CATS AND THE CAT FANCY IN AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND SOUTH AFRICA (1880S TO THE EARLY 1900s)

THE EARLY DAYS OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAT FANCY

While the early days of the British and North American cat fancies are well documented, no complete history of the Australian cat fancy have yet been compiled. As well as scouring various sources, I am indebted to Lesley Morgan Blythe who continues to collate and publish a comprehensive history of fancy cats in Australia. Note to non-Australian readers: In these notes on the Australian scene, "Victorian" refers to a state and not to an era.

In general, cat shows in each state were run in conjunction with dog shows or rabbit shows until the formation of the first Cat Control Body.

VICTORIA

There were cat shows in Australia in the 19th century as this clipping from the Hamilton Spectator, August 13th, 1872 shows: "We notice, by the Sporting Era, that it is proposed to hold a Cat Show in Melbourne, early in October next, when a solid silver collar, with suitable inscription, will be awarded to every winner."

According to The Age, (Melbourne) of 1st February, 1902: “If competition is the soul of trade, it should certainly result in immense improvement among our domestic pets. Here in Melbourne our dogs are far too apt to be “just dog” and our cats “just cat.” And yet, as “horsemen” say, a good looking, well-bred animal costs no more to keep than another. The theory that it is the mongrels that have the brains is long since exploded, and one might just as well expect breeding to count for nothing on the turf as to look for the intelligence of a well-bred dog in every nondescript canine quadruped. Much the same applies to cats, and that the desirability of breeding first class animals is recognised in England is illustrated by the fact that the entries at the last National Cat Show totalled a thousand. Blue Persians formed one of the largest classes, though Siamese and Chinchilla cats were well represented.”

The organised cat fancy in Australia began in 1919 in Victoria and a few years later in New South Wales. However, pedigree cats had been bred in those and other states since at least the 1880s and were being exhibited as sections attached to poultry, dog and rabbit shows and multi-animal shows, often under the umbrella of agricultural shows.

The Australian Cat Club (ACC) was established in Victoria in 1919, but prior to that a cat register was maintained by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club (VPKC) as far back as 1885 and possibly earlier. The earliest cat show catalogue known to exist was run by Australian Cat Club in 1912. The ACC register appears to be a continuation of that earlier VPKC register. Until WWI, the ACC was affiliated with the Australian Ladies Kennel Club (ALKC), but by 1925 it was affiliated with the Victorian Kennel Assoc (VKA), which had formed as a breakaway group from the VPKC. There were several other cat registries around and the cat fancy remained fragmented for some time.

SHOW OF PERSIAN CATS. A Fine Display - The Age, Thursday August 5th, 1920: The newly-formed Australian Cat Club, which comprises a large number of lady fanciers, inaugurated their first show of Persian cats on Wednesday at the Independent Hall, Collins-street. The exhibition, which was opened by Sir Henry Weedon, was nicely arranged, and drew a good attendance, and keen interest was centred in the awards. The chief laurels for the best cat in the show were awarded to Mrs. P. Owen, who won with My Digger, a smoke Persian of rare quality. The trophy for the best kitten in the show went to Miss E. Simmonds, with Lord Possie, a true blue Persian, with a magnificent coat. In blue Persians, the championship went to Miss B. Simmonds’s Lord Possie, and Miss D. Dennis's Hawaiian Princess (imp), Black Persian championships fell to Mrs. K. Morris's Duke of Athol and Miss O. M. Bentley's Princess Peggy. In smoke Persians, Mrs. P. Owen’s My Digger and Mrs. W. Sheriff's Beauty took the challenge honors. Other winners were Mrs. H. Hunter, in brown Tabbies; Mrs. R. B. Lemon, with Tawny. Miss E. Stone took the special in Neuters. In Chinchillas Mrs. Charlesworth and Miss F. Laurie won the chief honors. Mrs. M. Wallace and Mrs. V. Springhall scored the championships in shaded silvers. Mrs. Charlesworth and Mrs. H. G. Farrell scored in silver tabby Persians. Mrs. Maher and Mrs. W. Clifford were in front with white Persians. The special prize for the best decorated cage was won by Miss Mills, prettily arranged in various shades of mauve. Afternoon tea was served and musical items were rendered, and the arrangements were well carried out by Mrs. P. Owen, the hon. sec., and an energetic committee of ladies.

In 1928, the ACC organised a meeting for all cat fanciers, held in Melbourne.  They proposed forming a "Governing Cat Council" for the whole of the Australian cat fancy (a GCCF). Australia’s GCCF was the third such body to be formed; the two earlier ones being in England and the USA. Judging would become more consistent across the states so that Persians at one end of the country were no longer “years behind” those in Victoria in terms of quality.

The Age (Melbourne), 11 October, 1938 provides us with this short report about a noted Australian cat fancier's investigation into the fancy outside of Australia since British cats were imported into Australia: “In the three years she has been abroad, Mrs. Bruce Pearce has established what surely must be a record. She has made it her business to see “every good cat” in England! A noted fancier - 23 cats at one time is her record to date — she visited every cat show of note while she was away, while her husband judged several of them. Now she has returned with the important news that the Governing Council of Cat Fanciers — that august British body — has "at last" decided to make separate classes at shows for yellow and blue-eyed white Persians — over which in the past controversy has raged bitterly. But for all the immense vogue for "long haireds,” as Persians are now designated, Mrs. Pearce found that Siamese cats threaten to rival their popularity, especially now that Siamese with smoky-blue points are being bred with success. England, by the way, is gaining an enviable reputation for its cats. It is nothing unusual for fanciers to fly from Switzerland, Holland and France to attend the leading shows. And an aristocratic English cat now holds a high position in Italy, for, sold in that country by a friend of Mrs. Pearce, it was bought by an admirer of Mussolini to be presented to no less a personage than Il Duce —who, by the way, is a discerning fancier.”

