FRANCES SIMPSON - MISCELLANEOUS ARTICLES IN NEWSPAPERS AND JOURNALS (1900s)

CONCERNING CHINCHILLA CATS. By Frances Simpson (Author of the "Book of the Cat.")
The Lady’s Realm, Vol. XVII; November 1904 - April 1905

It is curious what influence fashion exercises on all matters that concern woman, and this arbitrary power is extended even to the choice of her pets. Certainly in Catland at present Chinchillas and Persians are the creme de la creme of good society; they are to be met with in the smartest and most exclusive drawing rooms, and are eagerly contested for in raffles at fashionable bazaars. Yet really there is very little general knowledge on the subject of these fascinating pets, and members of the different species are frequently mistaken for each other.

To the members of the cat fancy the term "chinchilla" at once suggests a pale silvery cat with soft grey shadings; but to the novice the title is very misleading, because the cats usually called "chinchilla" are, or ought to be, quite unlike the fur of that name, which is dark at the roots and lighter towards the tip. No breed of Persian cat has been so much discussed by clubs, societies, and individual members of the fancy as these chinchilla or silver cats. They have puzzled judges and exhibitors alike, because when a separate classification was given for silvers and shaded silvers, the difficulty of knowing the amount of markings that constituted a shaded silver was very great. No two judges drew the line at the same animal, so that at one show a cat might win all the honours as a chinchilla or silver, and a little later on would have the same prizes as a shaded silver. Many were the heart-burnings over fine specimens being labelled "Wrong Class."

So much has been said and written on this special variety of Persian cat, but as the fancy is ever on the increase I feel it will not be out of place to give some definition of the terms chinchilla or silver and shaded silver for the benefit of the novice. I have always strongly objected to these cats being called anything else than "silver": this title seems the most appropriate, and best describes the delicate colour of this most fascinating breed. They are all, so to speak, shaded cats; but whether darkly or lightly shaded, they still remain "silver." Then comes the question of what is nearest perfection in this variety of cat, which has only appeared of late years, evolved from the old silver tabby and the blue. The ideal silver should be the palest conceivable colour at the roots that is not white, shading up to a soft silvery grey. It is this slightly darker edging to the fur that constitutes the chief charm of these cats. When a cat is in full coat these tiny fleckings are almost lost.

The shaded silvers, so-called, have a dark spine line, which gradually shades off down the sides of the body; the legs and head have tabby markings more or less distinct. These cats have often been spoken in the fancy as "spoilt tabbies," for they are neither one thing nor the other, yet their claim to beauty cannot be denied.

It is necessary to explain to the novice that these silver or chinchilla and shaded silver cats are almost invariably quite dark at birth, sometimes appearing almost black, and often covered with distinct tabby markings all over the body. It is seldom a silver kitten is born 'light' but gradually the markings and shadings will lessen, and perhaps just the one mite that was considered the dark, ugly duckling will turn into the palest beauty of the flock.

In this respect silver kittens may be considered most speculative, but in another they are sadly disappointing, for a kitten may give great promise at six or eight months, and will slowly but surely develop into one of those nondescript cats that are neither silver nor silver tabby.

For some time it was considered that silvers might have green or yellow eyes; but the best authorities have now quite decided that green is the colour for this breed, and these seem to tone best with the pale silver of the coat. There is one rather peculiar feature in the eyes of some cats of this breed; this is the dark rim which often encircles the eyes, and which certainly enhances the beauty and throws up the colour.

Few Persian cats suffer so severely in appearance during the process of shedding their coats as silvers, and in the summer months they are really not fit to be seen, much less shown! The lovely, light, fluffy undercoat disappears, and even the delicate shadings seem to become dark streaks all over the body.

