What Is a Pedigreed Cat?
Many cat lovers commit considerable time and personal funds to trapping, sterilizing, and providing lifetime care for these cats, knowing they may never be social enough to live as indoor pets. Generally cats have a good-natured adaptability to human households, making them ideal companion animals. However, even pampered cats living in secure homes will not fully sacrifice their connection to an instinctive, more primitive heritage. This animalistic character lies below the surface of even the most "well-bred" cat and is part of the mystique that makes these animals so attractive. Pedigreed cats, with their long recorded lineage, provide valuable ties to the historical roots of the domestic cat.
Almost all cats in the United States and elsewhere are random-bred, meaning their background represents a multiplicity of genetic components resulting from centuries of unplanned haphazard matings. There are currently approximately 70 million owned pet cats in the United States, and over 90% of the cats living in households are random-bred. In addition, it is estimated that there may be at least 25 million to 40 million cats,1 depending on location and time of year, who are unowned, free-roaming, or feral. Very few individuals have ever had the experience of living with or knowing the small segment of cats who belong to a recognized breed. Pedigreed cats are rare and cherished by less than 5% of the cat-owning households in the United States. Much of the attention given to cats today is generated by the large animal welfare organizations that focus entirely on random-bred cats and/or the plight of homeless cats. U.S. small-animal veterinarians see mainlyrandom-bred household pet cats, and few have knowledge of the physical and personality characteristics of pedigreed cats. The mission of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) is to "preserve and promote the pedigreed cats and to enhance the well-being of all cats." The CFA stands today as the only prominent organization in the world dedicated to raising awareness of pedigreed cats and improving the lives of random-bred and unowned/feral cats. The hundreds of cat fanciers and breeders who belong to CFA member clubs and breed councils form an enthusiastic network devoted to protecting and improving their chosen breeds. As the general public becomes aware of the rich history, predictable personalities, good health, and other advantages of pedigreed cats, purposely bred with care, there is an increased understanding of why the breeds deserve to thrive.
THE ORIGIN OF DOMESTIC CATS
The concept of recognized cat varieties or breeds is not a modern phenomenon. Breed development, as it exists today, is closely tied to the natural evolution of domestic cats as well as influences and gradual changes brought about by their cohabitation with humans over the centuries. Nature is practical-without any human intervention, the cat's appearance will entirely depend on environmental necessity and its temperament will remain essentially cautious and solitary. All domestic cats, Felis sylvestris catus, are presumed to have evolved from the African wildcat, Felis sylvestris lybica. This cat, small to moderate in size, lean, fast, and agile, still exists in Africa and several other parts of the world. With a short, tawny brown and harelike ticked coat, the African wildcat is well suited to warm climates and wide-open grassy plains. The species -will also intermate with domestic cats and, unlike other small wildcats, will tolerate some human association. Feline "domestication" is thought to have begun around 4,000 years ago in North Africa. Compared with the domestication of other animal species, this is a short time. The process is by no means totally complete and possibly never will be. It is believed that the cats themselves initiated the first steps toward a symbiotic relationship with humans as they began to gravitate to the Egyptian granaries, where it was easier to hunt rodents. Gradually the cats let go of their natural defensive and self-sufficient behavior and began to prefer the protection and other advantages offered by humans.2 It has been speculated that later, when Phoenician traders exported cats to Europe for rodent control, matings with the European wildcat, Felis sylvestris sylvestris, most likely introduced the more pronounced tabby striping that provided camouflage for better protection in a wooded landscape. The moderate-size European wildcat, with its stocky body and massive bones, smaller ears, and longer, thick, full coat, added new traits to the genetic formula of the domestic cat.
From about 500 BCE, cats were well established in Europe and were desired everywhere for rodent control. The Romans brought them to Great Britain, and traders took them to and from India and the Far East aboard ships. For centuries, cats were closely tied to shipping not only for vermin control but also because sailors thought they were able to foresee storms and bring good luck. This provided a unique opportunity for cats, and their genes for coat color and pattern, to migrate around the world. Eventually the cats found their way to the Americas with the Spanish in the fifteenth century and later with the French and British settlers in the New England colonies in the 1600s.
CAT BREED DEVELOPMENT
The documented appearance of the domestic cats as they evolved from the small wildcat species indicates that their original physical traits were gradually modified to favor survival in whatever natural environment existed. Eventually, as a result of several well-known ancient genetic mutations, new characteristics came about, such as long hair and solid coat color in place of tabby markings. The "dilute factor" introduced blue and other pleasing lighter coat colors. The white spotting factor created calicoes and other bold bicolor patterns. Cats who originated in different parts of the world began to vary in physical traits, including coat length and texture, pattern, and even color predominance. In some cases extreme geographical isolation led to concentrated intermating that would fix certain genetic characteristics, making all the offspring look similar. The stage was then set for the development of several of the earliest varieties called the natural cat breeds, which are still admired and preserved today.