NEW SOUTH WALES

As with Melbourne, Victoria, there were cat shows in the late 1800s, for example this one reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd October, 1899: "A cat show in aid of the Civil Ambulance and Transport Brigade was opened on Saturday in the concert-hall of the Victoria Markets, There were over 200 entries from all parts of the country, which created a large amount of interest. All sorts and conditions of cats were shown, from a waif found in Hyde Park to the domestic aristocratic Persian cat of rare value. These costly specimens were in great variety — blue, silver, black, and brown; and as a thoroughly representative exhibition the show was a decided success. The promoters were Mr. and Mrs. Keep, and it is hoped that the interest awakened in the exhibition will lead to the formation of a cat club among fanciers of this universal domestic pet. The exhibits were well staged, and with the aid of an instructive catalogue many visitors, no doubt, learned much of interest concerning the feline race. The judging was performed by Dr. Hughes, Messrs, F. Albert and E. Butcher."

Attitudes to cat shows are alluded to in the The Sydney Morning Herald, 15th August, 1901, [The Mayor] considered it a great privilege for Messrs. Gollin to have asked him as Mayor of the city to declare the building open. In the past the Mayor had generally been kept aside for the opening of nothing more important than a dog show – (laughter) – and sometimes a canary exhibition. In fact he had been asked to open a cat show. He drew the line at that. He did not mind going to the dogs – (laughter) – but he stopped at the cats.

The New South Wales (NSW) organised cat fancy started up a couple of years after Victoria (usually stated as 1925). The first formal "Kitten Parade" in NSW was held in 1924 under the auspices of the Poultry Club of NSW, but Persian cats had already been exhibited in cat classes at dog shows in NSW back in 1908 and I found this news report from 1904:

”Poultry, Pigeon, Dog, And Cat Show” – The Sydney Morning Herald, 27th June, 1904. The 27th annual show of the New South Wales Poultry, Pigeon, Canary, and Dog Society was brought to a close on Saturday evening at the Exhibition Building. [. . .] A number of additional awards were made on Saturday, including the judging by Mr. C. W. Gray of the cats section, in which the number of entries was hardly up to the usual. The following awards were announced:—Cats:
Black female: Mrs. C, Butcher, First.
White Female: Minnie A. Sutton, First.
Isle of Man (Manx) – Male or Female: Miss Nira Towns, Champion and First.
Persian: Mrs. J.T. Claeson and Miss Emmie Jennings, equal First; Miss Muriel Jennings, Second; Mrs. Fenning, Third.
Any Other Variety – Cat, gelded: Mrs. F. Goodhead, First.
Shorthair kitten, any colour, under 9 months: Mrs. C, Butcher, First.
Heaviest Cat, any variety, male or female: Mrs. F. Goodhead, First.”

The "Australasian Farm & Field & Poultry Advocate" had reported on the cat section at the Poultry Club of NSW in June 1923, at which around 50 cats were exhibited, so there was evidently an established cat fancy albeit not yet under the auspices of a specialist Cat Club or registry. The Poultry Club seems to have held cat sections at all its shows and in 1924 exhibitors requested that the club send a letter to the Royal Agricultural Society requesting a cat section in the RAS schedule.

And this article (“Aristocrats”) from The Sydney Morning Herald Women’s Supplement, March 6, 1939 gives more details about several prominent exhibitors of the time. Last year there were 78 women who exhibited cats at the Royal Agricultural Show; and by the way this year’s entries are coming in, this number will probably be exceeded. The dozen or so catteries in Sydney suburbs are, just now, “all of a dither,” but it’s a very pleasant dithering, for hopes are running high as brushes fly and well-bred, well-groomed cats abound. Tuesday, April 11, is “the” cat day at the R.A.S., and for this big day owners are now preparing.

Mrs. Mason, of the St. George Cattery at Oatley, who is the proud owner of Surf King of Worboys, is hoping that this Persian champion will retain his laurels. He should have plenty of stamina, and not suffer from nerves, when the Judges look him over, for daily he eats one pound of steak, daintily sips some milk, and dutifully swallows cod-liver oil and malt. Cobweb, a female Persian at the same cattery, was imported from England, and must like Oatley, and Surf King in particular, for she shows no signs of home-sickness, but rather a womanly determination to win a few prizes for herself.

Mrs. E. Braitling, of Haberfleld, bought her first Persian cat, Silver Prince of Queensland, to have as a pet. Indeed, he travelled from Brisbane by air; but, finding him too superior to be a pet, she decided to go in for cats in a big way. Miss A. C. Cashmore, of Mosman, is not only a cat lover and breeder, but she is also an authority. When interviewed she was off to Newcastle the next day to judge at a cat show which was being held there.

