Aby-a-Day – 12 Mars: Origin of the species (Photoshop Friday)

The origin of the Singapura breed is not without controversy. While some people say that the breed occurred naturally, on the island nation of Singapore, others believe the breed is a deliberate hybrid. And it creates a bit of a rift in the Singapura community; not unlike, say, mask-wearing, both factions can be rather…attached to their viewpoints.

Where do I land on the subject? I have been following Singapuras since I first learned about the breed in the early 1980’s. I even wrote a letter to Tommy Meadows, the founder of the breed when I was in high school (and which I wish I could find, because I’m sure I have it somewhere), even though I have only recently joined the Singa community, I have a lot of book knowledge about the breed. So, I lean towards the Burmese/Aby hybrid theory.

This is not without a lot of though, so let me explain: First point: Tommy Meadow’s cattery name, USAF, is attached to both Abys and Singas; she worked with both breeds. She also had Burmese (haven’t been able to figure out if she bred them, too). She imported some cats when she moved from Texas to Singapore, and these were listed as Burmese and “brown Abyssinians” on the import manifest.

Second point: Singapore is an island, and, like mosts cats native to islands (Japan, the Isle of Man), the majority of Singapore street cats have some sort of tail deformation. Singas occasionally have tail deformation, but no more so than appear in other breeds (Siamese, for example). Of course, some long tailed Singapore street cats may have been used in breeding programmes, but that’s quite a bit different from an actual native breed (In Japan, you see feral cats that look almost exactly like purebred Japanese Bobtails).

Third point: Singapore was a British possession colonized in the early 1800’s. Given the British interest in exotic cats from foreign lands (Siamese, Burmese, and particularly the Abyssinian, purported to have been brought back from soldiers after the Abyssinian Wars) and the increasing Victorian interest in creating purebred animals and the Fancy, if the Singapura really was a native breed running around Singapore, don’t you think the British would have jumped on them and exported them back to England they way they did with other cat breeds?

At the end of the day, this is just my opinion. I know there is a romance in the “party line,” but honestly, so what if they ARE a Burmese/Aby hybrid? What’s so awful about that? Ocicats are Aby/Siamese/American Shorthairs, and that’s okay. Pointed Persians (Once the Himalayan breed) are Persians bred with Siamese. Burmillas are Chinchilla Persians bred with European Burmese. That’s all okay. You believe the origin story you feel most comfortable with.

All of this backstory has a point: Last week, I got the newest issue of Kattliv, featuring the (European) Burmese. I was struck by how much some of the photos reminded me of Singas, and I got an idea. I took a photo of Jacoby, and a photo of Butters, the cream EuroBurm we met at a show in Groton.

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First, I reduced opacity on Jake and softened some edges.

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Then I did the same with Butters, and erased his eyes.

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Then I superimposed the two layers, and added a Sepia (of course) photo filter. But the eyes still just weren’t quite right.

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So, I made a layer with Izaak’s eyes, reduced their opacity, and added a green photo filter.

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And…Voilà! Okay, so it doesn’t look exactly like a Singapura…but it looks like it could be a computer-generated witness-descibed wanted poster image of a Singa.

Aby-a-Day – 21 Februari: A box from Meg…and a little backstory (Thursday Things)

Friendship is a funny thing. You meet people every day. Some are strangers, and strangers they remain. Others become friends.

When I was a cat-crazy kid, I couldn’t imagine being actual friends with a cat breeder, let alone a cat show judge. Yet here I am, 38 years after this magazine was published, with threinds who are both breeders and judges. In April 1981 I was two months shy of my sweet 16th, and I loved cats. Cats and the Beatles. No wonder that in August 1981, when I found a seal-point and white kitten, I named him Sgt. Pepper…

Usually, when you look at an old magazine, you don’t read the classifieds at the back. But this old issue with an Aby on the cover…I wanted to see something.

And, lo and behold. Meg is listed as an Abyssinian breeder in Massachusetts. I never knew I’d end up in Massachusetts, let alone be friends with a breeder who had ads in a magazine when I was 15 going on 16…

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But it’s true. I am actually friends with a woman who has been breeding Abyssinians almost (but not quite) as long as I’ve been alive. And to think that she and I are very good friends! But it happened so naturally…Meg knew Sherry, and Jacoby was related to Lew and Taz…and…we clicked. That’s how it is when you make a friend.

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So a couple of weeks ago, Meg sent me my belated Christmas present. To be fair, though, I didn’t send mine out until January.

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She sent me a lot of cool things for me: Socks, a candle holder, and some CFA things…but she also sent things for the cats. One of which was this catnip shrimp. Alfred was the first to investigate the shrimp, but…

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…Jake quickly took over. Jake loves firmly stuffed catnip toys.

