LONGHAIRS OF THE 19TH CENTURY - BLACK, BLUE AND WHITE PERSIANS
The Black Persian - Harrison Weir (Our Cats and All About Them, 1889)
For a long time, if not now, the black was the most sought after and the most difficult to obtain. A good rich, deep black, with orange-coloured eyes and long flowing hair, grand in mane, large and with graceful carriage, with a mild expression, is truly a very beautiful object, and one very rare. The best I have hitherto seen was one that belonged to Mr. Edward Lloyd, the great authority on all matters relating to aquariums. It was called Mimie, and was a very fine specimen, usually carrying off the first prize wherever shown. It generally wore a handsome collar, on which was inscribed its name and victories. The collar, as Mr. Lloyd used jocosely to observe, really belonged to it, as it was bought out of its winnings; and, according to the accounts kept, was proved also to have paid for its food for some considerable period. It was, as its owner laughingly said, "his friend, and not his dependent," and generally used to sit on the table by his side while he was writing either his letters, articles, or planning those improvements regarding aquariums, for which he was so justly celebrated.
The eyes should be orange-yellow in the browns, reds, blues, grays, and blacks.
Black Persians (Frances Simpson)
Although magnificent, Black Persians were sadly overlooked and their classes were almost invariably the smallest at shows in spite of some magnificent and much-admired specimens around. There were no Black Persians entered in the 1886 Crystal Palace show and only one in the 1889 Crystal Palace show. It was common to read show reports saying "Good blacks with orange eyes were conspicuous by their absence." Or "The black classes, as usual, were poorly filled."
A large part of the problem was achieving the uniformity of colour. The cat must be "a glossy jet black, betraying no bands or bars in the full light and having no undercoat of a lighter shade and, above all, no spot or tuft of white hairs on the throat." White lockets were a very common fault, as was a brown, rusty tinge to the coat. During the moult (and, unfortunately, cat shows were held in summer when long-hairs were moulting) the fur was often rusty-looking. The adult colour was often unpredictable as new born kittens often resembled balls of brown fluff, but these often grew up into the best-coloured blacks. However, there was not much demand for black long-hair kittens and many, born in mixed litters to tortoiseshells, were consigned to the bucket (i.e. drowned) or the lethal box.
Another problem was superstition and the long association of black cats with witchcraft. Simpson reported an interesting theory about this association which "may have arisen from the fact of the larger amount of electricity to be found by friction in the coat of the black cat than of any other; experiments prove there is but very little in that of the white or the red tabby cat." This may have been due to the silkier, more hair-like texture of the fur compared to the fur of the other colours of Persian (this would have been influenced by the earlier breeding together of the Angora, Persian and Russian long-hairs). Another reasons was that black cats were believed to be more vicious and spiteful than other colours.
Black Persians were more prized for breeding to silver tabbies and smokes to improve those varieties since "a silver tabby with dark grey markings is not a true type, and a smoke with an upper coat of cinder colour does not represent the true smoke. Therefore the introduction of a black cross is often a great advantage to these breeds." Those poorly marked silver tabbies and smokes would have been blue-silver tabbies and blue smokes, recognised today, but undesirable in 1903. "A black should not have a suspicion of any other colour than a dense black. If when the coat is blown apart, a shading of grey or blue is seen it is a great defect."
"For very obvious reasons black cats are the very best animals for those living in London or near large towns. They can never present a dirty appearance, and, therefore, in this particular they will always score over the whites, creams, and silvers. To keep their coats glossy and bright black cats should be well brushed and groomed." According to a letter in "Our Cats", one Black Persian had been imported from Persia (Iran) and was moderate in size and slightly built, rather than the desired massive build , and had emerald green eyes rather than the desired orange. In spite of this, it was a typical Persian and a rarity, since black long-hairs were rarely imported.
Dr Roper, breeder of the celebrated "Fawe" strain of black Persians contributed some notes on the breed. "Having bred a litter of black kittens, it is unwise to make up your mind what colour they are going to be until they have attained the age of six months. I remember once giving away a kitten at three months old which I called iron grey and thought would or could never be black. Six months after I saw my friend, who thanked me very much for the lovely black kitten […] there were no white hairs, and the colour was a perfect black […] I have a kitten now, aged three months, perfectly bronze in colour and a grey frill. I have no doubt at seven months old it will be a perfect black."
