On May 10, 1890, the first Dutch cat shown was held at the Volksvlijt Palace (Industrial Palace, or Palace of Popular Diligence) in Amsterdam. This was a large exhibition hall, inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, on the Frederiksplein, Amsterdam. Three days after the show, a report in “De Maasbode” said “I consider the usefulness of a cat exhibition problematic, almost as questionable as that of exhibitions of pot bellies, infants, bald heads and beautiful women […] ”

There were about 70 exhibitors, mainly from Amsterdam. In addition to classes for the largest, the heaviest, etc., there were also the following classifications: East Indian, East Indian short-tailed, lop-eared cats from China, club-tailed cats from the Isle of Man, Siamese, long-haired and short-haired cats, mainly divided into colours, e.g. the blue cat, or the black Angora. Prize medals were awarded to generate interest in the cat breeding and showing hobby. Of the 70 entries announced, only 56 turned up, so several prizes were not awarded. 4,000 people visited the show, especially in the afternoon when the entrance fee was halved.

Visitors not only saw cats, there were many things for: paintings, drawings, books, figurines and cat baskets. IN common with English cat shows, some of the feline exhibits were for sale. In the category 'Suckling cat with young' a five year old black cat called Minibus with her five kittens, was offered for sale at five guilders, with the note: 'very good rat catcher'. Paintings by the famous cat artist Henriette Ronner-Knip were also on show. Her works were in great demand, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Lithographs of her works were available at lower prices.

(CAT SHOW, AMSTERDAM) Leidsch Dagblad, 24th April, 1890
From the "Hbl." we learn that the international cat show is to be held in Amsterdam on May 10 in the Volksvlyt Palace due to the numerous entries. Four entries come from abroad; two from Brussels, one from Antwerp and one from Leipzig.

AMSTERDAM CAT SHOW. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 30th April 1890
There are thirty-and-three varieties of domestic cats, from the long-tailed black cat of Sutherland, to the no-tailed, many coloured cat of Man. So it stated in the catalogue of the Cat Show which is about to be opened at Amsterdam. It is to be the greatest of all the cat exhibitions. At this moment caterwaulers are being sent up to the Dutch city from all the towns of Europe.

[AMSTERDAM CAT SHOW] Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 7th May 1890
We have already had something to say about the great cat show at Amsterdam. Of the tom-cats to be exhibited there are 70 from Holland, 63 from Brussels, 2 from Antwerp, 1 each from Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, Petrovsell in Slavonia, Florence, and Malaga, 3 from London, and 1 from Banff. The Banff cat might have been allowed to break his journey at Newcastle (he was sure to pass this way) that we might look at his tail.

THE CAT SHOW. [WITH PRIZE-WINNER DETAILS] Heldersche en Nieuwedieper Courant, 14th May, 1890
Of all the pets, the cat may be the oldest. The ancient Egyptians already kept domestic cats and worshipped them. Why should pussy enjoy less honour than other pets, why she be shown less interest? Didn't the Schoolmaster even sing about the cat in his immortal, witty poems, and why shouldn't we devote some time to it, even though many disapprove of such a cat show?
Since I have mentioned the Schoolmaster's [Gerrit van de Linde’s] poems, let me quote from it, which is useful to me as an introduction.

In his tomcat’s physiology
Say that he will immediately see in his manners
Whether he’s around a mister or a madam;
And the ladies among the cats
Seem to think of honouring

In zijn physiologic van den kater
Zegt, dat hij terstond aan zijn manieren ziet,
Of hij mijnheer of mevrouw hiet;
En de dames onder de katten
Schijnen het eren als Lavater te vatten.]

Unfortunately, this was not the case with me when I walked through the large hall and let my eyes wander around the sixty cages in which the kitties were lying on sawdust. However, how well they are installed, I believe that many of them would be infinitely preferred, as the Schoolmaster says:

........ at ease,
In the gutter against a sloping roof,
Where sir
Of course is waiting for madam, who is also scrambling like a learner
And then it is not uncommon for our squire to squeeze
On that occasion the cat in the dark.

