Cats, Kittehs, Sex and Genetics

Well, Beyno, this post is for you dear nephew and other cat lovers. These events took place long before you were ever dreamed of – yay, before your mother was even thinking of marriage and settling down!!

How beautiful is he?

Cats have been a warm, furry and precious part of my life since I was young. I have since been involved with other species but I have to say that cats take the Whiskas for me!!

When Andrew (my first husband) and I shifted into a newly built bungalow (no grass, no trees, shrubs or anything like vegetation, just sand) in Mosman Park, situated between Perth and Fremantle near the Dingo Flour Factory, I think my heart sank at the desolation and was uplifted by the blank palette which was our new quarter acre block.

 Figaro was dead; our son, David, had been born, I had planted peas and I had a twin Hoover washing machine for washing nappies (!!) etc. I also made sausage rolls and Cornish Pasties every Saturday. How rigid and proper was that! Hmmm – 1964.

I found myself needing something to engage me. I met a Seal Point Siamese cat with crossed blue eyes and found where she lived – up the road from us. I was fascinated by the beautiful colour points (Seal) of this cat and was agog (good word!) to find out more. I do remember the cat being very vocal, physically pushy, totally unfazed by strange people and thought: ‘Ah hah! Here’s a cat I can have heaps of fun with.’

I went to a Cat Show – I can’t remember if it was the Perth Royal Show which was a feature of everyone’s life at that time. We always went to the ‘Show’ but I don’t remember seeing the Cat Exhibition. Indubitably though, the Show would have had one.

Regardless, I attended my first Cat Show and was flabbergasted at the number and variety of the cats exhibited. I was attracted to the narrow-faced, blue and often squint-eyed Siamese cats. I found blue points, seal points, chocolate points and lilac points. I was entranced. AND they were all highly spirited, spoke vociferously and looked at one specifically (ahem, I mean, me). I was a goner.

I had to live with a Siamese cat. No question. So I approached a breeder and found (and bought) my first Siamese kitten.

His name became Bunny (silly name but I couldn’t be familiar and loving by calling him by his pedigree moniker – and I can’t remember it anyway).

Then I found a Blue Point female kitten and she blew me away. She became Ptolemy Blue Chios and I adored her. I called her Chios. She was untimely skittled by a car. Tears all round.

Wish I had had a colour camera

She and Bunny were always together and slept on our bed (why not? – comfort is a feline imperative).

While becoming enamoured of Siamese cats, I was intrigued as to why the colour points were different. It was at this time that I delved into Gregor Mendel and his peas. I mean I had known of Mendel through my secondary school years studying biology (I was most pleased to count Biology as one of my favourite subjects for my Leaving Certificate and in which I gained a Distinction).

Mendel was around at the time Charles Darwin was starting to make inroads into his startlingly clever idea about evolution. He and Mendel never met and I sometimes think about what would have transpired if they had sat, talked and enthused each other with their ideas about inheritance and evolutionary imperatives. Wow! That would have been something.

But it didn’t happen and there are still problems from those who won’t understand about genetic inheritance. So be it. It only worries me when education curricula are accommodationist enough to include ‘creationism’ and its hypocritical cousin ‘intelligent design’ into school science regimes.

Anyway, my interest in the genetic distribution of colour genes led me to be appointed as the West Australian Registrar of Pedigree Cats – Asian Division. I was delighted. I finally had a job that used my penchant for meticulous accuracy of recording and my intense and burgeoning interest in colour point breeding programmes. Whew. How wonderful was that.

I didn’t, at that time, understand the politics of Cat Exhibition and Breeding. It is no different from that of dogs. All very bitchy and one-upmanship – I doubt that I would have recognised it anyway – I was still at the point where I thought everyone was honest and above board. I was still young and idealistic – usually called naive.

