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Grooming The Next Generation of Cat Breeders

It’s official; cats are the world’s most popular companion animals. Apart from the enormous number of households that delight in having feline family members, further endorsement comes from the number of cat shows held around the country year round. They are always well attended by local cat lovers who enjoy getting up close and purrsonal with the different breeds. Yet, the number of breeders involved in breeding purebred cats is declining. In time, this could place some of the more unusual cat breeds at risk of becoming extinct.

Cat registries are very aware of the problem. Here representatives from three international feline registries share how their organizations are working to groom future breeders and inject youthful interest in to the cat fancy.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association Inc.

CFA is the world’s largest registry of pedigreed breeds and currently recognizes 42 pedigreed breeds ranging from the ever-popular Persian and Siamese to the rare Chinese Li Hua. The Burmilla, the newest breed accepted for registration gained recognition as recently as February 2011.

Why is it important for young people to become involved in purebred cat breeding?

Joan Miller, Vice President of CFA and chairperson of the CFA Outreach and Education Program: “While the nurturing animals can be of interest to people of all ages, breeding pedigreed cats involves a knowledge of feline husbandry, the challenge of raising kittens, the experience of showing and the ethics of selling cats and thus requires maturity and skill.  Young people, properly mentored, can enrich their lives by participating in cat breeding. It can be an exciting adventure.  In addition, for the pedigreed breeds to thrive we need a constant influx of new and younger people who will carry on the established bloodlines with their long and valued history.”

Have any breeds of cat become extinct because of a dearth of breeders, as has happened with a few dog breeds? Are any breeds in danger of extinction?

Joan Miller: “ I am not aware of any CFA breeds that have actually become extinct in recent years.  But there is constant concern for the continued existence of some of the rare breeds.  The CFA Breed Council has a system whereby breeders can communicate with the CFA Board of Directors and propose outcross plans to expand the genetics of their breed. This includes importing cats when necessary. As a result, several breeds have been rejuvenated such as the Havana Brown and the Egyptian Mau. The proposal to register one imported female from Thailand (this year) will be a major addition to the American Burmese.  As CFA grows throughout the world and bloodlines are exchanged, this also helps to bring health and genetic vigor to many breeds.”

How successful has your registry been in attracting young people?

Joan Miller: “There seems to be a large number of participants in their Twenties and Thirties amongst CFA’s European and Asian divisions especially in China. While clubs in America are adding younger members, the economy makes it difficult for young people to buy pedigreed cats, to afford the expense of exhibiting, and to have homes large enough for breeding cats.  Many new young participants in CFA do not breed but instead exhibit neutered/spayed cats in Premiership or show their household pet cats.  This is  a good introduction for young cat fanciers.”

How CFA Encourages Young People To Get Involved In The Cat Fancy

CFA is launching its new CFA Royal Canin Youth Feline Education Program in November (2011) which is designed to teach anyone under the age of 18 years about pedigreed cats and non-pedigreed cats, animal welfare and a variety of other topics related to cats in addition to showing. It’s divided into four age divisions, 7 – 9 years, 10 – 12 years, 13 – 15 years and 16 – 18 years. Participants will able to go on field trips, attend seminars and volunteer at shelters as part of the community service aspect of the program. Participants will be able to present their cats in special rings at cat shows but no longer compete for junior showmanship titles.

A handbook on the new program will be available from the CFA and information will also be on line at www.CFA.org.

The organization also encourages young people to attend cat shows and meet a breeder who may be willing to part with a nice show quality neutered/spayed cat and provide mentoring on show grooming and exhibiting. Children are encouraged to exhibit alongside their mentors and eventually exhibit on their own.

The organization also has a  “NewBee” Program to attract and help any newcomers regardless of age learn their way around the cat fancy.

Contact information:

The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc.

1805 Atlantic Avenue,

Manasquan, NJ 08736

Tel: (732) 528-9797

Fax: (732) 528-7391

www.CFA.org

The International Cat Association

TICA is the world’s largest feline genetic registry and recognizes 55 cat breeds including new “hybrid” breeds such as the Savannah and the Bengal. It was the first registry in the world to allow household cats and household kittens to compete for the same titles at cat shows and awards as pedigreed cats.

Why is it important for young people to become involved in purebred cat breeding? 

Vicky Fisher, President of TICA: “So many people are unaware of the beautiful breeds of cats that exist in the world.  And, we certainly don’t want to lose any of them.  So, we look to our young people to help preserve the breeds for the future.  In addition, having young people involved in purebred cat breeding gives them an incredible knowledge base for both appreciating and caring for cats in general.”

