Thursday, 29 December 2011


For once something that isn't cat-related, but a note to say that my Mum died today after a painful couple of weeks with a broken hip.  I'm very glad her suffering has ended, but miss her more than I can say.
Here she is blowing her birthday candles out two years ago:

And here's one of her smacking me when I was a little girl, many decades ago!

She was 96 years old this year.  I feel numb, and distraught, in turns.  Rest in peace, Mum.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Merry Christmas from the Vieuxtemps cats!

Vieuxtemps Katia, by Shirley Fullarton
Shirley kindly gave me permission to use this beautiful painting for my Christmas blog.  I'd like to wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and an even better New Year.

Love to you all from Bob, Mary-Rose, Butz the Airedale and the Vieuxtemps Norwegian Forest Cats and kittens xx

Monday, 12 December 2011

Deafness in white cats

Vieuxtemps Avedine
Although we love all colours of Norwegian Forest Cats here at Vieuxtemps, pure white Norwegian Forest Cats (‘Snowcats’) will always have a special place in our hearts.  However we stopped breeding this colour some years ago as we did not want to produce deaf kittens.

In fact the most frequently asked question in relation to white cats is "are they deaf?" The answer is: some are and some aren't. Statistically, over the general population of cats, various studies have shown that most white cats both pedigree and non-pedigree are not in fact deaf, but many are. Slightly more blue-eyed white cats are deaf than others. Deafness can affect green-eyed, odd-eyed and orange-eyed white cats too.

When do you know if a white kitten is hard of hearing?
It usually becomes apparent to the breeder when the kitten reaches about four weeks of age; the main difference is that the deaf kitten tends to sleep more soundly, and does not run away from the vacuum cleaner. (I have had other cats who do not mind loud noises however -particularly Honeysuckle, who was a hoover-riding tortie!) By the time the kitten leaves home, s/he is often so well-adjusted that it is difficult to tell whether or not s/he can hear, except by scientific tests. There are so many other ways that alert a cat to its environment - vibrations on the paws, guard-hairs and whiskers can tell the deaf cat so much that their reactions are almost exactly the same as those of a fully hearing cat. In order to BAER test the hearing of our breeding stock, we used the laboratory at the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket, Suffolk.

I have on several occasions come across cases where members of the public have bought white NFC kittens having been mislead about their hearing status.  All I can say is, if a breeder sells a deaf kitten without explaining this to the new owner, either they are being dishonest, or if they are genuinely ignorant of the fact they must have not had sufficient interaction with the kitten whilst s/he was growing up.  In either case it is shameful and should be reported.

It is difficult to "breed out" deafness as deaf parents are no more likely to have deaf kittens than hearing parents, and vice versa. Here at Vieuxtemps we generally asked that owners keep their white kittens/cats indoors, regardless of whether they are deaf. This is because they are so stunningly beautiful and clearly pedigree, that there is a risk of kidnap! 
Grand Premier Vieuxtemps Maja Gradnos - photo by Alan Robinson
(Thanks to Heather Bird!)
Tabby NFCs allowed to roam free are much less noticeable to the general public. However one deaf white kitten that we sold (Maja above, now aged twelve) lives with her human slaves and three other Forest Cats in many acres of wonderful grounds and her owners do allow her total freedom to roam. She is as capable as most other cats. We agreed to this because Heather had previously had another deaf white cat who had lived to age 15 in the same circumstances. Maja tolerates cat shows but is not thrilled by them, as she was nearly 2 years old before her first one; I have witnessed other deaf cats who are totally relaxed at shows and do not believe that deafness is a hindrance to a show career, so long as the cat is taken early enough. In fact because they are shielded from loud noises it is, if anything, an advantage in the show hall.  They are allowed to compete at GCCF shows but not at FIFe shows.

Living with a deaf white cat is no less rewarding than living with a cat of normal hearing ability. Deaf cats are, if anything, extra magical. It is usual for a cat to be fully hearing or completely deaf in one or both ears, not partially deaf or partially hearing within each ear. We kept one of our deaf kittens to see what it was like to live with a deaf white cat. It was a moving, marvellous experience and Vieuxtemps Avedine (at the top of the page) is one of our most precious memories.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

And then there were two....

