A BRIEF HISTORY OF CAT SHOWS - PART 2
2003 - 2015, Sarah Hartwell
This is part 2 of "a brief history". For definitive information, you are advised to visit the official sites of the registries whose history interests you. Shows were considered necessary to the cat fancy, but an "ordeal for most home cats". Despite the many precautions taken by show manager, there was always the danger of infection where numbers of cats were gathered together. To be eligible for exhibition, the cat had to be registered with one of the recognized cat clubs and the owner had to be familiar with that club's standards, classifications and rules: "Select the club that is sponsoring the show you mean to enter, for rules differ". If the cats were well cared for, special conditioning was not necessary, but a neglected cat would have to be conditioned and groomed or would be rejected when it arrived.
THE ROLE OF THE CAT SHOW VET
There were no veterinary surgeons at the 1871 Crystal Palace cat show. The 1875 Birmingham show also had no attending Veterinary Surgeons. During those days, cats might be exhibited on velvet cushions, only to return home and succumb to “show fever” or distemper. This could result in accusations that Mrs So-and-so knowingly entered a sick cat into a show. Hence in 1888 the National Cat Club introduced new rules, which included the desirability of having a trained veterinary surgeon on the premises.
John Jennings, in his book “Domestic and Fancy Cats” (1893), described how cats were penned at these early shows: “To pen the exhibits, one of the committee should check off the entry in a catalogue reserved for the purpose, and duly filed afterwards, while another armed with a pair of leather gloves, removes from its travelling box or basket the cat, penning or bolting the door for safety.” He went on to comment on the health of the exhibits,“No cats or kittens suffering apparently from disease should be allowed to occupy any pen; the safety of exhibitors stock demands that such should immediately be sent home. A local veterinary will often save the committee much trouble.”
In those days, many cats arrived unaccompanied at shows, often delivered by train and nailed into wooden crates addressed to the show manager. By the time they arrived, they were often distressed, definitely disoriented and surrounded by strangers – hence the need for leather gloves when handling them. Because of the time it took to transport cats to major shows, many shows were two-day events with some cats arriving up until 9pm on the first day, ready for judging on the second day. It was up to the cat show/club committee to feed the penned cats. For those exhibitors with local accommodation, cats could be taken home at the end of the first day of judging upon payment of a £1.00 deposit to reserve their place on the second day of judging. They had to return by 10 a.m. and would be re-examined by the vet.
In 1902, the Midland Cat Club’s rules stated: “At all shows a Veterinary Inspector, approved by the committee must examine each exhibit before it is caged, and no cat shall be qualified to compete which at that time or during the show, exhibits any form of contagious or infectious disease. The Veterinary report to be given in writing before the end of the close of show.” The inspector at the 1902 Midland Cat Club show was Mr A Green and he received two free tickets to the show - perhaps not such a bad deal considering that shows were attended by mostly by the upper class of society in those days. It would be 70 years before show organized realized they could not rely on the goodwill of vets and should actually pay them!
At the early shows, there was very little done to disinfect those people who were handling cats, hence disease was easily spread from cat to cat. “Sanitas” disinfectant (popular at that time) was provided by some show committees, but “show fever” (a term covering both enteritis and cat flu) was a major problem – cats might go to a show healthy, but die of show fever after returning home. Some shows used specialist companies to disinfect the venues with “Bondrant” (another favourite of its time) before, during and after the show, though the spraying of disinfectants around penned cats might have caused problems of its own. In the late 1920s, some show adverts included the fact that Bondrant disinfectant would be used; reassuring cautious exhibitors that measures were being taken to prevent the spread of show fever.
There were very few feline specialist veterinary surgeons in the early twentieth century. Those whose names got a mention were Mr Ward, Mr Salvo, Mr Freeman, Mr James and Mr Wilson. As they were not being paid, some vets used shows as an opportunity to promote powders and remedies for cats. Unlike modern shows where white coats are order of the day, the vets (like the judges and owners) would be dressed in their formal clothes.
The cat fancy declined during the First World War, but by the 1920s was on the rise again. By 1922 the National Cat Club ruled that name of the attending Veterinary Surgeon must appear in catalogue, hence historians know that “Prime and Sons” were in attendance at the National Cat Club Show during the 1920s. By the 1930’s vets were equipped with a bowl of water and two towels, one of which was soaked in disinfectant. The tables used by the vets and by the judges were covered in “American Cloth”; a waterproof hygienic fabric newly imported from America. We get an idea of the hours the vet had to be available from a 1932 Southern Counties Cat Club catalogue of 1932. On the night before the show the vet was in attendance 6 pm to 6:30pm; one hour for dinner then 7:30pm to 9pm. These times would probably have been arranged around railway timetables. On the next day his hours were 8a.m. to 10a.m., exhibits not being accepted after 10a.m..
Cat shows were interrupted by the Second World War and when they resumed they became one-day events due to cost issues. A rule was introduced to prevent cats being sent unaccompanied by train. While this reduced the stress to some of the exhibits, cats were still becoming ill, and even dying, due to diseases contracted at shows.