[........op zijn uiterate gemak,
In de goot tegen een hellend dak,
Alwaar mijnheer
Natuurlijk op mevrouw wacht, die ook klautert als een leer
En dau knijpt niet zelden onze jonker
Bij die gelegenheid de kat in ‘t donker.]

Because such a gutter walk and roof promenade must be infinitely more enjoyable than sitting here in a room in a cage and being watched, drawn and photographed.

But to the point:

Beautiful specimens have been submitted. Among them there is the Angora cat. I don't know if every reader knows these beautiful, long-haired cats, but as far as I'm concerned, I think they are by far the most beautiful of all. They come from Asia and the most beautiful are the snow-white with blue eyes. However, they are also available in other colours, among them: grey, blue, black and multi-coloured. Then there is the Persian, which is very similar to the Angora cat, and the Chinese, which is distinguished from the others by its hanging ears. The common colour of these cats is pale yellow and it is this species that the Chinese love.

The Siamese cat with her strong voice did not look like a cat to handle without gloves. It seemed to me to be one of the species termed "dangerous". Indeed, they had already made a dividing wall between her cage and her neighbour. A colossal animal was the knot-tailed cat from the Isle of Man, that’s to say a cat without a tail and with excessively developed, long and thick hind legs. The short-haired, blue-grey kittens are sweet animals. Beautiful specimens of our normal cats were available: white and black patched; pitch black, tabby, tricolor (black, orange and white) etc. etc., too many to mention.

We should not forget the objects that relate to the kitties, such as baskets and paintings, the best of which are those of Mrs. Ronner.

Mr. Dudok de Wit has struggled against great difficulties, but he now has the satisfaction that this first Cat Show has been a great success.

The jury, consisting of Mr. A. A. van Bemmelen, director of the Rott. Diergnarde, Francois l’Hoest, id. der Societé royale de Zoologie in Antwerp and R. T. Maitland, former director of the K. Z B. Society in the Hague, approved the following awards:
J. P. Fastenhout, black tomcat, Silver Medal;
J. Francois Simon. idem. verg. Silver Medal; Joh. C. Soff, id., Silver Gilt Medal;
A. H Grobben, smallest adult cat, Silver Gilt Medal;
M. C. Frank, nursing cat with young, Silver Gilt Medal; P. Koorn, id., Silver Medal;
P. de Groot, club-tailed cat, Bronze Medal;
J. de Winter, Siamese cat. Silver Medal;
Dieckmann, white Angora, Bronze Medal; G. F. M. Smith, id.. Silver Medal;
S. Teding van Berkhout, white with black patches Angora, Bronze Medal;
Mej. M. Steenkamp, blue Angora, Silver Medal;
P. I. Halter, blue-grey cat, Bronze Medal; I. H. Nenman, id., Silver Medal;
M. Montijn, white cat, Silver Medal; C. J. Nienwenhoven, id., Bronze Medal;
J. Davidson, black cat, Silver Medal; M. Montijn, id., Bronze Medal; mej. I. A. Lohman, id., Bronze Medal;
S. W. B. Hyde, red cat, Bronze Medal ; C. van Vulpen, id., Bronze Medal;
I. Snijders, tricolour cat, Bronze Medal;
W. Houtman, Cyprus [tabby] cat; Bronze Medal;
C. A. A. Dudok de Wit. Transport case. Silver Medal (at the request of the jury);
Geb. T. en L. de Ridder, cat baskets, Bronze Medal

In the division of art products and works of art on cats, the jury comprising Mr J. van Essen, Mr. I. C. Greive Jr. and Mr. J. A. van West, awards to:
L. C. Dudok de Wit, Bronze Medal;
Mrs. Ronner-Knip, 1 gold and 2 Silver Medals,
Ms. Const. Stecker, Silver Medal,
B. in Gempt (deceased) Silver Medal, which medal is awarded to the owner of the painting;
J. Jurcher Bronze Medal, mm. M. Oostendorp Verbrugge Bronze Medal
For illustrated works relating to cats, C. A. A. Dudok do Wit awarded a Silver Medal for the English writer Harrison Weir and a Bronze Medal for the German actor Gustav Micheli.
Finally, A. Graaf van Bijlaudt received a board award for his design, from which the medals were cut.