But no one visits a cattery in Sydney without being asked: “Have you been to Enfield and seen Miss Christie's Siamese cats? If not, you must see them. They’re unique,” And all one hears about them still falls to do them justice. If these cats had their true deserts they would be reclining on cushions in some Siamese palace or sniffing the heavy incense of a temple in Bangkok. They do not gambol in the coal cellar, but one wants to be told this, for their black faces, legs, and tails combined with their cream to fawn bodies suggest a recent frolic with lumps of coal. Their eyes are turquoise blue, which at night change to ruby red!

Miss Christie has about ten of these royal cats, whose collars are made to match their daytime eyes of turquoise blue, for these cats are put on leads like dogs and taken for walks. But whether the cat is a Siamese, a Persian, or as the catalogue tactfully describes him “any breed,” if his owner is show-minded he will hardly have, between now and April 11, a spare day to call his own.

This excerpt from a "Report From Australia" in Jan 1950 "Our Cats" by Mr Harry H Wynne, (Joint Publicity Officer of Royal Agricultural Society Cat Club, N.S.W.) mentions the progress being made since the 1930s: "For a considerable number of years the Cat Fancy in Australia (particularly in New South Wales) has progressed quietly and without fanfare, and although we may be a long way behind England and America with regard to quantity, we are definitely on equal terms in quality. Two decades ago we adopted a standard which very closely resembled the English ideals and which, with local adaptation to suit our very different climate, has invariably ensured a high-class animal. As in other lands, our felines suffered during the war years, but are rapidly overcoming the inevitable setbacks, and indeed the Fancy is now approaching the flourishing stage. It is significant that many of our top-line breeders are again casting wistful glances at English catalogues, for, undoubtedly, our foremost stock are direct descendants from overseas importation and our native crossings are not as varied as could be desired."

One of its founders, Mr E J Lonsdale was still an active member into the 1950s. Although he retired from the Fancy in 1938, he was induced to return in 1947 and he visited a number of English shows and English catteries during 1950. Another foundation member was Mr Fred Pearce, who was still a judge in the 1950s - 28 years of service, interrupted only by war-time service. Mr Pearce became senior Vice-President and judged cats in Australia and New Zealand. The club had seven life members by 1953: Mr Lonsdale (1940); Mr Pearce (1942); Mr Harry Wynne (1947); Mr and Mrs Harvey (1952); Miss A Cashmore and Mrs Wallace (1953). During its first three decades, the Association had held shows in diverse venues: Mr Lonsdale's front lawn town halls, sections of agricultural shows (where the cats might have to share the hall with sheep) and eventually at the NSW Sheepbreeders' Association Annual Show outside Sydney.

OTHER STATES

The earliest reference to South Australia's fancy appears to be Persians being exhibited in 1908. By 1924, more than 160 Persians were exhibited at a show (Australian Farm & Field & Poultry Advocate) and the "Australian Rabbit & Pigeon Journal" featured a "Cat Chat" column edited by a South Australian cat fancier.

In Western Australia, a Persian was exhibited at some sort of show in Perth in 1896. The organised cat fancy in that state was established during the 1920s. It seems that cats lagged behind in terms of quality for a number of years as according to the above-mentioned "Cat Chat" column in 1933, Persians had improved greatly in the preceding 4 or 5 years and some were fit to compete against those in the Eastern states. It also seems that judges were not rigorous enough, which was holding the cats back in terms of quality.

Persians were being imported into Tasmania by a Mrs Cameron in 1901, and they were probably being bred in Queensland prior to 1910. Blue Persians and chinchillas were present in Tasmania in the 1920s. Pedigree cats were sometimes exhibited at agricultural shows in Tasmania and Queensland, prior to the establishment of an organised cat fancy in the 1960s. Siamese cats had arrived in Tasmania in or before 1925, with one featuring on newsreel filmed at the Deloraine races that year. The Queensland fancy evolved in the 1930s with cats initially being exhibited at bird shows and other animal shows.

Breeding and exhibition of fancy cats in the Northern Territory came much later than in the other states. That region was settled later by Europeans and was geographically more isolated.

THE EARLY BREEDS

The original breeds known to be present were much the same as those in Britain and the USA: Persians accounted for most show entries for many years, though Manx, Siamese and Abyssinians were also exhibited. It took more than one attempted to establish some of the breeds and varieties, most likely due to diseases contracted at shows, though we can't rule out contact with venomous Australian wildlife. At one early cat show, 60 cats were exhibited - 58 being pedigree Longhairs and 2 were Siamese.

The catalogue of the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club Annual Show, 1897, lists a male and female Siamese entered by Mrs Lawson, although the cats failed to turn up for the show. Dr and Mrs Chas Ryan exhibited a pair of Siamese in 1901 and another Siamese in 1904. Mrs A E McLennan advertised imported Royal Siamese in 1902 and exhibited two of these in 1904.

In 1908, "The Australasian Poultry and Kennel World" ran an article Mrs McLennan's "Khio" cattery in Victoria. Mrs McLennan was breeding, among others, seal-point (Royal) Siamese cats. However her breeding lines appear to have died out, perhaps due to infections contracted at shows . A Siamese cat was also featured on newsreel filmed in 1925 at the Deloraine races in Tasmania. The founders of the Royal Siamese in Australia were Wing of Woodrooffe and Woodrooffe Adam (Major S Woodiwiss’s prefix – he was Hon Sec of the Siamese Cat Club in the UK at the time), imported into New South Wales from Britain in 1925 by Mr and Mrs Lonsdale. These were exhibited at the Australian Cat Club show in Melbourne in June 1925. According to the animal fancier magazine "Our Dogs and Feathers", they caused a furore, much as Siamese cats did when first exhibited to the public in Britain.