The Egyptian Mau is one of the oldest known natural breeds. These graceful short-haired cats with spotted coat patterns were pictured in Egyptian paintings dating as far back as 1400 BCE, showing that they were revered as skilled hunters as well as household pets. The Abyssinian breed of today still closely resembles the ancient cats of Egypt portrayed in paintings and sculpture and is the most similar in appearance to the African wildcat. Several original cat breeds developed in isolated remote areas. Examples are the Persian and the Turkish Angora, which are considered to be the earliest known long-haired cats. The gene for longhair logically occurred in the colder parts of the Middle East and most likely Russia. Longhaired, slender, Turkish cats were discovered in the mountainous plateau area of Kurdistan in eastern Turkey, while long-haired Persian cats with more stocky bodies were first brought into Europe from Iran in the late sixteenth century. Primitive nomadic people who inhabited these areas were unlikely to have imported cats from elsewhere, lending credence to the notion that spontaneous genetic mutation was responsible for these long-haired breeds. Another unusual example of historic mutated genes seemingly occurred on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, where tailless cats existed for several centuries in natural isolation, providing the pure heritage for the Manx breed we know today.
Many of the breeds got their start simply because they were valued for their hunting skills. Cats are extraordinary predators, and their specialty is small mammals. With the innate characteristics of agile bodies, extrasensi-tive eyesight, quick reactions, and the ability to pounce, along with endless patience and the use of stalking strategy, cats can hunt rodents owith extraordinary efficiency. Over many centuries, this ability was admired and encouraged, resulting in a proficiency that generally has not diminished in today's cats. It was common throughout Asia for ancient Buddhist temples to house cats to protect the sacred manuscripts from rodents. Cats were bred in the monasteries and therefore isolated, keeping their lineage pure. One of the oldest of these Far Eastern breeds is the Korat, a powerful, short-coated, silvery blue muscular cat from Thailand. For hundreds of years, the Thais have considered these cats to be symbols of good fortune; at one time, they were possessed solely by those in the Thai government or nobility. They were not found on the streets and were only rarely given as gifts to esteemed individuals. Even today all Korat cats in the United States trace their pedigrees to Thailand, where Korats are still bred. This is one of several treasured breeds for which fewer than 100 cats are registered with the CFA each year.
The earliest known cats in the United States with recorded pedigrees were the homegrown Maine Coon Cats. New En-glanders were proud of their large long-haired cats with huge raccoonlike tails, who were able to survive the severe northeastern climate, and began to exhibit them at local shows. At the first large cat show in the United States, held in 1895 in New York City, a Maine Coon was Best Cat In Show. When the CFA was founded in 1906, the keeping of ancestry records, the promotion of cat shows as a way to display the best examples of breeds, and the development of an American cat fancy all fostered a heightened respect for pedigreed cats.
MUTATIONS AND HYBRIDS
In more recent years, many interesting breeds have been added to those with a long-established natural history. Cats born in random-bred litters occasionally have unusual physical features that individuals want to perpetuate. These flukes of nature reflect spontaneous genetic mutation, and the unusual cats would most likely disappear in one generation unless individuals intrigued by the newly appearing trait choose to perpetuate the cats. Examples are the racy, high-style Cornish Rex cats, with their short, soft, wavy coat, which were first seen in England in the 1950s, and the Scottish Fold cats, with ears that bend forward against their heads, which appeared in the early 1960s.
Other breeds were established initially as hybrids, achieved through purposeful crossing of two or more existing breeds. The Ocicat is a large spotted cat with a wildcat appearance but developed through initial hybridization of two domestic breeds, the Siamese and Abyssinian. Ocicats have their own distinct appearance and personality without resemblance to either of these two foundation breeds. The Oriental breed, on the other hand, came about through matings of Siamese to various short-haired cats to purposely create a breed with a sleek physical conformation almost identical to that of the Siamese yet distinguished by over 400 full-body colors and patterns.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A BREED?