Roper wrote of preparing black Persians for a show "In showing blacks they should be brushed and rubbed with a Selvyt cloth daily one month previously and kept free of matted hair. He application of Brilliantine or American Bay Rum in small quantity brushed on gives a perfect gloss to their coats."
Another breeder, Mr Robert Little, wrote that sunshine and exposure caused rustiness in the coat and that January's handsome black Persian was hardly recognisable in August! He wrote that the coat was more like hair than fur (perhaps this is where the static electricity problem arose!). he wrote "The mystery of the white spot on the chest or throat has yet to be solved. In most black litters one at least has this blemish, and this generally settles the question which, if any, shall join the majority at a tender age [by which he meant consigned to the bucket]. The unfortunate kit's pedigree may be absolutely devoid of offence on this point. Apparently no precautions can prevent or eradicate the fault."
Other sources of the time (not mentioned in Simpson's book) noted that some breeders and exhibitors resorted to plucking or dying the offending white locket with black dye. Plucking was only possible where there were very few white hairs. It must have been a great disappointment when a breeder sent his/her queen to a winning black Persian stud, only to find the resulting kittens had white spots under the chin as a result of this fakery. Equally any purchaser of a faked black Persian would be in for disappointment when a white locked unaccountably appeared after the moult.
The Blue Persian - Harrison Weir (Our Cats and All About Them, 1889)
Next in value is the light slate or blue colour. This beautiful tint is very different in its shades. In some it verges towards a light purplish or lilac hue, and is very lovely; in others it tends to a much bluer tone, having a colder and harder appearance, still beautiful by way of contrast; in all the colour should be pure, even, and bright, not in any way mottled, which is a defect; and I may here remark that in these colours the hair is generally of a softer texture, as far as I have observed, than that of any other colour, not excepting the white, which is also in much request.
The eyes should be orange-yellow in the browns, reds, blues, grays, and blacks.
Blue Persians (Frances Simpson)
To outsiders the term "blue" as applied to a cat may sound rather absurd. Truth to tell, the name is misleading, and yet the same is used in describing certain breeds of domestic animals, such as dogs, rabbits etc. There is also a fur much used for trimmings of ladies' jackets etc., called blue fox, and this is very much akin to the colour and texture of the fur of the blue Persian cat, which however, varies in tone from a dark slate to a pale lilac-blue.
It is over twenty years ago since I exhibited the first "blues" at the Crystal Palace Cat Show [.i.e. before 1883], and they created quite a sensation, for no-one seemed to have seen any cats of this peculiar shade before. Some called the grey or lilac, and others London smoke or slate colour […] In those early days of the fancy, blue Persians were entered in the "any other variety" class and most of the specimens exhibited were in reality blue tabbies. For some years this state of things continued; but Mr A A Clarke, so well known as one of the pioneers of the National Cat Club, and as a breeder, exhibitor, and judge, agitated with other fanciers, myself amongst the number, to obtain a better classification for the self-coloured blues, and in 1889 the schedule at the Crystal palace Show contained a class for "Blue - self-coloured without white." For some time this breed of cats was termed "self blues" in contradistinction to the many blues with tabby markings which were formerly so very common in the fancy.
In 1890 it was decided to divide the sexes in the blue cat classes, and let the kittens compete with black and white […] At Brighton in the same year the "self-blue class was adopted with success […] In 1891 blues came very much to the fore, and the entries at the Crystal Palace numbered 15 males and 17 females. At Cruft's Show in the year 1894 a grand blue called "Wooloomooloo" was exhibited by Mrs W R Hawkins, and this cat became one of the most famous of stud cats.
I think I may safely say that blue Persians have the largest number of admirers, and certain it is that at all our large shows the blue classes are the best filled. At the Cat Club show held at Westminster in 1899 the number of entries in the blue female class was a record one - there were no less than 48, and the blue males mustered 42.
It is true that the prize winning cats of ten and fifteen years ago would have had but a poor chance in the present day competitions, chiefly for the reason that cats of the past could look at a judge with bright green eyes and yet be awarded the highest honours. Nous avons changé tout cela, and now a blue cat without the much-to-be-desired orange eyes fetches but a small price, and is at a great disadvantage in the show-pen. An up-to-date judge may, however, be led into giving too great a prominence to this point and thus sacrifice soundness of colour, shape, and form. The again, I remember when a white spot on the throat of a blue Persian was not considered a serious defect; now a few straggling white hairs will cause anguish to the owner, and a judge will promptly put down the specimen for the blemish.