Have any breeds of cat become extinct because of a dearth of breeders, as has happened with a few dog breeds? Are any breeds in danger of extinction?

Vicky Fisher: “I am not aware of any cat breeds that have become extinct as has happened in the dog world.”

How successful has your registry been in attracting young people?

Vicky Fisher: “We’ve been moderately successful with new interest developing around TICA’s world.  Our Junior Exhibitor program started in the USA. However, now we are now seeing our clubs in Europe and the U.K. take a greater interest in involving   youngsters in the program too.  In reality, the young people we attract usually have one or more parents involved in breeding and showing, making the activity a family one.  While we hope that these young people will carry on, we realize that ‘life’ often gets in the way.  However, there is still some take away as these young people have learned to appreciate both the uniqueness and the needs of our feline friends.”

How TICA Encourages Young People To Get Involved In The Cat Fancy

The TICA Junior Exhibitor Program is designed to involve young people in TICA and showing cats in a responsible and fun way. The emphasis is on having fun with cats but participants gain a comprehensive knowledge about cat breeds, show etiquette and TICA along the way.  Ultimately, candidates can earn a TICA Junior Exhibitor’s Award of Excellence. There are junior exhibitor rings at cat shows where young people have an opportunity to learn how to present a cat for exhibition. Members can continue on to become licensed TICA clerks who actually work at a show and run a judging ring.  Comprehensive details about the program are on the TICA website.

Also, young people who simply want to learn more about cats and enjoy having a cat as a family member can sign up for TICA University online. The kids’ section includes videos, as well as information on how to make toys and treats. There are coloring and activity books to download too.  www.ticau.com

General contact information:

The International Cat Association

PO Box 2684

Harlingen, Texas 78551

Tel:(956) 428-8046

Fax: (956) 428-8047

www.TICA.org

The American Cat Fanciers’ Association

The ACFA has the sobriquet “The Friendly Association” as their goal is to promote the welfare, education, knowledge and interest in all domesticated, purebred and non-purebred cats, to breeders, owners, exhibitors of cats and the general public around the world.

Why is it important for young people to become involved in purebred cat breeding?

Jim Mendenhall, President of ACFA: “As with any sport or hobby, the future of purebred cat breeding relies on young people being attracted to carry on the hobby and keep breeds in sufficient numbers to make them viable.  We believe that the cat fancy also teaches a very important lesson in responsibility for animals.”

Have any breeds of cat become extinct because of a dearth of breeders, as has happened with a few dog breed and are any breeds in danger of extinction?

Jim Mendenhall: “There are a number of breeds where the numbers have decreased to the point where breeders are having to decide on possible outcrosses to invigorate the gene pool. One such breed is the Singapura. This breed descends from a limited number of cats and many breeders feel that outcrosses need to be used to add to that pool. The main discussion is what to use  — an established cat breed, many of which have their own health concerns, or, cats taken from the streets of Asia, where the Singapura originated.

“Over the years there have been breeds or groups of similar cats which have disappeared, or very nearly so.  The York Chocolate is not seen in the show hall; though it has been recognized for full championship status or experimental status by several organizations, include ACFA.  There was a very interesting colony of cats in Illinois known as Barrington Browns, which had a color unique to that colony.  Unfortunately, they were all moved to one location where disease eliminated them before work could be done to stabilize them as a breed.”

How successful has your registry been in attracting young people?

 

Jim Mendenhall: “Not as successful as we would like.  Most of the younger breeders come from families that are or have been involved in cat breeding. A number of ACFA judges often judge cat shows that are a part of the 4-H Youth Organization’s summer program.  The young people groom and show their cats as one of their projects.  The judges offer sessions on preparing the cats for showing and a small number of the youth continue by entering one of our shows.”

How ACFA Encourages Young People To Get Involved In The Cat Fancy

Previously the organization had a Junior ACFA division, which offered special rings for only young exhibitors as a part of their regular championship shows. The association is currently in the process of revitalizing this program and hopes to have it running by the end of 2011.

Contact information:

American Cat Fanciers Association

P.O. Box 1949, Nixa, MO 65714-1949

Phone: (417) 725-1530

Fax: (417) 725-1533

Email: ACFA@aol.com   

Sandy Robins is an awarding winning multi media pet lifestyle expert and author. Her latest book, For The Love of Cats, is an A to Z collectible designed to appeal to cat lovers of all ages. Visit www.SandyRobinsOnline.com