Breeds of spotted cats have become popular in recent years, among them the Bengal, which originated from crossbreeding in the 1980s. Supposedly among the Bengal’s ancestors were some street cats of India, so the name Bengal is at least fairly accurate. Bengals resemble wildcats and are fairly large. The very attractive Snow Bengals are blue-eyed and white, with black spots or marbling.

American Bobtail

While the Japanese Bobtail has been around for ages, the American Bobtail is a fairly new breed. The parent cat for the breed was a mutation, a bobtailed kitten that an Iowa couple found at a Native American reservation in Arizona.

American Bobtails are stout-bodied cats, with a mottled coat that, along with their short tails, resembles that of the bobcats of the North American woodlands. Unlike the stubby tail of the bobcat, however, American Bobtails have a bushy plume to their tails.


The name gives you the general idea, but not the whole story, of this cat: short, but not a real dwarf, for the only thing dwarf about the Munchkin is the leg bones. Essentially this cat is normal sized but with short legs, the result of a genetic mutation.

There is a lot of controversy about whether it is healthy (or ethical) to deliberately breed such cats, and for that reason the cat fancier associations have been slow to recognize this breed. Yet the Munchkins have their fans, not only because of their distinctive look but also because they are so playful and inquisitive. There are both longhaired and shorthaired Munchkins.

European Shorthair

If the American Shorthair is the “generic cat” of the United States, the European Shorthair is what most Europeans think of as the typical household pet or street cat. These cats are obviously related because the American Shorthairs are descendants of the cats brought over by European colonists.


Cross a Siamese with a bicolor American Shorthair and you get this lovely creature with light blue eyes and white paws, from which the name is derived. Snowshoes are stockier than their Siamese ancestors, and also less vocal, but they make affectionate and active pets.

This very new breed is still rare, but will no doubt catch on with people looking for an attractive and pleasant companion. So far the breed has not been recognized by most of the cat associations.


You might guess from the name that this is a French breed. The Chartreux does have a long history in that country, including being known as the “cat of France” in the 1700s, and was bred even earlier than that by monks of the Carthusian order. (Hence the name; French Carthusian monks were well known for their liqueur called Chartreuse.)

This cat had virtually disappeared by the end of World War II but has experienced a kind of comeback, and rightly so, for this blue (gray, that is) cat with golden eyes and a sweet disposition deserves to be better known. As seems to be true of the larger breeds, this one is fairly quiet.

California Spangled

This breed is, like the Ocicat, another attempt at producing a “wild” look in a house cat, specifically a spotted wild look. California Spangleds have been available only since 1986, though they are already acquiring a reputation as pleasant, human-loving pets. The name “Spangled” seems an odd choice, frankly, since the breed is only found in muted grays and browns.


Can the domestic cat (Felis catus) breed with the wild American bobcat (Lynx rufus)? The answer is a definite “maybe,” and fans of the Pixie-bob breed believe that their lovable six-toed, bob-tailed pets are descended from Pixie, the offspring of a cat and bobcat in the Pacific Northwest. Only one of the cat fancier associations The International Cat Association (TICA) has recognized the breed so far, and a number of people believe the Pixie-bob just happens to look like a cat-bobcat hybrid.

Whether or not they truly carry bobcat genes, Pixie-bobs are gaining in popularity, impressing owners with not only their size (not as large as a bobcat, but still quite large) but also their willingness to ride in the car, walk on a leash, even learn to fetch. These big, active cats have a future, whatever their ancestry and whatever the cat associations may think of them.

Orientals, in general

These breeds have a distinctive look: a long, slender body, long legs, a long narrow tail, a wedge-shaped face, fairly large ears and (often) a fairly long neck in short, traits you associate with the Siamese. They are shorthaired but distinctive enough to be considered as a separate group.

Think of the stout-bodied, round-headed, round-eyed, snub-nosed Persians as one cat extreme and the lanky, wedge-headed, slant eyed Siamese as the other. In the middle are the moderate-bodied, moderate-headed and moderate eyed shorthairs. However, as you’ll see in the descriptions of the longhairs, many of those breeds have Siamese/Oriental ancestry.


If there’s one breed of cat that the average person on the street recognizes, it has to be the Siamese (though Persian owners might not agree). Siamese are blue-eyed, slender-bodied, with a wedge-shaped face, slightly slanted eyes and the very distinctive “points” of dark brown on the ears, muzzle, feet and tail. Whether the breed actually originated in Thailand (formerly Siam) is debatable, but we do know that the Thai people valued them highly.