There is a greater delicacy amongst silver and more difficulty in rearing the kittens than in any other breed of Persian, and this may be in some measure accounted for by the immense amount of inbreeding that was carried on indiscriminately at the time when silver cats became the fashion. Then, again, breeders have been so anxious to obtain light-coloured cats that they have given a second place to the very essential qualities of bone and stamina. However, a great improvement is taking place, and there are quite a number of good heads and strong limbs amongst the silvers of to-day.

And now I will take up the consideration of blue Persians, a breed in which I have always taken the greatest interest. It is more than twenty years ago since I exhibited the first pair of "blues" at the Crystal Palace. They created quite an excitement, as cats of this peculiar shade had not been seen before. They were called "London Smokes," and for some years no special classification was given to them. But as time went on several fanciers took up these cats, and a class for blue Persians was set apart at the Crystal Palace Cat Show of 1889. Since this date no breed of cats has made such rapid strides either in improvement or popularity, as blues. In our present-day shows the blue classes are always the best filled, and there is a greater demand for blue kittens than for those of any other breed. Therefore it follows that for beginners in the fancy there is no better investment than a good blue-green [blue queen] of well-known prize pedigree. Ten or fifteen years ago there used to be no difficulty in obtaining about £5 5s. each for blue kittens, but now, when so many blues are bred, the usual price ma be fixed at about £3 3s. for a good all-round specimen.

The term "blue," as applied to a cat, sounds rather absurd, and, strictly speaking, the colour is really grey. It is, however, much the same in shade as the fur known as blue fox. Blue Persians vary in tone, but whether dark or light, the fur should be the same colour throughout, so that when the coat is blown apart no light or white should be seen at the roots. The highest number of points are awarded for soundness of colour in blue Persians. As tiny kittens, blues often exhibit tabby markings, but these quickly disappear as the coat grows. A white spot on the throat of a blue cat is now considered a great blemish, whereas formerly this defect was not much taken into account by fancier or judge.

So also as regards the colour of eyes. My famous old "Beauty Boy," a noted winner of bygone years, had bright green eyes, but now, in spite of his grand head, flowing coat, and splendid limbs, he would stand but a poor chance in the show-pen. Judges may, however, be led into giving too much prominence to this one point of eye colour, for however desirable it may be, and assuredly is, to have deep orange eyes in this breed of cat, yet every other point ought not to be sacrificed. The eyes of all kittens when first opened are blue, but at about six weeks old these gradually change colour, and the experienced breeder can tell whether the dreaded green or the hoped-for orange is making itself shown. There are many blue cats with what may be called indefinite-coloured eyes, neither yellow nor green, certainly not orange: these are yellow on the outer circle and have a green rim round the pupil, which, according to the time of day, will be wide or narrow. The perfect eye in a blue should be absolutely of one uniform colour. There are however, two distinct types which are correct, namely, the bright golden eye and the deep orange eye.

Blue Persians may be considered a fairly hardy breed, and they are certainly suitable to keep as pets in London, as their colour does not show the dirt. It is not only in the English cat fancy that blues are so popular; our American cousins are great admirers of this variety. I saw several fine specimens sent to fanciers over the water. A short time ago to handsome blues were despatched to Natal, and a pair of lovely kittens left recently for New Zealand, where their arrival was anxiously awaited.

There are specialist societies for silver cats and for blue. In the former club, "smokes" and silver tabbies are included. The Blue Persian Cat Society numbers about two hundred members. Amongst silver breeders the name of Lady Decies is inseparably connected as the owner of the wonderfully pale silver female "Zaida," who has won more prizes than any other cat.

Lady Marcus Beresford has practically retired from the cat fancy, but still retains a lovely silver, called "Dimity," as a pet puss. Lady Maitland had quite a number of blue Persians at one time. Lady Rachel Byng and Lady Evelyn Guinness are new to the fancy, and have taken up this breed. Miss Gertrude Jay has the proud distinction of having possessed the best blue female ever exhibited, for "The Mighty Atom" was second to none.

