Sharing all Matters cat-related. showing...abuse and everything in between!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Are Cat Breeders Without Morals?

How is it possible for a human being to wilfully abuse animals, and then brazenly lie about it? I speak here about cat breeders (naturally), but of course we see much of the same in the dog and horse world, as well as any realm where animals are bred for the edification and profiteering of humans (including "sport" canned hunting of captive-bred wild animals). It's not limited. It's an unjolly wide world of animal abuse.

But let's stick to cats in this blog.

Here's a recent case of one Betty Gould, she of throwing her unwanted cats into the river in garbage bags infamy. She has a couple of charges against her, the latest being due to be heard in court in January 2013.

She was spotted lobbing a garbage bag into the river, and on investigation two live (thankfully) Persian cats were discovered. Disgusting. And it seems there have been other instances of cats being found in the same river, so the modus operandii seems to be clearly established. She is apparently the only local Persian cat breeder, so although there is no conclusive evidence to link her to these earlier incidents (unless the other cats found can be linked to her website), one can draw one's own conclusions, and you don't have to be a genius to arrive at the probable conclusion.

On her website, she states :

"I have been a breeder for 20 years. I have very small cattery and all my persians are treated like pets. They are the love of my life and they give me lots of love! Sir garfield got the second best of color in the northwest region and thinker bell was the first calico smoke shown. My goal is to produce the chocolate and lilac chinchillas and bicolor. I have white that are also chocolate carriers! I am breeding for excellent health and personality! My persians have been tested for pkd at the university of california and are negative."

See Snowbunnies Persians.

Her "small cattery" is 60 cats, and her treatment of them is, from the evidence, contemptible. Notice the emphasis from the website blurb on wins and awards. And if we can't believe the other statements, I wonder whether she has any real documented proof that her cats are PKD-negative? How sad that tacky little personages like this should have to resort to abusing cats to get their jollies on the show circuit. How callous they are to be able to put a living creature in a bag and discard it like so much trash. This is how much this type of person cares. And they can sleep at night. That in itself might give one pause for thought.

And how conniving and deceitful it is that so much patent drivel is spoken on websites in order to delude the potential buyer into supporting the lifestyles of these objects. (I nearly said "creatures", but no creature should be defiled by being grouped together with personages of that ilk).

So here's the page dealing with the cat discarding incident : Another abusive hypocrite

In case you think this is an isolated case, it's not. When you start to look inside the cat fancy pandora's box, you find a world of people of apparently little character, lying to themselves, each other and the public. Sure, there are some "good" breeders (apparently, so we are told?), but observation tells me these are by no means the majority. They like to pretend the bad apples are few, but (in the South African cat fancy at least), the rot goes right to the top, and everybody knows it, condones it and plays along. It seems the same applies in the CFA, if reading some of their documentation is anything to go by, and their strenuous objections to home inspections by animal welfare authorities. (If you go to the information page on the above Snowbunnies website, you will see the CFA letterhead, congratulating her on a regional award. I bet the CFA now claims they've never heard of her), although she's a holder of a CFA "Cattery of Excellence" award (see How excellent! Not... ) Ah - what are such empty titles really worth?

And then of course you have breeders who openly state "We are a DNA- testing cattery" - and then proceed to sell you a persian cat which is carrying PKD (or one of many other delicious little genetic f*ck ups that they know are in the lines) and which, if it doesn't die by the age or between 3 and 6, will live precariously on a low-protein diet for the rest of its days, and then have to be put out of its misery in later life. This is not Quality of Life. This is cat abuse - do breeders actually have ANY concern for the pain many of the cats they breed will go through in their lives? And do they have the slightest concern for the pain and anguish they put their cat owners through - as well as the cost? "But I have a genetic clause in my contract!" they shriek. "Anything that can be proved to be of genetic origin in the first year, you can send the cat back and we will replace it". Yeah - like a piece of merchandise. Totally ignoring the fact that most genetic problems are going to only be seen between 3 and 6 years, or a bit later. And the vast majority of these genetic problems can be tested for, and eliminated from the bloodline. But they don't want to forgo the money they have spent, so they put "DNA- tested" on their websites and pass on the kittens happily.

I mean, how can a person of good character choose to spend their time rubbing shoulders with conniving, lying, cheating, abusive so-called "colleagues". How can they exist inside a federation which subsists on the power of threat and coercion? I'm at a loss to understand it. Birds of a feather and all that.

Doesn't make sense. Unless you're beholden to others to boost your ego at any cost. And that makes you pitifully weak. People with healthy self-images don't need to resort to abusing animals for fun or profit, and they don't need the approval of others to feel good about themselves. And they certainly don't need to sit up and beg for rewards.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Way it's Done in the Cat Fancy

Before I discuss this topic, let me preface my remarks by noting that the title "The Way it's Done in the Cat Fancy", refers to an instance where I was being shouted at by a cat breeder on email, for daring to stand up for my rights as a buyer of one of their cats. I was told "you don't know how it's done in the cat fancy". I did, and was under no illusions. Shortly after, I enforced my rights in a court of law.

There are many things that are done bizarrely differently in the cat fancy to the way normal life conducts itself. This is a world where cat judges are the apex predator, cat breeders are royal game, and normal exhibitors have to know their place and be loyal and turn a blind eye to all the deceitful goings-on which saturate the cat fancy. The cats are nothing more than an accoutrement - a necessary means to obtain ribbons and glory for the breeders. They are widgets, to be cast aside once no longer needed.

This post takes a look at collection-addiction and hoarding.

I am mindful of the very many cases that come to light of instances where people have been discovered to be hoarding a very large number of cats, usually in execrable conditions of filth, with the stink of decay and death causing rescuers to have to use masks and breathing apparatus. Very often, these people are noted to have been associated in prominent positions with various cat associations, and been in the business of breeding and/or judging cats.

At these times, there's always the expression of astonishment that such a nice person could have done this - or more ominously from erstwhile friends of the abuser, a blanket denial that the person could ever have committed the acts of which they are accused. Others try to get inside their heads and ask where such a wonderful person went off the rails.

Cat breeders in the cat fancies like to regard themselves as "reputable", committing everyone else who breeds cats but is unregistered to the eternal damnation of the hell of all backyard breeders. The title is a commonly used slur in the mouths of the Royal Game of the cat fancy. But the more you look at the heinous sins that backyard breeders commit, the more you see the organised cat fancy breeders doing much of the same thing. So when a breeder who is one of the Movers and Shakers of the cat fancy are metaphorically caught with their pants down, the cat fancies start to duck and dive, and disassociate themselves with them. Fellow club members conveniently "don't know" if the person is still part of the club & the registries often become very quiet.

Take the case of one Karen Crooke, an experienced breeder of some 25 years, who abandoned her house full of cats when it came up for repossession, and left them locked inside to die. A prospective buyer of the property thought they heard cat noises inside the house and the animal welfare authorities were called in after the necessary warrants had been obtained. They found a house full of Maine Coon cats, 18 of which were dead (some of them having deceased many months before - at a time when Ms Crooke was still in the house), and - amazingly - 5 cats were still alive.

Here's the news report : Feline tomb belonged to ex-club boss

In the above article and in other coverage, I'm bemused to read that Crooke's cats "bring her a lot of pleasure", and that she enjoyed dressing up her cats and arranging the annual cat "dress-up show" to attract the public to the club. I also noted in the subsequent case that she demanded to have her cats back!

In the following statement, as reported on July 11, 2012 one will note that she expressed regret and stated that "she never intended for it to happen". Such remarks are hardly rare, and in this case of an abuser where there is evidence that some of the cats could have been dead for more than 2 years in the house, I'm unsure of how anyone can ignore cat corpses for so long, and still claim it was never intended.
HSUS Statement

And then bear in mind that this woman walked out of the house full of cats and left it locked, intending never to return. Her behaviour suggests that the only thing she regrets is getting caught.