In 1953, as young men, Francis Crick and James Watson decoded and described DNA which gave to us the code for how we came to be from our early beginnings and have continued to be. Not only us, of course. Microbes do a good job of evolving as well and it far more easily seen than in us. Crick and Watson described the double helix and genetic inheritance became a very serious and expanding chemical, biochemical and biological consideration.

None of Crick and Watson’s findings was available to me as Registrar in 1965. I had pedigrees back to five generations and I also had the list of show prizes awarded to each cat be it queen or stud. Every serious breeder of cats was aware of the best possible combination for breeding the next generation. However, I can say that every person I ever met involved in breeding, showing and selling cats was as venal as the next person and I had difficulty when I asked for verification of pedigree records. The lure of money and fame made some breeders into liars. How normal!

I would say that I was never approached to manipulate records. What I can say is that my native intelligence came into play and I had severe doubts as to the accuracy of some of the pedigree records I was meant to record throughout the three year term that I served on that Executive. Attending Cat shows merely added to my unease. After three years I resigned as Registrar.

A good face, not too elongated

During the time I was involved, however, I became desirous of breeding the first fertile female Red Point Siamese cat. Oh!  What a breeding programme that turned out to be. Remember I knew some of the ropes and knew what I had to do to make this dream a reality. Breeding Siamese Cats and their Colour points is a treat.

Red cats are usually male and fertile. Figaro was one of them. The fertile female version is a tortoiseshell cat with added colours in her coat, not just red like this beauty. The tortie colours are usually splotched all over the coat – no neat stripy effect at all.

Torties and gingers produce tortie and ginger kittens with the odd black or white splotched coat and sometimes straight tabby-striped cats. It isn’t as simple as I am making it but colour is relatively straightforward in breeding programmes.

1965, me and the cats

That’s why it was a challenge to breed a red-pointed fertile female Siamese cat. I did it. Felt great. All the cats were beautiful and they were all sold to people neutered. Firstly, because it is a responsible position to take. Secondly because no one wants yet more fertile cats in the hands of any caterwauling male on the back fence. Responsible breeders never sell un-neutered cats to the general public.

This photo was when Ptolemy Amen Ra my Gr.Champion was a scrawny baby. He ended up in Darwin (fittingly, haha).

Amen was Chios' kitten; became a Gr,Champ.

I haven’t enough photographs of cats from this period to show the variety of colours in the Siamese breed but this site has a plethora. Enjoy.

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9 comments on “Cats, Kittehs, Sex and Genetics

  1. Michelle B says:

    So interesting, what a great photo of you with the cats way back then.

    • Veronique says:

      Hahahaha. I was very young – 22 years old. The cats were younger!!!!

    • Veronique says:

      I think that it is my old Kodak camera sitting on the top of the bookcase over my right shoulder.

      This photo was taken by the the photographer for the Daily News who did a spread on the breeder of Siamese cats in Mosman Park who organised the Breeding Registry for the Oriental Cat Society of WA (or whatever it was actually called). Haaaaaa. That is why it is a good photograph.:-)

    • Anonymous says:

      the white and ginger cat at the beginning looks looks exactly like my cat….and amazing story bye the way

      • Veronique says:

        I really wish I had a colour photos of my gorgeous Figaro, I loved that cat so much and I know that you must also love your cat to pieces. After all these years without him, I can still recall his face, his body and his purr and it brings me undone.

        Strange that emotions related to pets have such strength and survive decades. Figaro’s life and mine parted company in 1963. Whew – that’s 50 years. Oh dear.

  2. b says:

    Amazing story. Thanx so many things I didn’t know before…I figured it was a later in life obsession or love. But it has very long roots. I loved the photos.

  3. Steve says:

    That red point looks the exact spit of my old cat ocean. Unfortunately my cat was killed in a car accident. It broke my heart and 14 years later I still miss him.

  4. Veronique says:

    Oh, I sympathise. That awful feeling never really goes away. It is hard to think too long about cats that you love and that aren’t there. 😦 Regards. V

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