World Cat Congress
Annual Meeting

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

21 - 24 April, 2017

WCC delegates

The delegates to the World Cat Congress. Front row, left to right: Julian Schuller (WCF Interpreter), Leo van de Haterd (FIFe), Betty Shingleton (GCCF), Eric Reijers (WCC President), Penny Bydlinski (WCC Secrtary/Treasurer), Annette Sjødin (FIFe), Jan van Rooyen (SACC), Anneliese Hackmann (WCF), Chris Lowe (NZCF), Cheryle U’Ren (CCCA & WCC Vice-President), just behind her, at back, Alex Chisholm (TICA), Robbie Walker (ACF), Mark Hannon (CFA), Rachel Anger (CFA), left of her, in front, Sandi Gemmell (ACF)

The 2017 Annual Meeting, hosted by CFA in Las Vegas was a truly memorable event. The special committee, chaired by Rachel Anger, had put a lot of thought into the arrangements. They had also focused on the desirability of the delegates having an opportunity to get together outside the official proceedings and had come up with the brilliant idea of having a ‘hospitality suite’ in the hotel. The delegates had been invited to arrive on the Wednesday and their first rendezvous was in this suite where they were offered a chance to relax after their journeys and meet each other over a drink and some extremely good nibbles. This suite was open to them for breakfast and for evening drinks and appetizers each day and became the focal point for all the delegates, who really appreciated the chance to relax and chat together informally. This suite, as well as hotel bookings and arrangements for outings, was organized by Allene Tartaglia who, with her husband Kent, was constantly on hand to help the delegates A lot of work had gone into it and it was a huge success.

On the Thursday an outing to the Hoover Dam had been arranged and this was a fascinating trip as it gave the delegates a chance to see the location of Las Vegas, surrounded as it is by desert and mountains. The trip went through Boulder City, which had come about when the dam was being built; it was remarkable to see lush green grass and plants growing in this pretty town, which had the benefit of the water from the dam. The dam itself was incredible in its size and setting. The visitors could also go into the workings of this enormous structure as well as viewing it from many strategic points.

WCC delegates at Hoover Dam

Visit the Hoover Dam. Front row, left to right: Anneliese Hackmann (WCF), Laureline Malineau (Royal Canin), Penny Bydlinski (WCC Secrtary/Treasurer) and Sandi Gemmell (ACF); middle row, left to right: Robie Walker (ACF), Jan van Rooyen (SACC), Annette Sjodin (FIFe), Rachel Anger (CFA), Betty Shingleton (hidden) (GCCF), Chris Lowe (NZCF) and Cheryle U’Ren (CCCA & WCC Vice-President); back row, left to right: Mark Hannon (CFA), Fate Mays, Eric Reijers (WCC President) and Pepa Smidovec.

The Seminar and Open Meeting took place on the Friday in the Rio Hotel. The proceedings were opened by Mark Hannon, the CFA President who mentioned briefly that WCC had been founded in the mid-nineties and CFA had been one of the founding members. He explained that each of the nine members took it in turns to host the Annual Meeting and it was now CFA’s turn Some years the WCC Annual Events had been better than others and he hoped the current one would be one of the better ones and that people would remember fondly their experiences there. He welcomed the delegates from the nine member organisations and all the visitors. He thanked Lorraine Shelton, who had co-ordinated the day’s Seminar, Rhonda Avery, who was the Show Manager and also Allene Tartaglia, who was CFA’s special events co-ordinator, who had been working on the event for a long time. It had been a lot of work but they hoped it would be a good experience for all concerned. He thanked Royal Canin who had sponsored the show and would be providing meals for the Business Meeting on Monday. He then gave the floor to the World Cat Congress President, Eric Reijers.

Eric said that he would only speak briefly as there would be a fuller introduction of the WCC and its delegates later on. Speaking for all the delegates and visitors he would like to say how impressed he was with the professionality, enormous generosity and kindness that had been experienced since their arrival. He added that it would make it very hard for the hosts in future years to follow such an example. He thanked CFA for all they were doing.