Rather than dwell on her sentence - which many people including myself feel to be far too inadequate, I would like to touch on the issue of the public face the breeder displays, and hence the cries of disbelief when (at last), they get caught out.

Consider carefully these phrases from the web page of Miaw cattery : Miaws Beginnings

"Shelby made the final in her very first ring!  We were hooked even though she didn't make any other finals that weekend".  Note the word "hooked". Cat showing is addictive.

"By the end of our first show season we knew we wanted another cat to show.  We even had a good idea that we might eventually want to go into breeding these wonderful cats". The addiction grows.

"Eventually we met and became friends with Karen Crooke of Terrificats/Lovabacon Maine Coons.  Karen took us under her wing and began feeding us so much information.  She is literally a walking encyclopedia of The Cat Fanciers Association, the Maine Coon breed and breeding Maine Coon cats.  We e-mailed, called and talked with her as much as we could to learn as much as she could teach us".

(Note Karen's apparent knowledge, but that it appears to be more a knowledge of the CFA, rather than knowledge of cat physiology, behaviours and applied husbandry. Proper cat husbandry will never tolerate overcrowding.) Note that it is not evident that these people ever visited with her personally at her home...

"On February 27, 2005 TruTails Sinead of Miaw, with the help of Terrificats Gambolero, gave us our very first Miaw Maine Coon kittens".
Note these breeders using one of the Karen Crooke stud cats.

"Andrew and I would like to thank the following people for their support and friendship:
Karen Crooke of Terrificats/Lovabacon, also a true mentor, for being the voice of reason and encouragement, sharing with us all of her experience and knowledge that comes with 25+ years of breeding and showing cats, and, above all,  for teaching us to never compromise our ethics."

And from SaraJen Maine Coons Website : "Cherry Pop, pictured here at just a whisker over 7 months, is just a fabulous girl bred by Karen Crooke of Terrificats. Karen has long been known as a reputable breeder of wonderful, healthy, typey Maine Coons and we can't thank her enough for entrusting Tina and I with one of her kittens".

What glowing endorsements of Karen Crooke! A true mentor - a voice of reason and a teacher of ethics, a reputable breeder and hideous cat abuser to boot.

No wonder you then get comments on public forums like "we don't know what Karen Crooke has been through, and what got her to this state". I saw the musings of another individual in another recent case, where they pondered the mindset of the abuser, and wondered whether it was just another of those cases like Ted Bundy, where an apparently nice person was a monster, but hey- "who can tell?". Shrug. * (we will come back to this a little later).

And when it happens, the breeders always claim to get "overwhelmed" and get a slap on the wrist, and then it's back to business as usual, once the (usually lenient) sentence has been carried out. At the court hearings we are told by the defense attorneys that the proceedings have been "very traumatic" for the accused, who is in a bad mental state as a result. As if it's the fault of the animal rights people or the courts, rather than the abuser, who persistently appears not to take responsibility for their actions.

Why do we get no closer to understanding why certain people do this (apparently isolated) deed - if the cat fancies are to be believed? That's because we're looking in the wrong place. We should not be looking at the perpetrator, but at the system to establish the commonalities. Once a common link is found, the truth becomes obvious. Here it is.

Have a close look at the "organised cat fancy", of which Karen Crooke was a leading light in her cat club, an official, a committee member as recently as 2009. Read the CFA web pages, & look at the section devoted to warning cat breeders (let's just refer to them as "registered cat producers" shall we?) about pending legislation which would prevent them from carrying on & proliferating cats. See CFA exhibitors alert as a good example. The CFA coach their members on how to object to proposed legislation which would safeguard cats and put a reign on their owners.

The CFA boast that they are "the worlds largest registry of pedigreed animals". They got that way by encouraging the breeding & showing of cats. Every kitten born is registered with a cat registry (for a fee) transferred to a new owner (for a fee),put on show (for a fee). Every stud to be used has to be registered annually (for a fee). Every cat on show is judged in a number of "rings" (judgings), and the entrants pay per ring. The fee income from new cats and cat showing is the lifeblood of the cat fancy - and this applies worldwide.

The GCCF (Governing Council of the UK Cat Fancy), note in the SWOT section of their business plan that fee income from registrations is by far the majority of all their income sources. Their (new kitten and cat) registrations process is noted to be "the basis of the organisations existence". Under Risks, is noted the

"Negative press focussing on health and welfare issues and genetic anomalies in pedigree cat breeds"

So I ask you with tears in my eyes - "WHY on earth would the CFA and other cat registries do anything to deter their breeders from collecting and breeding cats?" Karen Crooke was only one such breeder who has appeared in the public domain. And the one thing the cat fancies HATE is their dirty laundry being aired in public and the AWS, HSUS, PETA etc. getting wind of it.

(Remember the * above? The cat fancies love the "who would have known?" response. It keeps them out of the limelight as a possible cause via their endorsements and reward of multiple cat breeding and showing. It allows them to pretend that "any lunatic can pop up at any time, and we couldn't tell she/he was one of them - how is it our fault?" And it allows them to be seen publicly distancing themselves from the perpetrator (whom they already knew had all the excessive numbers of cats from their breeders database) - which they would not have done, if the dirty deed had not come to public scrutiny.
And then they donate a (small) amount of money to causes that window-dress them in a good light (like the Winn Foundation).

CFA has a unit dedicated to keeping the breeders who get into trouble out of the limelight. It's called the "Breeder Assistance Program", so if they themselves see fit to do damage control, how prevalent is cat overcrowding, overbreeding and animal abuse in the cat fancy? It's extremely prevalent indeed.

And where is the focus in the cat fancy ? Have a look at Fishin' for fun with the Coastwind cat club the Yahoo bulletin board dated 20 Feb 2010.
I see lots of raffles, patriotic flags, dressing up your cat contests, gifts and apple dumplings and I also note Karen Crooke being listed as a club board member for media and show promotion. I don't see anything about what this is supposed to do for the cat.

Consider the National Maine Coon Cat Club Mission Statement and statement of objectives :
"The National Maine Coon Cat Club is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the Maine Coon Cat breed."

"The National Maine Coon Cat Club objectives shall be:
To encourage breeding the standard of the Maine Coon Cat as such standard is set forth by the Cat Fanciers' Association.
To encourage membership in the Maine Coon Cat breed council.
To promote interest in and knowledge of the Maine Coon Cats through promotional and educational literature and by holding shows.
To cultivate friendship and common interest among breeders. owners and fanciers of the Maine Coon Cat nationally.
To provide the membership of the National Maine Coon Cat Club with constructive information for the improvement and the advancememt of the Maine Coon Cat
To advance, in every way possible, the interests of breeders, exhibitors and fanciers of the Maine Coon Cat.
To promote the welfare of all cats."

Dedicated to preserving and advancing (whatever these terms mean) the Maine Coon, and yet "promoting the welfare of all cats" is at the end, and doesn't even refer to the Maine Coon. It's a catch-all which sounds warm and fluffy to convince the reader thay they're there for the cat. The rest of the club objectives are proof that the cat comes a very sorry last, if at all.

How did Karen Crooke get to that place? Like every other breeder in any cat fancy. By becoming a "cat producer" and taking cats to show in exchange for the ribbons and titles which give a cattery prominence and make the sale of expensive cats much easier. Become a "big name" cattery and the world is your oyster.

Cat breeders appear to have little if any humanity-their primary responsibility is to themselves only, and they will stop at nothing to pursue their cat collection and production "hobby".

It would be a good idea for anyone truly interested in the welfare of the (pedigreed) cat, to start by understanding how the cat fancy works. The registries, the politics, egos, the pride and the shows. The ribbons and awards and cat and kitten sales. And the abuse that goes with it. And look at the meeting minutes. Some of the meetings appear to be breathtaking in their length and pointlessness, and all of them tend to revolve rather much around finance and petty politicking, rather than the health and welfare of the  animal.

