A RETROSPECT - The Ladies’ Field, February 15, 1908
Dick Whittington

With the close of the show season comes the desire to know whether we, as cat fanciers, have made satisfactory progress during the past year. In the longhaired varieties I think we have done fairly well on the whole ; some classes are at a standstill, but others have made undoubted progress. Blacks are slowly but steadily improving. The eyes are the difficulty, and though I have rarely seen the true dark orange eye there are certainly plenty of cats with good bright yellow eyes, which are a step in the right direction and, with patience and perseverance, another two years should bring the desired result. In head properties and general physique the blacks are excellent; colour might in some cases be better, but when the eye colour is settled that will doubtless receive attention, and it is a matter easily rectified in this variety.

Whites have not, I think, altered much in the course of the last year, but the previous year produced such perfection that but little remains to be done. We have splendid material to work upon and, if breeders will avoid cats with large ears, long noses and pale eyes, the whites are safe.

Blues have made gigantic strides in all points save colour, and here I find them badly wanting. Unsound colour in a blue is a serious fault and one difficult to put right, so let breeders give their attention to this point before it is too late. At any of the recent shows I could have picked out a dozen or more cats with sweet, round faces, tiny ears, big orange eyes and grand in shape, bone and coat, but every one of them unsound in colour and, therefore, unsafe for the novice to breed from. These cats are so beautiful in all other points that their blood must not be lost, therefore let experienced fanciers, with memories of the past to guide them, select cats from strains — and these still exist — which have always been celebrated for their clear, sound colour and avoid those which, though pure in colour, are descended from black, smoke or silver cats. Let these pure coloured cats and no others be mated with the unsound ones, and if their progeny is sound coloured we may conclude that the danger maybe easily and quickly averted ; but I fear that some generations of careful breeding will be necessary before we can depend upon the colour. Meanwhile we must be careful not to lose the other points which have been gained – eyes, coat, head, etc.

I do not think smokes have improved very much, but they are in so few hands that they have very little chance of doing so. Brown tabbies forge steadily ahead ; white chins are fading away and markings are getting clearer, but we must beware of losing the massive head and bone which are characteristic of the breed.

The silver tabby gains in popularity, and many lovely cats are shown. I do not think the markings have improved, but a larger proportion of the cats shown are fairly well marked. The ancestor of all our best silver tabbies had a long, narrow face, but I think in all these years greater improvement might have been made in this point. Without losing anything in quality the silver tabbies have gained greatly in size and bone.

Of chinchillas I hesitate to write much ; the females and the kittens appear to improve, and their colour, which is, of course, their leading feature, is beautiful. In the males I own I am disappointed. I have seen some beautiful in colour, but they were not strikingly fine cats, and certainly could not be named in the same breath with Silver Milord, Ardpatrick or Silver Tod Sloan.

Orange males leave little room for improvement, though the same cats are winning as last year ; but in orange females I think things seem rather slack.

For the creams I have unqualified praise. In every generation a few giants appear, and in each case they overtop those which have gone before. The cats which won a few years ago would not be looked at now, and I am particularly glad to see that the hazel eye, which I was so fearful at one time was being neglected, appears now to be a fixed point. Now that there is so much good material to work upon I think breeders should steadily avoid the blue or blue tortoiseshell cross. Though it levels the colour, there is no doubt it spoils the tone, and I can easily pick out in a class the cats which show blue ancestry.

Tortoiseshells and tortoiseshell and whites hold their own; but, as no one breeds them systematically, they wax and wane from time to time without showing any permanent alteration. Of late they have been “ waxing ” !

Manx are going ahead rapidly, and Abyssinians appear to be on the increase. Of Siamese it is impossible to write a satisfactory report, as many owners who own and breed good cats will not show them. Their constitutions are certainly greatly improved since the days of fresh air and raw meat dawned for them, as opposed to the days of fish and rice and stoves.

The British short-hairs appear to be completely at a standstill. When the old champions appear they win, and when they stay at home younger and inferior cats win. This looks like a downhill tendency. Short-haired blues are the better for no longer being called “Russians,” as the degenerate specimens do not receive the encouragement which was bestowed upon them as foreigners. There are some magnificent males, and some first-class females have now been bred.

The fact that there is no sale [market] for and, therefore, no means of disposing of short-haired kittens is, I think, the reason the breed does not progress. Breeders naturally breed few kittens if they have to keep them all, and therefore there are less to select from.