The annual meeting of the World Cat Congress was held in the city of Melbourne in the State of Victoria, Australia. It was hosted by the Feline Control Council (Victoria) Inc. which is an affiliate of the Co-ordinating Cat Council of Australia.
The events began on 30th April with a Seminar which was sponsored by Royal Canin and was well attended. As usual on these occasions the proceedings began with a brief presentation of the World Cat Congress by its President, Pam DelaBar of the CFA who then introduced the delegates of the nine members in attendance.
Amongst the items on the Agenda were:
An interesting presentation by Dr Pauleen Bennett under the title of “Breeding cats to improve cat welfare and human well being.” Dr Bennett has studied human and animal behaviour for many years and is director of the Anthrozoology Research Group at Monash University.
She considered the role of the pet and its human owner to be more symbiotic than parasitic; the benefits of owning a pet were physical, social and psychological. Focusing on cats, she identified their desirability in a domestic situation where their nature allows them to cope with a changed environment, they are not aggressive to other species, the young can be separated at an early age from their parents, they are easy to contain as they do not have a wide home range and tend to solicit the attention of man rather than avoid it. Not least, they are omnivorous feeders.
From this point Dr Bennett moved on to the artificial selection of cats which was, she contended, in its infancy with cats but may be seen more clearly in the dog fancy. Where the breeders have aimed for physical attributes in specific breeds, this has led to unsustainable bad health conditions in these breeds. She also maintained that thousands of companion dogs have behavioural disorders which were probably indicative of psychpathology and poor welfare.
She gave an interesting example of experiments made with foxes where the focus had been on temperament and pointed out that selection for one thing can affect other things; traits were linked in unexpected ways. Experiments had shown that ‘domestication’ genes might be located close to ‘colour’ genes; in rats it had been observed that black rats were more easily handled than brown rats and that they had different brain chemistry. She said that in German Shepherd Dogs, hip dysplsia might be associated with desirable temperamental traits.
With reference to cats, Dr Bennett felt that lifestyle changes in owners had led to different expectations of the cat: they should not perform normal cat behaviour such as clawing furniture or marking their territory, they should be friends with everyone and everything, they should be content with life in a small enclosure and should not expect to have an owners who knew anything about cats.
Finally, she said that owners should not necessarily be blamed for cat behavioural problems, whist there may be many bad cat owners not all cats are born equal and even experts can’t ‘fix’ all cats. The positive things which should be done were to educate potential cat owners and the general community at large. It was necessary to be transparent and publicise honestly the breeding goals; identify and develop desirable traits and at the same time acknowledge the limitations as it is not always possible to predict how a kitten will turn out and gene pools in purebred cat were limited. Cat lovers should unite, collaborate, respect and learn from each other. It was also necessary to be accountable, create a formal means of obtaining feedback from kitten buyers, have compulsory microchipping and be prepared to make refunds for undesirable behaviour, even if it could be the owner’s fault.
The aim therefore was to improve cat welfare and human well-being by focusing on health and behaviour as well as the physical aspect of the cat.
This lecture gave food for thought for breeders and owners alike and was very well received.
“Australia’s only home-grown pedigree cat”, was how Dr Truda Straede introduced the Australian Mist, a breed she had developed since 1977 with full recognition being gained in 1986.
In her presentation, Dr Straede explained her reasons for developing the breed and with a well-illustrated talk showed the various colours and patters as well as the desired physical characteristics of this, relatively, new breed.
Australian Mists have now been exported to the United Kingdom where they are being bred by a few dedicated breeders.
Dr Straede also presented another item on the Agenda, the “Breeders Best Cat” in which eleven breeders presented their “best” cat and talked about some of the problems and successes they had experienced. It is always nice to have live cats at the Seminar and the delegates welcomed this opportunity to see and, in some cases, handle some ‘real’ cats.
A more serious note was struck with Steven Moore’s talk on cat legislation. Steven holds a Degree in Applied Science from Monash University and has been employed with the Bureau of Animal Welfare for six years.
Mr Moore spoke about cat legislation primarily in the State of Victoria but with reference to the other States of Australia. He explained how laws came to be passed within the hierarchy of government. The legislation primarily concerned the number of cats which an individual could own, the requirement for them to be registered. In some states there was a requirement for cats to be microchipped and de-sexed. In the State of Victoria there was also a ‘Code of Practice for Private Keeping of Cats” as well as a “Code of Practice for the Responsible Breeding of Animals with Heritable Defects that cause Disease” and the latter has a far-reaching effect on breeders within the State.
This led on to Dr Carole Webb’s lecture “Translating Legislation into Practice, Victorian Heritable Diseases Code.” Dr Webb has been practising as a feline veterinarian for the past 32 years and holds degrees in Veterinary Science, and Veterinary Medicine. She has her own feline practice in Melbourne and joined the Cat Protection Society as veterinarian in 1986. Since this time, she has established a feline practice and health program for CPS, reorganised and renovated the shelter and actively lobbied for effective and humane legislative measures to address the cat overpopulation problem. In 1990, she became the Society's Executive Director and is now responsible for the Society's overall operation. She was concerned in pointing out the responsibility of the cat fancy with regard to heritable diseases; this involved not only the breeders but also the judges and veterinarians and the fancy itself with its rules and regulations. The Victorian Government’s legislation appeared to be eminently sensible and it was interesting to note that at least one of the WCC members had had similar rules in place for some time.
Pam DelaBar gave an interesting talk on CFA’s disaster relief policy; in countries where natural disasters occur on a fairly regular basis, this has great relevance but even in less endangered areas matters such as ensuring that a pictorial record of all pets is stored in a safe place and having those pets microchipped and equipped with a collar with an identity disc. Having a good supply of food and medication always on hand and as a means of transporting a cat quickly and safely, a pillowcase was recommended in the absence of a cat carrier.
As is usual at the Open Meeting, a time was allowed for posing questions from the floor and these led to some discussion on the desirability of uniformity in breed standards and terminology as well as the need to make the WCC web site more informative.
Saturday and Sunday saw a two day show in which those visiting delegates, who were also judges, participated. The shows took the form of an eight ring national show with about 600 cats. It was a lively and interesting event in a large well-lit hall at Melbourne Showgrounds.
The Business Meeting took place on Monday, 3rd May, in a room at the same venue, and was attended by some interested observers.
The Minutes can be found in the library of this site.