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So yeah, this shrimp was almost tailor-made for Jake. Sorry, Freddy.

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Another toy she sent was a wonderful stick toy that we can use at cat shows. Izaak was all over it

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Whilst Zakkie loves his mousies, he also really likes stick toys.

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Not as much as Lorelai does, apparently. Because oh, look, here she is, moving faster than a camera can capture.

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Rory and Zak enjoyed that stick toy so much, I think it’s going to be a permanent fixture at our future cat shows!

Aby-a-Day – 13 May 2016: Ancestral Abyssinians (Friday Flashback)

This week, The CFA History Project published an article about Sedgemere Peaty, one of the very first Abyssinians.

There is also an article with a fanstastic wealth of photographs about a silver Abyssinian born in 1909 named Quizero Taitou (Or Ouizero…there’s some confusion over whether his name started with an O or a Q; Q makes more sense, though).

What is interesting about Quizero, though is that his father, Aluminium, also sired Ras Dashan, who sired Ras Djibute, whose granddaughter, Woodrooffe Aura was the mother of the famous (Djer-Mer’s) Woodroofe Ras Seyum, from whom Jacoby, along with many modern Abyssinans, are descended.

Ras Seyum was famously featured in the November 1938 issue of National Geographic. How fun to see Jake’s ancestors’ photos!

(Oh and also, while looking for these historical photos, I stumbled upon this article about cat domestication and was flattered to find one of my photos used – and credited! – as an example of a show cat! It was just published on 27 April, so there’s another nice surprise.

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And just for fun, here is a series of photos of Jake doing something he rarely does: Pole dancing! While many cats love to scratch the sisal post on the judge’s table, Jake usually prefers to post majestically. However, in his first ring at Seacoast with Gary Veach, he decided to have a little stretch. Although he does seem a bit bewildered, doesn’t he?

Aby-a-Day – June 26: Selene’s Firefly (Friday Flashback)

I was lucky enough to get this portrait of one of Jacoby’s ancestors, Selene’s Firefly, from Tessie’s breeder, Kim.

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She is moving, and wished to find homes for three older Abyssinian portraits. They’re all wonderful – and two were of Firefly – but the oval one in particular spoke to me.

I just think it’s so wonderful to own something that belongs to my Aby’s past.

At Christmas last year, I was also lucky enough to get some old CATS magazines from 1958 and 1959…and look at this listing of top show cats that was published in the August 1959 issue! Firefly was the 7th Best Cat in the East that show season!

Aby-a-Day – June 4: “Lackadaisy Homage” (Cartoon Thursday)

As I mentioned a couple of cartoons ago, I am absolutely head over heels in love with Lackadaisy, a webcomic by Tracy J. Butler. Imagine the 1920’s – bootleggers, gangsters, flappers…but with cats.

I love Tracy’s intricate and detailed style and I could never hope to compare, but I did find this pastel illustration from a 1927 J.L. Taylor men’s fashion catalog which I could mimic.

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And so, here you have Jacoby and Angel as they might appear in a contemporary illustration in the Lackadaisy universe.

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – April 28: “Well, dog my cats!” (Cartoon Tuesday)

You’ll find in many, many books and websites about cats in general or specific to Abyssinians, that this breed is often described as being “dog-like.”

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I mean, there’s even a YouTube video about it!

And while it is true that Abyssinians are one of the oldest breeds (going all the way back to 1860), and Abys have probably lived alongside humans for more of the breed’s history than other “natural” breeds (Abys are the first breed that was based on human’s desire to make a cat look a certain way rather than being based on a genetic trait like tailessness or thermo-restrictive partial albinism)…somehow, I don’t think they’d find being called “dog-like” exactly complimentary.

(Click cartoon to embiggen, or you can view all cartoons in Slideshow mode on Flickr.)

Aby-a-Day – December 4: Meeting a Legend

One of the reasons I really wanted to go to the World Show and enter the Red Show was because Wain Harding was one of the judges. (The other was because it was near Philly and I could see my sister.)

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You’ll have to indulge me here with a little fangirling. Wain Harding was the name in Aby breeders when I was a cat-crazy little kid first going to cat shows. I grew up in Davis, CA and Wain was based in Berkeley, CA – only 64 miles away on I-80! – so I saw his Abys a lot when we went to shows in Sacramento and San Francisco. They were probably the Abys I saw most, now that I think about it.

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I’m sure I must have seen Wain at a cat show at Cal Expo or the SF County Fair Building/Hall of Flowers when I was a kid. I may have also seen him as an apprentice judge!