Mrs McLennan also exhibited Abyssinians; and owned Khio Sir Peter Teazle and Khio Paul plus Khio Lady Teazle and Khio Virginia. Their origin and parentage isn't stated in show catalogues. The Khio Abyssinians also seem to have been lost, so perhaps the whole cattery was ravaged by "show fever" because modern Australian Abyssinian lines trace back to British imports in 1959 and not to 1890s.

The Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club Show catalogues of 1889 had a class for Royal Siamese, while that of 1896 had classes for Siamese and for Abyssinians. In 1895, there was a class for the Angora cat. Although these often lacked entries, it may attest to the breeds being present in the early Australian cat fancy. However, Show catalogues indicate that the Manx cat was relatively numerous in the mid 1890s. However, a word of caution - early cat shows around the world offered classes for breeds that might turn up, as the ever-empty class for the Chinese Lop-Eared cat at early European cat shows demonstrates.

According to the 1908 article, Mrs McLennan also bred Blue Persians, Orange Persian, (shaded) Silver and Chinchilla Persians and Silver Tabbies. Mrs McLennan's Persians were mainly of British origin, imported in 1900 and 1901 from Mrs Foote (UK). Persians were the most numerous fancy breed during the 1880s and 1890s and were imported from Britain, France, the USA and South Africa. In 1895 Charles Lynott exhibited an imported Chinchilla female, an imported "Brown" Persian female and a Persian male (unknown colour) at the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club Show. In 1908, Mrs DM Matthews imported a breeding pair of blue-eyed White Persians, Wild White Rose and Blue-Eyed Robin, specially selected for her by Frances Simpson in Britain. These appear to have upset local Australian breeders resulting in the cats being shown under the wrong name and not being awarded prizes as a result. It was suggested in correspondence printed in Australasian Poultry and Kennel World that the show secretary (who was a competing exhibitor!), Mrs Harriet McLennan, had resorted to underhand tactics in this matter. Mrs McLennan sued both Mrs Matthews and the magazine for libel and though she won, technically, she ceased being the Hon Sec of the ALKC and appears to have stopped exhibiting cats.

The Siamese Cat Club of Australia was founded at the beginning of 1950 and held its first show in June 1950 in Melbourne Town Hall. It attracted over 3,000 visitors.

"PEDIGREE TWICE AS LONG AS HER TAIL – The Age, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 26th June, 1950

Obviously aware of her aristocratic pedigree, which dates back 20 generations and is more than twice the length of her tail – a very long one, which is a most important sign of good breeding – Circe of Sedgemore is one of the proudest Siamese cats in Melbourne today. Owned by Mrs. D.J. Chandler, she was judged champion at the Siamese Cat Club’s first annual show in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday. The show was officially opened by the Governor’s daughter, Miss Jeanette Brooks, who was presented with a Siamese kitten, Baghead of Wyeeboo, who has already been given a pet name, Jeremy, by his new owner. Regret was expressed by the club secretary (Mr. D.J.C. Chandler) on behalf of the Lord Mayor’s Fund, which benefited from the show, that many people were unable to gain admittance. Public interest had been far greater than anticipated.

What could be more appropriate in these days of streamlined two-tone cars than a streamlined two-toned cat! That describes the Siamese aptly. Streamlined because his body is long and slim but firm, and two-toned because the close glossy cream fur of his coat adds a contrast to hisseal brown face, pointed ears, paws and long tail. In the language of Siam the cream of the cat’s fur is called “Sriswart,” which means the color of love and affection. The Siamese cat is regarded as a better companion than the ordinary domestic cat (it has the loyalty of the dog and becomes a “one man” cat), is a better hunter, hunting for rabbits and birds, not just for the sake of killing, but to bring back game to its master, and is more agile in both running and climbing.

Contrary to common belief, owners of Siamese cats do not pamper them and make them and indoor pet only. Mrs. J. hine, whose Siamese cat, Nugat, produced a litter of 10 kittens – claimed to be a world record – allows her cats to run almost wild on her farm at Lara. Too much petting of the animals tends to make them weak and they become hard to rear. A quaint feature of some Siamese cats is the small crinkle at the end of the tail. This trend carried many legends which were related by Miss Voranuj Pramoj, who came from Siam three years ago to attend Kindergarten Training College in Melbourne, and was present at the show.

One of the tales, which also accounts for the squint which was once another common characteristic among Siamese cats, but which is not almost out-bred, goes like this: Hundreds of years ago two priests living with their Siamese cat in a temple had a great responsibility. They had the care of a sacred goblet. One day the older priest died and it was necessary for the younger one to leave the temple to find someone to take his place. The cat was left to guard the sacred goblet and to be quite sure it was safe she twisted the end of her tail firmly around it. As she was waiting for the priest’s return she gave birth to a litter of kittens and because she was watching the door with one eye and the goblet with the other they were born with squint eyes and small crinkles at the ends of their tails.

Nowadays, however, judges eliminate points from the cat with the crinkly tail and so catteries are trying to breed out this fault.