Considerable debate has been devoted to what would seem to be a simple question. After several years of discussion and input from individual breed councils, the CFA in 2000 established a formal policy designed to define a breed and to protect the integrity of the existing breed identities. This policy allows for a plan if a breed must expand its gene pool for reasons of health and vitality. The policy aims to prevent infringement by cats within one breed who closely resemble the defining features of the cats in another breed. The basic definition states that "a breed is a group of domestic cats (subspecies Felis catus) that the governing body of CFA has agreed to recognize as such. A breed must have distinguishing features that set it apart from all other breeds." Not every pedigreed breed recognized by other registries finds a place in the CFA registry, which is acknowledged to be conservative and rigorous in its evaluation of newly proposed breeds. Among the criteria for registration acceptance is evidence that there are at least 10 breeders already working with the breed and that it is not just the whim of one person. There must be genetic information and historical background presented as well as an assurance that the health, temperament, and appearance of the cats will make the new breed an asset to the cat fancy. Once a breed is accepted for registration, it takes many years of show exhibition, judges' reports, and written breed standard modifications for the breed to move through "Miscellaneous," "Provisional," and finally full "Championship" status.
GENETICS AND PURITY IN BREEDING PEDIGREED CATS
Dog breeds come in a huge range of sizes, from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane, and have body forms derived from many different functions. Cat size and conformation extends from the smaller breeds, such as the fme-boned Cornish Rex and muscular, moderately stocky Singapura, to the large, rectangular-shaped Maine Coons. By comparison with dog breeds, most pedigreed cats are essentially similar in size and conformation. The distinguishing features of the cat breeds therefore rely primarily on a combination of subtle nuances such as coat color, patterns or texture, head type, the contour of the eyes or ears, length and shape of the torso, size of leg boning, and general proportion. In planned breeding programs, understanding the essence of the breed and skillfully selecting cats are critical to ensure that the look of one breed continues to be set apart. Several breeds have almost identical genetic makeup, yet because of historical divergence, they have developed entirely different appearances. The science of genetics and the art of breeding cats are not the same things. Though there is genetic basis for all decisions in breeding cats, the qualities that make up the ;%-"'!" distinction of pedigreed cat breeds are determined primarily by the written standards established and protected by breeders through their CFA breed councils. The methods for achieving these set qualities will be different in each breed. For some, the preservation of historical appearance of the cats is a critical factor. American Shorthairs, for example, are bred to maintain the strong, hardy, working-cat structure that domestic barn cats displayed at the turn of the nineteenth century before the influence of the more lithe imported cats. However, in other breeds, the gradual enhancenient of inherent qualities is an important goal that may be undertaken solely for the sake of spectacular beauty. Through continuous breeding selection over more than a century, the long, flowing coats of Persian cats have been exaggerated, resulting in a glorious animal that would not have occurred through natural evolution.
PEDIGREED VERSUS PUREBRED
The term pedigreed is preferred in the cat fancy over purebred to describe cats that are registered, or eligible for registration, as a member of a breed. For a cat to be considered pedigreed, documentation of its lineage must exist, which can be certified by a recognized registry like the CFA, and it must belong to a breed accepted for registration by the association. In the opinion of some fanciers, this does not adequately reflect the years of unmixed descent that embodies the concept of purity so important in achieving the goals of predictability and quality in cat breeds. However, "purity" is a tool of relative importance when breeding cats. It is used with other methods to attain the goals of consistency in conformation, personality, and good health. Gene pool expansion, including outcrossing to another breed when necessary for health, is an equally important tool in many breeds. The priority of pureness in breeding depends on the breed. There is also no definition of pure as applied to cat breeding. Dictionaries refer to "generations of unmixed descent" in defining purebred, but they do not specify how many generations it would take to be considered "pure." Only a few of the natural breeds have more than 100 years of completely uninterrupted pureness, and some of the breeds, such as the Japanese Bobtail, have in more recent years incorporated import policies to allow street cats from their country of origin to be reintroduced. In the mid-1980s, the Persian breed incorporated into the breed the Himalayans, which are pointed cats developed through the introduction of Siamese 50 years before for the purpose of producing a Persian-type cat with point-restricted coloring. Except for the borrowed color pattern, there are probably no other Siamese genetic influences remaining in the Persian breed, but this cannot be known for certain. For some breeds, pure breeding is of lesser importance because they may always need to rely on a parent breed to maintain body type or on an outcrossed breed to avoid heritable disorders. For these breeds, "unmixed descent" is neither possible nor, sirable. Though pure breeding is a sound objective in any breed, purebred does not signify a special status in the cat fancy.