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Wain Harding is Bastis Abyssinians. Bastis is one of those cattery names that shows up in viturally every Aby’s pedigree at some point.

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Jacoby has a solid Bastis backgound, starting with the legendary GC Bastis Zackariah, DM. Zackariah has 83 offspring known to ERoS, and there are probably a lot of his kittens that weren’t recorded there. This one cat is probably the keystone of modern Abys. I wonder if anyone can find an Aby alive today without Zackariah’s name in his or her pedigree?

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Long story short, it was a pretty big deal to meet Wain Harding, no matter what Meg says 🙂

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It was pretty exciting when, as Wain took Jake from the judging cage to the table, I heard him exclaim, “Wow…what great colour!” To have that be the first thing he said when he examined Jake was pretty amazing.

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Needless to say, when I heard Jake’s number called for Wain Harding’s Shorthair Specialty Ring at the World Show on Saturday, I was thrilled.

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I was so busy being excited and taking pictures, I don’t remember what Wain said as he presented Jake with his rosette.

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When I first got Gun-Hee and wanted to start showing, I scoured the internet for information on showing Abys and discovered this article about the perfect show Abyssinian. Several Aby-centric judges were interviewed for this Q and A, including Wain Harding. This article made an impression on me, especially Wain’s comments.

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Jake was Wain’s 14th Best Shorthair Cat in Premiership. This was out of 40 shorthair premiers entered in the Red Show.

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I know a lot of people might think, “Only 14th place?” but this was a very stiff competition. All of the Premiers were in top form at this show, and in all honesty, I got really lucky that the other Abyssinian Premiers weren’t able to attend and Jake ended up being the only Aby in Premiership in the Red Show. All in all, Jake ended up in 40th place overall and he earned 39 points.*

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The one thing I really wanted to do was get a photo of Wain with Jake and I. We had planned on getting one, but even though we were benched right across from his ring all weekend, I never managed to get that photo. Well…perhaps there will be a next time.

*On a side note, take a look at some of the cats’ names in Premiership! There’s a Manx named Jack Benny and a Maine Coon called Maine-ard G Krebbs. Two of my favourite characters! I love names like that.

#5 with a bullet

The latest CFA CatTalk magazine included an article about the CFA’s Top Ten Breeds for 2012. There was some rearrangement in the rankings from 2011, interestingly. The 2011 Top Ten were:

1. Persian
2. Exotic (basically a Persian with short hair)
3. Maine Coon
4. Ragdoll
5. Sphynx
6. Siamese
7. Abyssinian
8. American Shorthair
9. Cornish
10. Birman

But THIS year, the Top Ten shifted considerably beneath the first four:

1. Persian
2. Exotic
3. Maine Coon
4. Ragdoll
5. Abyssinian (!!!)
6. Sphynx
7. American Shorthair
8. British Shorthair
9. Siamese
10. Devon Rex

After the first four breeds, there have been some major changes to this year’s list! It’s also interesting that the Top Ten traded Rexes and added the British Shorthair; apart from the Persian, Maine Coon and Ragdoll, the most popular breeds are predominantly shorthaired.

But the point here is, of course, the Abys gained two points! They’d dropped from #6 to #7, but now we’re in the Top 5 breeds!

Naturally, all these statistics come with a caveat: these are based on registration within CFA, not the actual number of cats born or owned. But still…We’re #5!

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Hey, Jake’s excited!

Roger Lawrence Retiring

This came through the CFA email list this morning:

CFA Allbreed Judge Roger Lawrence submitted his request to retire from the CFA Judging Panel at the meeting this past weekend.

Roger’s request was approved. We would like to thank Roger for his many years of service to CFA and wish him the best.

Brenda Flauhaut commented: “We are so sorry to hear that Roger is retiring. A trip to his ring was always a pleasure. He was so kind and gentle with the cats and was a calming influence on those that were tentative. His rapport with the audience and exhibitors was great as he talked about the cats and had entertaining and informative things to say.

You will be missed, Roger, and we wish you all the best!”

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Regular readers of this blog know what Abyssinian legends both Roger and his wife, Karen, are. Tailsend Cattery is one of the most influential Aby lines, and cats bearing the Tailsend name in their pedigrees can still be found today – even Jacoby has some Tailsend ancestors! Tailsend Satchel was sent from Canada to Finland and was a major foundation Aby in many European lines.

Aby-a-Day – December 9: People-pleasing felines (Serious Sunday)

Our friend Sparkle posted on Friday about a recent research study that she disagreed with. The study basically found that purebred cats are more “human-oriented” and friendly than random-bred cats.