Dr Rick Kessler addressing the Seminar

Dr Rick Kessler addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

The first speaker was Dr Rick Kessler, who spoke on nutrition in the reproduction cycle. Dr Kessler is currently the Scientific Services Veterinarian at Royal Canin with many years experience as a practicing veterinarian. He works directly with breeders and pet owners to consult on management, nutrition and reproduction techniques. He also has a passion for neonatology, which is the medical care of newborns where there is a problem.

Dr Kessler is a lively and humorous speaker who explained that he normally made a few Kansas jokes during his talk but as he was limiting his normal time of a one and a half hour presentation to half an hour, he would not being doing that on this occasion.

The first point he made was a question that was displayed on his PowerPoint: “Does what you feed really matter?” He had been involved with nutrition for over 30 years and thought everybody now knew that nutrition maximized the health of a cat. He was specifically addressing how nutrition affected reproduction in cats and in order to understand that, it was also necessary to know something about the cat’s anatomy and its behavior, because they were all related. It was important to understand that cats tended to eat three or four meals a day as they had small stomachs. They were sensitive to texture and particularly to the odour of food as they had a greater ability to identify odours than a human being. Their taste buds were limited; they had no taste for sugars. He spoke of some cats being described as finicky eaters and said that kittens could be trained from the beginning so that they would not be finicky.

He spoke about proteins in the diet, which were important but the amino acids that were in the proteins were more important. Moving on to the importance of diet in the reproductive cycle, he laid stress on the body condition of the queen at mating and through gestation. He referred to the importance of assessing the condition explaining that either being too heavy or underweight could lead to failure to conceive, increase in abortions, small underweight kittens and decreased lactation. It was important to monitor the body condition throughout gestation in order to avoid birth problem. There should be a weight gain in the queen from the time of conception. He explained that cats were the only species where this was important and it was because a cat normally hunts to gain its nutrition and they needed to store the energy they needed since they normally did not leave their kittens once they were born. This gain in weight would be converted to their energy store. They should gain approximately 40% of their body weight during pregnancy. It was also important to feed energy dense food as they ate only small amounts at one time. The food should provide 4000 kcal per kilogram. Queens reduce their intake twice during pregnancy, the obvious one being later on in the period when the growing kittens are putting pressure on the stomach. The other time, which was critical and extra nutrition needed to be provided, was when the embryos implanted into the uterus around the second to third week of pregnancy. This triggered a spike of progesterone and at that time a queen would go off her food. It was important to feed a high protein and also a high fat diet. They also needed to be provided with 11 amino acids. He referred to a deficiency of Taurine, which was one of those amino acids, as being very important. It was therefore necessary to check the ingredients of food to ensure that all the essential elements were contained in it. The protein element needed to be digestible if it were to be of any use to the cat.

The lactation period was critical as if the queen did not lactate properly, the kittens would have problems all their lives. He believed that eating disorders all came about from the condition of the queen during pregnancy and lactation. It was necessary to supplement the queen’s diet during that period and also important to provide water. Whilst it was difficult to get cats to drink water, the water could be baited with a soft food that they liked or acid flavours, which they also liked. He spoke of the antibodies which were present in the milk for the first 24 hours and it was ideal that the kittens nursed in the first 4 hours because if they didn’t nurse within that time, the quality of the colostrum fell and the kittens would not get the amount of antibodies that they needed. He also stressed the need for humidity as kittens were composed of a high water content and could be quickly de-hydrated.

Weaning was a gradual process, which needed care as it affected the whole of the kitten. The bacteria would increase during that period and a balance between good and bad bacteria needed to be maintained. They would have picked up the odours of the food the queen ate during pregnancy and lactation and it was necessary to wean the kittens on to similar food. The protein needed to be highly digestible. He explained the physical details of the process in both the queen and the kittens. He also stressed that kittens would copy their mother in eating habits and preferences, particularly if she was present during the weaning process. Unfortunately, the time was limited and he could not go into more detail.

This was an extremely interesting lecture that, even for experienced breeders, contained various snippets of new and not well-understood information and the audience appreciated it very much.