Kathleen Yorke gave this advice in 1952: There are certain precautions you should take before going to a show. See your kit is not infested with worms. Let it lead a healthy, free life and always keep the mouth clean. On returning from the show; wipe the mouth, gums and all around the outside of the mouth with a piece of cotton wool dipped in a solution of warm water and a good mouth wash or disinfectant. Your vet. will recommend one for this purpose. Sponge the face and feet and rub over the body with a cloth or comb dipped in the solution. Whisky or brandy in a little milk is much appreciated by some kittens ; it warms up the little. body. I used to rub neat whisky or brandy on the paws and around the chest and chin when I returned home after showing. The cats washed themselves and soon got a good amount of the spirit into their tummies. This did a lot of good and helped greatly to prevent a cold and make them sleep. Try this " safety first " idea ; you will be amazed at the cat's liking for this little alcoholic clean up. When you have or have had sick cats, please do not write to anyone who owns them as germs can so easily be carried by letter. Use the telephone until the illness has passed and all the fumigating has been completed. Fumigating after an infectious illness is very necessary. Everything that you do not wish to destroy should be put in the sick room with a Lister paraformaldehyde fumigator. I mention this type as I do not know of others and I have used this method of clearing after illness. The clothes you have worn during nursing the sick cats should also be fumigated. The windows, chimney, doors must be sealed up with adhesive tape or brown paper. Fasten the door after you have lighted up the fumigator, directions for which are enclosed in the box. Different sizes are available for small, medium and large rooms. Makers of this particular fumigator are Johnston and Johnston. For other countries there are sure to be excellent fumigators. Ask your drug store manager. Be sure to put into this room for fumigation all things you used at the last show : travelling boxes, curtains, cushions, any decorations or ribbons - in fact, everything used there and at home immediately preceding and during the illness.
By the 1960s, vets wore overalls instead of Sunday best, and as many as 12 vets might be needed in order to do a thorough check at the largest shows – and they were not yet being paid for their efforts. Some exhibitors wanted to drop “vetting in” due to the delays it caused. In the 1970s, the idea of paying invited vets took hold; pioneered in 1976 by the Wessex Cat Club. Other changes included spray disinfectants and paper towels to clean the Formica-topped tables instead of water and disinfectant-soaked towels. At a time when ringworm was rife, cats would be taken to a darkened room to be checked under a Woods Lamp (UV lamp). Exhibitors had to produce vaccination certificates to prove their cats had been vaccinated against enteritis and cat flu; making “show fever” a thing of the past. By the end of the 1990s, the introduction of “Pet Passports” and microchips meant that cats from Europe could be exhibited in Britain and British cats could travel to European shows.
SENDING A CAT OFF TO A SHOW
A good cat which was shown regularly might win £20 a year for 5 or 6 years. It was considered to be in its prime at the age of 5 or 6 years, after which it was thought its spine would begin to drop and it would die between the age of 8 or 9 years old. Exhibiting cats was a paying hobby, breeding from Champion cats could also be lucrative. Though the cats were considered valuable, the way in which they were packed off to shows would horrify the modern exhibitor.
Early British cat shows were two-day events, rather than the one-day shows held nowadays. Many owners did not trouble to attend in person, but sent their cats off by train and hoped the cats would arrive safely, be fed on arrival and be sent back without mishap after the show. Such an attitude clearly demonstrates that the emphasis was on winning, not on welfare!
The more fortunate cats were put on the train in wicker cat baskets or hampers draught-proofed with brown paper wrapped around it. Padlocking the container was considered wise; the key would be posted to the Secretary of the club holding the show. If the basket went astray or was delayed, the cat spent several uncomfortable days trapped in its container until it was found. No doubt some cats died before being found and released.
Not all owners had cat baskets. The cat might be sent to the show in a wooden crate, which was nailed down, or a margarine basket, which was strapped shut. These containers were cramped, there was no provision for food or toilet facilities and the journeys were sometimes extremely long. If the journey involved changing training, the cat might also have to endure sitting on a station platform for several hours. Unaccompanied cats could be insured with the railways for threepence in the pound. Owners would spend threepence on insurance, in the hope that it ensured better treatment for their cats in transit, whatever the cat's actual worth.
Some cats had the bad habit (born of parasites) of scratching, particularly at their neck ruffs. To avoid the cat arriving with its fur ruined, owners might use wash leather to tie the cat's hind legs tied together. Some owners sent their cats to shows in sacks tied around the neck so that only the cat's head protruded. After having endured such journeys, it is surprising that cats were in any condition to be exhibited.
Some cats never arrived at the show, having escaped or been lost in transit, perhaps loaded onto the wrong train. Some reached the show but went missing on the equally fraught journey home. Some owners got the wrong cats back. One exhibitor sent a female cat to a show and failed to notice that the cat returned to her was a male. She put the male in with her cattery, only discovering the error when her other females produced kittens a few months later. She had noticed that the cat returned to her was heavier than when she had sent it, but had attributed this to it being well-fed at the show. Perhaps she had also lacked a sense of smell since tomcats have a very distinctive odour, even to humans.