Mrs. Slingsby has recently held her own at all the leading shows with her splendid blue males. Sir Hubert Jerningham has the finest blue neuter cat I have ever seen, which will probably make his debut in the show-pen during the coming season.

The pictures illustrating this article are taken from cats and kittens either prize-winners or from noted prize stock. The paleness of the chinchillas and the soundness of colour of the blues not being reproduced by photography, these points of excellency must be left to the imagination of my readers. The portraits, however, I feel sure, cannot fail to call forth the admiration of cat fanciers and cat lovers, whether they understand or are ignorant of those points in the chinchilla and blue Persian cat that must commend themselves to the critical eye of the expert and the judge.

ALL ABOUT CATS, by MISS FRANCES SIMPSON (Author of Book of the Cat." etc.)
Evening Star, 17th April 1905

In former days when mention was made of the cat the mind instinctively turned towards the common or garden animal, the ordinary kitchen mouser or the night prowler of our London streets or frequenter of house tops. But of late years greater care and more understanding have been given to this most domestic of all animals, so that with the advent of shows and exhibitions of competitors, and judges, a very different state of things exists. The first Cat Show was held in 1871 at the Crystal Palace, and this function has now become an annual one under the rules and regulations of the National Cat Club. It was Harrison Weir who inaugurated Cat Shows, and he was elected President of the National Cat Club when it was formed in 1887. On his retirement through ill-health, Mr. Louis Warn was appointed and still holds the office. Since these early days the Cat Fancy has made rapid strides, and local clubs have been started in all parts of England and Scotland, and specialist societies for almost every breed are now in existence.

In America it is extraordinary how fancy has gone ahead, and our cousins over the "herring pond" vie with each other in trying to obtain the very best stock from England to exhibit at their big shows. I have shipped quite a number of fine specimens of Persian cats to different parts of the United States, and with assistance of the noted firm of Spratts, Limited, the precious cargo has been delivered. I have recently forwarded a pair of cats to Natal, and am arranging for the despatch of others to New Zealand and Tasmania.

It will be seen, therefore, that cats are becoming universally sought after, and that the feline race is deservedly attracting the attention of the human race in all countries oi the world. I will now proceed to give some idea in a limited space of the different varieties of cats. It must explained that however crossed or re-crossed we have only two distinct breeds, namely, the long-haired cat and the short-haired or English cat. These may be divided into the many classes which are now recognised at our leading Cat Shows.

First I will take the self-coloured cats. As the term implies, these should be all of one colour. In black or blue cats, white toes, shirt fronts, or even liny tufts of while hair at the throat greatly depreciate the value of the cat show specimen or as a breeder. Orange eyes are a great beauty in blue or black cats. The other self-coloured species is the beautiful snow white cat. The kittens are sometimes born with a splash of grey their heads, but this disappears in course of time. There are two peculiarities attached to this breed. White cats are frequently stone deaf and very often have odd coloured eyes-one may be blue and the other yellow green. I believe no reason has or can be given for these curious traits in this particular breed of cat. White cats, long or short haired, ought to have a pair of heavenly blue eyes to find favour with the up-to-date judge. Smoke cuts are a very distinctive and handsome variety. The upper coat ought to be almost black and the undercoat white. Orange and cream cats are very often classed together, the one being a pale shade of the other. Orange cats, often called red, are, I think, the least popular, for as a rule, their long faces and pink, noses do not appeal to the general public. I have heard people remark at shows: "Oh, come along, these are yellow cats, we don’t want look at them!"

Silver Persians, otherwise called Chinchillas, are very lovely cats, and these and Blues are decidedly the most fashionable at the present time. There is a great desire to breed silver as light as possible, that is with only delicate shadings, and no tabby markings. In Silver Tabbies, the chief beauty lies in the dense and distinct markings on a clear silver ground. These silver cats are very showy animals, but still there is something very homely and handsome about the Brown Tabbies with their tiger-like colouring, and I have always found this breed quite the strongest amongst Persian cats.