So have many generations of Europeans and Americans, who find these cats to be graceful, playful and extremely inquisitive. They are also “chatty,” so much so that their loud voices (especially of the toms) do not endear them to everyone, even serious ailurophiles.

Another less endearing trait—one that many owners overlook—is the frequency of crossed eyes, a trait that ensures the cat cannot enter a cat show. Over the years, Siamese have been “bred thin,” apparently on the assumption that owners prefer the lanky body. The Siamese of a century ago had a more solid build than the Siamese of today.

A word about “points”

All Siamese cats are basically tan or cream-colored with “points” of brown on the face, ears, legs and tail. Siamese kittens are born “pointless”; the points develop as they age. Over the years, several varieties of points have been perpetuated through breeding.

The classic was the seal point (seal meaning “very dark brown”), but you can also find blue point, chocolate point, lilac point (light brown, not purple), cinnamon point, cream point and fawn point.

Each variety is attractive, and each has fans, though some cat fanciers consider the oldest varieties (seal and blue) to be the only “real” Siamese. Whatever variety they are, all Siamese tend to darken if they spend a lot of time outside.

Oriental Shorthair

The coats of the original Siamese cats of centuries ago were not always the familiar cream color with points. Many of them were solid colors, and there were solids among the first Siamese brought to the West. Chalk it up to the fickleness of human taste: cat fanciers decided they preferred the pointed Siamese, so for a long time their solid-color cousins were rarely found.

Known as Oriental Shorthairs, they are gaining in popularity. They have the typical Siamese personality—gregarious, active, chatty and willing (some of them, anyway) to walk on a leash. They have the body type of the Siamese: long, lanky, with a wedge-shaped face and fairly large ears.

Harrison Weir’s legacy

Harrison Weir was a successful English artist and, as it happened, also a lover of cats. He is credited with organizing an 1871 cat show in London’s Crystal Palace that is considered to be the world’s first cat show. Weir served as one of the judges in the show, and he also created the standards for all the breeds exhibited.

Weir also published the book Our Cats and All About Them, which helped promote further interest in cat shows. A footnote to this “first” show: prior to this, cats had not been exhibited for their glamour—rather, “working cats” (mousers, that is) were displayed at agricultural fairs, along with cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals.

Alphabet soup time

Most cat owners have no interest in entering their pets in cat shows, but for those who do, seven different organizations in the United States and Canada register purebred cats, create breed standards and sanction cat shows and cat show judges.

They are the American Cat Association (ACA), American Cat Fanciers’ Association (ACFA), Canadian Cat Association (CCA), Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF), TheInternational Cat Association (TICA) and the United Cat Federation (UCF).

The oldest U.S. cat club

The oldest cat registry association in the United States is the American Cat Association (ACA), formed in 1904 as the offspring of a cat club in Chicago.

Typical of any human organization, disputes arose among members over various rules, and, inevitably, the dispute led to the founding of another group, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). Generally speaking, the CFA is considered the most prestigious of the various cat registry groups, but (obviously) the rival associations would not agree with that.

Why so many?

Why are there seven different cat registry associations in North America instead of just one? That is comparable to asking why there are hundreds of Christian denominations instead of just one. Simply put: members can’t agree on everything.

The different cat associations mostly disagree on which breeds are registered and which standards should be used in judging the breeds. For example, the Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes a certain number of breeds, while the American Cat Association recognizes a different number, and both believe they have good reasons for including or excluding a particular breed.

Not “a guy thing”

Yes, there are lots of men who love cats (the author is one), but the old stereotypes and prejudices—dogs are the proper pets for “real men,” and so on—linger. Thus, while you will see lots of men at dog shows, it is evident that there are far fewer men than women at cat shows.

This is changing as more men “out” themselves as cat fanciers, but part of the prejudice against cat shows (which the author fully understands) is the feeling of many men that cats ought to be kept and enjoyed but not necessarily fussed over and entered in competitions.

No performance at cat shows

You may have attended dog shows or horse shows, and if you have, you know right away that cat shows are different, for the cats are not expected to perform in any way.

They show up, well groomed and healthy, and get judged, whereas in a horse or dog show the animals would be expected to jump through the hoops (literally and figuratively) to prove they are not only beautiful but sound in the muscles as well. Cats (luckily for them) are required only to sit and be beautiful (which they are very good at), and all the movement and hustle are on the part of their anxiety-stricken owners.

The cleanliness obsession at cat shows

If you’ve ever taken your cat to the vet, this has probably crossed your mind: Aren’t there a lot of germs floating around in this place? Suddenly you’re aware that your healthy and fanatically clean pet could pick up a communicable disease.