Siam can boast of several other types of cats which are found only in that country. There are black cats with blue eyes, black and white cats with blue or sometimes ruby-red eyes and cats with coats striped in fawn, brown and grey-green. These are domestic cats and, like the “tabby” cat in Australia, are usually given to their owners, whereas the Siamese cat in Siam can only be bought by the very wealthy. Nearly everyone in Siam owns a cat and because these people love cats, anyone killing one invites the penalty of bein ostracised.

The most expensive exhibit in the whole show on Saturday was Mrs H. Chase’s imported Russian Blue. Mouchemokey, who was judged champion for his class. Although a first cousin to the Siamese cat, the Russian Blue has an entirely different nature. He is extremely snobbish towards strangers, takes a long time to really become acquainted with his master and then is not particularly loyal, and is very fastidious about food. One-year-old Mouchemokey has already acquired the majestic air of looking down his nose at strangers and when bored of their company seeks refuge in higher places. All Mouchemokey’s movements could be compared with those of a leopard. Although he is a small cat with a long lean body and limbs, as he moves strong muscles ripple under his sleek dark blue-grey coat. His pretty face is small and kitten like, swamped with two huge almond shaped eyes, the colour of the sea when it is calm."

A HOME-GROWN AUSTRALIAN BREED?

Australian fanciers were importing those breeds known to the organised cat fancy in other English-speaking countries, but what about developing their own breeds? (The USA recognised the Maine Coon and Maltese). In fact some curious home-grown Australian cats were exported to the USA in the 1890s, but don't seem to have gained recognition in Australia.  The Australian breed was described by Robert Kent James in 1898 and in 1900 by Helen Winslow ("Concerning Cats").  Winslow wrote that Dr and Mrs Hammond in Connecticut specialised in rare Australian cats and had won numerous prizes with them in the USA.  Some of his Australian cats were US$500 each; they were also delicate and had small litters.  Other writers mentioned their large ears and arched foreheads and that they were sleek cats, with short, glossy fur and small, narrow heads.  The Hammonds believed that the breed was derived from Siamese cats imported from Siam to Australia (if so, Siamese must have reached Australia prior to 1898).  In March 1902, a description of the "Australian cat"  in the magazine "Our Cats" referred to a little spotted cat with a triple-kinked tail and very curious hindquarters:  the curve from the heels going deep into the fleshy part of the hind-legs, and suggesting a long, leaping gait (the kinked tail sounds akin to the Japanese Bobtail, a breed not known to Western fanciers at that time).  These descriptions were repeated in a number of publications in 1902 and 1903, including Frances Simpson's "The Book of the Cat".  The Australian cat was recognized by the CFA in the USA in 1910 in white, tabby-and-white, tortie-and-white, tabby and "seal-brown", but by 1925 had gone into rapid decline due to a lack of breeding males, probably compounded by inbreeding. The last mention of the Australian breed seems to be 1927. It was possibly an early representative of the Oriental Shorthair group. 

Australian Cat (1900) (Tricksey, male)

Australian Cat (1902)

Australian Cat (circa 1920) (short-legged female)

Australian Male "Amee"

 

FORMATION OF A NATIONAL BODY

With thanks to Lesley Morgan for this information.

The next logical step was to form a national body to govern the region cat control councils and registries. At the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy Victoria and Australia (GCCFV) Annual General Meeting on 27th November 1969, it was suggested that a National Controlling Body should be formed. The Council resolved to contact the major Governing/Control Councils in Australia regarding the formation of a National Body. At a Feline Control Council of Western Australia (FCCWA) meeting on 19 February 1970 it was resolved that the proposed affiliation between the Victoria and Queensland bodies would be the foundation of a National Body. On 22nd June 1972, the FCCWA recorded the following resolution: “National Feline Council: Resolved that the FCCWA is in favour of the formation of a National Council. The Committee emphasised that it would only be fair to have one vote per one State, as in some States there was more than one representative”.

On the 21st October 1972, the inaugural meeting, sponsored by Uncle Ben’s (Whiskas), was held in Melbourne, chaired by Mrs J E White. Attendees included Coordinator, Dr M J Tait (GCCFV); delegates from Queensland Mrs M Dougan (Cat Fanciers Association and independent clubs), Mr R Shead (Feline Council of Queensland), and Mrs M Haas (Governing Council of Queensland); delegates from Victoria Mr D J C Chandler (GCCFV) and Mr V Bumak (DCCV); Miss M Horne (GCCF of South Australia [GCCFSA]), Mr K Dobbie (CCCT), Mrs D Oaten (Cat Association of the Northern Territory (CANT)), Mrs B T Sparkes (Murray Valley Cat Authority), and Mr H Klopper (FCCWA). Observers included Mrs Mary Hinchcliffe (Feline Control Council of Victoria [FCCV]), Mrs M Oliver, as well as representatives of Uncle Ben’s Australia Pty Ltd (Whiskas). There was sufficient national representation present to form a steering committee which would a draft constitution for presentation. Those councils not present would be kept up-to-date so they could join at a later date. It was planned to hold the first National Show in South Australia, because of its central location.

