“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
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
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.
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