Friday 17 June 2011

Facts about Siamese cats

Here are some basic introductory facts about Siamese Cats. The Siamese cat is a purebred cat of great popularity. It is the the second most popular cat breed after the Maine Coon based on my long standing poll of over 5,000 votes.

Siamese cats originally came from Siam now Thailand (there is a map of Thailand below). They were and still are pointed (dark extremities) normal sized moggie or random bred cats in Thailand. But they go back a long way in time. The Siamese cat is one of the most ancient of the cat breeds. There is a long, long Siamese cat history.


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This long history gives the Siamese a reputation, a well deserved reputation. It is one of the original cat breeds. Other early cat breeds are the Abyssinian and Persian.

In the early years of the cat fancy in England the Siamese was considered rare and exotic. This cat breed is now very commonplace. The cat fancy started in England. The phrase "cat fancy" means the breeding and showing of cats at cat shows and ancillary matters.

For thousands of years we had a random bred pointed cat in Siam. In the late 1800s the cat fancy started up and breeders began to selectively breed cats one of which was the exotic Siamese. At this time the cat was the same shape and color etc as the original. There was one color for the points: seal (dark brown approaching black)

Then the breed was exported to the USA in the early 1900s. Breeding began in earnest and the humble yet exotic Siamese was made to look more refined and exotic in the eyes of breeders. To breeders this meant a more slender cat, called "oriental" body shape in the cat fancy.

Modern Siamese - Photo copyright Helmi Flick

This slender Siamese cat, I call the Modern Siamese. There were many people, cat keepers and breeders who preferred the original appearance. They continued to breed what they called the Traditional Siamese cat. This is sometimes referred to as the Applehead Siamese as the head shape is more round unlike the rat-like shape of the modern Siamese head.

Summer evening cat
Traditional Siamese Cat
Photo: by Robert Couse-Baker

At that stage we had two types of Siamese cat, one considerably more slender than the other. Not to be outdone a third set of breeders wanted to breed what they thought was the genuine Siamese cat and they wanted to create another breed - breeders do!

This cat is in between the traditional and modern in cat body type and I call this cat the Classic Siamese. Some breeders bred the classic Siamese and some call it the Thai cat - meaning a new breed. Confused?! The facts about Siamese cats really turn on the breed's history.

Now where does this leave in relation to colours and patterns? Well it is strange. It is the cat associations who register the cats who dictate the standard appearance in the breed standard. The most traditional cat association is the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA). The allow the traditional colours. The seal pointed cat is the original natural colour. To that we can add chocolate, lilac and blue (blue is dilute black and it looks grey!). These colours concern the pointing, the extremities of the cat.

The more adventurous associations allow lots more colours for the points. TICA allow for example lynx pointing which is a tabby pointing - a broken pointing that makes it hard to actually see the pointing. Another popular colour for the pointing can be seen in the flame point Siamese.

Teddy The Bag Cat, meowing
Lynx point traditional Siamese
Photo: by gsloan

The Oriental Shorthair is a type of Siamese cat that has a lot more variety in allowed colours and patterns. It need not be pointed. The shape is oriental unsurprisingly. Indeed some cat associations consider then as Siamese. Confused again? There is an argument that says that the number of cat associations should be reduced and the standard made uniform.

There is a third (or is it a sixth....I've lost track) type of Siamese cat that is called the Balinese. It is the same as the Siamese except with long hair. There are modern and traditional Balinese cats but only slender Oriental cats (no doubt someone will correct me on that).

All these breeds, Siamese and associated breeds are vocal and friendly. They like to be close to their human and Siamese are at the top end of cat intelligence.

As to health the slender Modern Siamese that has had more breeding than most other cat breeds suffers from the most genetically inherited illnesses with the Persian. The health of this cat is not the best in my opinion and people are concerned about the health of the cat that they adopt for obvious reasons. A well known congenital defect is the squint.

Facts about Siamese Cats in brief:
  • Date or origin: before 1700s (maybe thousands of years ago).
  • Place of origin: Siam (Thailand).
  • Ancestry: Moggies - some lived in and around temples.
  • Name sometimes used: Royal Cat of Siam
  • Outcross: None (this means that the associations don't allow the cat to be breed with cats of another breed or moggies.
  • Weight: Mid-range: 6-12 pounds
  • Temperament: Vocal, friendly, loyal and energetic.
  • Registered by major associations.
  • The pointing is caused by the heat. Where the body is cooler it is darker. When the cat is born it is all white.
Hope this helps a bit.

Are Persian Cats Bad Flyers?

The flat faced, ultra Persian, may be a poor candidate for air travel due to the cat's restricted breathing on account of the brachycephalic head.

Persian
Flat Faced Persian - Photo by semarr (Flickr)

The contemporary Persian that has been bred to an extreme appearance with a face that is meant to be flat from top to bottom in accordance with the breed standard (guidelines for show cat appearance).