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The actual study was published in Volume 7, Issue 6 of the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour (November 2012) titled “Do cats from established breeds behave differently toward humans than outbred cats?” The conclusion? Yes, they do; they tend to be more attached to humans, more dependent on them, and “friendlier” towards them.

Sparkle took offence at the article, mainly because it made it seem like random-bred cats aren’t as friendly as purebred cats as a whole. But actually…I think the researchers are correct – I do agree that in general purebred cats are more attuned to people than random-bred cats, and this is actually what I tell people when they ask me why Jake is so tolerant and patient, unlike “most cats.” This is a subject I’ve read a lot on, as it’s near and dear to my heart: feline genetics. But there’s a couple of factors that do make purebred cats tend to be more human-oriented than random-bred cats:

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Part of the problem is that people inevitably compare cats as human companions to dogs as human companions, and dogs have a decidedly unfair advantage. They’re been domesticated a lot longer than cats have; the current consensus is that dogs have been domesticated for about 12,000 years, while cats have been domesticated about 4,000 years. But cats became domesticated in a very different way than other domesticated animals.

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In other cases of domesticated animals, humans decided to tame and use the animal for a purpose, Dogs, for hunting first, then protection, and then, as humans developed farming, herding; cows, pigs, chickens, goats and sheep, as a ready supply of fresh meat, milk, eggs, leather and wool; and horses, for transportation. These animals were selectively bred by humans to suit their intended purposes better: Cows were bred to produce more milk or meat, chickens more eggs, sheep more wool. Dogs were bred to be better companions to humans: better hunting partners, better farming partners, better guardians to our property and our children. As a result of this long partnership, dogs can read human emotions and facial expressions as well as a human baby. There was a study done that found that dogs will follow your gaze and look where you’re looking, something even our closest ape relatives can’t do. It’s thought that in order to help humans hunt or herd, they needed to understand humans, and this was how they learned to do that. The dogs who best understood humans were selected to breed to produce more puppies who understood humans, generation after generation for 12,000 years.

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Cats, on the other hand, discovered humans later on, after agriculture had been firmly established.
Cats decided to live with us rather than humans deciding to “use” cats to fulfill a specific human need. This is a pretty key difference in the way cats became domesticated, because cats basically domesticated themselves, and chose their own mates, for much longer than any other domesticated species. Humans didn’t intervene with cats’ domestication for the first, they didn’t breed cats to fit a specific purpose or meet a certain standard for the first 3,850 years they coexisted.

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Friendlier cats found it easier to live with humans, but even unfriendly cats could still survive and reproduce. Breeds of cat did start to evolve, but these were based more on physical genetic mutations (length or type of hair, taillessness or short tails, partial albinism, unusual patterns or colours) rather than on personality traits.

At least, not until the mid-1800’s, when the cat fancy started and humans started developing breeds of cats with a purpose. Maybe they weren’t bred to be hunters or herders, but all of a sudden, humans were starting to breed them with a plan in mind. But even then, many of the breeds were still based on a simple physical genetic mutation rather than on personality (long hair for the Persian, curly hair for the Rexes, no tails for the Manx, stubby tails for the Japanese Bobtails, and partial, thermo-restrictive albinism for the Siamese). Of the three oldest recognised breeds of cats, Persian, Siamese and Abyssinian, only one is not based on a physical mutation so much as its based on temperament (guess which one)? Also, many breeds have allowed outcrosses to random-bred cats that meet the breed standard during their development – even now, this is allowed with some breeds.

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But one thing about cats is that kittens “inherit” the personalities of their fathers, even if they never meet them or spend time with them in person. Even if the father’s input is strictly genetic, father cats who are friendly to humans beget friendly kittens. Random-bred male cats aren’t really “kept” by humans as much as they are “hosted.” Purebred stud cats are hard to keep and there are fewer of them than there are breeding queens, and because of this, they’re generally hand-picked to be the “best” cats. Stud cats are highly “selected” and one of the traits they’re chosen for is their personality. The kittens inherit this friendlieness, and the males selected from this generation to pass on their genetic material will be the most personable of these kittens. It may not always be the main trait the breeder is selecting for, but a side-effect of selectively breeding cats is that the males, being harder to keep in a breeding situation, became limited. Fewer purebred males are allowed to pass on their genetic material, but of the males who do reproduce, they father a larger number of kittens. And thus the succeeding litters of purebred kittens were friendly and personable.