Quink has been a very conscientious dad.  He assisted at the birth, changed their nappies when they were younger, taught them the lore of the Forest Cat and how to hunt and kill catnip mice.  He thinks they are the bestest kittens in the world, but is slightly bemused when they use him as a trampoline.  
Quink with his daughters Lindy (brown ticked tabby) and Kyrie (solid black like her dad).  The girls are three and a half months old; Quink is five years old.
I snapped this family portrait during a quieter moment today, when they had just woken up from a catnap.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Goodbye Rossi!

The time has come for the kittens to leave home.  How did the weeks pass so quickly?  Rossi joined her new humans and a new feline friend yesterday.  She should feel at home as Julie is Danish, and Rossi's ancestors come from Denmark on both sides of her pedigree.  Here is her last moment at home after she had packed her bags, which included a week's supply of the food and litter she is used to, her favourite toy (a cat-tunnel), lots of paperwork and many sad kisses from me.
Rossi got into the carrier that would take her to her new home -  little knowing what was in store!  But I am sure a good life awaits her, with lots of love and fun.
Meanwhile, Lindy, who is a real mummy's girl, snuggled up to Jet, unaware that she too will be leaving home in a week and a half.  
Jet with Lindy

I'm very glad that Kyrie is staying or the place would seem quite bereft.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Coats of many colours

Coat colours and patterns in the Norwegian Forest Cat

The face of a silver tortie tabby and white kitten - she has
red, black, white and silver colours in her coat

At cat shows, NFCs get no points for colour, although a few colours are not allowed (eg chocolate, lilac or Siamese pointing).  However it is interesting to be able to understand what colours might appear from a particular mating.

All cats have eight pairs of genes that affect how their coats look in terms of colour and pattern. One gene from each pair comes from the cat’s mother, and the other from the cat’s father. Some genes dominate over others.  For any recessive gene to “work” it has to be doubled up - e.g. a cat with one (recessive) dilute and one (dominant) non dilute gene will not look dilute. This article ignores the “new colours” – amber and light amber, previously known as the “x” colours – as they are different, recently discovered and probably unique to NFCs.  I have not worked with amber or light amber as I don't particularly like them, but I have had kittens of all other possible colour combinations over the years.