PRESERVING THE PEDIGREED CAT BREEDS
Over the years many cat breeds have faced threats to their existence. Certainly after World War II, when breeding programs were discontinued in Europe, many of the breeds were almost extinct, and those devoted to raising them had to introduce either random-bred cats or cats of other breeds to build the gene pools again. Pedigreed cat breeders rely on careful selection of the healthiest cats to develop a quality bloodline, but occasionally heritable diseases and disorders have been recognized in various breeds, and these can make preserving the breeds a challenge. Today, with the advent of DNA testing technology, scientific tests are being developed for cats to detect detrimental diseases and disorders early so that the individual cats or affected bloodlines can be spayed or neutered and eliminated from breeding before an entire breed is affected. The CFA's Health Committee and cooperative breeders and veterinary specialists have helped develop strategies to maintain feline stamina and good health. The Winn Feline Foundation, affiliated with the CFA, is one of the few sources of funding for studies to determine the inheritance of detrimental conditions. Several breeds have such small numbers throughout the world that there is always a struggle to find sources for bloodlines to maintain sufficient genetic diversity. With growing Internet communication and broader worldwide contact through the CFA's International Division, the exchange of breeding cats has improved since the 1990s.
Since the early 1990s, some animal interest groups have brought pressure to stop all breeding of cats and dogs. Their stated rationale began with the idea that while animals are being killed in shelters, none should be purposely bred, since these take a limited number of available homes. This position discounts the fact that less than 1% of cats in shelters can be identified as belonging to a breed, and many shelters report that the number is actually negligible. This stance also does not advance the goals of reducing the numbers of homeless cats in shelters or of stopping reproduction of unowned or feral cats. Positive community collaborative programs that include all interested groups working together to find solutions have had greater impact.
Recently, some animal activists have gone even further, opposing any buying and selling of companion animals, on the basis that it is morally wrong to regard animals as "property." Carried to an extreme, this philosophy considers the keeping of animals as pets in a home, whether pedigreed or not, to be exploitation. The substitution of the term guardian for owner now symbolizes the desire of some activists for the ownership of dogs and cats as pets to eventually be phased out. There are many reasons why these theories are not practical or legally desirable for the protection and well-being of the animals. It has taken years to overcome the general public's perception of cats as "free spirits," only loosely owned in many cases, and to instead promote acceptance of these animals as fully owned and cherished household pets. The close association of cats and humans has been shown to be beneficial to the animals as well as people. The CFA strongly supports efforts to reduce the numbers of surplus homeless cats but believes this can be done without anti-pet ownership actions or actions leading to the extinction of the breeds.
ADVANTAGES OF PEDIGREED CATS
With so many attractive and loving cats waiting for good homes in shelters, it is reasonable, however, to ask why one should consider a pedigreed cat as a pet. In actuality, most people obtain their cats with little to no advance decision making, including whether the cats will be random-bred or pedigreed. According to the latest available data from the National Pet Owners Survey,3 cats arrive as strays at the doorsteps of approximately one third of those households owning cats. Even more individuals obtain their cats from a friend or relative or keep a kitten from their own cat's litter. Of those who make a choice to actively search for a cat, 18% now obtain their cats from a shelter, 11% through a newspaper ad, and 5% from a pet store. Only 4% go to a breeder for a cat. Even though this percentage is low, it has grown over the last several years, while the number of cats obtained as strays has dramatically gone down. Thanks to the tireless efforts of animal welfare organizations, veterinarians, cat magazines, and other animal advocates, including the CFA, to educate the public concerning the importance of neutering and spaying, several surveys show that an average of 87% of all owned cats are altered. Another 7% are not altered because their owners consider the kittens too young. Because of cooperation among community groups and veterinarians in providing low-cost spaying and neutering services and trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs to stop the reproduction of feral cats, the number of homeless cats in many parts of the United States is beginning to decrease. In the years to come, as there are fewer neighborhood stray cats available, owning a cat will necessitate making a choice and will result in raising the value of all cats.
Certainly for most families, a cat adopted from a shelter is a fine pet. It also brings satisfaction to rehome a cat who otherwise might be euthanized because of a surplus of animals. Of overriding importance, however, is that the addition of one or more cats to one's home is a major life decision, and the commitment to these animals should be for their lifetime, which can easily be 15 years or more with good care and an indoor lifestyle. For some people, being able to count on certain qualities in their pet has significant importance. Many cats waiting for homes in shelters were once wanted kittens who for various reasons were later relinquished to the shelter by their owners. Studies sponsored by the National Council for Pet Population Study & Policy have identified risk factors leading to relinquishment of dogs and cats. One of these factors for cats is when the owner had specific expectations about the cat's role in the family.4 For those who hope for special characteristics in their pets, a pedigreed cat may be a good choice. In these situations, it's worth doing the research necessary on the breeds and taking the time to find a breeder, because most breeders have far more requests than available kittens.