Experts suggested that cats should not be fed before their journey to avoid them soiling themselves while travelling. At a two-day show there was "hope and trust" that the cats would be fed when penned. Some criticism was voiced about Show Officials feeding the cats milk instead of water, resulting in "accidents" (diarrhoea) on the day of the show or on the return journey.
During her lifetime, Frances Simpson was Honorary Secretary of most of the early clubs, including the Blue Persian Society and the National Cat Club. Sometimes she served on four committees at once. In her role as Secretary, she was responsible for receiving the cats when they arrived at the show, unpacking them, caring for them during the show (shows were mainly 2 day events) and returning the cats - and any awards they had won - to their owners after the show. This gave her plenty of experience of the lack of care some owners put into transporting their cats, something she wrote on at length in "The Book of the Cat". Some were nailed into wooden boxes for transportation, unaccompanied, by train and she wrote of cats which arrived dead or dying at the venue. Those that survived the journey and the rigours of the show were packed up and returned in the same way. Some exhibitors failed to enclose return labels with their cats (if the cat and the class it was entered for were properly marked on the outward label, the owner could usually be traced through the show schedule). Some arrived in padlocked containers, but without a key (it was supposed to be sent on ahead in an envelope).
In 1927, there were complaints about the packing of large cats in tiny boxes to travel to shows with the result that cats had arrived suffocated or nearly so. Show organisers warned that cases of "cruel packing" would be noted by Show officials. They would advise the Governing Council (GCCF) who would warn the novice or punish the old hand (as applicable) and possibly ban some individuals from entering their cats at GCCF shows. Perpetrators of cruel packing would be warned that the Inspectors of the RSPCA would take action against them. The Hon Secretary at one show condemned the owners who sent a big white longhaired male in an unsuitably small carrier ("would have to sit hunched up all the way to its destination, unable to move an inch, and would get home thoroughly cramped"). Another exhibitor was seen to stuff a huge cat into a basket that was only large enough for a three month old kitten. She called for the SPCA to be involved.
During the show, it was the Secretary's job to feed the cats and keep the cats and their cages sanitary, not just for the cats' comfort, but in an attempt to prevent "Show Fever" which not even the pills and potions of the day could prevent, despite their "guaranteed" efficaciousness. Many of the disinfectants then in use were highly toxic to cats. After the show, the Secretary had to pack the cat, along with any prize cards and awards it had one (should the cards be damaged or destroyed on the homeward journey, the Secretary had to replace them). Finally, she would have had to arrange transport for each unaccompanied cat, an amazing feat of logistics (and one which sometimes resulted in the wrong cat being sent).
Mindful of the hard work of the show Secretary, Simpson often reminded exhibitors that a note of thanks for the safe return of their cat would be appreciated! She replied personally to all the thank you notes she received. In one reply, she mentioned to the exhibitor that she had personally packed and despatched 150 cats after the show in question, and asked the exhibitor to thank her publicly in Fur & Feather. This exhibitor showed Simpson’s note to another exhibitor, who straightaway wrote to Fur & Feather, complaining of Miss Simpson’s self-seeking ways, especially as there were only 118 exhibits at that show!
Having witnessed the horrors and fatalities caused by unsuitable travelling crates, Frances Simpson, in her 1903 "The Book of the Cat" , tried to educate cat lovers in the proper way to transport cats. She wrote "How heterogeneous is the collection of hampers, boxes, baskets - I had almost added bundles - one sees brought in by the officials during the receiving hours before a big show! Every variety of package, very many of which are exactly what they out not to be. Some unnecessarily elaborate, polished wooden cases with brass fittings - handsome and durable no doubt, but far too cumbersome, and by their very weight inflicting much jar on the occupant when moved about; while others are a disgrace to anyone pretending to care about a cat or even to know what a cat is, many deserving to be straightway brought under the notice of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I have seen big heavy cats jammed into margarine hampers, a thin wicker receptacle whose sides slope inwards like a flower-pot, where the animal must have suffered agonies of cramp in a veritable chamber of "little ease." Others are sent weary distances in shallow, rough grocery boxes with a few holes bored for ventilation, subject to be thrown about in transit, first on one side then on the other, the lid perchance nailed on, giving thereby much extra trouble to the penning officials. Little wonder if the cat arrives bruised, shaken, frightened nearly to death, and very probably wild and savage."
Unlucky cats - no doubt the bundles referred to by Simpson - might be transported fastened up to their neck in a sack. Simpson went on to say that such unsuitable carrier were due to lack of thought, lack of common sense and sometimes simple lack of care for the cats being transported. Cats on longer journeys e.g. to America by ship, sometimes did not survive the voyage and if they did, many did not survive long after arrival. Simpson illustrated two "excellent travelling baskets, which fulfil pretty nearly all requirements for cats travelling singly."