The ANCF (Australian National Cat Federation officially came into being on 10th March 1973. At its first conference, Harold Klopper was elected President. The ANCF’s name was changed to Australian Cat Federation (ACF) when it was formally incorporated. The initial meeting of the new national body was organised in Melbourne by Clyde and Beryl Chandler of the GCCFV among others and the inaugural ANCF show was held in Adelaide on the 5th of August 1973 with Margaret Horne as the show manager and Shirley White as her assistant. The show committee were : June Vogel (Richardson) and Trixie Pettman (South Australia). Judges included: FIFe Secretary, Brita Kastengren-Remborg, Sonia Dowty (New South Wales), Gwen Jenkins (Victori), Mrs E Chan (New Zealand), Jack Caird (Victoria), Chris Selby (Western Australia), Mrs N Shead (Queensland), Mrs M Oliver, Mrs N Russack and Mrs D Meyers (South Australia) and Mrs G Litchfield (Queensland) plus two newcomers: Julian Schuller (Northern Territory) and Rossy Faulkner (Roberts-Thomson) of Tasmania on her first interstate assignment. Sponsored by Uncle Ben’s, the inaugural “Whiskas International” show attracted nearly 700 exhibits from all over Australia and from New Zealand and 3,500 visitors.

At the 1973 Annual General Meeting, Harold Klopper (WA) was re-elected President. It was resolved that ANCF would apply for reciprocal affiliation with the European-based Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) so long as restrictive clauses were not placed on such affiliation. At that time, FIFe comprised 22 countries. The ABCF also decided to produce a bimonthly “National Cat” Magazine; this publication continued until 1977 in one form or another.

The 1974 National Show had been scheduled for Brisbane on 3 and 4 August, but flooding meant the show had to be relocated. The first ANCF Judges’ seminar was held. Visiting judges/speakers were the FIFe President, Mme Ravel, and Terry Hiroaka of America’s CFA. Nearly 800 cats were entered in the National Show. In 1974, the Murray Valley Cat Authority withdrew from the ANCF when GCCFV decided not to join. In addition, Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin on Christmas Day 1974 and many Northern Territory breeders and their cats were evacuated to other States. Despite these setbacks, the Cat Association of the Northern Territory (CANT) survived.

In 1975, the ANCF was registered, and the body incorporated, as the ACF. Its register of prefixes was initiated, to avoid the then common duplication of prefixes around Australia, and the Australian National Champion title was instituted. The 1975 National Show was run by the Feline Control Council of Victoria (FCCV) at the Royal Showgrounds and attracted 950 exhibits. Ruth McDonald from New Zealand officiated, with 26 Australian colleagues.

 

THE EARLY DAYS OF THE CAT FANCY IN NEW ZEALAND

The New Zealand Governing Council was founded in 1930 and was closely associated with the parent body in Britain, having a similar constitution and rules. It lapsed during the Second World War and the Cat Fancy in New Zealand was all but extinct until 1949. In 1949, a few enthusiasts started a cat club in Auckland, where most of the descendents of former registered cats were still to be found. In less than 5 years it had made astonishing progress with around 1500 cats registered, a few imported from Australia and many imported from England (and only the very best cats were imported). The President after the reformation of the New Zealand Governing Council was Mrs B Downey, and the Hon Secretary was Mr R Marshall. Affiliated clubs were The Auckland Cat Club (Hon Sec Mr R Marshall); Canterbury Cat Fanciers Club (Hon Sec Mr C B Holmes); Franklin Cat Club (Hon Sec Mr R H Gray); Hamilton Cat Club (Hon Sec Miss M E Barlow); Palmerston North Cat Club (Hon Sec Miss A E Rogers) and Southland Cat Fanciers Club (Hon Sec Miss I M Flegg).

New Zealand launched a cat journal in 1953. It was called "Cat Monthly" and was devoted to the welfare, breeding and exchange of cats. Editor and publisher was Miss Dulcie Hore, 52 Roy Street, Palmerston North, New Zealand, and, the price was ls. 4d. per copy. The issues carry useful veterinary notes, general interest features with illustrations and news items about the English Fancy by Mrs. D. Brice-Webb.

 

THE EARLY DAYS OF THE CAT FANCY IN SOUTH AFRICA

Hazel King , a committee member of Western Province Cat Club, has provided much of this information about the early cat fancy in South Africa. Other information comes mostly from the overseas news section published in Our Cats.

A stud book of cats was held by Mrs Karie in Cape Town during the period 1899 to 1904. Most of the cats registered appear to have been blue Persians, such as Roughie (born May 1899 sired by Big Ben from Kitsy, and bred by Mrs E Knowles of Leicester, England). An early South African bred cat was Daisy Bell, bred by Mrs Jac Theron of Worcester (the one in the Cape Colony) in 1900. The sire was Gascon, and the grandsire, Ch Blue Jack, winner of a Challenge Cup at the Crystal Palace in 1891. Several other cats and breeders are mentioned in an article in the September 1970 issue of Cats Calling, the magazine of the Western Province Cat Club.

During the 1960s, Kay Wheeler (a WPCC committee member) took part in a radio quiz show, her subject being cats. As a result of this, eventually, Mrs Karie’s daughter, Mrs McQueen, was traced, and she remembered several cat shows being held at various locations in Cape Town, and records exist of at least two, held in 1912 and 1913. These included classes for Persians (blue seems to have been the most popular colour, and there were classes for Colonial Bred and Imported cats, males, females, neuters and kittens) and shorthairs.

The South African Cat Fanciers Association held its first show in Cape Town in July 1912, the judge being “the well known Transvaal judge, Mr E Hjort.” [Cape Times 15 July 1912] This was, however, not the first cat show in South Africa. Hazel King is still researching this first show, but she has established that cat shows were held in conjunction with poultry shows in the Transvaal Colony between 1907 and 1912.