This creates some health problems specific to the modern Persian cat. One of which is potential respiratory problems due to the shape of the flattened nose.

The pug is the dog equivalent. There are other unnaturally flat faced dogs such as the bulldog.

Apparently, for this dog breed there are a higher than average number of deaths while flying in the hold of the aircraft. One reason is presumed to be the breathing issues and the other the excitability of the pug.

The Persian, however, is not known as an excitable cat. In fact it is known as the opposite but it is known as a potentially (at least) nervous cat. They have a higher than average record of litter misuse as well.

So, there would seem to be at least the potential for problems when flying. The answer is to carry the cat in the cabin if that is permitted. There will be rules and as far as I can make out the rules are quite complicated and vary between airlines.

As far as I know there are no statistics available that support the supposition that the ultra Persian is a less good flyer.

This is just a thought. In the US pet air travel may be more commonplace within the country and the ultra flat faced Persian is the Persian cat. The traditional Persian has been pushed to a secondary role.

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Thursday 16 June 2011

Black And White Cat Cross Over Processing!

Vic and the feather by fofurasfelinas
Vic and the feather, a photo by fofurasfelinas on Flickr.
Yes, this is a very interesting photograph by Giane Portal (Flickr username: forfurasfelinas). Love the photo because it is very evocative. It looks old fashioned yet alive and alert. Please note that the photograph is protected by copyright.

The cross processing is what gives this image a slightly "other world" feel; an almost antique feel.

In this instance the cross-processing was achieved digitally - things have changed dramatically.

When I was a professional photographer (I never was able to make a living from it despite getting published nationally) we did real cross over processing.  Sometimes we did it to give the image a new look, something different. People like change you know!

So, you might process colour transparency film in colour negative chemicals (C41 process). Or you might do it the other way around or something different. It didn't matter. It was messy whatever it was. Those were the days of darkrooms and careful temperature and time controls. God we never got enough daylight - vitamin D.

Now you can simulate and replicate the same process on the computer - usually using Photoshop. And I think Giane has done a great job here. It is subtle and it enhances the image; it doesn't always!

The cat is "Vic" and he is exercising his predatory instincts in chasing a cat tease,  a feather on the end of a stick in this instance.

See another one of Giane's photographs of a black and white cat that is completely different.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Difference Between Purebred and Pedigree Cats

Ahmmmm..there is a difference between purebred and pedigree cats but a purebred cat is a pedigree cat. Clear as mud, I guess.

All cats belonging to one of the over 100 cat breeds are purebred cats. And all purebred cats have a pedigree. A pedigree is a documented record of parentage going back several generations.

To be purebred the cat has to have parents and grandparents etc. that are cats of the same breed.

So, a mixed breed, random bred moggie cat can have a pedigree but cannot be a purebred cat.

Although it is unusual for a moggie cat to have a pedigree. Random bred cats of quality can be shown at shows. They don't have to have a pedigree as far as I am aware.

As it happens, because purebred cats can become inbred as a result of breeding between cats of the same breed and often of the same close family, outcrossing to moggies or cats of another breed is sometimes allowed.

On the face of it, this makes the cat non-purebred it seems to me but it appears that the cat associations decide what is and what is not purebred and it is important to breeders to ensure that the breed is as healthy as possible consistent with close breeding to fix the desired traits as laid down by the association's breed standard.


Purebred and Pedigree Cat from Michael Broad on Vimeo.

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Sunday 12 June 2011

Potential conflict of interest at animal rescue and shelter organisations



The objective of animal rescue and shelter organisations is to rescue cats. The objective of cat shelters is to shelter cats, to help and conserve. Killing cats at these shelters is the opposite to rescue.

Granted that sometimes there is simply no choice so cats have to be killed. But if there is a motivator in the background that takes the edge away from trying as hard as possible to save and re-home a cat, then there is a potential conflict of interest.

By a motivator I mean an agreement with someone or some organisation that might provide financial benefits to the shelter and under which the shelter is to provide dead animals.

Dead animals are resource. They have a value. That is obvious. In fact I would find it odd if animal rescue centers did not sell dead animals to someone because that will help fund the rescue center.

My thoughts are prompted by a story in the Times newspaper today which uncovers what I would describe as dubious practice at the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Apparently they have provided dead dogs to a research unit at the Royal Veterinary College who have carried out tests relating to respiratory disease on the dog's bodies. The dogs were dissected.

There is no evidence to suggest that the dogs were put down other than for the usual reasons - characters unsuitable for re-homing. That said who and under what criteria are dogs assessed for character? How scientific is the assessment?

If there is even the slightest of motivators to put the dog down over an attempt to re-home and assess the dog objectively, there must be a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest is a serious matter as it goes to the heart of the operation of saving and re-homing animals.

The practice should stop immediately.

Michael Avatar

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