Blue cats with white spots used to be relegated to the "any other colour" class; but recently both the National Cat Club and the Cat Club have decided that such cats should be judged in their own classes. However, I think that owners of these specimens would do well to keep them away from the show bench, where the competition in blues is now to keen to give any chance for defective cats to have a look in.
There is a tendency to breed very light blue, and popular fancy favours this particular type. I am inclined, however, to prefer a good sound medium blue as being the best and safest for breeding purposes. The lovely pale blues are beautiful to look at, but are seldom absolutely sound in colour […] a white undercoat is a serious blemish, and this often appears when silver blood may be traced in the ancestry of a blue cat. […] As tiny kittens blues frequently exhibit tabby markings, but fanciers need not worry over these apparent defects, for as the coat grows the bars and stripes are no longer visible.
It also sometimes happens that a kitten exhibits quite a light ruff, but this is generally shed with the second coat, and eventually disappears. There are some cats erroneously called blues by novices in the fancy, but which in reality are blue smokes. These have probably been bred from blues and smokes, and thus the type of each is seriously damaged. If it is desired to breed sound-coloured blues, then it is undesirable to cross them with any other colour save and except blacks […] Certainly all broken [bicolour] breeds and tabbies should be avoided when mating blues. I have heard of white cats being bred with blues to get a pale tint; but white toes, chests, and spots have often been the results of such experiments.
I do not consider blues usually obtain any great size or weight, nor are they generally massive in build or profuse in coat.
The demand for blue kittens is really larger than for youngsters of any other breed. They make superb pets, but it is to be regretted that blue neuters are generally spoilt with green eyes, doubtless for the reason that the possession of good orange eyes tempts the owner or purchaser to reserve the specimen for stud of breeding purposes [.e. breeders kept orange-eyed cats for breeding and sold green-eyed ones as pets]. […] The number of green-eyed blues are steadily and surely decreasing.
Professional judge, Mr T B Mason, who writing to me on the subject says: "I find ten good blues at the present time to one we came across two or three years ago. I am of the opinion that in no colour of cats have we seen more distinct progress than we see in blue Persians."
As regards the breeding of blues, I consider that to obtain the true sound colour blues should only be bred to blues. I have often, however, observed that a kitten of unsound colour is to be found in litters bred from two sound-coloured blues; the kitten may have a white undercoat or be full of white hairs, or have a shaded ruff; but experienced breeders will soon discover that such blemishes are but temporary, and that the ugly duckling of a family may develop into the flower of the flock. It is, therefore, very interesting to make experiments and to keep and apparently worthless specimen to see what it turns into when the first months of infancy are passed and the kitten coat has been shed.
I have known a blue of sound colour completely transformed in this particular by a severe illness. Her fur became a sort of pepper-and-salt mixture - a sprinkling of white and dark grey; but this same cat, contrary to the prophecy of an able judge, has again changed her coat, and is now a perfectly sound blue, even from tip to root. […] As regards the eyes in blues, it is not possible to give any exact time for the change in colour from the baby blue to the dreaded green or hoped-for orange. This changed takes place gradually, and sometimes the period extends till a kitten in almost a cat. There are many blue cats with what may be called indefinitely coloured eyes; that is, neither orange, nor yellow, nor green this most unsatisfactory state of things may be generally accounted for by a circle of green round the pupil, which, according to the time of day, will be wide or narrow.
The perfect eye of the blue should be absolutely unshaded; and there are two distinct types of eyes, namely the golden eye and the orange eye. The former resembles a golden coin in tint, and the latter has the dash of red which is to be seen in copper. Both these coloured eyes are correct.
Although I have dilated at length on the superiority of the orange eye in blues, I do not wish it to be thought that a weedy boneless cat, even with eyes of deepest hue, would find favour in my sight; for in blue, as in all breeds of Persians, what we ought to seek after most earnestly are good massive limbs, plenty of bone, and broad skulls. There are too many Persian cats of hare-like proportions, and we really want some of the type of a good old English tabby introduced into the more aristocratic long-haired breeds.
