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Mrs S LeCocq 
 2 Sydenham Villas 
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“But These Are Witches’ Cats!”
                                         by Kay Hill, June 1962



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.



It is encouraging to see the word “stamina” creeping into more and more letters and articles concerning the Siamese. 

We have a perfectly reasonable standard of points (no-one wants a coarse, round-eyed, round headed cat) which is steadily and insidiously exaggerated year by year with, in many cases, everything, including stamina, sacrificed to the extreme. Brains, character, temperament and longevity count for nothing against a few red cards. Indeed, we may be reaching the point where the show cat and the utility model may become as completely divorced as are the working shepherd dog and his show-bench counterpart, the hunt terrier and the fox terrier and, an extreme instance, the exhibition poultry from laying-test birds. 

I learned my lesson as a child when my father, who had bred a long line of working gun dogs, able to distinguish themselves in trials, suddenly mated his best brood bitch with the reigning champion at Crufts. The result was a hair-brained, delicate nervous litter, two of which went into hysterics at the sight of a gun and were only saved from instant destruction by my standing, in floods of tears, between them and my father's twelve-bore one shooting morning while the two maniacs went screaming into the bushes. 

It is a simple enough matter to trace the long-lived cats in a pedigree, either by checking up in the General Stud Book over a period of years, or by enquiries to older breeders who have seen these cats and remember them from their kitten days onwards. Similarly, stories of too frequent “fading away” among kittens, caesarean births, deformities and so on in certain strains, go round the Fancy like wildfire. I always advise purchasers of female kittens where to go when they want them mated, and warn them against the suspects. 

Matters are complicated by the disgraceful numbers of breeders who fail to register kittens before sale, and by the number of faked pedigrees in circulation. (I have known for some years that pedigrees featuring my own stud’s name have been going round the York district, but every attempt to trace the source ends in a blank - unusually “the owner went abroad”. One answer to the problem is to advertise kittens as “officially registered”. The pirates coming up against this in the same column of a newspaper stand no chance of a sale, and the purchaser is educated to demand a certificate. 

It is the general public, the humble, unconsidered purchasers of kittens, who after all pay the piper and will call the tune. Their demand is for a beautiful, intelligent, healthy creature; something they can cherish for ten or a dozen years without incessant worry and high bills for veterinary treatment. Few demand, or even like, the extreme type. (Anyone who doubts this should conceal a tape recorder near the winning cats under certain - but not all - Judges). 

I would like to assert here and now that the adult Siamese is as tough as a farm cat and not delicate unless bred so, or made so by unnecessary pampering. (As I write, the daughter of a champion now at stud is hunting up a hedgerow in pouring rain and a north-east gale off the sea). That it is criminal folly to rear, or rather drag up, the weakest, finest kitten of a litter with the aid of antibiotics, in order to palm it off, on the strength of a few awards, when in fact - and this is one of the most sinister results of shows - the ideal brood queen is seldom now to be found among the supreme winners. Indeed it is these very kittens, often over-shown and exhausted, already incubating some deadly virus from one show when they arrive at the next, that are steadily thrusting many of us out of the show world for good. 

That the account will be rendered sooner or later is certain (the cats will see to that), and only those who keep health and stamina in mind will survive, while in the meantime the breed will suffer a further lapse in its reputation. 

As a final comment, I quote a veterinary surgeon - one keenly interested in pedigree animals - visiting his first cat show. After a long, horrified examination of a particularly degenerate bunch of six to nine months old kittens, he exclaimed: “But these are witches cats?”  It is certainly quite a thought. 

Kay Hill,
                 26th. June 1962


First published in the Feline Advisory Bureau Bulletin, September 1962, No. V Vol II (Editor Joan Judd). 
Permission is granted for its reproduction. ©Kay Hill/FAB 1962


 

 

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