AUGUST THE STUPID ON THE CAT EXHIBITION. Weekblad Voor Nederland, 18th May, 1890
[A satirical review.]

I have seen a lot in my life, but never a cat exhibition. When I heard about the panic that had erupted following this honourable attempt to improve the cat species in the Netherlands, I decided that regardless of whether the circus caught fire or there was a children's performance, where my presence is otherwise indispensable, I had to go to the cat show!

I have been there, and I must say [. . .] Not even a decent stud book of cats is kept – or at least it was not there - and how can you improve a variety if you are not a little careful with the choice of ancestors, especially with animals as indifferent as cats in this respect. As for the cats?! ... When I visited there among the crowd of 50 cents visitors - because of course I went late - and when I saw several pale cheeks covered by an artificial rose, and saw many a youthful old man looking at them with unnatural flaming glances, then I could not suppress the thought that . . . [There are rambling paragraphs about farmers scrutinising livestock pedigrees, but humans breed will-nilly] I politely recommend my reflections on the cat show to the consideration of our social reformers, who will be able to devise measures of control here as well as against laziness, unwillingness, etc.

To return to the exhibition itself, I must say it didn’t really satisfy me. We used to have a clown in the circus with a range of cats, much like the ranges of porcelain dogs in the shops, from small to large. This clown of ours had such a range of live cats and kittens sitting in front of a screen while their tails were wedged in clamps behind it. He made very nice pieces of music, by squeezing those clamps so that the animals meowed in pain. I had expected such entertainment here too - because the public went along with it, thinking that the animals did it for fun - but there was nothing entertaining here.

The most entertaining things were the Egyptian mummy cat,; but I must admit that if I had been told that they were Egyptian men rather than cats, I would have believed it too, because I know how much a man can change in 4,000 years. And the worst thing was the “heaviest tomcat,” a degenerate son of his warlike generation. I was pleased to note that the fair sex paid him as little attention as a determined old suitor! If there had been no music by Mr. Coenen, it would have been silent as a deaf-mute institute, for the cats said a hushed "meow" in all languages. People bored them, it could be seen in the poor animals. Yet they were sometimes industrious enough and threw sawdust through the bars with a foreleg so that the people walked away with a dirty face.

A STRANGE CAT. De Grondwet, 27th May, 1890
The cleverest cat of late will not appear at the cat show in Amsterdam because she recently died in Putnam, Connecticut. The animal had seven legs and two tails and was actually one cat at the front and two cats at the back. That strange deformity enabled her to perform extraordinary feats: she could turn a corner without turning round, and she walked upwards between two adjacent perpendicular walls as easily as she walked on the flat ground. Her favourite "sport" was to climb up to the roof against a zinc gutter. She was interred in a triangular box amidst much interest from the villagers.

[AMSTERDAM CAT SHOW] Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore), 2nd June 1890
A cat-show, advertised to be universal, will be opened at Amsterdam this month, and feline specimens are being forwarded to it from all parts of Europe. It is possible that Paris will be largely represented at the show, for there are plenty of cat fanciers here besides Louise Michel. There are ladies, old and young, who are as fond of their cats as was Cardinal Richelieu, with this difference, that they keep their beasts until they die from accident or old age, whereas the famous Cardinal liked kittens only. When his became staid, and ceased their gambols, they were made into pies - at least, so history hints. Money is made in Paris by trading in cats. They are to be bought like pigeons, fowls or guinea pigs. A hundred francs is considered a fair price for a thoroughbred Angora kitten.