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We’re still almost 10,000 years behind them, but the older breeds of purebred cats, I believe, have or are developing the same attachment to humans that dogs have, so yes Abys, Siamese and Persians are more personable and friendly then your average random-bred cat. Of course, “more personable and friendly” can also be interpreted as “more clingy and high-maintenance.” These cats need to have their humans around a lot more than your average moggie from down the road. Generations of human intervention may have made them more friendly, but it also made them less self-sufficient. Imagine a purebred Persian out hunting in the woods. Between the sticks and leaves tangling his fur and the shortened muzzle, making it harder to deliver a killing bite to a mouse, a Persian would have a hard time trying to survive without humans even if his mother was able to teach him to hunt.

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Of course, none of this is to say that random-bred cats can’t or will never be friendly. Of course they can be; they’re cats, after all. But there’s no predictability, especially since feline “friendliness” is so dependent on the father, and the fathers of random-bred felines are seldom known. Furthermore, it’s possible for kittens in the same litter to have different fathers, meaning even littermates can be genetically diverse…and harder to predict, personality-wise. Basically, random-bred cats are just that: random. You can’t predict what you’re going to get.

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To bring it down to a personal level, take Kylie and Angel. Kylie is a random-bred cat; her mother was an odd-eyed white cat named MaryJane, and her humans did not know who the father was, but one kitten in the litter was a tabby. But we raised her from the age of 7 weeks, she was pampered, doted upon, played with and loved, but she’s still an aloof cat. She doesn’t like to be held or to sit on people’s laps. She’s very attached to my husband, but still only on her terms.

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On the other hand, we have Angel. We don’t know who her parents are either, but she’s a purebred. She had a very traumatic kittenhood; we don’t know how much she was cuddled or paid attention to as a kitten, but we do know she was in the shelter for at three nights and was sick much of the time. She had two eye surgeries (one to remove her eye and put in a prosthetic, and one to remove that prosthetic when she rejected it) plus her spay surgery before she was a year old, and she had to live in an upstairs bedroom at her foster home because one of the family cats bullied her. All this before flying across country to live with us. There’s no doubt that she’s damaged. Yet she will run up to greet strangers, she’s not afraid of the vacuum, she cuddles and headbutts and purrs like crazy, and she’s not afraid of strange places and situations. Despite her kittenhood experiences, she’s still an Aby, with the personality and bravery her breed is known for. Odds are, her father was a friendly, brave Aby, too.

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Abys have only been bred for 150 years, and they’re already amazingly attuned to humans. Imagine what they’ll be like in another 10.000 years or so.

It’s an Abyworld. We just live in it.

Thanks to my Abyfriends Meg, Molly, Katie and Teresa, I’ve discovered Yahoo’s various Aby-related groups and mailing lists. And I have to say, I’ve already learned a lot from the discussions since I joined!

One of the groups I joined, Unusual Aby Cats is very active, and much of the discussion is about breeding, showing in the GCCF, TICA and FIFE in the UK and Europe, and the genetics of the “other” Aby colours (sex-link red, silvers, chocolates and torties) that aren’t common at all in the US and that aren’t recognised in the CFA.

A recent discussion involved the Test Mating Calculator on Abyworld, and oh, what a fun toy this is. Many of Jacoby’s ancestors are in the database, which makes the inbreeding coefficients useful when you compare two cats that were actually bred together. I need to play with this a little more, but it’s a really wonderful resource.

Aby-a-Day – September 11: The smell of the bay rum, the roar of the ring announcements

Two-day cat shows are a lot of fun, but they’re also a lot of work, and they pretty much dominate your whole weekend.

The second day of this show began with a moment of silence for that other September 11, 10 years ago; being in Connecticut, we were rather closer to Ground Zero than we would have been at home. It was a somber way to start our morning.

As I tweeted, the first ring, judge Lorraine Rivard’s Shorthair Specialty ring, the Premiers came down to a classic match-up between Pellburn Jacoby Stealin’ Home, the the ruddy Abyssinian, and Chocolado’s Madeline of Tayhome, the Seal-Point Siamese…and in that ring, the Aby was awarded the Best Shorthair Premier ribbon.

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Later, in judge Gary Veach’s Allbreed ring, the two best Shorthair Premiers came down to the exact same pairing…but this time, the Siamese was the Best Allbreed Premier. In that ring, Jake was awarded 2nd Best Shorthair Premier, 2nd Best Allbreed Premier and 9th Best Cat in Premiership.

I loved that out of all the breeds entered in the show, in two different rings it came down to a Siamese and an Abyssinian, two of the featured breeds that were shown at the storied first show at the Crystal Palace in London in 1887. Classic, classic Shorthair Rivalry (kind of like two eastern American League baseball teams I can think of).

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I was thrilled he did so well in Gary Veach’s ring, since back at Jake’s first show in February, his advice to me was, “He’s stunning..get the weight off. I haven’t worked out how many points he earned this weekend yet (I think he’s got 66, but I am not at all sure if I’ve done the math right), or how close he is to his Grand, but he did respectably well.