Of course, in the short-haired varieties the markings of tabby cats are necessarily much more in evidence, and some wonderful specimens are exhibited from time to time at our shows, where the grand markings stand out with startling distinction.

The taste for Tortoiseshell cats, may be said to be acquired, for they are quaint, rather than attractive in appearance. The markings should resemble those in a piece of tortoiseshell, with patches of yellow, red and black, without any white. An old-fashioned name for these cats is chintz or patchwork cats. The great peculiarity of tortoiseshells is the absence of males from the breed, for a tortoiseshell tom is a great rarity. I recollect at one of the Crystal Palace shows a specimen was exhibited by a poor man, who had been paid a shilling by a London cook to remove the troublesome animal from her area [courtyard]. He had no idea of the value of a tortoiseshell tom and was therefore taken aback after the judging was finished to find his cat’s pen covered with prize cars and a red ticket "Sold" appearing amongst them.

And now to consider the curious Royal Cat of Siam, so called from the original breed being kept in the Palace of the King of Siam. In colouring Siamese cats resemble pug dogs. When born they are white, but gradually the extremities deepen in colour, till they become a dark chocolate brown and the body colour becomes fawn. The eyes should be bright blue, and these animals are almost human in the way they look at you and answer when spoken to in their somewhat unmusical croaking voice. Siamese cats are very intelligent, and make splendid companions, but the kittens are difficult to rear in our dampl climate, and for this reason the beed does not grow and multiply to any great extent.

Manx cats are not general favourites, but they have their flowers, in spite of their want of tail. The great point in this breed is that not a vestige of stump should be seen or felt – only a tuft of hair, which should be boneless. Then the next desirable features are length of hindquarters, and rabbit-like texture of fur. How, when, and where pussy lost her tail, there is a diversity of opinion, and the origin of the Manx cat is wrapt in mystery. The following explanation in verse is amusing if not instructive:-

Noah, sailing o'er the seas,
Ran high and dry on Ararat.
His dog then made a spring, and took
The tail from off a pussy cat.
Puss through the window quick did fly,
And bravely through the waters swam,
Nor ever stopped, till, high and dry,
She landed on the Isle of Man.
Thus tailless puss earned Mona's thanks,
And ever after was called Manx.

Manx cats are very good ratters, and the King recently purchased some to place in his stables. It is to be hoped these pussies shared their appreciation of the honour conferred on their race by doing their duty their country’s King. Whereas Simaese cats indulge in large litters of kittens, Manx variety are noted for their limited families.

Short haired blues used to be called Russian cats, and, indeed, this title still sticks to them. This variety is supposed to have first come from Archangel, but the best authorities seem agree in believing they are not a distinct breed, and therefore they are now classed at our shows amongst the short-haired English cats. These blues should be even in colour, without any white, with a short, thick coat, resembling plush in texture. Their eyes should be orange. In America this breed cat is called Maltese, and they appear to be very common in the States. Having given a short account of the various breeds of cats, I should not like to bring my article to a close without alluding to the character of the cat from a cat lover's point of view. I have never been without some pussies, and I should be sorry indeed to dwell in a home that had no "fireside sphinx." The delicate and dainty nature of a cat requires some understanding, and it has been truly said that no-one need deem it unmanly to be kind and gentle to a cat. It is, alas! a common habit to scoff at poor puss, and to be wilfully blind to the many good qualities that lurk within the breast of these oft abused animals.

One can excuse a person for disliking cats, but ill-treating and starving them is a very different matter. To train a cat it is essential to understand the complex nature you have to deal with, so totally removed from a human being. You must puzzle out her character, and those who have kept a number of cats know the great difference in disposition of these creatures. There is a supreme independence, however, about all cats. Some may show appreciation of a caressing hand and a soothing voice, whilst others will not even condescend to give a purr of thanks. Of course, the surroundings of these animals have great deal to do with their characters, but if you rear them from infancy and take the trouble to look into the many sided characters of your pets, I know from a long and varied experience what sweet companions these complex creatures can become, and in return for a little understanding will give a great deal of love.