1. Black, which is the base colour
All cats are really black cats in disguise!  The other genes, 2-8, listed below modify appearance.  
Hey, I'm unmodified!  So I look black all over.  And I'm four weeks old, so there.
2. Orange or not Orange?
Although we call the colour red, genetically it is given the code O for orange (or a small o for not orange). O is a sex linked gene. It attaches itself to the X chromosome. Males are XY and females are XX. So if a male is red, then when he has a daughter he always passes on his X chromosome to her, and hence always passes on his O gene. That’s why the female kittens from red studs invariably have some red fur.
The kitten on the left is a red and white girl fathered by a tortie mother
and a red  tabby and white father
A female with one red gene will be a tortie. A female with two red genes (which she has to get one from her father and one from her mother) will be red.
Red has a complication in that the way the pigment works on the cat hair means there is always a tabby pattern evident. Hence it is difficult to tell visually if a red or cream cat is tabby or not.
A variety of Vieuxtemps kittens including a cream tabby boy, right - cream is the
dilute version of red.  (The funny little white one from a different, younger, litter!)
3. Dilute or non dilute?
The red or black is affected by the dilute gene to produce cream or blue respectively. Dilute is recessive to full colour. So if you have a dilute cat, both genes on this locus must be dilute. If you have a full colour cat, it may be carrying one dilute gene. If a full colour cat had a dilute parent, it MUST carry a dilute gene. If a cat doesn’t carry a dilute gene, then mating it with a dilute cat will never produce dilute kittens. However dilute genes can be carried from quite a long way back in the pedigree. D = dense, d= dilute. So DD and D cats do not look dilute – dd cats do look dilute.
Ragna, a dilute cat - she was a blue ticked tabby
4. The White Spotting Gene
Designated S and so called to distinguish it from the completely separate white masking gene – the spotting gene gives the Forest Cat white areas on its body. This can be completely variable, from a tiny white tip on the tail to nearly all white with just a few coloured blotches.  The white patches don't have to be actual spots! The typical look is white inverted V on nose and white paws and tummy. There are no rules as to where and how much white should appear. The spotting gene is dominant. Hence you cannot get a kitten with any white areas unless at least one parent has the white spotting gene.
This white queen (who clearly has the white masking gene, but we cannot see if she has the white spotting gene) has a brown tabby kitten, snoozing bottom right, who clearly has the white spotting gene giving him the white 'V' on his face typical of many NFCs.
5. The Inhibitor gene - silver/smoke or not?
The inhibitor gene I prevents pigment from colouring the bottom part of every hair shaft. Hence if you look at the roots of hair of a silver or smoke cat, they should be pure white. However there are many grades of silver, and as no-one tends to breed NFCs for colour (as colour has zero points in the Standard of Points) you do sometimes get very low-grade silvers where it is difficult to see. Some cats like this are wrongly registered but will later produce silver progeny with a non silver stud, which means they have to be re-registered correctly. Smoke and silver are the same, except for the fact that silver is tabby and smoke is solid colour. The inhibitor gene is dominant (as far as we know). Other forms of smoke –eg the very slight colour tipping of Chinchillas, are not found in NFCs.
Tarnishing – it is wrong of judges to punish unless as a point of dividing otherwise equally good cats. Silver and smoke can combine with any colour –eg red smoke, blue silver and so on. If speaking of a silver tabby cat, one is referring to the default black silver.
Vieuxtemps Rosa, silver tabby and white kitten aged eleven weeks
6. Tabby or non tabby?
Do not confuse the gene that says that a cat shows a tabby pattern or not with the gene that says which particular pattern the cat has (see 7 below).
Tabby is dominant over non tabby.  In genetics, the word Agouti is used for tabby and the gene has code A (tabby) a (non tabby).
A cat without the Agouti gene means it will appear solid coloured. Cats cannot carry the Agouti gene. So two solid cats can never have tabby offspring. Tabby cats can carry solid genes however, so two tabby cats can have solid offspring.
The effect of the Agouti gene on a black coat is to make the black brown. Hence, a brown tabby cat is genetically a black tabby (which is the term used in FIFe).

This brown tabby and white kitten, Vieuxstemps Snygging, is technically
black and white with added tabby!
7. What tabby pattern?
There are four patterns:
All NFCs have a pair of tabby pattern genes, even if they do not have the gene that makes them a tabby cat. Sometimes “ghost” markings can be seen in solid coloured kittens, in some lights. The markings can always be seen in a red or cream cat, regardless whether or not it is tabby.
Spotted is actually classic or blotched, but with a broken pattern. In other breeds (such as Bengals) there are other spotted genes (eg rosettes, like leopards) and also the marble pattern, but not in NFCs.
Classic is recessive to mackerel, and mackerel is recessive to ticked. Ticked coats are sometimes known as “wild pattern” abroad as they are similar to the coat of a wild rabbit, hare, fox etc. There are no stripes or spots but instead each hair has several bands of contrasting colour, with the darkest colour at the tip.
There is some controversy over ticked tabby NFCs outside of Norway. Some people suspect that Somalis have been bred with NFCs to get this pattern. However going back to ticked novices, they were found in the Norwegian countryside the same as the other patterns. We do not know what is behind any of our Forest Cats but we do know that the Vikings travelled to places where there were ticked cats.