The first was Spratt's Travelling Basket: a rectangular hamper with top handle, leather closure straps and an inner skeleton lid. Apart from the skeleton lid, this is still a familiar type of carrier and is probably an adaptation of a pigeon fancier's basket. Simpson wrote "[It is] made by Messrs Spratt and has an inner skeleton lid, which is much to be recommended when sending a vicious or very timid cat that is likely to make a bolt on the basket being opened." The second basket was a conical-lidded basket ("bee-hive shaped") designed by Mrs Paul Hardy, of Chobham specifically for carrying cats. It was made of strong white wicker, the lid fastened with a rim of about two inches deep over the body of the basket, apertures in the rim allowed the wicker loops of the fastenings to project and when the cane stick was thrust through the fastenings the basket was absolutely secure, or a Simpson wrote "not a paw can get out".
Simpson wrote "This beehive shape has several advantages. The cat can stand up and stretch itself at ease, when tired of lying down the handle being at the apex, it is carried - even by porters - without the cat being tilted off its legs; whilst the dome top prevents any other package being piled upon it - a disadvantage the flat-typed hamper always has. I line my baskets outside with brown paper or oil baize up to the rim, and inside with curtain serge, leaving the lid free for ventilation. Then with plenty of hay at the bottom of the basket, the cat will travel from one end of England to the other in comfort and safety, with no danger of taking cold even if left about draughty platforms or in parcel offices. This basket is made by Messrs Bull of Guildford, at a very moderate cost, and lasts for years."
In the early days of the cat fancy, there were classes for pairs of cats ("brace") and also mother and kitten classes where a mother with her pretty litter of young kittens was displayed (an idea horrific to modern cat fanciers and one which resulted in the death of considerable numbers of kittens due to infection or injury). Simpson continued:
"These baskets are, of course, intended for one cat only, or a pair of kittens. A really safe and capable travelling arrangement for a litter with the mother has yet, I think, to be devised. I have seen none I think good. The double compartment hamper I much dislike. The handles are perforce at each end, necessitating two carriers - who never do it - so the hamper is dragged by the porter or official with one end tilted (the other cat being nearly upside down), is leant up against other luggage, or dropped flat with a bang. With young kittens inside this leads to fatalities."
Many exhibitors and breeders, it seems, overlooked the obvious - the need for a good label which would not become detached from the basket. Frances Simpson recommended a first-rate label available from the Aerefair Engineering Works, near Ruabon. "It is a stout linen label, printed 'Valuable Live Cat' in big block letters; below is 'Urgent' in red - a good idea, red being more likely to attract the casual eye of the railway official. Spaces are left below for line of travel, via, etc, and date and time of despatch. It is reversible, so the sender can fill up with the return address if necessary. I always prefer to fasten the label down at both ends, flat to the basket: it is less likely to be torn away than when left hanging loose from one eyelet. It is by due attention to the details that cat fanciers can to some extent mitigate the dangers and risks that must necessarily attend the transit of live stock by rail."
The distances in the USA were (and still are) even longer than in the UK. Travelling could take several days and accounts suggest they fared even worse than cats transported by train in Britain. According to an American cat writer in 1936: "Cats should not be fed before a journey, even a short one by automobile. At shows there is a feeding committee, and chopped beef is taken to the cages at regular times, but you may take your own food if you prefer. It is wise to stay by your pet during the show, in order to give it confidence and guard it against any possible harm at the hands of some ill-advised visitor. There are special carriers and crates to be had if one is sending a cat to a distant show, but if you ship a cat by railway you risk a tragedy. Once a cat and two kittens were sent from California to New York, and when the crate was opened the kittens were dead and the mother so near death that she had to be killed. Somehow the trainmen had overlooked the instructions about food and water. Even on short journeys accidents may happen. I knew of a Persian kitten whose cage was crushed, with the kitten inside, by the fall of express packages insecurely piled above."
EXHIBITING, CHEATING, "SHOW FEVER" AND SABOTAGE
Although people enjoyed exhibiting their cats, it was risky - lacking modern veterinary care or vaccines, many cats succumbed to disease. Cats were not "vetted in" as they are today (unwell cats not being allowed to compete). One ailment, mentioned in cat breeding books right up into the 1950s, was named "show fever". Show fever could wipe out entire catteries within a day or two of a cat returning from a show. It was probably distemper (Feline Infectious Enteritis), but many owners thought their cats had been poisoned by jealous competitors or given tainted food by a show official. Until the October 1892 Crystal Palace show, no veterinary surgeon had previously been appointed to inspect the cats when they arrived (known today as "vetting in"). On that occasion Mr Harold Leeney rejected some twenty exhibits suffering from well-defined infectious disease. Previously many of the exhibited cats, especially kittens, went home to die.