It will be interesting to up-to-date breeders of blues to hear what the veteran cat lover and fancier had to say about them fifteen years ago. In his well-known book "Our Cats," he thus alludes to the breed:-
"Blue in cats is one of the most extraordinary colours of any, for the reason that it is a mixture of black (which is no colour) and white (which is no colour), and this is the more curious because black mated with white generally produces either one colour or the other, or breaks black and white or white and black; the blue being, as it were, a weakened black or a withdrawal by white of some, if not all, of the brown or red, varying in tint according to the colour of the black from which it was bred, dark grey, or from weakness in the stamina of the litter. When once the colour or break from the black is acquired, it is then easy to go on multiplying the different tones and shades and varieties of tint and tone, from the dark blue-black to the very light, almost white grey. If whole-coloured blues are in request, then parti-colours, such as white and black, or black and white, are best excluded."
[Note: Weir had evidently observed both the dominant self white gene and also the white spotting gene. Dominant white masks other colours and could produce grey kittens if both the black and the white carried grey. White spotting would produce the parti-colours. Grey is, indeed, a weakened form of black, though not caused by the white colour, but by a dilution gene.]
Miss Gertrude Jay started cats in 1891, and her name will always be connected with blues. Nothing has ever been exhibited to compare with her wonderful female "The Mighty Atom" as regards beauty and shape of head. This cat, now, alas! no more, swept the board wherever it was shown. Twice she carried off the highest honours for best cat in the show at the Crystal palace. It is true that this grand specimen lacked the orange eyes, but no judge could pass over such a perfect type of cat, despite her one fault, and thus "The Mighty Atom" reigned supreme.
Mrs Hardy […] her first adventure into the domain of cat-keeping was in the case of a very fine blue cat named "Juliet," whose first few litters were not a great success, so that sensible cat took matters into her own hands. She chose for her mate the raggedest black tom she could find, and though of course, the results of this mésalliance were not at all satisfactory from the show judge's point of view, in later years, when suitably mated, "Juliet" did not once throw back to a wrong coloured kitten. I am not sure that I can follow Mrs Hardy to the logical conclusion of her deductions from this fact, but I think it is worthy of notice by those extremists who hold the view that an incorrect mating in the first instance spoils a queen for the rest of her life.
Blue Persian ("The Cat Its Points and Management in Health and Disease" (1908), Frank Townend Barton MRCVS)
The Blue Persian, in reality, is a steel grey, and the chief essential is that the fur must be free from any admixture of white or any other colour of hair; in other words, paleness and purity of colouration are a 'sine quid non' any tendency towards smoked fur, shadings or markings, being faulty. Eyes should be a deep orange.
The White Persian - Harrison Weir (Our Cats and All About Them, 1889)
...in all the colour should be pure, even, and bright, not in any way mottled, which is a defect; and I may here remark that in these colours the hair is generally of a softer texture, as far as I have observed, than that of any other colour, not excepting the white, which is also in much request.
White Persians (Frances Simpson)
A great change has taken place of late years in the quantity and quality of these beautiful cats, for whereas formerly blue eyes were considered quite a rarity, now it is seldom we see any yellow-eyed white cats exhibited at our principal shows. The most perfect type of a white Persian is assuredly to be found amongst the imported cats; there is a certain beauty of form and silkiness of fur which is not possessed by the specimens bred in this country. They are also generally distinguished by unusually long coats, round heads, tiny ears, and wonderful toe tufts.
One of the most lovely white imported cats was exhibited by Lady Marcus Beresford at the Westminster Cat Club Show in 1900. The best judges declared that there was not a fault to find with "Nourmahal," but her career was a short one. These imported cats are often of a rather savage disposition, and, although they can be sweet-tempered enough with human beings, they are extremely fiery with their fellows. There are two points peculiar to the white cats - they are frequently stone deaf, and they very often have odd-coloured eyes. Certainly the deafness is a drawback, and in selecting a white cat care should be taken to ascertain if the specimen is possessed of sound hearing. Needless to say, there are many ways of arriving at the solution of what is really a mysterious dispensation of Providence, for why should one particular breed of the feline race be so constantly minus this useful sense? Then, again, as regards the quaint arrangement of different-coloured eyes. One might not be so surprised if the eyes of white cats were sometimes pink, for their noses are pink, and the cushions of their feet, and, as in human beings, we might expect to have albinos amongst cats, namely white with pink eyes; but Harrison Weir states he has never seen pink-eyed whites, although it has been asserted that they exist. This peculiarity, however, of odd eyes seems only to be found in white cats, the two colours being blue and yellow. Occasionally white cats have wonderful sea-green eyes; and although these are decidedly very uncommon, no colour is so completely in accord with the purity of the coat as eyes of heavenly blue. The tone should be not so much of a sapphire as of the deep forget-me-not blue. One of the drawbacks to white Persians is the difficulty of keeping them in spotlessly clean condition. This is absolutely impossible if they are living in or near a town, and certainly a white cat soiled is a white cat spoiled.