I'd say the real villains are the cat fancies who turn a blind eye, or cover up abuses in their ranks. I would love to see concerned people demonstrating outside every cat show hall countrywide in an effort to raise awareness of the role the cat fancy plays in encouraging cat overbreeding, overcrowding and abuse, and to encourage others to stop supporting cat shows.

When cat fancies are called to account in the public domain for their members' conduct, they will take more responsibility to protect the animals bred and shown under their auspices, from which a huge amount of money is generated, both for themselves and the breeders.

"For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing" - Simon Wiesenthal.

Are there "good men" in the cat fancy, when these deeds are common knowledge and yet the dirty secret is protected and ignored?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Great Tip for Showing Cats

This is my response to a Canadian pet column, which lists petcare tips on a variety of topics and invites comment. They had a tip on showing cats, and suggested aspirant new exhibitors contact the CFA to join up.

Here is my comment on their tip - which they refused to publish. Gee - I wonder why?

Here’s my tip for showing cats – leave the cats out of it. It’s not fun for them, it’s not kind and not natural for cats to be gawked and pawed over by the public at large, or hauled in and out of cages by stewards and judges 5 times a day, lifted up in the air, stretched, whirled around while the judge shows off for the public’s enjoyment, and have their mouths pried open while the judge looks for alignment of the bite. Or turned upside down and shaken (if they are Persian) in order to “float the coat”. There are some wonderful little expressions for the unkind things people do to cats in the "cat fancy" - and ditto dogs (like deliberately breeding deformity).

Cats generally are benched (put in their show cages) around 7am and some shows only end late in the afternoon. Some are “double shows” (twice the fun for everyone, except the cats) and only end late into the night. Then the cats have to be transported back home again – and many show people campaign all over the country, or shows can extend over whole weekends, so the travel can be significant. Anybody like to be shut in a cage for 12-15 hours a day, to see how it feels?

And when one comes to the realisation that winning at cat shows has more to do with “whether you’ve paid your dues”, who you’re connected with, what role you are playing on club committees, which judge you are selling your cats to, or getting them from, who you are wining and dining the night before the show – or providing accommodation for (I could go on and on – chapter and verse) – you then realise that the cat doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. This is borne out by the fact that a cat can do well one week (or day) and poorly the next – and that’s sometimes in front of the selfsame judges. This is called “giving everyone a turn” – a pat on the head so you continue to support shows, by paying entry fees, breed fees, registration fees, club renewal fees etc.

So here’s a solution – leave the cats at home, and the catshow fraternity can vote amongst each other for the biggest “cat” of the day. And leave the four legged cats to enjoy their 5 rights of all sentient beings – one of which is to be able to express their natural behaviour – which they cannot do being kept in breed runs, carry cages, show cages et al.

A great quote from Jonathan Balcombe : “It is time our hearts caught up with our knowledge. Grounded in science and driven by ethics, we need a less selfish world-view that grants animals respect and consideration.”

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Cat Fancy Mantras that Put my Teeth on Edge

Kudos to Michael at  Pictures of Cats  for the great topic! I had so much fun replying, I decided to blog it here too :

I get intensely grumpy when confronted with much of the fool drivel spoken in the cat fancy.

Here are a few examples

How about…..

“Bettering the breed” – this drivel mantra is blurted out at every opportunity by just about every pedigree breeder trying to justify their existence while doing what they really do. Which is …

“Cat Producer”. I lied – I actually like this phrase – because it’s the truth. But you’ll never get anyone in the cat fancy to admit it, unless they’re slagging off another breeder (usually someone not in the registered cat fancy). Ho no!

“Scored according to the SOP” This string of un-meaning is intended to make one think the judge has actually done something objective and scientific while they were whirling the cat around in the air, showing off for the crowd. In point of fact they decide entirely subjectively whether they like the cat (or the owner or breeder) today, and proceed accordingly. And I’ve got that in writing from some of the top cat judges – their opinion is “subjective”. Challenge one of them to judge a cat and record the SOP scores and add them to arrive at a total. See what happens!

And how could it be anything other than subjective, with the fluffy nonsense in the SOP – designed, I might add, to muddy the waters and deter anyone else from pointing out that the judge is barking (oops!) mad. How "Large and round", is large and round? How "snub" is a snub nose? Jack-Catjudge-the-show-managers-buddy knows! It’s in the “eye of the beholder” – which is another phrase that irritates me.

How about “may the best cat win”? GNNNGGHHHH!!! AAAAARGHH!! The meaning of this horrible little lie is “may the person who we have decided in advance will win at this show (who is often the show manager, or the judge who is giving us accommodation) enjoy it, and may all the others smile and continue to support us, because if you don’t we’ll make sure your cat never wins again”.

A personal unfavourite of mine is “it’s only a hobby – we mustn’t get too serious about it”. A nasty little saying, describing people who get a kick out of breeding to excess and routinely dragging cats out of the cages they store them in at home, stuffing them into carriers and then putting them in show cages at the destination – all for their self-gratification and ego. The “not get serious” bit gets mentioned when you raise issues around governance and how odious it looks that a judge is judging the cats of the breeder who is selling them cats (or the judge is the godmother to the child of the exhibitor, or the judge has been entertained and wined and dined by the exhibitor before the show & etc).

Which brings me to another little pet hate saying “Are you questioning my integrity?” In a word – yes. Exactly. Couldn’t have put it better myself. What integrity?

How about "I don't make money from my cattery - it always runs at a loss". Yeah - right! You Ms/Mr CatBreeder are so independently wealthy that you can afford to sustain a loss-making business ad- infinitum?  I don't think so. When was the last time you gave away your kittens? You didn't? But then money changed hands, didn't it? You sold them, at the prevailing prices which are hardly in the loss-making bracket. And where did you get the new cellphone, and the fancy expensive camera, and the annual holiday by the sea and the home improvements? Oh I see - they are incurred "for your cattery". OK OK - I'll not ask you any more awkward questions...

And then we have a personal hate, the famous "kittens raised underfoot". The kittens referred to, are of course being pumped out at a rate of knots and you'll never get to see the inside of the breeders home anyway. It's website ad- doublespeak intended to create warm fuzzy illusions of wonderful, caring cat breeders cuddling their kittens. Like all advertising, 99% of the time, it's complete fantasy and crapdoodle of the highest order. 

What about the insidiously insincere "cat run", or "stud run" ? This is the outside area given to an unsterilised male cat to prevent them coming into the house and spraying it with pungent pee. Of course the "stud run" is not big enough to allow the stud to run or exercise at all, but it sounds good. Real cat lovers allow their cats freedom and plenty of inside and outside fun and space to let off steam. 

"I just LOVE this boy" (or girl). (alt. LUURVE) This is only said after the breeder/exhibitor has been given a show win, courtesy of a judge who has decided in their vacillating random walk through the show hall to award a particular cat, which happens to be theirs. Of course the professed lurve is short lived and the honeymoon ends as soon as the show wins do. It is unsurprising to find the same cat on junk mail/ on the internet for sale or shipped off to another breeder not long after. Which bring us to ....

"Retirees". These are cats which have reached their sell-by date. They've expired (not entirely literally, but almost). They are no longer winning & they're not producing any winners, so they need to make space for the next incoming cats. A chord of memory is jogged and I recall the phrase...

"My breed program". This is an entirely fictitious phrase, designed to create the impression that the breeder actually has an idea of what they are trying to achieve - other than winning shows, making money or being given ribbons and trophies. There is in fact no "breed program". They are putting cats together from well-known lines in order to breed a kitten which happens to have all the right bits and bobs in the right places. When the cat no longer performs, or the kittens which get thrown out get thrown out (by the judges- if you get my meaning), the cat is evicted to make space "because of my breed program". And in comes the next one...

"I've always dreamed of having a cat like this - it's like a dream come true". This gusher of snivelling drivel gets emitted on chat lists and websites on average annually - usually from the same people. It indicates they have just acquired (another) imported cat, and they are trying to get the attention of the judges who are on the same cat mail list. (It's always easier to buy a good cat than breed it, isn't it?). As soon as the cat doesn't achieve, nothing more is heard, until the next year when "(here we go again) I've always ....."

