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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!


  1. Nice post. Enjoyed it. Very comprehensive too. The cat fancy do have their ways. Even the phrase "cat fancy" is a bit weird. The cat fancy tends to be made up of strange people (from my perspective). They have a relationship with the cat that is neither normal nor healthy. That is my personal view and I appreciate and respect the viewpoint of others.

  2. Thanks M - very glad you enjoyed it!

    I think somewhere on one of our other catblog posts, I noted that the cat fancy should actually be renamed "the ME fancy", because it seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the cats.

    We routinely monitor many of the cat registries worldwide and pick up on minutes of meetings, all of which are focused on ....FINANCE and building the income of the "fancy". The breeders use cats as a commodity, buying and selling, looking for the "fame" brought about by the ribbons and wins, as a means of selling into international markets. To them, a cat is a "widget".

    I challenged the president of one of the SA Cat Registries in an email, which I cc'd to the secretary of the association, asking what in his view for the year ahead were they going to do for cats, because the vision we had seen said lots about "getting more people to buy kittens and bring them to shows", but was silent on enforcing standards and welfare in their breeder body etc. To this day (nearly a year later, I have not received a reply.

    The CFA (Cat Fancy of America) one of the largest cat registries in the world has a "rescue section" focused on baling out their breeders who have been hoarding cats and are in difficulties, before the media, animal welfare and HSUS get to them. (The biggest sin in a cat fancy is letting the dirt out from under the carpet, into the public domain. If you shut up about it, you can do what you like). And how is this section funded? Not out of the CFA coffers (which has more than $1m in reserves) - but out of the begging bowl put out to the public for funds for "CFA rescue"

    So who cares for the cats then? Concerned folk like yourself, us and the public "out there" who put their hands in their pockets to donate money for rescue, out of concern for the animals. And the cat fancy carries on encouraging breeding...

    Strange people indeed - I can tell you are a diplomatic person!! (heh heh!)

  3. That's SA = South Africa. Not Southern Australia!