This concern is felt by everyone associated with cat shows, which is why the judges and other folks associated with them are as fanatical about cleanliness as the cats are. Antibacterial cloths are used to wipe down the judges’ hands; ditto for the tables where the cats are judged. Considering that the cleanest animal in the world is being judged, this is appropriate.

The show season

Your nearest symphony orchestra or opera company is likely to be in season in the fall and the winter, and this is also true for cat shows, which mostly take place between September and February.

There are several reasons for this schedule, notably that the longhaired breeds’ coats will be at their most luxurious during the fall and winter. In the spring and the summer, females are likely to be queening (giving birth and mothering), and thus will be out of commission for awhile.

No outcasts here!

There was a time when cat show competitions were for purebred cats only, and the many happy owners of mixed-breed cats could not enter their pets in cat shows, no matter how beautiful and adorable they were.

That has changed, and now many cat shows award prizes in the Household Pet Competition. The strict rules applied when judging purebred cats are waived, except that mixed-breed cats entered in shows must be neutered and must not be declawed.

“Vetting in”

All the people connected to cat shows are, of course, fanatical about the health of the cats, given that so many cats in close quarters could lead to the spreading of an epidemic. For this reason the cats exhibited in British shows all have to be “vetted in,” meaning that a veterinarian checks each cat for fleas and other disorders.

The point system

The human participants in cat shows are familiar with the points system used to judge the cats. Each breed has its own list of standards and points, but all have certain common features, such as eyes and coat, among others. Each breed’s list of standards and points adds up to one hundred, of course. Happily for the cats, they are not required to do the math or agonize about whether they win an award.

Contests for darn near everything ...

In cat shows, the cages in which the cats are displayed are a standard size (24 × 27 × 27 inches). While there is much fuss about grooming the cats in preparation for the shows, there is also plenty of to-do about the cages themselves—owners decorate them with cushions, curtain, fabrics, bric-a-brac and other ornaments. It won’t surprise you that some of the cat shows actually give prizes for the best-decorated cages.

“Rusting” of black cats

If you own a sleek black car, you know it isn’t going to stay very sleek if you leave it outside where it will experience all kinds of weather. In effect the same thing happens to black cats, specifically the long-haired ones. If exposed to the elements—including sunlight—a longhaired black cat’s fur tends to “rust”—not literally the rust that forms on iron, but the effect is the same in that the cat’s hair turns a kind of reddish-brown. It’s bound to happen to any black longhair who spends a lot of time outdoors. Needless to say, folks who exhibit their pets in cat shows are fussy about keeping black longhairs indoors and away from too much sun.

Polishing the cat

If you’ve attended a cat show, you know that the cats inevitably look sleek and glossy. This is not an accident, nor is it the result of good health or grooming with a brush. Show cats, especially the shorthaired ones, are “polished” with a swatch of velvet, silk or chamois—the cat show equivalent of a “wax job.” Owners who fuss over their pets sometimes use this technique at home, too.


Here’s a fancy French word, and if you know that chat is French for “cat,” you may have a clue what chatoyancy means: “shining like a cat’s eye.” The word refers to a quality of certain gemstones, not only cat’s-eye but moonstone and many others.

Something that is chatoyant possesses a changeable luster and has a narrow band of white light. If you change the position of the stone, the band of light seems to move across the surface.

“Cat on a hot tin roof”

The playwright Tennessee Williams immortalized this phrase in the title of one of his dramas, even though the cat in his play was a woman, not an actual cat. The meaning of the phrase is obvious enough: an extremely uncomfortable or unpleasant situation. A cat on a hot tin roof would not be able to stand still for more than a second.

Pedigreed puberty

If you own a pedigreed cat and want to breed your cat, obviously you will not have him or her neutered. But if you have no intention of breeding—ever—you should have your cat neutered, for reasons discussed elsewhere in this blog.

The usual rule is to have the cat neutered before the cat reaches sexual maturity, but owners of pedigreed cats sometimes wait until after that time. The assumption is that the animal will not develop all the attractive traits of the breed if neutered before puberty.

The dreaded hairball!

Considering that cats are constantly grooming themselves with their tongues, it isn’t remarkable that they get hairballs—rather, it’s remarkable that they don’t get more hairballs. If you’ve never seen one of these ugly objects, consider yourself lucky. It is just what it sounds like: a ball (or wad, to be more accurate) of the cat’s own hair, which lodges in the stomach, unable to pass through the digestive tract.