The organised cat fancy in South Africa appears to have fizzled out at some point, to the extent that, when it was re-established in the 1940s, the people involved had no idea that there had previously been shows or stud books. The cat fancy in South Africa was re-established in 1945 with the Governing Council of the Associated Cat Clubs of South Africa (GC ACC SA) which became in the Southern African Cat Council (SACC) in October 1996). Its cat register and stud book were started up a year later and maintained by Lynda Emery in Johannesburg. Anecdotally, a small show was held on a tennis court in Johannesburg in 1946. The WPCC show held in December 1948, was announced by the Cape Times as “the first cat show in Cape Town” and given a full page of photographs.

The South African Cat Union (SACU) was founded by Miss P. Deeble (now Mrs. A. Somerville) of Durban in 1946 and covered "the Rhodesias southwards". Dr. Smith was elected as the first President. The Union was founded primarily to register cats, to encourage their breeding and to organise cat shows. Early on, it became associated with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of Great Britain, but unlike the GCCF it had no clubs to govern at that time! In February 1948, Miss Fania Pocock founded the Western Province Cat Club with headquarters at Cape Town, and the WPCC at once became affiliated to the Union.

The first WPCC show was held in La Rochelle (now the Athenaeum Hall) under the Railway Bridge in Newlands. The winner was "Little Boy" who was entered as a Russian Blue though his parentage was uncertain. Little Boy was owned by founder member Mrs R Gilmour. The WPCC remained the only cat club in Cape Town until the early 1970s when the All Breeds Cat Club arrived on the scene. The WPCC claimed to be the first to show a Sia-Manx (or Sianx), just a few months ahead of one exhibited in San Diego, USA. The late Father Fowler's Sia-Manx was exhibited at their show during 1952, some months before the cat at the San Diego show, and resembled a Siamese Seal Point with definitely high hind quarters and complete absence of tail. He was described as a very charming person by Miss P. Ashby-Spilhaus, the Registrar of the South African Cat Union.

Personal circumstances meant Mrs. Somerville was unable to carry on, and the WPCC took over the running of the Union. Miss Pocock became Chairwoman of the SACU until resigning in 1953. The headquarters were moved to Cape Town, where the first meeting was held on 22nd December, 1949. A constitution was formed which would cover the single club and allow for representation of other clubs as the; more were formed and became affiliated to the Union. The whole registration system was overhauled to render it efficient, easy to run and as fraud proof as possible. There were just over 200 registered cats in 1949, but by 1953 there were over 1,000 Seal Point Siamese alone. The Union also founded a library and issued an occasional bulletin.

The Union's growth was staggering, but risked overwhelming its workers, all of whom were voluntary, inexperienced and had day jobs. This caused a number of hiccups and delays. Some technical hitches were inevitable. The worst of those was the unworkability of details of the constitution that some clubs felt could not be overcome due to the long distances involved. Those clubs seceded from the Union and the constitution was entirely recast following the experience.

The Natal Cat Club, which had its headquarters in Durban, was founded in July 1948 and sponsored annual Championship shows (attended by around 1500 visitors) as well as several local shows. There were 137 fully paid up members on the books by June 1953, most being residents of Durban. It also attracted members from Pietermaritzburg, various parts of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal, the Cape and Southern Rhodesia (1150 miles away from Durban). The clubs main problem was the huge distances between towns and getting really competent judges at its shows; the latter necessitating the aid of Dr and Mrs Stewart and other friends in Johannesburg.

The club's formation was largely due to Mrs I Miles of Westridge. her cattery in South Africa was probably the largest of that time and comprised Siamese, Chinchillas, Blue Longhairs and Cream Longhairs. Mrs Miles persuaded Mrs Maunsell to get the ball rolling and Mrs Maunsell became the first Hon Secretary. The first Chairman was Dr J J Meiring, later succeeded by Mr W E S Philip during 1953. The President was Mr H W Davey.

In 1948 or 1949 (sources are contradictory), the Siamese Cat Society, was founded. In 1984, this became the Transvaal Cat Society. Their 1956 Show Catalogue gave a potted history, stating it was "founded in 1949, when a small group of enthusiasts, particularly interested in the Siamese Cat, met and discussed the idea of laying down a standard for the breed, based on that existing overseas, and the holding of shows to encourage breeders to improve local standards and foster a better understanding of the care and management of cats in general." The founder members of the Siamese Cat Society were Gladys Haswell, Rosemary Harte and the Reverend and Mrs Oliver. Mrs Stewart and Dr FG Stewart later joined the committee and their intimate knowledge of show procedure greatly benefitted the Society. The Stewarts had recently arrived from England where they had been very much involved with the cat fancy there. At the time, they were described as the only people in Johannesburg who knew anything about cat shows or how to run them. Their first show was held in the Norwegian Hall in de Villiers Street, Johannesburg, in 1950 and was very well attended. The Stewarts were both show judges in England, but in South Africa the judging fell to Mrs Stewart while her husband ran the show. In addition to running the cat shows, they trained cat judges in Johannesburg.

