developed and recognized all the time, especially in the United States.

What Is A Pedigree Cat?

Put simply, a pedigree cat is one which belongs to a recognized breed. A pedigree may be registered with a national or international cat organization and may have documentation detailing a pedigree going back several generations. There are around fifty recognized cat breeds (depending on who’s counting). Some of them are long-established and well-known, such as the Siamese or the Russian Blue, and some are much more recent creations, such as the Toyger, a striped breed developed in the 1980s.

The differences between one pedigree cat breed and another are nowhere near as stark as the variations commonly found among pedigree dogs. Pedigree cats may vary in size (although you won’t find anything like the extremes of Yorkshire Terriers and Irish Wolfhounds), but the basic anatomical structure of all cats is more or less the same, apart from a number of short-faced breeds, such as the Persian. Most of the differences between cat breeds are down to relatively superficial factors such as coat type, pattern and color.

Ten Classic Cat Breeds.

Some of these pedigree breeds were recognized in the very early days of the organized cat show and they all claim a history which goes much further back. But just because today’s version of the breed may look a lot like cats described in times long gone, doesn’t mean there really is an unbroken line of descent. Cats have generally been left to choose their own partners and nobody much bothered with controlled breeding until recent times. Any cat has the right to claim an ancient heritage, but even the proudest pedigree cat almost certainly has a long line of moggies somewhere in their family tree.

  • Siamese: Once associated with the royal family of Siam (now Thailand), this is one of the most popular and best-known pedigree breeds. There are drawings of Siamese cats in a book called Tamra Maew (which means ‘cat poems’), which dates back to the 14th Known for their tendency to ‘talk’, Siamese cats are extremely sociable and love company.
  • Burmese: This seemingly ancient cat is said to have been valued as a sacred animal in the ancient temples of Burma. They appeared at early cat shows in Britain, but were overshadowed by the much more popular Siamese, which they resemble. Most modern Burmese cats are thought to be descended from a single female, called Wong Mau, imported into America in the 1930s and bred with a Siamese.
  • Abyssinian: This breed takes its name from the ancient empire of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), which is in the region where the earliest domestic cats are known to have lived. It’s thought that soldiers serving in North Africa during the 19th century may have bought cats home with them to Britain, where the breed was developed.
  • Persian: One of the most familiar pedigree cats, this long-coated glamour puss originated in Persia (now Iran) and was first seen in Europe when some were imported into Italy in the 1600s. The breed’s high-maintenance coat comes in a wide range of colors and its distinctive flat face has become more exaggerated over generations of selective breeding.
  • Turkish Angora: This long-haired coat shares its name and its silky coat with the goats and the rabbits that are also native to the Angora region of Turkey (now known as Ankara). Probably first imported into Western Europe in the 17th century, these attractive cats commanded high prices in the early days of the cat show.
  • Russian Blue: This dazzlingly silver-blue cat is said to have arrived in Europe from Russia as a ship’s cat in the 19th It has, however, been known by a variety of names, suggesting alternative origins, including the Maltese Blue and the Spanish Blue. With a tendency to be shy and sensitive, Russian Blues are nevertheless loyal to their owners.
  • Chartreux: This French breed claims a heritage dating back to the Middle Ages and is a distinctive blue color, similar to the better-known Russian Blue. Accounts of blue cats in France emerged in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until after the First World War that concerted efforts were made to fix the Chartreux as a recognized breed.
  • Norwegian Forest Cat: Sometimes known as the Viking cat, this large, thick-coated breed is well-adapted to a cold climate and is attached to a number of Norse folktales. Probably originating as a farm cat, the breed was recognized by the Norwegian Cat Society in 1912. With an athletic build, the Norwegian Forest cat can be something of a climber.
  • Maine Coon: This large, long-haired breed cat is an American breed and was originally kept to keep down rodents. It gets its name from its place of origin and its brush-like tail, which resembles a raccoon’s. The Maine Coon is hardy but gentle and is known for the chirping sound it makes. They are intelligent and can be trained to fetch.
  • British Shorthair: It’s sometimes claimed that the British Shorthair has a noble heritage going all the way back to the Romans, which is true only in as much as nearly all cats in Britain are descendants of cats introduced by the Romans. Selective breeding for desirable characteristics (coat type and color, for example) only really began in the 19th century, so, for all their rosettes, British Shorthairs are no more or less ancient than any other British cat with short hair.


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