As regards the mating of blue-eyed white cats, I have been told by experienced breeders of this variety that kittens with blue eyes are just as frequently bred from odd-eyed parents, or, at least, when one of the parents has different-coloured eyes. It is easy to tell whether the baby blue eyes are likely to retain their colour or turn yellow. If at about three weeks or a month old the blue becomes tinted with green, then surely but sadly may we make up our minds that these kittens have not a distinguished career before them, for they will see and be seen with yellow eyes. It is a pity to try mating white cats with any other variety, as broken-coloured cats will probably be the result. It frequently happens that white kittens, when quite young, have smudges of grey on their heads; these gradually disappear.
In America white cats seem prime favourites, and the demand exceeds the supply for importation of white Persians with blue eyes. At the last Beresford Cat Club Show the entries in the white classes were very large. The classification included and provided for golden- and blue-eyed whites, and these were subdivided according to sex, and all the classes were well filled. Mrs. Clinton Locke's "Lord Gwynne" is a noted white stud cat on the other side of the water, as is also Mrs. Colbourn's "Paris."
The devotees of the white cat in our own country are not many in number. I may mention Mrs. Finnie Young and Miss Hunt, who are perhaps the most successful breeders of whites in Scotland; and in the south we have Mrs. Pettit, whose tribe of blue-eyed whites I had recently the pleasure of seeing. No more lovely specimens could be imagined, and I counted more than a dozen long-coated, full-grown, bonnie blue-eyed beauties, walking about in the woods surrounding Mrs. Pettit's dwelling-place near St. Leonards-on-Sea. The illustration shows Mrs. Pettit surrounded by eight of her pretty white pussies. Mrs. Westlake, Mrs. Nott, Miss White Atkins, and Miss Kerswill are all successful and enthusiastic breeders of white Persians.
Several well-known fanciers keep one white cat amongst their flock. I may mention the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, the owner of "Musafer," a famous imported puss, and Lady Decies, the former possessor of "Powder Puff," who has recently been presented to H.H. Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. There is always a keen demand for white kittens, either as pretty pets or, if with correct-coloured eyes, for breeding purposes, and, doubtless, when more encouragement is given to this beautiful variety, there will be an increase of fanciers of the white cat, whose praises have been sung in fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and by novelists who have a weakness for describing interiors with a beautiful white Persian cat reclining on the hearthrug.
I am indebted for the following notes on white Persians to Miss M. Hunt, whose beautiful white cat "Crystal" appeared on an earlier page, and by an unfortunate mistake was stated to be the property of Mrs. Finnie Young:-
"The blue-eyed white Persian is, I consider, one of the most interesting to breed, and, in my experience, no more delicate or difficult to rear than any other Persian. I have had them now for nearly four years, and, I think I may say, with a good deal of success. I bought 'Crystal' in 1898, when four months old, and she certainly has been a good investment. Out of the sixteen white kittens she has had, ten of them have been blue-eyed.
The very best kitten I owned was never exhibited; he went to Mrs. Champion, who considered him the best and healthiest kitten for his age she had ever seen. Unfortunately, he died suddenly shortly after she had him. He was by Champion 'White Friar' ex 'Crystal,' and was one of the same litter as 'Jovial Monk,' which did so much winning for Miss Ward, who purchased him from me at the Crystal Palace, where he took first. 'Crystal' herself has only been beaten by a white cat, and that had not even blue eyes; but she was in splendid coat, and 'Crystal' was quite out of coat. Most judges are agreed, I think, that 'Crystal' is the best blue-eyed white female in the country.
The colour of the eyes of white kits can be told much earlier than in any other colour; some I can tell as soon as they are open, others I am not quite sure of until they are about a fortnight old. The eyes are generally bright blue from the beginning, without a shade of kitten grey in them. I do not think that both parents having blue eyes makes much difference to the number of blue-eyed kits in the litter. If one parent is blue-eyed and the other odd-eyed the result is often just as good. I know of a green-eyed queen which had a litter of three by Champion 'White Friar' - all were blue-eyed As to deafness, I cannot account for it at all, as it often appears, though both parents have perfect hearing.