Frances Simpson, in her 1903 work "The Book of the Cat", contained a first hand account from breeder of Blue Persians, Mrs Hardy who had to fight her way against disease and death after her cats became infected at a cat show. Simpson wrote "Her own account is so vivid that I quote it, so that fanciers in a like evil condition may fight for the lives of their pets to the last." And went on to reproduce Mrs Hardy's account: "I was singularly free from illness of any kind amongst them, and I lived for some time happy in the belief that the Persian puss was in no wise different from her short-coated sister in the robust possession of nine lives; so I added cat unto cat, and bred for show; when swiftly Nemesis overtook me. I showed five full-grown cats at the first Westminster show, and twenty-four hours after the show was over my best blue queen, a young beauty whose proud owner I had been for one brief month, died of acute pneumonia. A few days later influenza showed itself amongst the others and all four were down with it. I pulled them through, all but one young kittens of four months, in whom acute laryngitis developed, and so she had to be put to sleep. 'Wooshoo' was given up by the vet, as he piled so many complications into his system one after the other, developing bronchitis, gastritis, and jaundice on the top of the original complaint. Poor fellow, for twenty-four hours he lay unconscious, but I kept his heart going by does of pure alcohol every two hours, while I fought the disease with hot fomentation, medicated steamings, and other proper remedies." For a month afterwards, Wooshoo had to be hand fed on tempting morsels, including minced oyster, before he began to eat voluntarily.
Petty jealousies among cat breeders has led to cats having bleach poured into their drinking water, hatpins stuck into their bodies or noxious substances sprinkled on their fur. Despite Weir's aims of promoting cat welfare, some breeders were (and still are) so obsessed with prizes that they will poison or otherwise harm other people's cats. Most cats were exhibited in straw-lined pens. Some pens were decorated with silken drapes and the cats had velvet cushions to sit on. Visitors were often kept a few feet away from the cages by ropes so that they couldn't interfere with the exhibits.
Cheating was not uncommon. An ordinary cat could be turned into a Manx if operated on at a young age. Attention had to be paid to see that the absent tail looked natural and that there was no scar as evidence of operative interference. In dog shows, this was known as "faking" and astoundingly it has been found to go in modern times (such as the cosmetic reduction of an otherwise show-quality Chinchilla Persian's over-large ears). Cats of nondescript colours could be dyed to create the then popular Maltese (blue) cats. According to an issue of "Our Cats" magazine in 1900, the blue dye dried almost instantly but did not produce the desired solid effect; it had to be supplemented with dye combed into the fur. The cat’s muzzle would be dyed using a sponge. Within an hour, the owner could have a Maltese cat and if done well, the judges would be none the wiser. Producing a fake tortoiseshell cat took around three hours, because dyes had to be applied in patches using a comb. Some of the dyes were no doubt toxic.
A CAT WITH A FALSE PEDIGREE. From time immemorial horses, cattle and sheep have been sold under false pedigrees. But the latest deception in the pedigree line was at a cat show in England. A man exhibited a cat, for which he asked the moderate sum of six hundred dollars. It was represented to be of the variety known as “tortoise-shell;” but on close inspection it was apparent that the coloring was artificial, gamboge having been daubed on so un-artistically that the judges affixed this remark to their award: “Very badly dyed.” - Mattoon Gazette (USA), 25th February 1876
As well as longhair and shorthair classes divided up into colour categories, there were many extra classes at those late 1800s/early 1900s shows. In "litter classes", young kittens were dispatched to shows along with their mother. Many kittens did not survive the experience. There were classes for pairs of kittens, for the heaviest cat, and even for deportment. Cats were paraded around the show ring on ribbons and awarded extra points if they and their owner looked attractive together and the cat appeared happy to walk on its lead. There were often special classes at shows for stud cats; they were not judged themselves but their progeny was. This allowed people to see whether an excellent stud passed on his characteristics to kittens.
In Simpson's day, grievances were often aired publicly in the pages of Fur & Feather (something which would attract libel cases today). Simpson herself became embroiled in a long correspondence when she did not place a Tabby Persian, which had previously beaten every other cat in competition, and which later went on to become Best Exhibit. She was publicly accused of misappropriating money donated for a Special at a one of the big shows ("Specials" were passed onto the winner in the form in which they were donated) when instead of passing on the 15 shillings cash, she converted the donation into a 9 shillings and sixpence button-hook. Since it was normal for the winner to write a letter of thanks to the donor of the Special, the matter was soon found out. The button-hook row went on in public and private for months. The Committee of the Blue Persian Society (of which she was Secretary) backed her and held private meetings which excluded those members who opposed Simpson's behaviour. The excluded members resigned and there followed a very public flurry of complaints about Simpson's behaviour, both past and present and even some of those she had helped in the past turned on her. The button-hook row was overtaken by more serious matters - a stud cat had savagely mauled a valuable queen - into which Simpson was dragged to give an expert opionion. In Fur & Feather she had supported the idea, unthinkable by today's standards, that it was acceptable to leave two calling queens unsupervised with a stud.
