SOME SPLENDID CATS. FAMOUS PRIZE WINNERS. BY TABITHA.
THE cat fancy has advanced in popular favour with gigantic strides during the last few years, and cat breeding is now a fashionable hobby. The largest cat shows are those held at the Crystal Palace and at the Aquarium, Westminster, and they each usually muster some five or six hundred specimens. The most popular varieties are the longhairs, commonly called Persians, and the weird Siamese, which have recently found a number of admirers. The ordinary English cats are sadly neglected, most of the winners in their classes being animals which have been picked up by chance and do not possess a pedigree. Of Persians, unmarked silvers or chinchillas are the most fashionable at present, and fetch the highest prices. Miss Gertrude Willoughby’s [note: later Lady Decies] Champion Zaida invariably carries off the highest honours in her class and is generally considered to be the best cat of the colour in existence, whilst her handsome mate, Champion Lord Southampton, successfully challenged all comer at Westminster in 1899. Mrs. Champion's handsome Lord Argent, whose portrait appears below, is the sire of an enormous number of unusually pale Chinchilla kittens, of which Argent Moonbeam (page 557) is a typical promising specimen. Mrs. Balding’s Silver Lambkin’s name is a household word among cat fanciers, and he is the ancestor of almost all the best chinchilla cats in existence.
Blue Persians have had a long run in popular favour, and they are more frequently purchased as pets than any other colour, and they certainly have a great advantage in that they do not show dirt as do their more delicate-hued relations. They have been bred to such a pitch of perfection that it has become possible with them, as with no other breed, to insist upon points of detail which to the uneducated eye would seem trivial. For example, a deep orange eye is considered essential in a blue cat, though a silver is allowed some latitude in this matter; and it is not sufficient that a cat should be, in general effect, an even-coloured, clear blue, but the colour must be absolutely level to the very roots of the hair, with no mark or shade upon it. Miss Hester Cochran’s Blue Robin (page 554), a cat celebrated for his magnificent head and coat, fails in respect of colour alone, being a shaded blue, and for this reason he is always exhibited in a “variety ” class. Mrs. Mackenzie Stewart’s Ayrshire Bluebell (page 557) is one of the best blue females known, and has made a successful round of nearly all the Scotch shows.
The white Persian has long been a favourite, and has lately been much improved by being bred with bright blue eyes, which point, until the last few years, was exceedingly rare. Mrs. Champion has two fine males of this colour in White Friar (page555) and White Tsar, while Miss Packham’s Monk and Miss White Atkins’ The White Knight are well-known Winners. Monk, though but a small cat, has eyes of deepest sapphire blue, and Knight is one of the largest and handsomest male cats in existence. Lady Marcus Bereford’s imported Nourmahal at and Miss Hunts Crystal are the best female cats I have seen of this colour, both being of beautiful shape, with round faces and bright blue eyes.
Other varieties of Persians are blacks and smokes, the favourite colours with Mrs. James, of Bristol; oranges, creams, and fawns, which are well represented in the catteries of Miss Cartmell and Miss Beal; and the once popular but now sadly neglected tabbies. Miss Anderson Leake is a staunch admirer of the silver tabby, and is always the possessor of the best male of that colour, and can usually count on taking first at the Crystal Palace. Her original champion Topso was followed by his son Felix and grandsons Abdul Zaphir and Abdul Hamed, the latter the latest representative of the Dingley cattery. This particular strain is celebrated for its colouring, being of a very pale clear shade of silver, with broad black bands. Mrs. Champion has a good silver tabby queen in Lady Vere de Vere, who, however, is not strongly enough marked. Since Miss Southam’s death, brown tabbies have been but little supported, and her Champion Birkdale Ruffle has never been equalled ; but the best cat I have seen since his death is Darkie (page 554),who took a number of prizes for Miss Bartlett, and was afterwards sold to Mrs. Mackenzie Stewart.
Russian cats have an enthusiastic supporter in Lady Alexander of Ballochmyle, who owns all the best of this variety. Champion Blue King (page 555) and Blue Queen are well-known winners, and Brother Bump is the best short-haired blue cat yet exhibited. Siamese cats, with their quaint markings and horrible voices, are beloved by a few and disliked by many, for it is an undoubted fact that you must either love or detest a Siamese puss. It follows you like a dog, insists on being nursed, and addresses you constantly in stentorian tones, evidently labouring under the popular delusion that if you shout loud enough at a foreigner, he will understand your language! Lady Marcus Beresford owns a number of Siamese cats, including Romeo and ]uliette (page 556), two Sacred Temple cats, the only pair ever brought to this country, which were given to Dr. Nightingale as a special favour by the King of Siam, and eventually found a home at Bishopsgate. Mrs. Sutherland, who lives among the Alps, has bred some beautiful chocolate Siamese cats, the best I have seen being Ma (page 556), who is also in Lady Marcus Beresford’s cattery.
The Palace breed is the most popular and most usually seen, and the palm for beauty is undoubtedly carried off by Mrs. Robinsons Wankee and Miss Forestier Walker’s Tiam-o-Shian III., and their children. The Temple cats are very similar to the Palace ones, but the ground colour is not so pale a shade of fawn, and shades to brown on the back.
Ballochmyle Frost (page 556), a cat which attracted more attention at Westminster than almost any other exhibit, is pure white, with bright blue eyes, and started in life as a Manx. I believe he originally came from the isle of Man. He was shown at the Crystal Palace as a Manx, and was very highly commended ; but connoisseurs in foreign cats examined him closely, and decided that, as the little stump of tail he possessed was kinked, he was Japanese. He was entered, therefore, in the foreign class at Westminster, and took first medal and two specials, and was purchased by Lady Alexander, who changed his name from Pan to the grander-sounding Ballochmyle Frost.
As so many people have gone in for cat breeding with a view to making money, a few facts concerning the prices paid for certain specimens will be of interest. A few years back Mr. A. A. Clarke could claim to have established a record by selling the white Persians, Masher and Miss Whitey, for £25 apiece. Of recent years the highest price given was £60, which Mrs. Greenwood obtained for Champion Lord Southampton, and she soon after sold his young son for £50 to go to America. Champion Woolloomooloo made £15 15s., but Champion Bundle fetched only £5 while Blue Boy II. made £18, and £25 has been offered and refused for Blue Robin, and I believe £40 was offered for Champion Zaida.
These prices are encouraging, but are not often obtained even for long-haired cats- and for English “mowlers ” £5 is considered a good price even for a prize-winner, and l do not think the sum of £30 has ever bee; exceeded. Siamese make higher prices, a moderate specimen frequently fetching £10, but Russians vary considerably, and Lady Alexander boasts that 4s 6d is about the price she usually pays for her best cats.
The housing and feeding of highly bred cats is a matter of much discussion, but the fact has been proved that the more natural an existence they can have the better they will thrive. Some devoted cat owners consider artificial heat a necessity, and cook their unfortunate pets with stoves, hot- water pipes, etc. This course almost invariably causes lung trouble sooner or later, and experience has taught all intelligent cat owners that fresh air and a certain amount of exercise are necessary to keep cats in health. A warm dry bed must be provided, and for this nothing is better than a large barrel or packing case half full of straw or hay.
In feeding, again, the golden rule is to follow nature. A wild cat never sees milk or cooked food of any sort, but lives on birds, mice, etc. It is not always possible to supply a large cattery with a sufficiency of such small game, so the best substitute is raw beef or mutton, and if each cat has a good meal of this once daily, its health will rarely give much trouble.