ABOUT CATS AND THE CAT SPORT [CAT FANCY], By G. de Woogt, Eigen Haard (Our Fireside], 26 March, 1898 (about the 1890 show)
Many will laugh at the word cat sport! But a lot of novelties were at first laughed at, when people in the land of dikes and canals started to take part in them. Unquestionably, our honoured great-grandfathers would have broken their long pipes out of shock if they heard that people were paying prices for dogs that could rent a decent mansion; that large sums were offered for dogs that were hardly born, and that we Dutchmen of later times, in the field of dog sports [dog fancy], an unprecedented kind of hobby for those old gentlemen, can now compete with England. And the cat sport [cat fancy] will go the way.

In 1871, “The Anímal World” wrote a major article in its December issue to describe the folly of a cat show to be held that month at the Crystal Palace, London. "The seriousness of our readers will be shocked at reading this report," it read. The same magazine had somewhat changed its mind a few years later, for in 1873 it wrote in its June issue "The Cat Exhibitions are very helpful for improving the usually sad fate of the cats, to study her care and nursing more closely and to make a better kind of pets, as well as to beautify them. They are now gradually losing their bad reputation."

However, not only England has started having cat shows. Paris holds such exhibitions annually, and they rarely have fewer than 400 entries.

The cat fancy is currently only in England. There is a very thriving and large club "The National Cat Club", of which Mrs. Stennard-Robinson, known to dog lovers, is a secretary and supported by many renowned fanciers. For example, gentlemen Sam and Sidney Woodiwiss-Gresham who are also known in this country, (one of the judges of the upcoming dog show in Amsterdam) and others, are members of it. The former gentleman also shows a very nice prize winner, called ZENOPHON, already a champion, who has won numerous honours and special prizes and valuable cups. For in the land of animal breeders par excellence, it has been very sensibly understood that through beautification and judicious breeding of the cat species, a cat fancy can exist just like any other sport and one is very soon categorizing the breeds, determining breed characteristics and organizing exhibitions in order to stimulate the hobby by winning prizes, etc.

There are sometimes very curious experiments with cats, especially in terms of colour variations, and since the house cat is the second most popular pet after to the dog, the widespread antipathy that many, especially dog lovers, have against the Felidae family, must give way before 'Dutch seriousness' is also shocked by cat fancying. There are beautiful cats, large, small, dark, light, spotted, brindle [tabby], lively, comical, sociable, cheerful, musical and false cats; Nor are "tomcats" unknown, especially with joyful adolescence. One could add to this cat-calls, cat's eyes (a mineral), cat bears (red panda), catfish and the cat-of-nine-tails (of the navy), while many have, unknowingly, become better acquainted with it as a surrogate for the hare, more commonly known by the popular name "roof hare."

Behold in the kitchens,
There are rabbits on the spit;
But did they say meow?
You certainly don’t know it.

“In mancher Küche schauet
Der Hase vom dein Spiess;
Doch ob er hat miauet,
Das weiss man nicht gewiss!”

But none of those varieties are officially recognized by the English cat fancy.

However, as with dogs, certain breed types and characteristics have been identified. In addition to classes for the largest, the heaviest, etc., the following entries were made at the Amsterdam Cat Exhibition of 1890, where approximately 70 exhibitors, mainly from the city itself, exhibited. East Indian, East Indian short-tailed, Lop-eared cats from China, Isle of Man club-tailed cats, Siamese cats and other long-haired and short-haired cats, mainly divided by colour, for example the blue Angora cat or Carthusian, the black Angora etc.