Since Mrs. Finnie Young and I purchased 'White Friar' in 1900, whites have become much more plentiful in Scotland, and the competition is now very keen indeed up North. 'White Friar' has had a very successful career since he came into our hands, both as sire and on the show bench, and can still hold his own against all comers. He has won sixteen first prizes since 1900, besides championships and numerous specials."
Mrs. Champion, whose name is well known in "catty" circles, and who has now left these shores for America, did a great deal to establish a thoroughly good strain of white blue-eyed Persians. Her celebrated "White Friar" (now in the possession of Mrs. Finnie Young and Miss Hunt) is justly considered the finest male specimen in the fancy. Certainly he could only have been beaten by his son "White Tsar," bred by Mrs. Champion from her "White Witch." This cat, which assuredly would have had a notable career, was sold by Mrs. Champion for £20 to Mrs. Colbourn, in America. He arrived in poor condition and died shortly afterwards. I remember seeing an absolutely perfect white Persian kitten at Mrs. Champion's. It was by "White Friar" ex "Crystal." He had startling deep blue eyes, tiny ears, and broad, round head, and at nine weeks old his coat measured nearly three inches across. Alas! though healthy and strong, this proved too perfect a specimen for this world, and "Crystal Friar" succumbed to the epidemic of gastritis then raging amongst our feline pets. Referring back to celebrated white Persian cats of the past, I well recollect the marvellous size and splendid coat of Mrs. Lee's "Masher," who took the cat world by storm when exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1890. This enthusiastic fancier paid £21 for "Masher," whose show career was shortened by an accident. This cat was remarkable in those days, if only for his grand blue eyes.
The well-known breeder and judge Mr. A. A. Clarke, whose name is more closely connected with blue Persians, once owned a famous female called "Miss Whitey." I remember that this really remarkable cat was exhibited in 1887 at the Crystal Palace, and again the following year, when at four years old she took first prize and silver medal in a strong class of nine females. It seems to me that these cats, as I recollect them, appeared half as large again as the present-day champion winning whites; but whether this was in consequence of more profuse coat or a generally bigger build of animal I cannot at this distance of time pretend to determine.
Amongst the well-known prize-winners and stud white Persian cats of the present day I may mention Miss White Atkin's massive-limbed "White Knight," whose broad skull is especially remarkable in a show-pen, and commends itself to the notice of the judge. Miss Harper's "Blue-eyed Wandered" has great quality and lovely texture of coat. He was in truth a wanderer in the streets of a London suburb, and, although labelled "breeder and pedigree unknown," he has almost always held his own in the white classes at our largest shows. Mrs. Westlake, Mrs. Pettit, Mrs. Finnie, and Miss Hunt are all possessed of imported white cats, which have proved worthy ancestors of many prize-winning kittens. There have not been any very notable female white cats exhibited since the appearance of Lady Marcus Beresford's "Nourmahal," with the exception of Miss M. Hunt's "Crystal" and Mrs. Pettit's most lovely "Piquante Pearl," bred by her from her stud cat "King of the Pearls" and "Beautiful Pearl." This cat is as near perfection as possible, and has carried off highest honours whenever exhibited.
Mrs. Pettit began breeding white Persians in 1896, and has kept faithful to this breed ever since. This enthusiastic breeder always accompanies her exhibits, and her precious Pearls are never seen at the smaller mixed shows. I have always heard that white kittens are difficult to rear, and Mrs. Pettit, who should be well qualified to give her testimony on this point, says: "Without a doubt blue-eyed white Persians are the most delicate cats in existence." A well-known authority on cats, writing to one of the cat papers, says: "What a change has taken place in our white classes, long- and short-haired! A few years ago white cats with green or yellow eyes frequently were prize-winners, and a blue-eyed white was looked upon as a rarity. Now blue eyes have it all their own way, and judges are becoming more and more exacting as to the depth of tone and quality of the blue tint. If we could obtain a white Persian with the glorious eye of the Siamese, it would be a treasure indeed."