Another issue was that of co-ownership, or rather when the co-ownership agreement broke down: PROPERTY RIGHTS IN CATS - From The Richmond Dispatch. (Reprinted in The New York Times, September 18, 1898): "Not long ago one of the English Chancery Courts had before it a case which involved a very unusual state of facts. The plaintiff, a maiden lady, claimed that she was entitled to a half share in a blue Persian cat, which rejoiced in the pompous name of Roy. She asked that an account of the partnership be taken, and that other complications regarding the cat be straightened out. The defendant, as might have been expected, was likewise a Spinster, and it appears from the evidence that during the kittenhood of the cat she gave the animal into the Charge of the plaintiff, who bestowed upon it all those tender attentions which the pets of unmarried ladies so frequently enjoy. Perhaps all would have gone as merrily as a wedding bell (despite the celibacy of the litigants) had not the much-fondled Roy developed some extraordinary characteristics. In short, the cat astonished its most ardent admirers by developing an amazing capacity for prize-winning. At all the cat shows the whiskered quadruped became a prime favorite, and many trophies fell to its lot, or, more strictly speaking, to the lot of its owners. It was entered at the Crystal Palace show in the joint names of the plaintiff and defendant under the rule requiring the names of the animals' owners to be registered. But after the development of the winning streak the plaintiff denied that the defendant had any property in the cat. The Lord Chancellor, after he had duly scratched his legal pate in consideration of the much-vexed question, decided that a partnership existed between the litigants, and, therefore, he ordered the accounts of the partnership to be taken. He also granted. an injunction restraining the defendant from selling or dealing with Roy in any way prejudicial to the plaintiff’s property in it. The above case might well strike the layman as an absurdity and as belittling the dignity of the Court, but household pets, such as dogs, cats, parrots, monkeys, etc. have so frequently been the subject matter of litigation that a distinct and clearly defined line of decisions concerning them has sprung into existence. The latest encyclopedia on law devotes forty closely printed pages to the subject of “animals,” and cites hundreds of cases which have been decided on questions pertaining to the brute creation. Nor are the principles enunciated by any means simple or frivolous." I was able to find the studbook entry for the contested cat, and the quarrelling owners appear to have been Miss Slater and Miss Harris. By 1899 he had been sold to Miss Willoughby and the proceeds from its sale may well have precipitated the argument.
Cat show issues came up in court again when a former prize-winning kitten was disqualified from a show over accusations that her tail fur had been trimmed. The owner took the judge to court over the allegation, as The Charlotte News (Charlotte, North Carolina), duly reported on February 9, 1907: WAS IT SINGED OR WAS IT CUT? For Three Days Judge and Jury and Many Learned Counsel Wrestled With The Question, "Was it Singed, Or Was it Cut?" Caudal Appendage Of a Vere de Vere Puss Made the Subject a Suit for Libel Jury Decides it was Singed and the Cat Expert Who Declared it Had Been Trimmed Has to Pay $250. (From a Staff Correspondent.) London, England, February 8.
Meanwhile Mr. Mason had published an account of the show in his journal in which he stated that the cat had been disqualified "for alleged trimming of the tail" and that the committee " after listening to Mrs. Wilson's explanation decided to uphold Mr. Mason's disqualifications." This, it was contended, was an unfair report, conveying a '"libellous insinuation" against Evelyn and her mistress. The matter was brought before the National Cat Club subsequently and that august body exonerated Mrs. Wilson from the charge of being cat trimmer, and Evelyn of Arundale from the charge of having a trimmed tail. Evelyn was exhibited later at a cat show in Manchester, where she was judged by a woman and awarded two first and two second prizes. Mr. Mason was there judging another class, but he paid some attention to Evelyn all the same. "Can't you see her tail has been cut?" he said to Evelyn's judge. He was shown the certificate of the eminent cat doctor, but put it aside with disdain, declaring that he cared neither. Then Mrs. Wilson decided that Mason's slandrous aspersions on her cat was to have Evelyn of Arundale's tail solemnly adjudged upon by a court of law. It was a great trial. Evelyn herself was there with her maligned tail and for the purpose of comparison the tail of a defunct cat was introduced among the exhibits. Lady Decies was among the witnesses who appeared on behalf of Mr. Mason. She owns more prize cats than any other woman in England, among them being a Chinchilla for which she has refused ?$5000. "Has that cat been beaten?" she was asked. "Yes, once; and that was after it had been rolling on some gravel and had got some yellow on its coat." "And who was the owner of the successful cat? Was it not Mrs. Wilson?" "Really, I have forgotten," replied her ladyship. Which left it to the jury to decide whether or no her evidence was biased. Now that the jury has recorded its verdict, folk will have to be careful what they say of Evelyn of Arundale's tail.
This example of apparent English madness went global: ”ALIEN'S" LETTER FROM ENGLAND. Otago Witness, 20 March 1907: The lady owner of a Chinchilla cat, whose proud name is ' Evelyn of Arundale,' was awarded £50 damages for a libel on the said Evelyn's tail!" One reading this involuntarily hopes that "Evelyn's" owner will give a little of her solatium to the relief of those who cannot afford Chinchilla either dead or alive.
CAT’S TAIL IN COURT. El Paso Herald, April 29, 1907: From the London Daily Mail - Cat’s Tail in Court. The question whether the tip of a Chinchilla. Persian cat’s tail was singed or cut again occupied Mr. Justice Kennedy and a special jury all day yesterday. Mrs. Isabel Wilson, owner of the cat, states that the tail was singed by accident when the animal was romping before the fire. She sues to recover damages for alleged slander and libel from Mr. T. B. Mason, of Bradford, a judge at cat shows. The allegations are in connection with the Southern Counties Cat club show at Bath, where Mr. Mason disqualified the cat and the Northern Counties Cat club show at Manchester last January. The cat which caused the trouble is known as “Evelyn of Arundale,” and the indorsement was attached to her, “Disqualified - cut tail.”.
