by Kay Hill
Kay Hill was a well-known breeder of beautiful
Siamese cats. Her prefix, Hambleton, and Hambleton Simon, will be found in many
of the old pedigrees. She was also a member of staff in Yorkshire racing stables
for many years.
When I started breeding Siamese as against owning them, I
was lucky enough to live on a [horse] stud farm and listen to some of the great
names of the bloodstock world discussing bloodlines and pedigrees.
As the talk went far on into the night, and the table
became heaped with pedigrees, sales catalogues and racing records, and the names
of horses long-dead were brought up as part of a planned blueprint mating, it
dawned on me what a long-term affair the true breeding of a pedigree animal
should be, and I was horrified when I entered the world of cat breeding to find
how casual and short-term most of it was. (It is a ridiculous idea that you can
instantly get a better head or a finer tail fixed into your bloodline by a
There were, in fact, with a few notable exceptions (and
they were successful over years), no true bloodlines at all, just hit-or-miss
matings and fluke winners. Worst of all, stamina and longevity were sacrificed
for show points. The weakest kittens, dragged up on antibiotics, were kept as
breeding stock and proudly described as “typey” when in fact, they could
have been more aptly described by the Yorkshire word for the runt of the litter:
So the wrecklings were reared and mated to others like
them, and the stamina, the longevity, the temperament, and some of the beauty of
the Siamese were largely bred out, and brought heartbreak to many pet owners who
expected at least a dozen years of companionship and love.
It is not easy, I know, to discard a beautiful cat as
breeding stock and have her neutered because you know in your heart of hearts
that she will never produce and rear a litter with ease and gaiety, but it has
to be done. I remember asking at a show: “What on earth is a fading kitten?”
because I had never had one, and I would never have repeated a mating that
Once you have established several generations of
long-lived healthy cats that produce kittens easily, which look beautiful and
live to their appointed span, then it is possible to breed back to the original
stock with safety and make it your own true line of blood with reasonable
certain results. Make certain that any new blood is researched for longevity,
stamina and temperament for several generations before being introduced. (A
famous breeder with a number of Champions at stud told me some ten years ago
that there were only two lines of blood in all England that she dared to
introduce into her own).
If the old plush-coated Siamese were to appear today I
believe it would cause a sensation: and I believe that when this completely
waterproof and weatherproof pelt (as against hairs) was bred out, the resistance
to colds and chest complaints went with it.
You would need, if you were painting this coat, the
faintest touch of pink in your brush both for the heavenly pale colouring and
the darker warmer back.
You would find the delicate tracings on the mask
lasting into extreme old age, and the kitten would have that faintly,
deliciously scented fur, like chrysanthemums, described by Michael Joseph in his
When your cat got tired of you she could go out into
rain, hail, sleet or snow without causing an instant of worry, and return to you
with the skin on her back completely dry.
Comparing notes with Sir Compton Mackenzie (the
President of the Siamese Cat Club), he wrote in 1962 that his Siamese on a
Scottish Island were as tough as farm cats, and that certain breeders were
spoiling the Siamese exactly as they had diminished some breeds of sporting dogs,
notably the Poodle, in pursuit of show success.
I believe in the Buddhist saying: “We are heirs to
our actions”, or, if you like it better, we reap what we sow. Let us see to it,
at least, that our cats do not reap the harvest of human folly, ambition and