"You don't know how it's done in the cat fancy". Oh yes I do - which is what I pointed out to the breeder who said this and was trying to use it as a mechanism to keep me in line (i.e. to shut up and be a good little boy so I could be given a (little) show success one day, for being "faithful"). I went on to point out that I was well versed in exactly how "it was done in the cat fancy", and that I wanted no part of it.  I achieved the desired outcome, which was to cause the breeder run away and hide under a rock.

"What do YOU know - you're not even a breeder". Sigh. This pompous nonsense holds a myriad of possibilities. It has a delicate hint of the fact that becoming a breeder blesses you with an extra 100 IQ points and an honorary degree at Harvard. Or perhaps a mystical infusion of great vision and ancient wisdom into matters feline. What about the flavour of elitism- becoming part of the Social Collective of cat breeding? It is not unusual to note that those uttering this verbal claptrap, do not display any evidence of having done any proper research and investigation into cat breeding themselves, before taking up the game (emphasis deliberate). And I'm not talking about then merely knowing where the orifice is, that the kittens come out and how to help this process take place. Last time I checked, you don't have to "be" anything, in order to gain deep insight by studying.

And my most hated saying is.....

"Floating the Coat". When I pointed out on a chat list that this was disrespectful to the animal, I was told by an eminent international judge  "No it's not - it's called "floating the coat". Since it was my chat list, I didn't let matters rest there. This is what is done to Persian cats at shows slightly, before they are judged. The owner shakes the cat, both side to side and vertically to get the coat to stand out from the body. I've seen an owner holding his cat upside down by the feet and shaking it. It made me want to do something unmentionably violent to the cat owner. It is a well- regarded and condoned practice in the cat fancy.....

"My Contract". Another gut-churning piece of irrelevant nonsense, "my contract" intends to convey the impression that the breeder is ethically caring for their kitten progeny and enforces such delicate procedures as compulsory sterilisation, not rehoming too early, health guarantees & etc. "My contract" is a piece of junk, written by an amateur would-be legal beagle and no court in the world is going to fit it into the court roll. It's a lot of fatuous nonsense, sloppily worded that any decent attorney could punch holes in, in no time at all. But it fulfils a valuable purpose - it enables the breeder to get away with cutting corners to save costs, while maintaining a thin veneer of respectability. It's usually mentioned in discussion where breeders are criticizing those who don't sterilise (or any other hot topic), thus : "I'm fully in favour of, and enforce early neuter/spay - it's written in my contract". And then they never follow up to ensure it's done after the kitten is sold. It's also a great way of not taking responsibility for genetic problems that surface in later life, thus "My contract provides for a health guarantee in the first year of life" (knowing that most genetic problems start to surface around 3 -6 years of age).

There are many, many more. But I don’t want to frighten you!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Translating Cat Breeder Gobbledygook

Consider the paragraph below. It's been chanted so often by cat breeders that it's lost any meaning it ever had. It's aim is to convey the impression that the breeder is a wonderful caring person who puts their animals first and foremost, and is the very epitome of uprightness and respectibility.

"I'm a very discriminating breeder, and I don't breed much every year - I don't often have kittens so you're advised to make a reservation. We are registered with the CFA/TICA/SACC/ACF etc. and show our cats. We're an underfoot cattery and we love our cats dearly blah blah yap yap yappity yap."
(The above is written in the Martian language - the language of extra terrestrials.)

Here's the translation into the English language :

"I am an animal abuser and hoarder of the worst kind. I don't give a tinker's cuss for my animals but breed them for money and the fame it brings me in the show ring, and because I like to have my ego diddled on a regular basis. I keep my cats in little stacked cages so it saves space. I will do this until I die, because it's soooo nice"

I can hear the howls of dismay by the cat breeding fraternity, but the facts speak for themselves :

1. The overriding majority of breeders do not know the meaning of the word "moderation" when it comes to keeping cats
2. Showing cats entices the ego, and the quest for wins drives collection-addiction
3. Cat breeding is a jolly little way of making some extra undeclared income which helps pay the monthly bills- or a great way to earn a living when you are unemployed (or unemployable, which is more to the point).
4. Cat showing is a bunch of subjective bollocks, where the faithful are rewarded with titles and ribbons, and in exchange they attain boasting rights which makes selling expensive cats easier
5. The great majority of cat breeders fuel the overpopulation of cats by not sterilising before rehoming. It's cheaper that way - keeps the margins fat.

Here's Laura Duffy's version of Martian :

"I started breeding Siamese in 1973. I started with chocolate and seal point Siamese. The name "Raksha" comes from a Roger Zelazney novel featuring a modified Hindu pantheon/mythology. In this book a Raksha was a small mischeivious shape changing demon .....sound familiar? Yes, I thought so too. Originally registered with CFA and ACFA , I quickly switched to TICA when it became a reality and have not looked at the other associations since. Over the years I have bred red points and tortie points. I branched out into Oriental Shorthairs thanks to my good friend , Lindajean Grillo. I finally moved onto Balinese and Oriental Longhairs as well. I like all show people have been tempted by other breeds and have had Abyssinians, Himalayans. Birmans, American Curls,Japanese Bobtails and a Maine Coon. While these are all beautiful cats, I have learned that they don't have the personality that attacts me to Siamese. Although I will say that my Birman Janipur' was such a darling that I and the Siamese wouldn't mind another of these lounging around the house.When I say Siamese I refer to the entire breed Siamese group (Siamese,Balinese,Oriental Shorthairs and Longhairs). No matter what colors I have worked with , I have made health and personality my priority.Over the years I have refined my goals to producing beautiful, healthy cats in my three favorite colors  Seal (black),Chocolate and Cinnamon. I am trying for both pointed and solids(Oriental Shorthairs) in shorthair as well as longhair. Someday I'll have a litter where I get everything I've worked for in one pile of glorious kittens.

I have very few litters a year so if you are looking for a specific color, a reservation is recommended. I have not yet eliminated blue from my lines so occasional blue and lilac kittens are available. Kittens for breeding or exhibition are rarely available but inquiries are welcome. I am located in Northern California and the best way to reach me is via email."

Here's the translation :

"Cat Breeder Sentenced for Animal Abuse
Published 4:00 a.m., Thursday, September 7, 1995

A 37-year-old La Honda woman who breeds purebred Oriental short-hair cats was sentenced to 30 days in jail yesterday on animal cruelty charges.

Laura Duffy also was sentenced to two years supervised probation, one year court probation and was ordered to pay restitution of $3,600, said Irene Holmes, a San Mateo County deputy district attorney. In addition, Duffy was ordered to receive counseling and treatment.

Acting on an anonymous tip in April, Humane Society officials went to Duffy's La Honda home where they discovered 30 cats, two dogs, two horses and seven goats living in squalor, Fox said.

The horses were in poor condition and were at least 300 pounds underweight. Numerous cats were confined to dirty metal cages. Some of the animals were suffering from upper respiratory infections, dehydration and hypothermia.

All of the cats were purebreds, many of them sent to Duffy by their owners for breeding. The cats have since been reunited with their owners, said Stacy Fox, a spokesman for the Humane Society.

On August 7, Duffy pleaded no contest to one count of animal cruelty, one count of permitting an animal to go without care, and one count of violating the San Mateo County pet overpopulation ordinance.

She was sentenced yesterday by Municipal Judge Carl Holm. He also ruled that during Duffy's probation, she is forbidden to possess or care for any animals."

Do you see how easy it is to translate Martian catbabble once you get the hang of it? (And it's not an isolated instance - the CFA have a section devoted to keeping them out of the limelight when (another) one of their registered breeders fall out of the tree. They wouldn't need this, if registered breeders were genuinely nice kindly people, would they?)


Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Undefined Backyard Breeder

Ugh! The vexed question of what a backyard breeder may be, hangs ever in the air in a haze of ambiguity. There's more concerted (can I say "enthusiastic"?) discussion concerning "BYB's" than any other topic in the cat fancy. If there's one subject you can jump up and down on in a public mail forum, confident in the knowledge that nobody in the cat fancy is going to take offence, it's the so-called BYB bashing.

(Let me state at this point, that all considerations in this post apply equally to the dog fancy. The characters are the same, the issues are identical).

So why doesn't anyone actually know what a BYB is ?

There are no limit of people that think they do, or who use the tag as a slur, but that doesn't mean they've done the thinking around what a BYB is, and why they should be (apparently) hated so much - or what differentiates them, as a "proper breeder" in deed, from BYB's.

But today, we had an epiphany over early morning coffee. Yes, our eyes may still be partially glued shut, but the brain is starting to tick over...

Let's start with the classical cat fancy definition of what a BYB is, and it's illustrated by the following statement on a popular cat fancy nationwide mail list a few days ago. The issue concerned somebody who had independently (& privately) SMS'ed a question to a couple of registered cat breeders, asking where they could get an entire mate for their cat. Within a short time, these conversations were broadcast, (names intact) to the national cat fancy. (We will examine the question of integrity later in this posting).

An oracle of the cat fancy concluded the discussion by posting the following :
"I spoke to (name omitted) I think it is clearer to him now. I explained one needs to join a club and one of our 3 registry organisations to breed correctly. I also explained Siamese are out crossed (cross breed as (name omitted) calls it) to Orientals and it is legal in (name of cat registry omitted) as well. Siamese are legally bred to Burmese not Birmans and produce Tonkinese. (Name omitted) is going to join a club.... At least it will not be another back yard breeder"
There you have it. The classic cat (and dog) fancy definition of a backyard breeder is clearly somebody who breeds animals without being a member of a registry or joining a club. There was no contradiction from the national cat chat list, so I must conclude that all the cat breeders are comfortable with this statement.

The corollary here of course is that once you "belong" (remember that word for later) to the cat fancy, you are classed as a respectable breeder. The implication of this, is that in some mysterious way, all your actions and decisions as a breeder are vetted and regulated so as to ensure that everything you do with, and to your cats is in the highest interests of the animal - if the blurb issuing forth from the cat fancies and breeder websites is anything to go by.

This is borne out by any and every cat registry statement of intent/objectives/ manifesto / constitution - call it whatever. There you will find statements about "protecting", "bettering", "promoting welfare of cats", "improvement of breeds", "investigations to ensure the breeding and showing of cats are to the highest standards" & etc. Now, unless there are processes and actions in place that actually carry out such objectives, this is mere window-dressing, designed to make the registry look as if it's carrying on reputable business. Are there any processes?

- proactive snap inspections of existing breeders by registry or breed-council officials? No.
- vetting of aspirant breeders to ensure they are properly equipped to take on the heady challenges of breeding (knowledge, temperament, personal circumstances etc.)? No
- imposing conditions on aspirant breeders to ensure optimal cattery husbandry as a condition of approval? No
- publication of breeder suspension lists to warn the general public? (A few registries have this)
- are regulations in place to ensure breeders vet buyers to ensure optimal placing of cats to suitable homes? No.
- from the information in the registry database, do registries do anything to discourage overcrowding of cats in breeder-affiliated catteries? No.


So there you have it - anybody appears to be able to join a registry as a breeder, fill in a form, EFT the cash and bingo, you're magically a "responsible" breeder. You don't even have to meet anyone face to face - it's that easy.

Bottom line - all critical decisions impacting the breeding of the cat, other than obvious outcrossing and lineage regulations are left to the discretion and integrity of the individual breeder. There is no interference from breed groups, clubs or fellow-breeders in the affairs of individual breeders, and provided no questions are asked or answered, this is the way it will remain. And any action which will result in a reduction in the number of animals being entered in shows, registered or bred will not enjoy the support of the cat registry, since its income is directly proportionate to, and dependent on numbers.

Now - don't scream that the link below only applies to dogs. The cat fancies also do nothing to clean up their dirty little acts. The similarities are immediate and obvious. And don't get picky about "mills" and word definitions - what the AKC calls "high volume breeders". I know of  breeders with vast numbers of cats who are both registered, and regularly attend shows.

An AKC registered dog means less than you think 
(Hint: A SA- Cat fancy registered cat also means less than you think - especially when it comes to longevity)

and HSUS Unveils AKC- Puppy mill link
(Particularly revealing here is that the AKC encourages its members to oppose legislation aimed at alleviating animal suffering.)

True to form, the CFA (Cat Fancy of America) does the same - they run seminars for their members to show them how to go about opposing draft legislation aimed at controlling overpopulation of cats, or buying without the personal viewing of the animal & etc. (The latter aimed at protecting the buyer from unscrupulous breeders - but also impeding the hugely lucrative internet-based cat trade)

So, joining a club or registry doesn't seem to do the trick to eliminate bad breeding practices, does it?

[I can list registered, show attending breeders who conduct themselves in the same way as those they set out to revile. Some of these breeders have achieved the pinnacle of success in their fancies, being multiple award winners. And that means nothing, if the animals in your care are stressed, overcrowded, sick, malnourished or poorly cared for].

If the animal registries really had the animals health and welfare at heart they would be supporting, encouraging, working with and welcoming the help from animal welfare organisations, and assisting in the rollout of new laws to protect animals from being abused and exploited. Since this is clearly not the case and the opposite is true, one can only assume that the best interests of the animal are not a primary objective (contrary to those warm fluffy statements in their constitutions), and that they have another objective in mind :  growing their business and increasing their financial flows. 

So here's my stab at what a Back Yard Breeder is really.
The cat fancy is just a microcosm of the bigger world, and is inhabited by the same characteristics and social tendencies as the rest of life. It is subject to its taboos and its rules, both spoken and unspoken. And it pays to "go along to get along" in the cat fancy. Those who are loyal and toe the line, who pander and genuflect and breed and show lots of cats do somewhat better than those who don't. And those who question policy, comment or otherwise draw attention to themselves by going against the flow, are shunned, isolated and made to feel unwelcome. This is the same in religion, politics, business, social life and everywhere else.

Which brings me to the simple observation : A backyard breeder is anyone breeding cats (or dogs) who is not in the same canoe as everyone else. They're not part of the "family'. They're an alien. Remember the statement above?

"I explained one needs to join a club and one of our 3 registry organisations to breed correctly. (Name omitted) is going to join a club.... At least it will not be another back yard breeder"

This is obviously complete piffle as it stands, but it's truth lies in what the writer meant to say :

"I explained one needs to join a club and one of our 3 registry organisations to be accepted by other registered breeders. And joining a club will ensure he will not be viewed as another backyard breeder by the cat fancy".

If you're not paddling in the same canoe, you're the enemy. And while they are in the canoe, pointing at the enemies outside of it, nobody is watching to see if the water level in the canoe is rising, whether the canoe is moving forwards or backwards relative to the river bank, whether the water turbulence is increasing, whether there are rocks, or if the canoe is approaching a waterfall. And confound that person in the canoe who tries to point out any of these things - they will be cast out into the waters.

Here are 10 points to Being a Successful Cat Breeder. No's 2, 4 and 9 stand out for me.

1. Love and enjoy the companionship of your cats
2. Beware the Raging Ego
3. Remain a student
4. Breed for Improvement, not winners
5. To thine own self be true
6. Deal with Others as you would have them deal with you
7. By giving, you have nothing to lose
8. Make use of others' achievements
9. You are only as good as your morals
10. Remember and honour the first 9 rules...  

Here's the detail of the above rules  10 Rules

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Preserving the Breed & Other Fables

So often we hear the popular mantra from cat breeders "I'm preserving and protecting the breed", preparatory to going ahead and doing some mass cat-production, upping the numbers by many tens or hundreds of cats.