THE CULT OF THE CAT – BY FRANCES SIMPSON
Daily Mirror, 19th November 1903

A cat craze is imminent in England, if, indeed, it has not already been inaugurated. Cats will soon be as popular as Bridge and motor-cars. At the present moment cat worship is almost as fashionable in our country as was once the case in Egypt, and now we make idols, not of wood and stone, but of fur and fluff. At one time it was supposed that only old maids kept cats, as some sort of consolation for the lack of other home joys which were denied to them. But now "young men and maidens, old men and children"-yes, and fashionable women in society more than all -have taken up the fascinating hobby, and prices are paid nowadays for cats which would astonish outsiders. One could buy very good horses for less money.

Amongst our royalties, Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein is a great lover of cats, and breeds and exhibits blue and silver Persians. The Duchess of Bedford and the Countess of Aberdeen are well known in the Cat Fancy, and own some lovely pet pussies. It is curious to note that many devotees of the dog also "go in" for cats, and it would seem that the old adage of a "cat and dog life" does not hold good when these animals are brought up together. Lady Alexander, of Ballochmyle, is well known in Kennel Club circles, and in the cat fancy she is celebrated for her wonderful short-haired breeds. At the present time about forty cats are at the Faygate Cattery, and of these ten are champions and two rare specimens of a tortoiseshell and a tortoiseshell and white male. No one has done so much for "poor puss" as Lady Marcus Beresford, who for many years has championed her cause, and in the model catteries at Bishopsgate many beautiful cats and notable winners have lived and died. During the past year the inmates have been reduced in number, and Lady Marcus is intending to breed only Siamese and have a few house pets.

With the name of Lady Decies is inseparably connected the well-known "Zaida," that silver queen who rules and conquers whenever she deigns to appear at our shows, and then retires with additional award cards, with which to paper the walls of her luxurious home on the cliffs at Birchington. Mrs. Maclaren Morrison, who has helped to make the tiny Jap the fashion in the dog world, has ever been a keen supporter of the Cat Fancy. Lady Gooch, of Pekinese repute, breeds blue Persians, and Lady Esher has quite a kennel of handsome cats at Windsor. Mrs. Collingwood, of Leighton Buzzard, adores her short-haired English pussies, and beautifully-marked silver tabbies are her chief delight, their nearest rivals being a much-loved fox terrier and a clever French poodle. In Yorkshire Mrs. Slingsby, whose name is well-known in sporting circles, breeds Persian cats and is a very successful exhibitor and a generous supporter of the Fancy. Mrs. Michael Hughes has a number of the shorthaired blues, formerly called Russians, and Lady Rachel Byng and Lady Thiselton-Dyer have recently joined the ranks of the Blue Persian Cat Society. Lady Maitland, Lady Muriel Digby, and Miss Gertrude Gay are also amongst the many fanciers of the fashionable "blues."

In Scotland there is a consistently increasing interest in things "catty," blue-eyed white Persians being the favourite breed. In Ireland the cult of the cat is yet young, but Miss Rosamund Whitney is doing much to arouse more general enthusiasm in catsi'n the Sister Isle. Her affections are large centred in brown tabby Persians, and she pays periodical visits to England to exhibit her big burly browns at our leading shows. Manx and Siamese cats have many admirers in spite of the lack of tail in the former and the loudness of voice in the latter.

In America the Cat Fancy is extending every year, and cat clubs are springing up like mushrooms in all parts of the country. So important has become the question of the exportation of cats that the Treasury of the United States sent over an agent to England to ascertain the true market value of cats. Our annual export of cats must run into thousands of pounds, and so far we have no rival as a cat-producing country.

 

MESSYBEAST - OLD CAT BOOKS

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