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I’m so proud of him! And I’ll have many, many photos coming in the next few days, too.

Oh, and a special PS to Sparkle: Toby the handsome Grand Premier Somali placed in the finals in all 10 rings, which just goes to show you how impressive Abys’ longhaired cousins are!

Aby-a-Day – September 4: All in the Family

I keep all our cats’ medical records in a slick pet organizer, and after the big trip to the vet on Tuesday I was putting away all the paperwork when I happened to notice something in Tessie’s details that I hadn’t noticed before.

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When I first adopted her back in 2005, I printed out most of her breeder’s website and saved all the hard copies as part of Tessie’s file. But I’d never noticed this before:

My first litter of 1st Generation Asians were born March 6. 1999. There were 2 Chocolate Ticked Silver Tabby boys and 1 Chocolate Ticked Tabby girl and 1 Black Ticked Tabby girl. The mating was a Chocolate European Burmese and a Black Silver Aby

Wait, what? A Black Silver Abyssinian? The page continues: These are some photos of my 1st Generation Asian Kittens that were born on 6 March 1999. There is 1 Chocolate Ticked Tabby girl (Gabrielle), 2 Chocolate Ticked Silver Tabby boys and 1 Black Ticked Tabby girl (Xena).

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Those kittens do look a little Aby-ish, don’t they? Bes Gabrielle is the little girl on the far left, and she’s Tessie’s paternal great-grandmother.Gabrielle’s parents were named Satukissan Veratrum Album of Bes and Bijouxcats Krystal SheerRose of Bes; Bijouxcats breeds European Burmese, but Satukissan is a Finnish Aby cattery.

Having discovered that Tessie’s Great Great Grandfather (who sired both Tessie’s paternal Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother) was, in fact, a Finnish Abyssinian, I got curious about the backgrounds of Tessie’s other great-greats, so I decided to see what I could find out about them. So here is the rest of Tessie’s great-great grandparents:

Bes Bargo’s Imp was a Chocolate Euopean Burmese and one of Tessie’s paternal Great Great Grandmothers. Her mate was also the Aby, Satukissan Veratrum Album of Bes.

Shai-San-War’s Hassan was also a Chocolate EuroBurm, and a paternal Great Great Grandfather. His mate was Kikirikis Evalina Eloise, a Blue-Cream Tortie EuroBurm.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though. One of Tessie’s paternal Great Grandmothers, Gabrielle, was half Abyssinian. But her other paternal Great Grandmother, Udun Enchantica Electra of Bes, appears to be pure Abyssinian! She is listed as a Cinnamon/Sorrel Silver Aby, and her parents were Udun Silver Descansado, a Finnish black silver Aby, and Yade’s Dewele, a Finnish sorrel Aby.

On Tessie’s maternal side, she is all European Burmese with two cats from Chi-Lang cattery, Rothrose Jamie, Tuatahi Practically Perfect, Avon Champinoise and Ilgatto catteries, with one Persian from Armani cattery.

Another interesting thing I found is that Ilgatto cats seem to have also been used in breeding LaPerms, a type of Rex.

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But wait, I know what you’re thinking…”This is the Daily Abyssinian, so why all the attention to European Burmese, Asians, Tiffanies, Persians and LaPerms? Well…as I have said in the past, ERoS (the Electronic Registry of Somalis) is a marvelous thing. Satukissan has a couple of Abys, Satukissan Saga and Satukissan Minna, apparently littermates, whose paternal Great-Grandparents are Bastis Rusty Nail of Catknapp and Bastis Janet Planet. One of Jacoby’s paternal Great-Great Grandfathers was Jannalou’s Talisman.

Talisman’s Great Great Grandfather was Udjat’s Anubis, whose grandfather was Bastis Prodigal Son…Whose father was Bastis Daily Planet of Catknapp. Whose parents were…Bastis Rusty Nail of Catknapp! I don’t know if Tessie’s Satukissan ancestor was related to Bastis, but Jake’s mother’s pedigree definitely connects to Satukissan.

Until I happened to notice that page in Tessie’s paperwork, I was not aware that Abyssinians were used in the breeding of Asians, Burmillas and Tiffanies, so I find this all very fascinating.

One more intriguing discovery: Satukissan also bred Somalis! So, Sparkle, you and Tessie might be distant cousins!

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Looking at Tessie and Angel together, it’s hard to believe that she’s only three generations removed from being an Abyssinian. Her head, her body, her bone structure and even her thick double coat, is completely Asian/European Burmese/Burmilla.