On the CFA website is a discussion entitled "WHAT IS A PEDIGREED CAT?"
"Over the development years of a pedigreed cat, various natural and planned genetic combinations have provided the evolution of the breeds we recognize today. Some are naturally occuring breeds and others are man-made.
Breeders often choose to work with a single breed and devote their love and attention to the development of that breed. Their aim is to preserve, protect, maintain and improve their chosen breed. All of our breeds of domesticated cats would indeed become extinct were it not for the continuing interest of breeder/fanciers and the public".

We thought to examine these words and see the true meaning of them, and then apply that to what we know of cat breeders, and see how well they match up.

The online Free dictionary defines "preserve" as follows :
pre·serve (pr-zûrv)

v. pre·served, pre·serv·ing, pre·serves
1. To maintain in safety from injury, peril, or harm; protect.
2. To keep in perfect or unaltered condition; maintain unchanged.
3. To keep or maintain intact: tried to preserve family harmony. See Synonyms at defend.
4. To prepare (food) for future use, as by canning or salting.
5. To prevent (organic bodies) from decaying or spoiling.
6. To keep or protect (game or fish) for one's private hunting or fishing.

We'll skip 4 and 5, as they clearly refer to food and organic plant material.

1. Maintain in safety etc. Well - I suppose most breeders tend to keep their cats under lock and key, in the inner recesses of their homes, not allowing them out so I suppose that protecting from peril or injury qualifies here. Granted, accidents happen in the best of homes, but that's a "shit-happens" moment and happens to the best of us. What about protecting from harm? Think about the average cramped, overcrowded cat breeder environment, with overgrowth and transmission of pathogens, like URI's, conjunctivitis, overdosing with home antibiotic supplies purloined from the friendly vet & etc. I don't think that qualifies somehow under the category of protecting from harm. So only give half a tick here.

2. What about keeping in perfect or unaltered condition, maintaining unchanged. Nope - the cat fancy has a long history of screwing up just about every breed that comes across the judging table. A bunch of misguided  people somewhere get a dumb idea into their heads and the next thing you know, every breeder is creation is screwing up a perfectly good, healthy cat by inbreeding in pursuit of the outward confirmation required by the changed standard of points. Think I'm talking junk?

Persians : At the 2012 World Cat Congress, Prof Tim Gruffyd-Jones noted that European vets have the greatest problems with Persians and Sphynx. In the case of Persians the concern is the respiratory problem caused by the brachycephalic facial structure, but there is also concern for the longer, more dense coat making the Persian a high maintenance cat. What's the cat fancy response to the prospect of losing their precious squashed faces? A question from the floor "Is the extreme Persian with bigger nose leather and wider nostrils OK?" - missing the point completely that the brachycephalic facial structure has affected breathing, rendered tear ducts inoperable and caused soft palate elongation i.c.w. the flatter facial structure, presenting protruding tongues. I somehow don't think bigger nose leather and nares cuts the mustard.

Witness this change in the past 30 years particularly (see "Battering the Breed" in this blogsite for the embedded video link).

Siamese? The old healthy head and body shape made way for a long slinky strung-out body, the head morphed into a long wedge shape and the cat developed fly-away Dumbo ears. "Dumbo" in this connotation is indeed an apt word. Breeders have been warned (WCC presentation 2012) that the Siamese head shape is becoming too extreme.

Sphynx also develop skin diseases when they are not bathed regularly, specifically in colder months

The lethal American variant Burmese head defect is well known in cat fancy circles, and is a result of breeders aiming for shorter muzzles and slightly rounder facial structure. 

Just about every Maine Coon originates in only 15 common cats, so over-used were the original bloodlines. The origin of the Maine Coon is said to be a mix of the forest cats of Maine, and the domestic shorthair cats of the early settlers. Given that the American wild forest cat is a tabby, just where do all the colour-variant Maine Coons come from, and how does the approval of every colour under the sun "preserve the breed"?

Prof Gruffyd-Jones also discussed the breeding of breeds based on genetic defects and specifically referred to Scottish Fold, Manx, Munchkin, Sphynx and Bambino. He asserted that there is no place in the world for a breed based on genetic faults. He said that there cannot but be a concern for the health of a cat if breeding of these breeds are encouraged, and asked if registering bodies are living up to their main objectives if these breeds are accepted for registration.

OK - so for point 2., give breeders and the cat fancy a big fat cross.

3. Keep or maintain intact. The dictionary sense here does not truly apply in the context of cats, as it merges in point 2, above. However, with tongue in cheek and understanding one meaning of "to maintain intact" - this is one of the things a breeder does best! Any animal which is "not intact" is little use to a breeder. Flippantly give them a little tick here, balanced by a cross for the more serious meaning - their inability to truly maintain the healthy breeds unchanged.

4. Point 6 - to keep or protect for ones private hunting or fishing. Ah! Now here's what cat breeders really do well. They keep cats for their own private hunting/fishing. Realise that in the context of the cat fancy, the hunting/fishing is for trophies and ribbons and is done in the show halls across the world. "Own private" are also appropriate - they reflect the self-interest which dominates the character of most animal breeders. Big tick here, but for the wrong reasons.

Final scorecard : One and a half ticks out of 4 categories, and one point of that was for the wrong reason! Hardly a pass mark, is it?

As for breeds of domesticated cats becoming extinct, at the rate they're going cat breeders and registries are likely to achieve the exact opposite effect, very shortly. But then, the animal fancies are not known for being moderate. To the contrary, continual drift towards the extreme appears to be a hallmark of "breed progression".

And given that most of the breeds are virtually unrecognisable from the breeds only 50 or so years back, I'd say the cat fraternity has been spectacularly unsuccessful in preserving the breed.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

A Misguided Sense of Priorities

The posting would be funny if its subject matter was not of such grave concern. Indeed there are moments when you have to smile at the ludicrously inappropriate responses from both the breeder who was raided, and the CFA people. Tragicomedy!

Dozens of cats found in Long Island home

Note the irrelevant information dished up by the breeder to the rescue authorities "The red fellow here is a grand premier". Hello! Who cares? The title is nonsense - it matters only to those inside the cat fancy who think it is something of value. It isn't of course. And to any normal person , this type of statement comes across sounding really whacko. Makes you want to go and bang on his skull and ask if there's anyone in there. He's being raided and the stench is reportedly overwhelming - and he's going around saying "and this is Maddie, and that's Ethylene etc." Are we on the same planet?

"We breed and show pedigreed cats". Yeah Yeah. And live in a sea of cat urine and faeces. But he has someone who comes in twice weekly to clean the house and empty the sandboxes. Isn't this reasonable? The reason I'm asking, is that there seems to be something going on in that lonely dark space this breeder is pleased to call a brain (and in the brains of every other cat breeder) that indicates that this is perfectly reasonable. But it's not, as every normal (non cat fancy) person will attest.

He says, "I'm not overwhelmed". If not, his cats certainly are. They're sentient beings - they surely must find being housed in excrement and filthy stinking surrounds and being made to use over-dirty litter boxes overwhelming.

Cat behaviourists tell us there should be a litter box for each cat, plus one extra. Forty one litter boxes in his home? I doubt it - there wouldn't be enough space. The cat litter boxes in our home are cleaned at least 4 times daily and no waste is allowed to lie in a box for any length of time. But overnight it accumulates, and in the morning boxes have to be cleaned. I shudder to imagine the kind of mess that 40 cats make over a 3-4 day period in their litter boxes.

"And you can take care of the cats?" he is asked by the reporter. YES   "40 of them?" YES

No he can't - he presents himself as a lunatic who needs to be given a nice quiet place to be locked up in - like his cats, but more humane and hygienic. The problem is, as the reader will note when following the link below, that the CFA people think this is merely mischief making by people intent of ruining their cat fancy, and everything is being blown out of proportion.

And there's the rub - cat (and dog) fancies are not self-regulating because they do not focus on animal welfare issues, but only on show income and titles  - again to the normal person, this is clearly inappropriate.