Silver tortie tabby girl showing classic tabby pattern
8. The White Masking Gene
You can think of the white masking gene as being a white overcoat on top of the cat’s normal colour. A white cat can be any other colour underneath the white. Eye colour is affected – eyes are blue, green, orange/yellow or blue plus one of the others(“odd eyed”). The eye colour inheritance seems completely random although blue eyes are associated with a slightly greater incidence of deafness. If a cat is solid white, it has at least one W gene, which is dominant. If the cat isn’t white, it must have two white w genes (ie non white masking). This gene is associated with deafness (but the majority of white kittens can hear). I used to specialise in white NFCs because I think they are so very beautiful, but I stopped using them for breeding as although very few of my kittens were deaf I just didn't want to breed deaf kittens.
Kyrrekatt Kohinoor, one of my very first Forest Cats
(photo by Kevin Reah)
If you are a novice breeder and need guidance about which colours are likely to appear out of any particular mating, you are welcome to contact Mary-Rose for help.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Ears of the Norwegian Forest Cat

In the Standard of Points for the Norwegian Forest Cat the ears are given 10% of the total. Although this isn’t a huge proportion of the overall points, if an otherwise near-perfect NFC has ears that are noticeably too small or the wrong shape or set it can “throw” the whole look of that cat. Looking back I realise that when I became involved with NFCs the best part of two decades ago my cats tended to have ears that were too small, and sometimes wrongly placed too. This was partly due to the fact that the GCCF Standard used to say that “the width between the ears should be no greater than the width at the base of one ear”. This encouraged breeders to concentrate on that factor at the expense of others and the phrase has now been removed, in accordance with the FIFe standard that is used in Norway and elsewhere.
Sonata's ears looked sufficiently large when she was young

Sonata as an adult, with full coat - the ears are only just
big enough and perhaps could be a little larger for balance
The ears should be large – in particular, wide at the base, and also tall. Kittens need to have absolutely HUGE ears as they will inevitably become smaller in relation to the rest of the head as the cat matures.  The Standard says that small ears are a with-holding fault.

I've heard some people argue that cats from cold climates should have small ears to preserve heat.  I guess it's equally important that they hear well in order to help them catch the sparse prey.  And just think of tigers and lions - although they originate from hot countries they have tiny ears!

Above is Sonata, aged 6 months where her ears look good, and again at maturity when they are only just large enough - or, rather, they stayed the same while the rest of her grew.  Remember that NFCs continue to develop for around four years.  She does have nice little tufts on top - I always think it spoils a Forest Cat if there are no tufts at all.  But some nowadays are developing huge tufts that are extreme in the opposite direction and can look almost comical!  Moderation is the key.

Ragna's ears were too rounded at the top, although they had good 'furnishings'
The ears should be triangular in shape, ending in a pointed tip – NOT a rounded tip.  Most of my cats have nice ear-tops but Ragna, above, had ears that were too rounded (of course she had other nice qualities that made up for this and allowed her to easily reach GCCF Champion status.)

As well has having tufts at the tip the ears should also have long hairs coming out of the ears. I have noticed that some people seem to confuse tufts with ear furnishings – no, tufts are not hair coming out of the ears, they are the tips on top that just give a nice wild-looking finish to the cat.  Proper ear furnishings will help to keep the cat's ears warm in the cold Scandinavian winters and now that our cats are often kept indoors or in southern climates we must ensure they don't lose this beautiful trait.
Velcro has appropriately extravagant ear furnishings

The ears should be so placed that they follow the sidelines of the head, which is also a triangular shape. They should not sag down at the side of the head, nor be pointing too upright, but should be a continuation of the triangle.  Often a cat's head will widen (particularly in entire males) meaning that ears can end up too low on the sides of the head.  Much worse than this is when you get ears that are too upright, called 'rabbit ears'.  Sometimes kittens have 'rabbit ears' which then become correctly positioned as they mature.  It's a case of knowing the lines - see what the ancestors' ears are like.
Vieuxtemps Avedine was a very beautiful kitten, but at the stage above her ears are a little too upright - can you see how the outer line of the ears doesn't follow the sidelines of her head, thus spoiling that all-important 'triangle' effect?
I consider my ex-stud cat Pelle’s ears to be near perfect and they continued to look good right into his senior years, although his furnishings were sparse:
Pelle greatly helped improve the ears of the Vieuxtemps line
both in terms of size, shape and position
All these little details add up to a cat that has the correct look of an alert and capable hunter – which indeed the Norwegian Forest Cat is.