Some cats never get them (my own hasn’t—knock on wood); some cats get them rarely and vomit them up with no harm to themselves (though perhaps some harm to your upholstery or carpet). The reason owners need to monitor hairballs is that occasionally they can lead to serious digestive problems, sometimes requiring surgery. Pet store shelves are well stocked with hairball preventatives, and most of the pet food manufacturers now market certain foods as “hairball preventers.”

The lactose problem

Many cats, like many humans, are lactose intolerant—that is, their digestive systems don’t produce the enzymes needed to break down lactose, one of the sugars present in cows’ milk. The end result (pardon the pun) is usually diarrhea, for either the person or the cat.

This needs to be kept in mind by doting cat owners who like to reward their pets with milk or cream, which all cats love. Most cats have no problem at all with milk, but owners who notice a milk-diarrhea connection ought to do the obvious thing and cut back or eliminate the milk they give to their pets.

Bowl and collar technology

If you have more than one cat in your home, you may be aware of the problems of feeding them: one cat may hog the food, one may insist on eating before the others, they may (because of age differences or other factors) require different types of food and so on.

In past times, owners worked out their own ways of dealing with these problems, but, of course, the pet product manufacturers have come up with their own clever high-tech solutions. One is a food bowl that links up electronically with a special collar worn by the cats you don’t want eating from that bowl. If a cat wearing the collar nears the bowl, the bowl emits a tone that makes the cat skedaddle. (Are human beings clever, or what?)

Some good ole chemical additives

You may or may not have strong opinions about chemical additives in your food, including vitamins and minerals. Some people are fussy about such things, not even wanting additives in their pets’ food. But pet food manufacturers haven’t been shy about adding nutritional supplements to cat food.

One amino acid that has been added to most cat food since the 1980s is taurine, which has been found useful in preventing blindness and heart disease. As time goes by and we learn more about animal nutrition, it is likely that more additives will be found in pet foods.

Claw caps

Until recently, you dealt with your cat clawing the furniture by one of two ways: declawing the cat or learning to tolerate the scratching (and hoping the cat will use a scratching post, but some just won’t do it). Now there is an alternative: vinyl claw caps, glued onto your cat’s nails (generally by a vet) and replaced every month or so as the old nails grow out. The cat still goes through the motions of clawing (as do declawed cats), but the claw caps keep the claws from doing any serious harm.

Cat massage

Massage is very “in” these days, with people sometimes paying high prices for the supposed benefits of getting a relaxing massage from a professional. Humans have a way of pushing their trends onto their pets, of course, so there are books explaining the “right” way to massage your cat.

The less trendy among us are more inclined to do what people have done for centuries: rubbing and stroking our cats without giving a thought to “technique” just being aware that the cats enjoy it tremendously, and so do we.

Cat meets skunk

Wild skunks are the most easygoing, amiable animals in the world. They can afford to be, for they don’t need to bite or scratch their enemies, since their malodorous spray is excellent protection. Occasionally a cat gets sprayed by a skunk, and removing the smell is no picnic.

First the cat needs a good water bath (which most of them will resist tooth and nail), then a good thorough soaking in either milk or tomato juice, which needs to stay on the coat for at least ten minutes before being rinsed with water.

“Honest as the cat”

Some people hate cats because of their habit of snitching meat—and “meat” might also include pet birds and fish. Well, why not? To a cat, if the meat is available, it is there to be eaten, even if you had intended to have it for your supper.

Essentially, no cat can be trusted if meat is within reach. Hence the old proverb about someone who is “honest as the cat when the meat is out of reach.” In other words, that person can be trusted only when there is nothing around to tempt him.

The last to be domesticated

Cat owners may well wonder if any cat can ever be fully domesticated. At any rate, the fossil records indicate that cats were certainly among the last of animals to be domesticated. This makes sense: early man found the dog useful as a hunter, the horse for transportation and cattle and swine and sheep as sources of food and hides. Apparently our human ancestors were slow to realize cats’ potential as rodent exterminators.

Butt dragging

It’s amusing, or disgusting, or maybe both: a cat or dog scooting her rear end across the carpet, pulling herself forward with her front legs. Simply put, the animal’s anus itches terribly, and she doesn’t have fingers to scratch it. The itching is caused by worms, so your cat requires medicine, administered either by you or your vet. (But by all means, get your camcorder out while the cat is still dragging, for it makes a great video.)

The natural worm remedy (not!)