Witness the exchange of mails involving certain CFA cat breeders on behalf of their registry's interest. I am amused by the show manager who was incensed at the fact that this raid occurred immediately before a CFA show that was being held in the same area. So who has a skewed sense of priorities then? I didn't hear much sympathy for the cats.

(In this exchange, BAP = Breeder Assistance Program and BR = Breeder Rescue).

Clearly, the fact that the CFA have assistance programs of this nature to aid breeders who get into trouble (mainly due to overcrowding), is an indication that all is not well in the cat fancy - in that breeders have a tendency to acquire and retain excess cats, spurred on by the promise of show success and the economics of selling kittens. That said, any normal person (they exist in everyday life outside the animal fancies) would put measures in place to prevent the registration of more than a set number of animals, and/or inspect and censure the owners, thus curtailing the practice.

And one of the key areas of cat fancy emphasis is not getting animal rights (AR) or PETA involved, and preferably not the SPCA either. And of course no breeder wants a animal inspector wandering around their home - for obvious reasons that have nothing to do with their privacy. Anyone who was really interested in the welfare of the cat would welcome inspection with open arms. Come to think of it, any cat fancy that really was serious about cat health and welfare, would have instituted compulsory cattery /home of excellence programs (with mandatory inspections) a long time ago.

But nobody is serious about it, and the dirt has to be kept swept under the rug....

Waxolotl cattery raided by authorities

I am starting to formulate the opinion that anyone who remains in the cat or dog fancy for any length of time, gets attacked by brain-rot. Or is brain-dead in the first place.

Cat Collection Addiction

I am again reminded by recent events, of the 2009 case of (yet another) cat hording abuser, one Inez Tyrrell of Amzeni Persians in Telford, Shropshire. For those not acquainted with this little bit of infamy, she was convicted in court, and admitted to 13 counts of causing unnecessary suffering to animals. Twenty-eight of her 72 persians (in a 2 bedroomed house!) had to be put down. Another four were found dead in the freezer.  

From the press records: 

An experienced officer had to leave as he almost vomited from the smell, due to the ammonia levels. Cats were suffering from ocular, dental and respiratory tract diseases, and facial pyoderma.
“One cat had severely deformed hind limbs and couldn’t walk properly and should have been taken to the vets immediately. The hall stairs and landing of the house were covered in cat faeces and were stained with urine."
Judge Morgan branded her actions "totally unnacceptable" and said: “I’ve never come across a case where so many animals have had to be destroyed over just one person’s actions. “You must have known what condition these cats were living in - the physical appearance of them show they were seriously suffering. “The RSPCA had to pay nearly £100,000 in cattery and veterinary expenses. For that great British charity to lose so much money because of you is totally and utterly unacceptable.” 
(Guess who picks up the pieces - as usual). 
It is ominous that Tyrell stated that “It was never a business, it has always been a hobby. All of us cat breeders keep cats for the same reason, we love them so much.”  I sincerely hope that she does not speak for the majority of cat breeders when defending this type of abuse as being a 'hobby' - "loving them so much" that they literally love them to death. Looks to me like "collection addiction" and exploitation. 

The court imposed a life ban on keeping cats, and a 5 year ban on keeping reptiles (which were also abused in her home). It is notable that on the back of a court ban for life, the GCCF saw fit to only charge her with 11 counts of causing unnecessary suffering (after she admitted 13 in court), and one charge of not providing a suitable environment for the cats she was responsible for. I wonder which of the 4 cats in the freezer that charge applied to and why for the other three, the freezer was deemed to be an appropriate environment? I presume it must have applied to the dead freezer cats, surely? But then what about the cats kept upstairs in the many filthy little cages? I suppose according to the British cat fancy, those conditions would be deemed "appropriate"? I wonder which dear soul on the UK Governing Council would like to be locked up in a little cage for several years, to see if it really is appropriate? Surely 76 counts of providing unnacceptable conditions sends a clearer message? The GCCF then imposed a 5 year suspension, after which she may apply to have it lifted. 

I wonder what you have to do to be given a life ban in the GCCF? Maybe if you bring them under public scrutiny for turning a blind eye to overcrowding by their breeders, perhaps? Or possibly setting fire to the cat fancy president? 

Of course, the UK GCCF and every other cat registry worldwide has exact stats on every one of their breeders and owners' cats through the registration and transfer process, so they have the wherewithal to carry out the necessary control measures to prevent cats being overcrowded. All they need is the will to keep their house in order.

But I note in the GCCF's business plan, that registry fees are the bulk (90%) of the income per annum - so guess where the real priority lies? I mean, which business wants to limit its own fee income, merely because it means being nice to a few hundred thousand cats? (And the GCCF (Ltd) is very definitely a business, like every other cat registry worldwide). 

And then of course, cat fancies tend to try and downplay incidents like these of being "one-off" aberrations by misguided individuals who they then go out of their way to disown, since being caught with your hand in the animal-abuse cookie jar is bad PR for the cat fancy. But they do nothing to police their members or discourage hoarding of cats.  

Witness Tracy Mayo, of Tracylooe Cattery in Looe, Cornwall who was found to have more than 100 persian cats locked up in a barn, in execrable conditions in small cages a couple of years back. The local rescue centre helped ensure a happy ending for some of these cats. The Tracylooe breeder prefix is still listed under the GCCF, and Ms Mayo is not any suspension list - temporary or permanent. (I do note that both temporary and permanent life suspensions seem to be awarded to those who are caught not paying moneys due/ withholding show earnings/ keeping inadequate financial records and not submitting all the required paperwork. It's good to know the GCCF has its business priorities right - can't cry over a few cats, can we?) 

How about Stacey Bogue of Startrax cattery, who when she heard the SPCA had been called out to her cattery, opened the doors and let the cats out into the snow, and fled to Canada? Neither the CFA nor TICA did anything to censure her. The conditions under which her cats were kept were horrendous, and the only reason it came to light was her husband who was having a custody battle and wanted to prove her an unfit parent. 

Posted at Thu, March 17, 2011 9:05:23 AM 

  “This is no news. This happened almost 2 years ago already, and unfortunately nobody could stop this evil person. CFA and TICA both did nothing against her. Stacey also had two males from me and I heard that one of them has died meanwhile (you see him on one picture, a red persian sitting on a blue towel), and the other one nobody knows where he is. People said that Stacey just let them run out in the cold winter, left to themselves, and maybe they have died from the hard winter in Canada... I swear if I ever meet this woman in person, I will do the same to her what she has done to all these cats. Lock her in the cellar and throw a few kibbles of food on the floor every 3-4 days...! No cleaning, no toilet, let her sleep in her own shit! This woman was a prospective cat judge and she sounded so nice! You never see behind the face of a person.... Pictures were taken by her (Ex-)husband but not to protect the cats, just to start a custody battle about their daughter...” 

While we're bumming around the US, how about Judith Lawson, a former cat breeder who was found to have housed 22 cats in filthy cages in her garage for more than 6 years? She "didn't mean to do it". I suppose at no time in that 6 years did it occur to her that she was doing wrong. See 22 cats living in filth . 

Investigators noted that this probably happened at a previous home she lived in, in Bellevue. When she moved out, walls and floors had to be ripped out because of the urine and faecal contamination. 

And it goes on and on. And the abuse lists can be easily found in the public domain. 

The culpability of the cat fancies for encouraging this behaviour is explored in more detail in a later blog. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Alzheimers at the Judging Table

G and I were pondering what it is about the cat fancy that makes people take the same cats to shows, week in, week out, year in and year out. On and on, ad infinitim.

When one thinks back to Harrison Weir (the father of the cat fancy), the original objective of cat showing was to create awareness and education in the public domain about these mysterious animals, and later for the judges to guide breeders in their programs, towards the elusive "perfect" specimen (not that anyone will ever succeed in breeding a perfect cat - whatever that may be).

The problem with showing cats however, is that except for fairly rapid changes through the kitten stages, the development is fairly gradual and therefore it makes little sense to be showing them every week - that is, assuming cat judges are consistent you're certainly not likely to get much of a different message, week on week.