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But there’s a little Abyssinian in her genetic makeup, too.

The case for purebreds

BlogPaws posted a fascinating article yesterday arguing the case for purebred dogs from a different perspective.

While the article is mainly about purebred dogs, but it raises an interesting point: “A [purebred] dog is as much a part of a people’s culture as is its language, dress and art.”

This is true of cat breeds as well. While many modern breeds can be documented back thousands of years. Siamese and Korats, for example, decorate the pages of the Cat-Book Poems, which was written between 1350 and 1767. Japanese Bobtails and Singapuras are common street cats in Japan and Singapore, but they weren’t registered as “breeds” by the CFA until 1976 and 1982, respectively.

Cat breeds symbolise their native countries. Manx cats are so entwined with the cultural identity of the Island of Man that they’ve even graced that country’s currency. But what happens if a breed becomes extinct?

Abyssinians are one of the oldest registered breeds (which means that people have kept track of their linage and parenting) and have been known as a “breed” since the mid-1800’s. While they are thought to have existed in Ancient Egypt, no one really knows for certain. Representations of cats that look like modern Abys have been found in pyramids and settlements around the Nile…but they also look like a lot of other types of cats. The cats we know as “Abyssinians,” along with Persians and Siamese, have been bred for less than 200 years.

Abyssinian cats are a breed that was nearly lost, and not so long ago, either. They almost died out in Europe during WWII and only through cats that had been sent to the US and Canada during the previous 20 years kept the breed alive.

From “Journey from the Blue Nile – A History of the Abyssinian Cat” by Aida Bartleman Zanetti:

“During the Second World War English breeders were compelled by food shortages and the constant threat of being “bombed-out”, to drastically cut their stock in Abyssinian cats. Some were exported for safety to America. A nucleus of their fine stock however has been preserved and is once again a matter of great interest to all breeders everywhere.”

People often ask me why I have purebred cats and not rescues (although, as Angel can tell us, the two are not mutually exclusive), and I have a lot of reasons, asthma and allergies chief among them. But there is also that sense of…history? I suppose that’s as good a word as any. My pedigree is mixed and shadowy; I know my grandmothers’ maiden names, but that’s about as far back as I can go.

Jacoby, however, can trace his history back to Sedgemere Peaty, born in 1894, and to me is an amazing thing to me. I guess that I like that I can vicariously climb his family tree since I haven’t one of my own.

Aby-a-Day – Day 279 of 365

Along with Persians and Siamese, Abyssinians are one of the oldest cat breeds. Humans have only been selectively breeding cats since the mid-1860’s.

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Knowing that, it always amazes me how wild and natural they look. If it weren’t for his collar, harness and leash, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he’s a pet cat.

All in the Family

One thing I find endlessly fascinating about Abyssinians is the fact that they’re all related on some level. Abys are actually fairly inbred; it was for this reason that Cinnamon the Aby was chosen to be the archetype when the feline genome was mapped.

There are a couple of factors that led to the Abyssinians’ smaller gene pool: The breed is one of the oldest recognised (along with Siamese and Persians), started in the second half of the 19th century in England. However, unlike the other two breeds which at one time allowed non-pedigrees cats to be used in breeding if they met the colour and conformation standards, even at the very beginnings of the breed virtually no outcrossing was allowed into the Abyssinian breed (Abys have been used as outcrosses to other breeds, including Somalis, Ocicats and Singapura, but not even Somalis are allowable in Abyssinian pedigrees).

There were no Abys in the Americas until a tom named Aluminium II and a she-cat named Salt were sent to the US in the early 1900’s. Nearly all North American Abys can trace their lineage back to Aluminium II, who is thought to have been a silver Aby (this colour isn’t recognised by the CFA or the CCA today), so in the early part of the last century, the American Abys had a smaller breeding pool in the beginning.

During the next 30 years, Abys were exchanged between the Americas and Europe as the breed became established and gained popularity in both hemispheres. However, during WWII the breed was almost wiped out in Europe; only 12 cats survived and the breed was bolstered by American cats sent back to England and other European countries.

Thus, I am always being introduced to random Abyssinians who I can connect to Jacoby at least on a cattery level. There are a few Aby catteries whose names show up over and over again: Bastis, Bojangles, Badfinger, San Toi (more known for their Siamese), Van Dyke, Al Qahira, Ras, Djer-Mer, and Woodruffe are some of the names that show up again and again; one cat, Bastis Zachariah, has 73 offspring known to the Electronic Registry of Somalis, and he may well have had more kittens than those listed in this one, mostly user-populated website. Abyssinians as a breed are fairly interrelated.


