Sunday, 18 September 2011

The first Champion NFC

In Memory of Champion Skovmus Felis Jubatus

After having succeeded in breeding the very first Norwegian Forest Cat to gain a title in the UK - Premier Vieuxtemps Impromptu, who is thankfully still with us at age sixteen - we were overwhelmed when a cat also owned by us became the first champion.  At home, Skovmus was fondly known as “Mouse” – not because she was in any way mouse-like in character, but because her given name is Danish for field mouse. In fact she was most bold and friendly – the day she arrived, she strolled in as though she had always been here, and I have never heard her hiss at another cat, nor for that matter has she ever been hissed at. She would always greet visitors with a lick; her constant preoccupation was the need to lovingly cleanse grubby human beings.

Mouse and siblings in Denmark
Skovmus was one of the first cats to enter the UK under the “Balai Directive”, before the days of “Passports for Pets”, in order that she avoid our stringent 6 month quarantine regulations. However she was nearly ten months old by the time she could join us, having lived in Denmark with her breeders Jette Madsen and Martin Kristensen until then. I will always be so grateful to them for letting us have this wonderful girl. Not only was she a real pleasure to have around (in spite of the rather rough little pink tongue that gave us our daily wash!) but she also strengthened the bloodlines of Norwegian Forest Cats in our island. She effortlessly produced a number of large and typy Vieuxtemps offspring who gained titles here. Skovmus’ pedigree is a distinguished one; her mother was World Winner, European Champion Gwynne Vaughani Felis Jubatus, and the grandparents of her father (GIC Norsk Skogkatt Felis Jubatus) are that legendary couple, World Winner/European Champion Flatland’s Bjornstierne DM and European Champion Flatland’s Avedine DM. (DM=Distinguished Merit, an award made to cats who have many progeny with high titles.)

Mouse in Denmark as a kitten, with breeder Jette Madsen

In the UK we have had Norwegian Forest Cats since 1987 but they only gained Championship Status in 1997 in the GCCF – at that time there were no NFOs being shown in FIFe here. Imagine how proud we were when Skovmus, against stiff competition, became the very first Champion Norwegian Forest Cat in Britain. (In GCCF all colours and levels compete in the same open class and in those days, numbers competing were large.) After that we decided not to show her anymore as, having been introduced to the show bench at a comparatively advanced age, she never did enjoy it, although her behaviour was always impeccable.

When she was nine years old, we were cuddling her on the settee one day when we noticed a slight swelling underneath her tummy. It seemed nothing much, but I took her for a check-up next day. I was horrified when the vet said there might be a tumour – her stomach and intestines seemed fine and there was no sign of jaundice, so it might be her spleen or pancreas. We had to book surgery for first thing next morning. Throughout that night we couldn’t sleep because we were so worried, so we sat just watching and stroking her. Skovmus herself was unconcerned, and ate a hearty meal before we had to take the food and water bowls away in preparation for the anaesthetic. The last thing she did before leaving for the vet hospital was to give my partner Bob’s face a thorough wash, which he gladly received with tears in his eyes (she washed those away too). Next day (30thSeptember2003) she went in for an exploratory operation from which they did not bring her round, as her pancreas was riddled with cancer and it had just spread to her liver. Nothing could be done to save our beautiful Mouse. I still cannot believe I will never see her expressive blue eyes ever again. They really were the most brilliant colour. She also had a lovely long, strong body and super self-maintaining coat of excellent length and shape. In the early days, people at shows used to ask me if she was a male, which always puzzled me, as she looked so feminine in spite of her size.     

Mouse with a litter of kittens - she was always a superb mother
Just before the anaesthetic on that last day of her life, she weighed 5.85kg, with no excess fat. There are thankfully larger cats around now, including some of my own, but in mid 1990s Britain she did seem enormous. We have two other white NFCs and they bring a lump into my throat as I am reminded of Mouse. However, in the manner of cats and in particular NFCs, they bring real comfort to us, especially her green-eyed daughter, Vieuxtemps Hermione, whose mannerisms remind me of her dear mother. I cling to the fact that Skovmus didn’t know she was ill, and lived life in full to the last.

It is of interest to note that in spite of her eye colour, Mouse was BAER tested and had full hearing in both ears.  Harrison Weir wrote in 1889:  "It is a curious fact relating to the white cat of not only the long but also the short-haired breed is their deafness.  Should they have blue eyes, which is the fancy colour, these are nearly always deaf; although I have seen specimens whose hearing was as perfect as that of any other colour."  It is not true to say that blue-eyed white cats are nearly always deaf.  There is a tendency to deafness, and a proportion of them are, but many are not, and fortunately Mouse was one of these many.

She will never be forgotten by those of us who knew and loved her.

No comments:

Post a Comment