You can read the full Standard of Points here

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The kittens aged nine weeks

These little girls really are characters - dashing around very boldly, eating with enthusiasm, climbing everywhere, then suddenly dropping off to sleep.  Sometimes I wish I were a kitten.
Kyrie aged nine weeks
pictured by WhiteSquirrel Photography

Lindy aged nine weeks
pictured by WhiteSquirrel Photography

Rossi aged nine weeks
pictured by WhiteSquirrel Photography
They are due to have their inoculations against flu, enteritis and leukaemia in a few days' time.

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Vieuxtemps Cats meet a White Squirrel!

Or rather, WhiteSquirrel Photography visited yesterday to take some photos of the cats and kittens.  I was delighted with the results and would recommend these photographers to all cat-lovers in the Essex area/home counties.  They also photograph other animals (and even human babies on occasion!)  You won't be disappointed.

Hermione, aged eleven, photographed by WhiteSquirrel

Quink, aged five, photographed by WhiteSquirrel

Here are just a couple of the lovely pictures they produced.  I'll post more later.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What is Line Breeding?

To answer this question in one word, it is inbreeding. However the word inbreeding has unpleasant connotations, particularly to the layman, so line breeding is a phrase used by breeders who practice this. Basically any cat that is mated to a relative is being line bred. A lot of people – especially novice breeders– shy away from this idea. This may be because, in human terms, any mating between close family members is frowned upon and indeed seems slightly horrific. Some of this distaste may rub off onto our views about cat breeding. However it can be a useful tool when used intelligently. Moreover, cats have no such compunction and mums are happy to mate with sons, grandfathers with granddaughters and so on. Obviously what cats are happy to do and what is in the breed’s interest does not always coincide. In the following article I will use the term “inbreeding” rather than line breeding as I feel it is more honest.  I'm not into inbreeding my cats in a big way myself and use frequent outcrosses, but sometimes having a really good ancestor on both sides of the pedigree can produce wonderful kittens, so long as health is always top of the list of priorities.
Quink as a 'teenager'
Let us look at Quink's pedigree as an example.  His pedigree name is Quil Gyldenloeve.  Because he has a very short pedigree he is on the 'reference register' for GCCF.  You only have to go back three generations to find a 'novice' - ie a cat from the forest (Champion Putte), of unknown ancestry.
So we don't know if Putte is inbred or not.  We can but hope!  The rest of the pedigree looks as though there are no other cats appearing more than once - so he seems to have no inbreeding at all.  However if you go back... and back... and back to the ends of all the lines in his pedigree, you can see that a few cats do appear more than once after all.   It's very slight though.  

So what happens if you avoid inbreeding?

Well, for a start, in the world of Norwegian Forest Cats it is very difficult to avoid some measure of inbreeding as some cats (particularly well-used stud cats) appear in pedigrees time and time again, albeit possibly so far back in the pedigree that the breeder may not realise without special research. This is in spite of NFCs having one of the widest gene pools of all breeds. In my opinion, some of the early breeders of Forest Cats in Norway did repeated matings of very closely related cats, to an extreme extent, and that is not something I would like to see happen again. A certain amount of diluted inbreeding is seen in many breeds and so long as the common ancestor(s) do not have health or temperament problems then it is harmless. However if one tries to have little or no inbreeding in a pedigree then what happens is that the results of a mating are very unpredictable. That is why there are huge variations within the NFCs in this country and indeed worldwide. There are also enormous variations within individual litters. Experienced breeders are often pleased when they have some sort of uniformity within a litter and within litters of repeat matings. Sometimes they are fooled when the kittens are all one colour and pattern however! Otherwise breeding NFCs amounts to little more than a lottery. I have seen (both in my own cattery and in others) cases of large parents producing small offspring; small parents producing good-sized offspring; two cats with dipped profiles producing kittens with straight profiles; and vice versa, and so on. It always amazes me how variable NFCs are, after I bred Abyssinians for some years with very predictable and consistent results. The latter is probably due to a much smaller gene pool in the breed as a whole – something that has its advantages and disadvantages.