In 1934, British cat fans called for a French innovation to be introduced into British shows. French cat shows held classes for "ratting cats" from shops and stores. The cats were judged entirely on condition, not on looks, and many people wanted to see similar classes in British shows. A 1934 British cat show was therefore heralded as the first featuring special classes for non-pedigree domestic cats. The sole standard was to be good condition and the show was promoted by "The People" newspaper. Sixty domestic cats were entered.
THE CAT FANCY
In 1887, the National Cat Club was founded in London. Its first President was Harrison Weir, who later resigned and was succeeded by the artist Louis Wain. In 1898, an aristocratic breeder, Lady Marcus Beresford, founded a rival organisation called The Cat Club. Its members included some of the most important people in the land. However, The Cat Club foundered in 1903 and replaced by yet another group, the Cat Fanciers Association. In 1910 these two Cat Clubs combined to become the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The GCCF is Britain's largest cat fancy and remained its only cat fancy for many years. There are also numerous smaller cat clubs, some being regional and some being breed-specific, which operate cat shows but which are affiliated to the GCCF.
As long ago as the 1890s, cat shows were also held at the Jardin d’Acclimation in Paris. However, it was not until after World War II that the Cat Club de Paris was formed.. A number of other clubs were formed throughout Europe and operated independently. The Cat Club de Paris and many of the principal clubs in other countries united to form the Fedération Internationale Feline d’Europe (FIFe), though the member clubs maintains their own registers. There was great competition between European clubs to attract members. This was exacerbated by the fact that FIFe did not allow exhibitors from "dissident", non-member clubs at its shows and breeding females belonging to dissident club members were not allowed to be sent to FIFe members' stud cats! This is when human politics gets in the way of what is best for cat breeds.
In the 1860s, the USA was the first country to hold private cat shows. Interest in pedigree cats did not really take off until the 1895 show in Madison Square Gardens in 1895. The 1899 show in Chicago led to the founding of the Chicago Cat Club and then the more powerful Beresford Cat Club. In 1906, the American Cat Association became the main registry, becoming the Cat Fanciers' Association Inc in 1908. Unlike FIFe, the Cat Fanciers Association allowed members of America's many independent cat clubs to exhibit at their shows providing the cats were registered with the Cat Fanciers Association (many cats were registered with more than one registry).
Though America acquired their original standards and breeding stock from Britain, American cat registries are more open to the development of new breeds and have a more flexible registration system. Breeds which begin as mutations of an existing breed can be registered as an entirely new breed, unlike the GCCF system where it could only be an "Any Other Colour" of an already recognised breed - not a useful system when the new variety has a physical mutation such as curled ears or curled fur!
Unlike cat clubs in Europe and America, the GCCF was the only body allowed to keep a register of cats in Britain. In 1983, the Cat Association of Britain (CA) was founded. The CA maintains a separate registry from the GCCF and is more closely linked with the FIFe. What with the CA, FIFe and with the American organisation TICA (The International Cat Association) striving to be the dominant international cat fancy, the GCCF was in for some turbulent times. For one thing, the other registries had far simplified breed classifications!
At the time of writing there has been dissent among breeders and GCCF members and calls for a radical overhaul of its archaic registration system, review of breed standards and some breed names, alignment of these with those of other registries and generally dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. In 2002, "Our Cats" (the modern GCCF journal) wrote that this dissent was not a sudden thing, but had been brewing for many years. Rather than being viewed as throwing away tradition, it should be regarded as an exciting opportunity to make long-overdue changes which would see it into the technological age.
In 1906, the question ws raised as to when a kitten became a cat. The Scranton Republican (Pennsylvania) on November 21, 1906 reported that "Cat fanciers In Great Britain, who are growing numerous, are riven by the profound question, “can a kitten become n cat before it Is a year old.” - The Southern Counties Cat club has decided that the period of adolescence ceases at nine months, and [illegible] Its members are going to call cats “cats” and kittens “kittens” in those lines whatever happens. Other clubs differ and the frequent cat shows look likely to continue to no [illegible]."
In modern Britain, all cat shows are one-day events, but in continental Europe and North America two-day shows are also common, partly because of the long travelling distances involved for many exhibitors. (In Europe, particularly, many exhibitors travel to other countries for important shows.) Nowadays, the financial rewards are nominal, most breeders being content to compete for ribbons or cups and for titles such Champion, Grand Champion etc (Premier for a neutered cat). Another major difference is the judging system. With "ring judging" (as seen in America and much of mainland Europe) the cats are taken to the judge. With "pen judging" (seen in Britain), the judge comes to the pens. One effect of this is that cats exhibited under ring-judging systems have their nameboards displayed with them and can have decorated cages - in fact there is often a side-competition for the best decorated pen! With pen-judging, however, the pens must be spartan, there is no decoration of the cages allowed, the blanket and litter tray must be white and there are no name boards, only pen numbers.