Folk medicine has long been applied not just to human ailments but to pets as well. According to an old wives’ tale (and those wives were never wrong, as you know), you could treat (or prevent) worms in your cat by adding bits of garlic or carrot to her food. This doesn’t work at all, and some cats will walk away from food that has garlic in it. In regard to deworming your cat, be glad there are plenty of effective worm medicines on the market.

Pet insurance

Well, you won’t get it through your employer, of course, or through the government. Nonetheless, more and more people are choosing to pay monthly or annual premiums for health insurance for their pets.

The reason is obvious: medical care for pets (as for their owners) is getting more expensive as it gets more sophisticated, and there is no Medicare or Medicaid for old (or poor) pets. As veterinary costs rise, and as more people (particularly single folks) own pets, the more likely it is that people will choose to pay for pet insurance.


Humans have a habit of involving their pets in their own trendiness. This is evident in the “natural healing” movement, in which people replace or supplement traditional medical care with “natural” remedies, such as herbs. Some pet owners believe that “natural” medicine will benefit their pets, so there is an American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), with a membership of several hundred vets and other animal care professionals.

Pregnancy and litter boxes

So what’s the connection? Cats may ingest toxoplasma, a nasty microscopic parasite often found in undercooked meat—and in mice or birds they happen to catch.

It usually does not harm cats, but since it is passed through the feces, it is possible for a human cleaning a litter box to take in the toxoplasma. If that human happens to be a pregnant woman, the toxoplasma can cause severe damage to the unborn child. So, as a general rule, pregnant women should avoid litter boxes.

Cosby and the kittens

One of Bill Cosby’s best comic routines has to do with a family debating over which TV show to watch. (Obviously this routine originated in the days when most families had only one TV.) In the routine, Dad wants to watch the western Gunsmoke, but the kids want to watch Froofy the Dog.

The kids finally win the battle when they air the rumor that the Gunsmoke episode is going to feature the drowning of kittens. (In case you were wondering, there never was a Gunsmoke episode in which kittens were drowned.)

Granddad Darwin

The scientist Charles Darwin, famous for his theory of evolution, had a famous grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), who was both scientist and poet. He combined his interests in The Botanic Garden, a long poem on flowers and other plants.

He was fascinated by all of nature and, of course, he was intrigued by cats. On one occasion he wrote, “To respect the cat is the beginning of the aesthetic sense”—that is, if you appreciate the cat’s beauty, you probably have a good sense of beauty in general.

Thin-skinned white cats

Many solid white cats are pink-skinned—and, literally, thin-skinned. This has led to occasional health problems and even death from a flea bath. Some of the solutions used to kill fleas can kill the cat as well, even when veterinarians or their technicians give the bath.

The pink skin of a white cat is more sensitive to flea baths (and any kind of chemical) than the skin of other cats. If you own a white cat, be aware of this, and don’t be shy about reminding your vet that your pet has sensitive skin.

The New Testament disease

That is, leprosy—the disfiguring skin disease that causes lesions and inflamed lymph nodes. In cats, the lesions occur mostly on the head, neck and legs. Feline leprosy is, thankfully, very rare among cats in the United States, although for some unknown reason it does crop up occasionally in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There are no drugs available for the disease, but the skin lesions can be removed surgically.

Caught it at the gym, maybe?

Ringworm, as you probably know, is not a worm at all, but a fungus that causes itching and redness on human skin, most commonly on the feet (athlete’s foot) or groin (jock itch). Humans can pick up ringworm fungus in warm, moist places like shower stalls, so it won’t surprise you that ringworm is most common in warm, humid climates.

Ringworm fungus is highly contagious, passed on by skin contact, and humans can pass it on to cats (and vice versa). Ringworm on cat skin isn’t always red nor always itchy, so sometimes a vet is needed to determine the condition. It isn’t dangerous, just irksome, and, as already noted, it can be passed on to humans, so a cat who has it needs to be treated.

Even their insides are finicky

Like humans, cats can be allergic to certain foods, and the allergy is usually manifested in itchy skin. It isn’t dangerous, just irritating, and as with human allergies, a certain amount of trial and error is needed to determine which food (or which ingredient) is causing the problem. Luckily for cats, food allergies are rare among them.

Selfish, yes, and not ashamed

Are cats selfish? Of course they are, and we love them for it. We would detest a friend or family member as selfish as a cat, but we don’t mind selfishness so much in a beautiful, purring beast. Consider this old proverb from Britain: “In the cat’s eyes, all things belong to cats.” One can easily imagine that cat’s reply to that: “Well, of course. Just as it should be. You got a problem with that?”
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