A gentleman who has lived for ten years in Assam says that he never saw in that part of India any long-haired cats except blue-eyed whites. He also gives an amusing account of the usual way of obtaining a cat of this variety for a pet. It is as follows:- "you give instructions to a native, who offers to procure you one at a certain price, but gives you no idea where or how he means to procure it. In about a week's time he appears with the cat and claims the money. Things progress favourably with your new possession for a time, but suddenly and unaccountably your puss disappears. You are calling some friend or acquaintance, and, to your surprise and astonishment, there on the armchair lies, curled up, your cat! "Thus it will be seen that the wily native makes a small income out of one cat, by stealing or enticing it away from the original purchaser and calmly re-selling it to one of the neighbours."
Mrs. Clinton Locke, the president of the Beresford Cat Club, has owned some beautiful white Persians which she has imported from time to time. This lady writes thus to "Our Cats":-"The first white Persian I ever owned was brought to me many years ago from Persia by a distinguished traveller, and its eyes were amber, showing that the white cats brought from their native land have not always blue eyes. The descendants of this cat, mated to both amber and blue eyed cats, have thrown blue eyes. Two odd-eyed cats have also given blue-eyed kittens; but a pair of blue-eyed cats has by no means always thrown blue eyes with every kitten in the litter."
One of our most persistent and consistent breeders and fanciers of white Persians is Mrs. Westlake, and therefore I am glad to be able to put forward a few of her experiences as to the peculiarities of the breed. Mrs. Westlake, writing from Camden Town, says:-
"My acquaintance with white Persian cats began some years ago, when I imported a white female as a pet. I was so delighted with her that, although for a London resident white cats would seem the least desirable, I decided to import two blue-eyed whites for breeding purposes. It was a litter from these two cats that tempted me to take up exhibiting. This litter consisted of ALL blue-eyed kittens, the tone of the blue being exceptionally deep. Since then I have, of course, often had a different tale to tell, and odd-eyed kittens have sometimes predominated. This curious freak of nature connected with white cats seems unaccountable. The two colours are generally yellow and blue, but I have seen green and blue. I have also remarked on the very brilliant tone of the one blue eye.
There is a popular belief that almost all blue-eyed cats are deaf. All I can say is that I have never had a blue-eyed white that was deaf. I have, however, often come across those that were stone deaf, and others with defective hearing. Again an unaccountable freak.
White Persian cats have been declared to be the most difficult to breed and delicate to rear. My opinion is that the delicacy is much more in their coats than their constitutions; that is, of course, in comparison with other foreign varieties, none of which are as hardy as the British.
A few remarks as to the cleansing of white cats may be useful. As a dweller in London, I need scarcely say that unless I occasionally gave personal attention to my pussies they would not always be in the show condition that I would desire. Some fanciers wash their white Persians, but I have come to the conclusion that this treatment tends to coarsen the soft silkiness of the fur; and therefore, for this reason, and also because there is a risk of cats catching cold, especially in winter, I advocate dry cleaning, and suggest the use of Pears' white precipitated fuller's earth. One plan is to place the cat on a large sheet or towel, mix a little ammonia in warm water, dip your hands in this, and pass them over and over the fur, letting it become thoroughly moistened but not wet. Then well sprinkle the coat with the powder, and by keeping the animal in front of the fire the fur will soon become quite dry. Then rub with a soft towel, and finally brush thoroughly with a clean and not too hard brush. Your efforts will be rewarded with success, and though puss may be considerably bored during the process, she will not resent it so much as a tubbing.
I find that with white females are far more diligent as regards their toilet than the males, who seem always to have more of the Eastern languor and indolence in their nature. I have remarked - and no doubt it is more noticeable in the white breed - that as soon as young kittens are beyond their mother's control they exhibit a marked antipathy to keeping their coats in anything like a decent condition. Sometimes they will make a feeble attempt at washing themselves; but something will excite their attention, and off they will go, or perhaps in sheer fatigue will fall asleep during the toilet. Thus white kittens will very soon present a most unkempt appearance, and the poor mother gazes sadly at them as though the cares of the family were too much for her, and she no longer wishes to own what was once her pride and joy - a spotless litter!
It has been stated that white cats are wanting in expression, probably because of the lack of markings to give character to the face; but breeders of whites will nevertheless agree with me that they have even greater force of expression, not being assisted by any markings. I have found white cats to be most affectionate, and very conservative in their tastes. I have owned some white Persians with light sea-green eyes, and although these are not correct, yet I must say they were strikingly beautiful and very uncommon. I have been offered high prices by Americans and others for my imported white female, but my 'blue-eyed darling' will, I think, end her days with her devoted mistress in dear, dirty, old London."