The All Breeds Cat Club (ABCC) was founded in 1968 by Stella Slabber and other breeders who broke away from the WPCC (much of its early history involved rivalry with the WPCC). Its autocratic Chairman, Mike Barrett, was unpopular with many members, hence this incarnation of the ABCC disintegrated when many founder members resigned to form their own All Breeds Club. The ABCC, under Barrett, continued with the remaining members, but local WPCC-trained judges refused to judge at its first show. Sister Francis Bradford, who wasn't part of the inter-club animosity, trained judges and stewards for the ABCC show. This took place in Winter 1969 at the Old Mutual Hall and Barrett was show manager. The animosity between ABCC and WPCC resulted in the WPCC secretary and her husband being removed from the show for snooping. Apart from that incident, the show was extremely successful, but Barrett withheld the profits for himself. It turned out that he had appropriated the ABCC's funds and its property (show cages etc), leaving the club with nothing.

At the 1969 AGM, members voted to start anew under the chairmanship of John Cullen. Funds were raised through donations and fundraising events. Meanwhile, Barrett apparently began a vendetta against the WPCC that resulted in a reconciliation between the WPCC and the new ABCC. In 1970 they took Barrett to court and on the day of the hearing, he settled out of court (at least in respect of the property, if not the money). ABCC shows were held in the old Drill Hall in Cape Town and they became affiliated to the South African Cat Association. The first championship reported in The Cape Times, Saturday, July 21, 1973.

The Siamese Cat Society was one of the first members of the Associated Cat Clubs of SA, the forerunner of SACC, along with the Rand Cat Club, Natal Cat Club, and WPCC. In 1969, delegates from all cat clubs in South Africa met in Bloemfontein to discuss a constitution for the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of South Africa (GCCF SA). The GCCF SA held its inaugual meeting in January 1970. It appears that the GCCF SA ultimately replaced the Associated Cat Clubs of SA that had been founded in 1945.

The story of Hazel King’s quest for South African cat fancy history is also interesting. Shortly before the Western Province Cat Club (WPVCC) celebrated its 60th anniversary, she was given some old copies of Cats Calling (the Club magazine from 1957 until 2005).  Using these, she created a commemorative booklet for exhibitors and show personnel at the WPCC 60th Anniversary Show.  As a result, various people provided further editions of Cats Calling, resulting in an almost complete collection.  In those old Cats Callings that she found the story of Kay Wheeler taking part in the radio quiz.   After that, several people contacted her and one gave her a medal that was awarded at the 1913 show. 

At the time, the Club tried unsuccessfully to find out more about the South African Cat Fanciers Association.   Some time later, another committee member came across Mrs McQueen, whose mother, Mrs Karie, had kept the 1899 - 1904 stud book, after which the cat fancy gradually faded out.  Another committee member interviewed Mrs McQueen who was, by then, an elderly lady and whose memory of those early days was rather hazy (she must have been a young child when her mother was active in the cat fancy).   She still had the stud books, and even photos of some of the early cats, but it wasn't possible to reproduce them in Cats Calling, due to the printing method used.

Hazel then found a mention that the first WPCC show, in 1948, had been covered by the Cape Times. She contacted the paper and was referred me to their archives held in the National Library. Despite being a large and well-known institution, the National Library (postal address Queen Victoria Street in Cape Town) is tucked away behind the Cathedral in the Company Gardens and it took Hazel a whole morning to find it! As well as the sought-after microfiche of the Cape Times of December 1948, the magazine section of the Weekend Magazine contained a full page of photos; some of which are now on the WPCC website.

The next step was to find out about the show where the medal was awarded, so it was back to the National Library to read the Cape Times of July 1913. It contained a long report of the show, including all the prize winners.   Trying another newspaper, she found mention that it was the SACFA's second show, so she went back to the Cape Times of July 1912, and found a report of their first show. That article said that it was not the first show in South Africa.  The report also mentioned that they had wanted to hold the show in June, but had to delay in order to get the services of the esteemed Transvaal judge, Mr E Hjort.  If Mr Hjort couldn't attend Cape Town in June 1912, was this because he was judging at a show in Johannesburg in June?  This was a long shot, because he could have been attending to business or a family occasion. Hazel researched the newspapers from Johannesburg in 1912, and read the microfiche of the Rand Daily Mail of May and June 1912 where she found mention of a forthcoming poultry show - which included cats!  It had been organised by the Central South African Poultry Club, secretary:  Mr E Hjort which confirmed why he couldn't judge in Cape Town that June.

The cats involved in the Central South African Poultry Club show were all Persians, and the newspaper article suggested that their inclusion in a poultry show was nothing new, so Hazel went back to 1909, which was their first annual show. The 1909 show also included cats, and again they didn't seem to be anything new.  Hazel realised that if showing cats at poultry shows was nothing unusual, maybe cats were also shown at agricultural shows such as the Rand Easter Show held in 1894, 1895, 1896, a hiatus for the Boer Wars, and started up again in 1907.  There was no useful information about the big agricultural show that used to be held in Cape Town around the same time.  The Rand Daily Mail only started in 1902, so the first Rand Shows were not reported, but there was plenty about the 1907 show. A few cats were exhibited at the 1907 show but were seemingly not judged.   The cats included some of Mrs Hjort's Persians.   It appeared that cat shows, unlike dog shows, were not part of agricultural shows (the Witwatersrand Kennel Club had a big dog show as part of the Rand Show).   The Rand Daily Mail reported on two other agricultural shows as well as Rand, neither of which seemed to have a category for cats.   But the Rand Poultry Club show of June 1907 included Persian cats.   Hazel’s next stop is the Cape Times of June 1905 …

MESSYBEAST.COM HISTORY INDEX

You are visitor number