But of course cat judges are not consistent and much of their message consists of trying to tell you diplomatically that the cat is a poor specimen, or perhaps that the cat is a great specimen (this depends on their mood, whether you've been a good and loyal subject lately, whether they want somebody else to do well at the show today to keep them coming back and paying fees & etc.) It seldom actually has much to do with the cat and what the judge has had for breakfast is as likely as anything to sway the decision.

So, for a while at least, you get a kaleidoscope of judge opinions, many the same, plus some outliers from a few upcountry judges who don't know you quite so well and are not particularly interested in hampering your chances unless you've been getting up their noses lately. But then it tends to settle down into the same old rigmarole/ ho hum been-there-seen-that type of report.

There was only one judge who was upfront enough to say to me "I don't know what else to say about him - I've written everything there is to say already - and that judge had only seen him 3 times before. But 3 times is more than enough when it comes to cat judging. At the 2nd time, the judge is still getting to know the cat - by 3 times the judge is saying "ah hello old chap, and how are we today?". And after that, it's just silly.

It makes it even worse when the cat fancy tries to pretend that judges don't know which exhibits are owned or bred by who. The point being here that 99% of the time, the owner of the cat is standing in front of the judge presenting the cat to him/her to be judged. Therefore for the cat fancy's assertion to be correct, I must presume that cat judges have either an exceptionally short term memory recall / short span of attention (or both), or Alzheimers (or all of these). Certainly, I'm leaning towards believing it in certain cases....

So now we get the situation where, in order to encourage people to bring their cats back to the show (and hence support the federations with entry fees), they create multiple titles, like "double supreme champion", "triple supreme champion" etc.) Which means with the current show system provided you are prepared to drive a few thousand extra kilometers per year, these extra awards can be obtained within about a year. Otherwise if you're a stay-at-home type, a couple of years extra showing of the cat. But what's the point if the judge has seen the cat multiple times already? And most of them have, because there are not that many judges in SA. By the time you get in that type of silliness, the judges are bored, you're bored and the cat is getting bored. In fact that cat would far rather be at home, stalking a juicy bird or lying in the garden in a tunnel, or sunning itself on its back.

But no - the same cats get trotted out year on year. And behold! Suddenly, there we have a picture of a cat judge standing next to a proud owner and their cat which is being touted as the best thing since sliced bread, and it's the same cat that has been judged by the same judge countless times. Silly smiles are plastered on their faces. What changed? Well nothing as far as the cat is concerned. However the owner is being patted for being persistent and loyal (for a moment, at least), until it's somebody else's turn.

And the years roll on, show after show, COTY after COTY.
"Same procedure as last year Miss Sophie?"
"Same procedure as every year, James"

I can see it all now in my mind. A Monty Python sketch lampooning the pathetic silliness of the cat fancy. John Cleese enters show hall with his too-short trousers showing a deal of ankle and mismatching sock, clutching a cat protectively under his arm and shielding it from the prying eyes of the other exhibitors who have seen it a million times.

"Same procedure as last year, Mrs Scum?"
"Same procedure as every year, Mr Gabbleblotchit"

"Right!" and he Nazi goose-steps towards the front of the hall, cat under left arm, right arm cocked with the feather from the cat teazer under his nose to indicate the moustache. He turns round at the front, holds the cat high in the air, and on his forehead is affixed an enormous rosette with tails down to his knees. It reads "FAITHFUL EXHIBITOR OF THE YEAR".

"No , no, no!!" The show manager screams "you do that at the end of the season. This is the beginning. You need to get into your cage!"

"Oh all right" Gabbleblotchit sighs reluctantly, curling his 6'5" frame double and contorting his body into a 50cmx50cm show cage. A passing steward obligingly slams the door shut and puts in the steel retaining pin.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Rosettes Make the World Go Round

I was vaguely amused (but not surprised) to note the following piece of drivel on one of the cat lists, after an annual Cat of the Year binge had taken place, and the masses were still in a mutual back patting mood :

"I am quite surprised that no one has put pics of the amazing CFSA Coty Rosettes up yet. So shoot me if you will. They were done by *(name deleted)*  and were even personalised - each Rosette had the Cat's placing as well as a separate ribbon with the Cat's Name on. These are undoubtedly the most beautiful Coty Rosette in our home."
(I won't bother to fix the prose to more closely resemble English)

(And then a picture of a board with a few rows of rosettes, basically similar, with the caption) :
"The armada of Rosettes that greeted us on the evening."

"Each Coty Qualifier got two Rosettes, the smaller one was on each cage and the larger, personalised one, we received in the evening."

I loved G's comment : NOW... Lets NOT forget the Rosettes folks!!!  How would we survive the cat-show without our rows of Rosettes to show off our wins?  UNTHINKABLE!!!!!!"

Poor human-beings - seems they have nothing better to do than exploit their cats so that they can  B R A G  and then feel good about themselves !!!

And that about sums up the stupidity of the cat fancy. It would be more worthwhile if the winning was at least based on the qualities of the cat, rather than the need to mollycoddle the masses in turn, to keep them coming back to the shows. But it's not. Drag the cats to the show and back home. Show and home. Show, home, show home showhomeshowhomeshowhomeshowhome etc.

Pity it does nothing for the cats. It would be nice if the money spent on ribbons, dinners and doodads could be donated to animal welfare, cat shelters and sterilization programs.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Back to the Garden

Our Garden
Felines: Apollo, Mojito, Tabitha Twitchit, Adagio
Photos : Mike
Poem by: David Switzer


Come with me
Back to the Garden
Where we have
No fears of
Who and what
We are

Back to the Garden
Where we see
The world with
Love in our
Eyes for each
Other and the
World we’re in

Back to the Garden
Where our souls
Are free of guilt
And are filled
With the pure
Joy of being

Back to the Garden
Of our soul’s Eden
The place where
All is love
And loving acceptance
Of who and
What we are.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

You Need to Put Your Foot Down!

I said "You need to put your foot down with these cats!" 

Thus saith a member of the family who recently came to visit. Just goes to show how little they know about cats!
You don't "put your foot down" with cats. They say cats are truly independent beings who manage to tolerate their host home merely because that's where all their food and comfort is. But that's not to say that cats are "stand-offish" beasties who never interact with their owners, but that they interact at a place and time of their own choosing. 

And do they interact! There is plenty of interaction from our cats - they herd along after us as soon as something really interesting is taking place - like moving the furniture, or eating outside in the garden, or evening playtime, or following us so they can sleep on the computer while we are trying to work. There is no question that cats are equally as interactive as dogs, and far more discriminating to ensure the object of their attention is truly worthy of it! 

But - you don't "lay down the law" to a cat. Have you ever tried to get a cat in at night when it's warm and balmy and the moon is shining away high in the sky? You can stand on your head and whistle La Marsellaise through any orifice you choose to, but you aint gonna get that cat! He/she will sit and wait patiently for you to get tantalisingly close - say around 2m away, and then they will frolic off whisking the tail in the air - a grand rude two-fingered gesture if you like (cat style).

Yeah right - I'm going to hop round the garden at 2am like a demented animated garden gnome in pursuit of a frolicking cat who's leading me on just because it can. Dream on - which is what I'm doing at 2am. If the cat decides it wants to stay out, there's not a lot I can do about it, apart from wishing it well and hoping morning arrives with it still in one piece. We have our property fully fenced, so cats getting out is not a problem - and none of them bother anyway. It's merely a matter of them wanting to get themselves a bit more "me space" and enjoying the night.

And most of the time we find that if you ignore them, the stragglers all come in anyway - go about your business, shower and last thing before the light goes out, check for the prodigal cat. In luck? Bring him in, otherwise leave him be. He's (in our household it's a "he") happy - and that's the main thing.

I'd love to see my family member standing outside in the middle of our back garden at 2am telling the cat "come in - NOW!!". Yeah - sure. Pigs might fly. But they better do it quietly, because I'll be asleep.