Vieuxtemps Indigo

We once had an 'oops' mating that resulted in father-daughter progeny!  This was when Magnus had been neutered but was still fertile.  He was mistakenly allowed to reach his daughter and, sod's law, they mated.  The result was two lovely and very similar blue tabby kittens, Indigo and Indiana.  

Champion Magnus More og Romsdal, father of Indigo

A father-daughter mating certainly wasn't what I had had in mind, but the kittens were robust and beautiful so no harm was done on that occasion.  

What happens if you avoid inbreeding to a large extent, is inconsistency and unpredictable type. Resulting litters are likely to be healthy and large but may have hidden recessive defects.

We are fortunate to have a large gene-pool for the NFC breed, worldwide and also within the UK. This means that we have a wide choice from which to pick and choose the best of the cats available to breed on from. Of course this doesn’t always happen as some breeders use cats for breeding merely for reasons of convenience or sentimentality. However we are in a better position than many breeds when it comes to diversity of breeding stock. So should we make a point of capitalising on this fact and doing as many outcrosses as possible in our breeding? To answer this question we need to know the answer to another:

What happens if you do practice inbreeding (and probably call it line breeding)? 
There are some good things to be said for inbreeding. The obvious one is that litters become more consistent. If a cat is “doubled up” in a pedigree then that cat’s characteristics will have a doubly strong influence. When a cat is considered a particularly brilliant example of a breed then sometimes it appears in a cat’s pedigree many times. I counted the repetition of one such “super cat” in a UK pedigree and it appeared 13 times in just a few generations! Before you drawback in horror let me also say that the cat whose pedigree I mention is actually a reasonable size (as far as I can tell from looking as I haven’t handled him), healthy and very successful for a number of years both on the show-bench and as a stud. Hence in this instance the inbreeding cannot really be faulted even if most of us would avoid such extreme practice.

Another benefit of inbreeding is that, if there is a recessive genetic fault in a cat, then it will very likely be revealed in the inbred offspring. I remarked above that a cat who is doubled up in a pedigree will have double influence on the genes (depending on how far back the doubling up occurs, of course). Let us take as an example the father-daughter mating I had many years ago, by mistake. The father had no known genetic defects and was a healthy, good-looking cat. However he may have had a recessive fault. If that had been the case then that fault would only “show up” if his mate carried the same fault. With unrelated mates this would be unlikely. Some genetic defects can be secretly carried for generations just because the cat with the recessive (hidden) defect has never been mated with a cat also carrying the same recessive defect. If you have a doubt whether or not a cat is carrying a recessive defect then you can check it out by repeating the suspected carrier in a pedigree. If no kittens in the resulting litter have that defect it is very likely that the suspected cat is free from the defect.  That is fortunately what happened with my “oops” mating mentioned above.

So, with inbreeding, the faults but also the good points are doubled up in the progeny. Hence if a cat with a very strong chin, for instance, is repeated within a pedigree twice or more times, then that strong chin is more and more likely to appear in the kittens. Something happens that we call “fixing” a characteristic; and if intelligent line-breeding has taken place over a number of generations with the breeding stock carefully selected from each generation, then the “look” of that line is firmly entrenched and is likely to be passed on even to the offspring of an outcross mating.

This Vieuxtemps  litter brother and sister, from completely
unrelated parents, are inconsistent in type
To sum up, the benefits of inbreeding are discovery and hence elimination of any hidden genetic defects, together with a consistent and distinctive “look”.
 If inbreeding has been carried out then it is wise to use outcrosses frequently also. An outcross is a mate with very few or no shared ancestors. Repeated inbreeding can cause “inbreeding depression” meaning not that the cats go moping around miserably, but that individual kittens and also numbers in litters decrease in size. If you mate two very closely related parents, even if those parents are huge cats, offspring are likely to be smaller.  Conversely, an outcross can immediately restore the size of the individual and the size of the litter (assuming that the individuals concerned are large and fertile of course). This phenomenon is known as “hybrid vigour”.

