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Norwich Bulletin - 2/21/2010

Cats – Chapter Two

It’s time to continue on with our Parade of New Breeds that have come into the cat fancy in the last forty-five years. The 1980’s was big, bringing into existence natural mutations that have become very popular pets with the general public. In 1983, an abandoned barn cat was found by Sandra Hockenedel. She looked perfectly normal, except for her short legs. Sandra named her Blackberry, and Blackberry was pregnant.

She gave birth to more short legged kittens. Sandra contacted a cat geneticist, who happens to live in our State! In fact, Dr. Pflueger’s daughter named the breed Munchkins, after the little people in the Wizard of Oz. An eight year study of the dominant gene, showed the cats to be healthy, normal kitties – and it did not matter if the short legged cat was bred to a long legged domestic cat, or another short legged cat.

The kittens were a mix of long and short legs and all were healthy. There is no lethal gene in the Munchkin. These cuties are accepted in championship in TICA and I have to admit that I have three of the little critters running around my house. They jump, they climb and they do everything a long legged cat can do.

Another natural mutation that was discovered in the 80’s came from a stray cat in Lakewood, California, who strolled into the home of a family and promptly gave birth to kittens that had ears curled back from their heads. The American Curl is a medium sized cat in all ways except for the distinguishing trait of its ears.

We also got two new curly coated cats during this decade. The Selkirk Rex showed its wavy, curly coat in a litter of kittens born in Montana. One of the kittens, Miss DePesto, passed on that curly coat to her own kittens. Unlike the Cornish and Devon Rex, the gene responsible for the Selkirk’s curly coat is dominant.

There are actually short and long haired Selkirks. Called the cat in sheep’s clothing, the short haired version looks like a poodle, while the long haired version looks like a cat wearing dreadlocks. Last week’s picture of my cat Fraggle, showed you what a short haired Selkirk looks like. The other curly coated breed is a strange looking cat called the LaPerm and it basically looks like its name. Only I would tend to say that it is a perm gone wild. It is a much softer coat than it appears – thank goodness!

A hairless cat found in the city of Rostov-on-Don in Russia, became the first Donskoy. The cat, named Varvara, gave birth to a litter of completely hairless kittens. And the Ojos Azules (blue eyes) was discovered in 1984, thanks to a blue eyed cat named Cornflower. This breed is also being studied and pursued by Dr. Pflueger of Enfield, Connecticut.

These blue-eyed cats are neither due to being a pointed cat, or a white cat – these bright blue eyes are a gene that has been found to be dominant. It is quite a thrill to see a completely black cat with bright blue eyes (or a tabby or calico)!

From the German word for fog, comes the Nebelung. A longhaired blue cat, it originated in Texas by breeder Cora Cobb. I happened to do a Nebelung rescue a few years back and the cats were very nice. I am not an expert on this breed by any means, but the cats are quite striking.

Continuing on into the 1980’s, the Pixiebob was bred to look like the wild bobcat. The cat has no wild blood in its making though and besides its bobbed tail, they are the only cat recognized by a cat association that is polydactyl (extra toes). They are accepted for championship by TICA.

The most interesting cat that made its way into the world during this decade though, is the Savannah. Their ancestor is the serval, an exotic looking wildcat. The Savannah has wild looking spots, stripes and markings. These cats are usually very large in size. They will follow their owners around the house, play fetch and walk on a leash. Savannahs like to greet people by head-butting them, though some may just pounce on you.

They love water – they may jump into the shower with you, or just amuse themselves by batting the water out of the bowl until it’s empty. They, like their serval ancestors, are incredible jumpers; from a sitting position they can jump eight feet into the air. They chirp, meow and hiss – and are incredibly chatty. The hiss they use is a throwback to the serval and it sounds more like an angry snake than a cat. At this time they are an accepted breed in TICA an well on their way to championship status.

The 1990’s have a few of what I would call “copycats” to claim. Paul McSorley of Boston began a breeding program of munchkins and sphinx and created a breed that he calls the Minskin. Another breeder crossed a munchkin with a Persian, developing a breed he calls the Napolean. The Serengeti is a cross between a Bengal and an oriental shorthair and the idea was to create a breed with the looks of the African serval but without any wild blood.

And now a breed I have never heard of, nor have I seen. The Khao Manee, which is said to be the one and only true Siamese cat of Thailand and the surrounding areas. The Khao Manee (White Jewel) was the royal cat breed of Old Siam and the penalty for a commoner stealing a Khao Manee was death.

The cats are pure snow white with silver and gold eyes (many are odd eyed). The Indonesian cultures find the Khao Manee to be extremely lucky. None were found outside of Thailand until 1999 when Colleen Freymuth became the first person outside of Thailand to breed them. The earliest mention of this breed is in the Tamra Maew (Cat Book of Poems) written in 1350, which means that this breed had been in Thailand for nearly 650 years before the first two came to the U.S. in 1999. The kittens are very expensive – in England they are said to cost eight to ten thousand dollars!!! That’s way out of my league!

I hope you have enjoyed our breed lesson. I will be doing the same for the dog people later on in the year.

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