Grand Champion Bastis Zachariah, DM, b. 1974

From time to time, people will send me links to cute Aby photos they find online that they think I need to know about. A few weeks ago, Freecloud 13 sent me an email which said, “I was browsing to kill time and came across this website of an Aby cattery in Slovenia. There are some very cute photos; the kittens are too cute for words!”

Naturally, I had to investigate these claims. And there was a cat on that site, Si*Alam’s Lena who shares several catteries in common with Jake – Badfinger, Bastis, San-Toi, Dar-Ling and Catsylvania. And I found one cat in both their pedigrees: Badfinger’s Bumin’ Around TQ, born June 1978, who is Lena’s great-grandfather’s grandfather and Jake’s great-grandmother’s great-grandfather – on his mother’s side and her father’s side. They might have even more in common, but Lena’s pedigree on ERoS only shows her father’s side; her mother’s side is blank.
How funny, though! Someone finds a random Aby cattery in Slovenia, and I can connect a cat there to my cat!

I’ve done it too…While looking to see if I could find a photo of one of Jake’s ancestors, I stumbled upon a Russian Abyssinian’s pedigree. This cat, Lakshmina’s Marga Simonetta, is the daughter of Instincts Saint Matthew. Matt seems to be closely related to Jake’s mother Catalina; they share a number of cats in common. Imagine, Jake’s got relatives he’s never met in Russia, just like me!

Another Aby connection comes through Anna_Darkholme’s new red boykitten Alejandro, from the cattery Abyfye. Right off the bat, I can see a connection: Alejandro shows cats from Instincts cattery, and Jake’s mother, Catalina, was from Instincts. One cat, target=#>Instincts Klein Bonaire is Jake’s great-great grandfather. Klein Bonaire’s mother was Abyfye’s Desiree of Instincts. Also, Jadecat cattery in Alejandro’s pedigree is connected to Jake’s mom, too. There’s only one Jadecat cat listed on ERoS, Jimpat Blue Velvette of Jadecat, but Velvette’s great-grandfather was Purrsynian’s Tommy Bahama of Dimends, and Tommy’s grandmother was Jannalou’s Isis of Chatbeaux. Isis’ great-grandfather was Badfinger’s Hot Chocolet of San-Toi, whose daughter was San-Toi’s Ms. Ginny Fizz of Badfinger. Ginny’s daughter, Bojangles’ Benita Pussolini, whose daughter was Bojangles’ Brianna Brioche.

Brianna was the mother of Bojangles’ Kangaroo of Instincts, and Kanga was Jake’s mother’s grandmother. There aren’t many Abyfye cats in ERoS, so I can’t connect them directly, but I’m sure they have ancestors in common.

Finally, this is perhaps the most random of all, since it came from a contact on Etsy who doesn’t even read The Daily Abyssinian. I regularly buy jewelery findings from Unkamen Supplies on Etsy, and I requested some custom S-links from him. On Etsy, my user icon is a photo of Gun-Hee riding the T, and Ralph asked me if my avatar was an Abyssinian. When I responded that it was, he told me that he and his wife bred Abyssinians for 20+ years and retired about 7 years ago – he even met his wife in the cat fancy! He sent me this link to Clarion and Unkamen Abyssinians.

And I went to work. I quickly connected Jake’s cattery, Pellburn, to Clarion and Unkamen. From Unkamen Blue By You (who I chose to trace simply because she was first on the list), I got to El Qahira and Jannalou catteries though her paternal grandparents, which led to Badfinger and Bastis…and as I said earlier, just about everyone seems to be able to claim Bastis Zacariah and his 73+ offspring as kin! Another Aby, Clarion’s Twilight, shares Abycastle cattery in her pedigree with Jake, too.

Although, Jake and Blue also both have another cat, Jannalou’s Talisman, as a close relative: He was Jake’s great-great grandfather and Blue’s grandfather! I found it so funny that someone I’d met through a non-cat forum turned out to be a part of the Aby family.

Once again, as I always do, I find myself wishing I had a copy of Angel’s predigree…I would love to see where her family crossed Jake’s.

Other People’s Abys – Historical Abyssinians

I just got a fabulous treasure: a copy of the little booklet Journey From the Blue Nile: A History of the Abyssinian Cat. It’s basically a pamphlet, 24 glossy pages stapled into an orange cardstock cover, but it’s the oldest book about just Abyssinians I’ve been able to find.

It’s small (pretty much the entire thing is reproduced at the link above, including the photos), but it’s such a wonderful little bit of history.

I’m also rather amused that the primary author, Aida Bartleman Zanetti, is from Cambridge, Mass. I got the book from Booksavers of Ephrata in Pennsylvania, so it’s a bit like it’s come back home.