If you look at the pedigrees of famous and successful breeders here and abroad (for example, the Pan’s cats of Norway and Jette Madsen’s world-winning Felis Jubatus lines from Denmark) you will see that they have carried out inbreeding but also included plenty of healthy outcrosses. If a cat has been extensively used and repeated in pedigrees – Pan’s Polaris is perhaps the most famous example – then it is fairly certain that that cat has no genetic health problems if these have not shown up in multiple progeny.

My previous stud cat, Dansbjergs Pelle Halelos as a youngster.Pelle had been purposely line bred to 'fix' some excellent characteristics
and as a result his litters were very predictable and beautiful.
Vieuxtemps Vantage Vroom, Pelle's son, was from a complete outcross mating yet looks very like his father due to Pelle's specially bred 'fixed' look.Vroom has done very well on the showbench.
So what should breeders do? My own experience of this is that I have done both inbreeding and complete outcrosses. With the inbreeding I have immediately seen a particular “look” which more or less replicates the look of the cat that was repeated in the pedigree. Naturally I have used cats that I really like as “repeats” so the resulting look is therefore one that pleases me. When I imported my stud Pelle (above, now retired) I chose him because he comes from completely different lines from my existing cats. It was time for a thorough outcross. However he came from a breeder who has, over many years, performed careful and intelligent inbreeding so that her cats have a distinct “look” incorporating the features she considers important in the Norwegian Forest Cat. This has been done so effectively that I find that kittens from that stud, resulting from unrelated females of mine and other people’s, tend to carry on his distinctive and predictable “look”. This is because the stud has fixed characteristics due to the way his pedigree was planned. Of course, his bad as well as his good points are likely to be fixed – fortunately he appears to have no genetic defects. I feel my own way forward would be to continue to combine inbreeding with outcrosses in an attempt to maintain the “look” whilst at the same time achieving hybrid vigour. Of course breeding high quality cats is easier said than done, which is all part of the fun.  I am writing this article to clarify what the good and bad sides of inbreeding are, and to dispel the myth that all inbreeding is a bad thing. It can be a good thing too – in moderation.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The kittens are nearly two months old already

Lindy is naughty but nice!

How time flies.  It is nearly two months since these kittens were born.  During that time they have learned to eat, use the litter tray, wash, hunt and kill toys and climb to the top of the climbing frame....

Rossi explores the cat climbing frame
... and sometimes, fall in the bath and chase each other round and round the room.  No wonder they are such good athletes already!
Then she poses to show off her profile
Several people have asked me about Kyrie's coat - is she really black?  
Kyrie just coming up to two months
Sometimes she looks chocolate, and sometimes smoke.  The answer is - yes, she is definitely solid black, just like her Dad.  Quink also was this funny colour at her age, but he's a proper black cat now as you can see. 
The kittens' dad, Quink (Quil Gyldenloeve) as a kitten

As an adult, Quink is very black!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Velcro's first show

Well, Velcro competed at her first cat show yesterday and it was the first show for a very long time for me, too.  I've not had any free Saturdays for literally years, but sadly my mother has recently gone into Care so I can now get out and about to some shows again.

Velcro at her very first cat show

When taking kittens to shows I'm not too bothered about results, because I know my lines take a couple of years at least to develop.  I aim to breed cats that just get better and better as they get older.  The important thing about showing kittens is simply to get them used to the process.  Velcro looked lovely in her pen, but she had almost no coat and the pretty kitten that beat her in her open was a bit older and much fluffier!  I was happy that Velcro came home with one first prize at least, from a large side class.

The main thing is that Velcro took to showing in a confident manner and really seemed to enjoy her day out, so she will be going to more shows next year, hopefully accompanied by her little sister Kyrie. I'm looking forward to reading her judges' reports to see what they have to say about her.