Even though pedigreed cats are relatively rare, they are greatly admired by those who want to bond with a cat with a predictable personality. For some people, certain breeds are compatible with their personal expectations of the ideal cat. If they have children or other animals, a breed known to be highly social, bold, and active may suit their household. Many want a cat who is a vocal communicator with high energy and delightful intelligence. For others, a cat who can be counted on to be quiet or more sedate and likes to sit on laps will be far more desirable. Cats belonging to certain breeds can fill basic expectations, even though the personalities of individual cats will vary. Breeders of pedigreed cats keep their breeding animals indoors or in a secure outdoor area. Because kittens born to these cats do not have an opportunity to learn hunting skills at an early age, most do not have the same strong predatory desires of the typical random-bred cat. Over decades of breeding, this instinct has diminished in many of the breeds to such an extent that the cats have a greater tendency to turn their attention toward their owners and seem totally satisfied with substitute toys and an indoor-only lifestyle. The negative aspect of this tendency in pedigreed cats is that many of the breeds have lost some natural sense of caution, making them especially naive about car traffic and vulnerable to other dangers of being unprotected outside.
Kittens go through very important development stages that have bearing on their ultimate personality as adult cats, and these can be enhanced when conscientious breeders help guide the process. People generally prefer friendly cats. Because kittens' social interactions begin appearing between 2 and 7 weeks of age,5 regular handling, started early on, can affect cats' later response to people. Almost all cats' habits, both good and bad, have their origin in kittens' experiences as they emerge from the "kitten box" at around 4-5 weeks of age. At this time, use of the claws for pulling and scratching is a new, interesting sensation, so the litter box is introduced. Kittens' reactions to sounds, commotion, and other animals are greatly influenced by watching and feeling their mother's responses. If she takes things in stride, kittens quickly learn and will most likely not be timid or nervous when grown. Removing any desirable scratching surfaces, such as carpet or sisal, between the important habit-forming ages of 4-8 weeks can reduce or entirely eliminate the tendency for furniture scratching at a later age. Kittens begin to turn away from humans at about 8 weeks and focus mostly on wrestling with their littermates. This becomes a critical time for them to learn what it is like to be cats and to gain self-assurance as competent animals. Most breeders will not consider transferring kittens to a new home earlier than age 12 weeks. The time spent with their mother and littermates adds a great deal to cats' self-confidence later. The influence of kittens' paternal and maternal genes is extremely powerful. The mother will have both direct and inherited effects, but breeders are well aware of personality traits in kittens that mimic those of their father even though they may never have had any contact with him.
It is human nature to enjoy distinctive animals. The love of cats associated with their innate beauty goes back to the Egyptians, who embellished their cats with earrings and necklaces and showed their admiration in sculptures and paintings. Shelters report that of the factors important to potential adopters, the appearance of a cat, its unusual markings, eyes, or coat color, will often be the deciding factor in selection. The uniqueness of pedigreed cats can enter the realm of breathtaking. The pleasure of sharing one's life with a creature of sensational refinement cannot be underestimated. Unusual body conformation, coat textures, and some coat colors, such as chinchilla with a pure white coat barely sprinkled with black tipping, are not seen in the random-bred population. Each of the pedigreed breeds has striking features that are unique, and the appearance of all the breeds is highly predictable. The differences between cats kept by breeders for show exhibition and those sold as pets are very often indiscernible except to cat show judges and experts on the breed.
Raising litters of kittens takes considerable skill, along with time and dedication. There is no question that a good home environment is the optimum for kitten rearing. Responsible breeders of pedigreed cats take pride in their knowledge of feline husbandry, genetics, and the veterinary needs of their cats and kittens.6 Because of the susceptibility of all cats to infectious diseases, breeders work in collaboration with veterinarians to raise cats with meticulous care and to avoid disease and parasites. Home-raised kittens also have minimal exposure to some of the harmful viruses that are more likely seen in free-roaming cats. It is common for breeders to test all cats, and especially any newcomers, for feline leukemia virus (FeLV). This disease, along with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), is virtually unknown in breeding catteries today.7
Considering the years of planning, probable show career for the mother prior to mating, careful selection of the proper male with good genetic background and the special attention given to raising the litter, the joy and sadness of seeing a kitten go to its new owner is a very emotional time for cat breeders. However, realizing the enrichment their cats contribute to the lives of other people makes breeding pedigreed cats one of the most rewarding experiences for cat fanciers.