Manx kittensI’m writing a book, which celebrates over 50 breeds of cats. When my publisher briefed me, I was initially baffled. Not so very long ago there were relatively few breeds: the British Shorthair, of course, inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat, the Manx with its lack of a tail and the ubiquitous Siamese. Now there are a huge growing number of breeds and some that are completely new.

Of course, there are many people who dislike the fact historic breeds are undergoing a radical change. They mourn the much flatter faces of modern Persians, very different from their counterparts of 50 years ago. The old style Siamese was broader and rounder than the svelte feline of today. Others are accepting of a breed changing, developing and so-called ‘refining.’ Sometimes there is controversy as to whether or not a cat comes from ancient stock. The Birman is a case in point: an eastern temple cat or a newer breed developed in the 1920s?

La Perm kittenOne of the most interesting histories I’ve come across is that of the LaPerm cat, which looks as if it had stuck its paw into an electric socket. Curly, the progenitor of this newish breed started her life as a humble barn cat. Born completely bald, after a few weeks she sprouted a full coat of wonderfully ringletted hair. Unaware this might be a unique cat, her owner allowed her to roam free. Consequently, other bald kittens turned up in random litters, later to grow thick curls including their whiskers and eyebrows, Finally La Perm breed was launched on the world in the 1990s.  

So where is all this going?

A growing trend is the rise of domestic cats that resemble wild animals. The Bombay with its golden eyes is a lookalike for a miniature black leopard.  The Ocicat sports jaguar like spots. A recent development has been to produce a true hybrid, such as the Bengal originally produced from an accidental mating of a domestic cat with an Asian leopard cat.  Others followed, including the part serval cat Savannah, the tiger striped Toyger.  There are those who claim that hybrid cats are unpredictable and unhealthy.  However, modern Bengals are many generations from the wildcat origins, and most owners claim they make perfect pets.

Sphinx kittenSome people just want a cat that does not look like any other cat such as the popular hairless Sphynx, the oddest-looking cat breed around.  Other people favour polydactyl cats, possessing a larger than normal number of toes. So how will cat breeds develop in the future?   Some are likely to be wild looking and beautiful, others laid back and friendly, still others strange and unusual.  Meanwhile there will always be those who like their cats looking more traditional, and the way cats have always looked. 

Sheba sunbathing Personally, I am devoted to a black cat with green eyes, of uncertain parentage and sweet, affectionate nature. Sheba shares with felines of whatever breed, the certain knowledge that she rules the household and her doting Mum.

Jennifer Pulling

Jennifer Pulling runs Catsnip for the neutering and treatment of feral cats in Sicily. She is the author of The Great Sicilian Cat Rescue (John Blake)  

Jennifer has a website on writing:

http://www.jenniferpulling.co.uk

A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.

Read more...