The show itself was in the Lockmeadow Market Hall in Maidstone.  What a lovely venue! I never realised what an attractive place Maidstone is. The hall was right by the river, and the day being brilliantly sunny meant for a beautiful walk during the time the cats were being judged in their Open Classes, when we all have to leave the hall.

The River Medway at Maidstone
Then I went to the shops - there were lots of lovely little streets and arcades. I was thrilled to find a branch of Lush where I stocked up on bath products!  Back at the show, I met old acquaintances and new ones, and had lots of catch-up chats.  I bought some of the best cat toys ever from Tracey Wood's stall - she makes them from feathers from her neighbour's pheasants.  All my cats were enchanted with them when I got home!  So all in all an excellent day out was had by all.

21.10.11: Velcro's show report from the Open judge, John Hansson, has now been published:
DOUGLAS' VIEUXTEMPS VELCRO.  67 31.15-04-11.  Black Bi-Coloured, higher on her white & very attractive young miss.  Her head is marginally narrow which detracts from the triangular shape, profile not quite straight, chin runs back a little, bite good in spite of her swollen gums.  Ears large, pricked high, good inner furnishings.  Eyes slightly more rounded & could be a little more oblique, green in colour.  Her body has good length, well-proportioned legs &paws, her tail was quite a good length, the bushy appearance still to be achieved.  Coat is at present still very baby soft & fine, requires a little more density, wispy fringes round the base of the ears, fluffy knickerbockers.  Beautifully prepared clean white, with smaller patches of black on her lower back & sides, black head markings & tail with white tip.Lovely condition, excellent temperament.
I would say this is a fair description of Velcro on the day.  As you can tell, she was teething.  I am not worried about the width of her head because it's good for NFC kittens to have heads longer than they are wide; they will widen with age, ending up well-balanced.  She is still very much a baby.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The eyes of the Norwegian Forest Cat

In the Standard of Points for the Norwegian Forest Cat the eyes are given 10% of the total points. This doesn’t sound a lot, but of course there are so many other things to take into account when assessing the overall cat. However if an otherwise near-perfect NFC has round or over-dominant eyes the whole appearance of the cat is spoilt and just doesn’t look “right”. Maybe this is because the eyes are one of the first things you notice about any cat. Maybe it is because the eyes are the window to the soul! 

The Norwegian Forest Cat’s eyes should be slightly oblique in set, and the effect should be that of an alert and capable hunter. The standard describes them as large and well-opened, but in my experience they should not be over-large or they will look too sweet.  I'd say Hermione's eyes (above) are just right.

The males in particular should never have a sweet look – these cats should have an air of wildness about them, even though their natures are anything but wild. The females do have a different expression sometimes – I would say that my best girls’ eyes have a noble and intelligent look.

Kohinoor's eyes, whilst a beautiful colour ('odd eyed') are perhaps a little deep-set.
It is easier to disguise eye shape in a tabby cat, and more difficult to get the eyes to look good in a solid coloured cat. I am lucky in that my white cats, although they have no eye make-up at all to “help” the shape of their eyes, without exception have beautiful expressions. White cats’ eyes come in several different colours: blue, green, gold, or (my favourite) odd-eyed meaning one blue and one green or gold.  Very often as kittens the green-eyed white NFC will look as if he or she is going to end up yellow or orange-eyed, but then they change at around one or even two years of age, so I generally register my gold-eyed-looking white kittens as green-eyed.  I have seen several novice breeders make a mistake because they do not expect the change, and then they might have to re-register the cat later.

Eye colour in the NFC doesn’t really matter at all – it is the shape and expression that counts. You even occasionally get blue eyes in a cat that isn’t solid white (for example, this handsome boy below). 

Photo of Dansbjergs Ringo by Carli Haekkerup
Mostly NFC eyes are of a colour that blends happily with the cat’s coat colour – ranging from soft hazel to bright green.  But I reiterate - it is the expression, not the colour, that counts.
Jet has particularly vivid and beautiful eyes