Let us now look over the Channel, namely at the classification of cat varieties at the last great Cat Show of the 'National Cat Club'. There they divided longhairs into: 1. white, 2. black, 3. blue, 4. smoke (smoke), 5. Chinchilla, 6. orange or cream, 7. turtle (tortoiseshell), 8. silver brindle (silver tabby ), 9. brindle (tabby) or grey brindle, 10. other brindle. The shorthairs were arranged in 8 colour types and the exotic ones mentioned were Siamese, Russian, and Manx (from the Isle of Man). It can thus be seen that the Committee in Amsterdam came very close to the English official classification in 1890.

The preferred varieties include the Angora cats, but mistakenly called Angola cats, the Persian, Chinese and Spanish, as well as the Chartreuse or blue. The Angora is large and has thick, silky hair and a heavily plumed tail. Usually it is completely white, but light yellow or olive-coloured is also permitted. The Persian is grey-blue, with very soft, shiny hair. The tail is very long and covered with hair up to six English inches long. This variety also has a mane. The colour is also sometimes white. The Chinese cat (not considered a cat by some Zoologists) has drooping ears, is above the normal size and has a beautiful coat. The Spanish or tortoiseshell is white, black or sometimes reddish- brown and is distinguished by its elegant shapes. The chartreuse or blue is slate coloured and has dense, long hair on the tail and neck. It is also sometimes called maltese. The Manx cat stands high on the paws and has a somewhat restless appearance. The tail is missing, that is to say there is a kind of knot in its place.

I have just used the word tabby and this will probably be heard more often here when the cat fancy enters the country across the herring pond. Tabby means the same as striped or brindle, but the so-called bicolor or two-colored cats should not be called tabbies, it would have been clearer if the name “brindle” of striped had been chosen for the brindle colour. The French word “tabis” denotes a kind of rough silk and “tabby” is called “tachete” or “mouchete” in that language, although tabby cats are not spotted, but striped. Tabby, however, was written down in 1662 in connection with cats.

As a delicacy and welcome change from the ordinary "chicken with pears and tenderloin", the meat of wild cats is recommended, which will however be prohibited at the Persian court, since the Shah is known as a great cat lover and always has at least fifty at a time. He has separate caretakers for this, and when he travels, they each take a cat on horseback. There is probably no question of cat fur at that court either, but in other regions of the world, including Holstein, Pomerania, Bavaria and Switzerland and as far as Holland (according to Broekhaus, namely, “real Russian fur” is made from tame cats. As a curiosity I can mention that in an otherwise very accurate and seriously written book, entitled "Cats" by Dr. E. Halo, oysters and asparagus are recommended as foods for cats, and I have no doubt that the prices of cat fur or “real Russian fur” would increase significantly if that diet is followed.

When speaking or writing about cats, it would be unforgivable to forget Mrs. Ronner-Knip. She is the Rosa Bonheur for the cats. Born in Amsterdam in 1821, where her father and grandfather already practiced painting, she was forced early on to select her own motifs in the wild for her brush, as her father turned blind when she was eleven years old. At first it was planned that Henriette would mainly focus on portrait painting, but after the success of her first painting, a cat looking at a fly, her special direction was turned towards painting animals. At the age of nineteen she sold her paintings as soon as they were finished. At the age of twenty, Miss Knip married Mr. Tieco Ronner and settled in Brussels, where the fruits of her brush, mostly representing typical Belgian draft dogs with their milk carts, were very popular. However, once a cat entered Mrs. Ronner's house, she became unfaithful to the dogs and only painted cats, which spread her fame further and further, including as far as America. One could call her the cat Landseer, because just as his works were great advertisements for Newfoundland logs, Mrs. Ronner has done much to increase the popularity of the cat. She was showered with medals from art centres all over the civilized world and was endowed with the Order of Leopold in 1887 by His Majesty the King of the Belgians.

ROTTERDAM SHOW Hull Daily Mail, 23rd June 1899
“Pussy” is becoming a very important subject amongst fanciers. There is to be an International Cat Show in Rotterdam in July.


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