2022, Sarah Hartwell

In 2015, Leslie Fish, a musician and writer of fantasy novels, advertised in a local paper in Buckeye, Arizona asking for help developing her roaned grey silver breed of cat. The mutation had originally occurred in cats in the east San Francisco Bay area and moved with Leslie to Buckeye, outside Phoenix, Arizona. The descendants of those cats, bred with Oriental Shorthairs and American Shorthairs, had been recognised as Experimental by TICA under the name “Silverdust” and help was needed to expand the new breed. Because cats don’t travel well Leslie appealed for local fanciers to help her expand the breed.

“CAT-LOVERS WANTED To Help Develop a New Breed: The Silverdust. Leslie Fish [phone no & email deleted] (2015)
Thanks to the luck of mutation, I’ve come up with a new breed, which I call Silverdust, just recently awarded Experimental Breed status by The International Cat Association. At present, we have only two generations of them, and a total of three cats and seven kittens. That makes just ten of them in the whole world. That’s not enough for the breed to survive. We need to breed a third generation, and at least 10 more Silverdust cats, to guarantee that the breed survives - and I can’t do it alone. The Silverdust is derived from the Oriental Shorthair, which in turn descends from the Siamese, and these little creatures do indeed have the slender body-build, big ears and eyes, personality and voice of the Siamese. There the resemblance ends, for the Silverdust has a roaned-grey silver coat, gold-green eyes, workable thumbs on each forepaw, a larger-than-normal skull with a larger-than-normal brain inside, and a remarkably high intelligence. Silverdusts are also very friendly and people-oriented and are shameless petting-sluts. I need two or three dedicated cat-lovers, right now, to take breeding pairs of the kittens; to raise them, get them their shots, breed them when they’re old enough, and then select the next generation of breeders from among their kittens. Please stay in contact with me so we can track the breed’s progress. Also, I have developed a reliable way to find good homes for non-breeder kittens.”

Fish began breeding cats for intelligence in the 1990s when she adopted 3 kittens born to a female domestic shorthair and purebred Siamese male. The kittens had unusually long and deep skulls and their spines appeared to be attached not at the back of the skull, but slightly underneath it. Fish believed the large skulls indicated a mutation for higher intelligence. She named them Makhno, Kropotkin and Bakunin, bred them together and then tested, selected and bred subsequent generations of kittens for intelligence, disease-resistance, elegant conformation (in that order of priority) and “psychic ability”. She regularly advertised her super-intelligent kittens to her fans. Every few generations she outcrossed to a Siamese or Oriental Shorthair, then inbred for a few generations. She also outcrossed to a polydactyl Oriental Shorthair, but spent 3 generations eliminating a weakness in the forearm bones while retaining the “thumbs.” Somewhere along the line a roan mutation appears to have occurred, or been introduced, and the cats looked as though they were dusted with silver.

There was a setback when FeLV claimed many neighbourhood cats, leaving Fish with only a single breeding pair in her cattery. By January 2013 she had two breeding pairs of “Witch cats,” and these were producing kittens. Cat registries recognise cats based on physical characteristics, not on super-intelligence. TICA accepted the breed-name “Silverdust.” In 2017, having reached the 2nd generation of Silverdusts, she posted requests online for homes for at least 8 cats.

In March 2022, the last breeding queen, Silverstreak, died of a kidney infection that had already claimed several other cats. This left only a male cat, Silversun, who was being treated for the kidney disease. Fish was looking for a female outcross that was similar in type and intelligence to save the Silverdust bloodline. It seems the cats were not physically distinctive enough to attract sufficient attention from serious cat fanciers to establish their own breeding programmes although many went to pet homes with fans. The only photos I have seen were Silverdust (2nd generation) x Oriental Shorthair outcrosses in 2019: green-eyed black polydactyl cats that lacked the roan trait.