CAT BREEDING THROUGH THE DECADES
In "Origin of Species" Charles Darwin had been dismissive of attempts to perpetuated different strains of cats and evidently viewed the hobby of cat breeding as one women and children, with breeds never kept up for long. The public cat shows had given breeders an opportunity to meet and compete and gave them more incentive to breed cats in a controlled way, selecting the best cats from each generation to be the parents of the next generation.
Most breeding cats were housed in outdoor catteries with beds made out of barrels or wooden chests and filled with hay in winter and paper in summer. Most people did not heat the outdoor enclosures in case it made the cats weak and susceptible to illness. Feeding was not an exact science, hence pedigree cats were considered prone to dyspepsia - which would have been due to their diet rather than any weakness in the breed!
Pedigree mothers were not to raise litters larger than four kittens. For larger litters, a foster mother was obtained. If the pedigree females had poor maternal skills, their kittens would be raised by a foster mother. Foster mothers were not hard to find as it was the practice to destroy all-but-one kitten of litters born to household pets. Kittens would be sent on approval to prospective new owners. If the owner didn't like the kitten, it would be sent back. This was an excellent way to spread serious infections through households and catteries.
Early on, the idea of Paternal Impression held sway. It was believed that a female's first mate will affect all of her subsequent litters, regardless of who fathered the later litters. If she was mated to an outstanding stud for her first litter, his characteristics were believed to turn up in later litters sired by other studs. Conversely, if she was mis-mated to a poor quality or moggy male she would always bear poor quality half-breed offspring, tainted by that earlier mating. One Persian female who had "strayed from the path of virtue" apparently had only poor quality kittens from a good sire, "what might be called half-breeds". She was "ruined for life".
The following excerpt from "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine" by George M Gould and Walter L Pyle (1896), illustrates the theory of paternal impression, or "telegony", with the following case: Hon. Henry Scott says: “Dog-breeders know this theory well; and if a pure-bred bitch happens to breed to a dog of another breed, she is of little use for breeding pure-bred puppies afterward. Animals which produce large litters and go a short time pregnant show this throwing back to previous sires far more distinctly than others - I fancy dogs and pigs most of all, and probably horses least. The influence of previous sires may be carried into the second generation or further, as I have a cat now which appears to be half Persian (long hair). His dam has very long hair and every appearance of being a half Persian, whereas neither have really any Persian blood, as far as I know, but the grand-dam (a very smooth-haired cat) had several litters by a half-Persian tom-cat, and all her produce since have showed the influence retained. The Persian tom-cat died many years ago, and was the only one in the district, so, although I cannot be absolutely positive, I think this case is really as stated.”
Another belief was Maternal Impression - the mother's surroundings supposedly influenced the quality of her kittens. If the pregnant cat was housed in close proximity to outstanding examples of her own breed, she would somehow impress their characteristics on the unborn kittens, even if she was mated to a mediocre stud. Conversely, if she was surrounded by moggies, this lack of quality would be impressed onto the kittens even if she had been mated to a top notch stud.
A female would be mated towards the end of her season if male kittens were wanted. And if the stud was fed well, rested and strong before mating, females would predominate in his bride's litter. Before cars were common, the female was often sent to the stud by train and unaccompanied, in similar way to the sending of cats to cat shows. Stud owners were trusted to mate the female with the chosen male and not with another substandard male. Children who asked why the cats were sent away regularly and returned looking perhaps a little smug were told that they cats went away "to learn manners" and would come back "better behaved"!
Some queens were entirely put off by the whole business of being packed off on a train and, quite understandably, lost the urge to mate. If this happened regularly, the stud might be sent to the owner of the female instead. The fee for the stud's services would include one of the kittens from the resulting litter. Again, it was entirely down to trust that the kitten sent to the stud's owner really was one of his progeny.
It was also believed that if the stud did not have a regular supply of visiting females, he would lose his fertility and produce dead sperm. According to A C Jude in "Cats and Kittens" "Long periods of disuse are injurious, as an undue accumulation of semen in the generative passages will result in back pressure, which will adversely affect the spermogenetic capacity of the testes and possibly also interfere with the functional activity of the accessory sexual glands." In some cases, the stud would be mated to non-pedigree females, just to keep him active! Breeders did not realise they were risking his life due to "distemper" and little thought was given to the kittens (though the mothers could, of course, be used to foster more valuable kittens!).
"Cats and All About Them" was an earlier work by Simpson and was published in 1902 and costing two shillings. It contained twenty-four illustrations, including a photograph of Miss Simpson herself with Campyses, her spectacular silver cat and a photograph of Champion Wankee, the one of the early Siamese cats. Interestingly from a breeding history viewpoint, it also contained a number of stud advertisements: the services of Champion Wankee, winner of thirty prizes, cost one guinea; those of Muchacho, a blue Russian (a breed whose existence Simpson debated in her later book) cost 12s. 6d.