The next item on the Agenda was the introduction of the WCC by its President, Eric Reijers. He started off by thanking Royal Canin, without whom it would not be possible to have the Annual Meetings. He mentioned the very good relationship between them and the WCC. He then presented the WCC Vice-President, Cheryle U’Ren. Stating that the day was a special one, although perhaps not for everybody, he explained that it was the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, which meant something to Penny and a little to him also. The reason he mentioned it was that there was some similarity – he acknowledged that Penny didn’t overdo it with tiaras but she was about the same size, had the same tenacity, the same wit and the same intelligence and he didn’t know what the WCC would be without her. She had worked extremely hard in the last year and she would now come and present the delegates.

Penny Bydlinski, who is the secretary of the WCC, explained that she would be showing a PowerPoint giving an illustrated history of the Congress and the individual delegates would introduce themselves at the appropriate moments during the presentation and present their own organization. The PowerPoint showed photos from the beginning of the WCC and at the point at which their organization had become a member, the delegates introduced themselves and reported on their body. The first were of course the founder members, FIFe, CFA WCC and ACF with TICA having attended the following year.

Dr. Vicki Thayer, Executive Director of the Winn Foundation

Dr. Vicki Thayer, Executive Director of the Winn Foundation addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

The next speaker was Dr. Vicki Thayer, Executive Director of the Winn Foundation with almost forty years background in feline medicine.

Dr Thayer spoke of the aims of the Foundation, which were to foster improvements in feline health through research and education. They were established in 1968, so were approaching their golden anniversary. She spoke of the establishment of the foundation in which Robert Winn, the then President of CFA had been the initiator, together with other CFA members. Referring to the research aspect of the Foundation and pointing out the advances that had occurred in the intervening years where IT development had taken over from the mountains of paper which had been necessary in the early years of the Winn Grant Review meetings to discuss grant proposals. She listed grants that had been made through the years, these totaled to date almost six million dollars; she thought that was something to be proud of, as it had enabled a lot of progress in feline medicine. She listed the major areas that they had supported, these being:
• FIP – 5 studies
• Heart Disease – 5 studies
• Cancer – 4 studies
• Genetics Related – 3 studies
• Kidney Disease – 1 study

They also had special funds available to support research into specific diseases and they had supported the following:
• Bria Fund: Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
• Ricky Fund: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) and heart disease in cats
• Amyloidosis in Siamese and Related Breeds
• Speckles Abdominal Cancer Campaign
• Breed Specific: Norwegian Forest Cat HCM. Persian HCM, Birman Heart Disease

The Bria Fund was the most popular and the one that received the most donations. It had been running ten or so years and in the last two years there had been five studies of which perhaps the most interesting was the study of new drug compounds to treat Feline Coronaviruses (FCCV). The exploration of a compound to inhibit the FIP virus was making progress and had been trialled with some success on the wet form of FIP. Other drugs were also being investigated and trialled.. They were also looking at developing a vaccine against FIP. Dr Thayer pointed out that they were also able to take advantage of human vaccine technology used in diseases such as measles and influenza. She then showed a photo of a cat called Smokey, who had had wet FIP and had gone into the clinical trials. He had now been off the compound inhibitor for almost six months and was living happily and currently free of FIP. There were other cats that had also been treated similarly and were doing well; these could be seen on Winn Foundation’s Facebook page.

Enlarging on the Ricky Fund, Dr Thayer said this fund had been instigated by Steve Dale, who was one of their board members, to look into HCM or heart disease. One of the results from this fund was a monitor, which could be worn at home, which looked at the arrhythmias in cats that had HCM. The most interesting was the laboratory study of turning stem calls into cardiac muscle cells enabling the evaluation of new treatments.

The Persian HCM fund was one of their breed specific funds and a study to identify a DNA mutation for Persian HCM was being carried out by Dr Kate Meurs at the North Carolina State University. Dr Meurs had found the mutation in Maine Coons and Ragdolls so she was very experienced in this field. The research was on-going and it was hoped there would soon be some answers.

The Birman Heart Disease Fund was founded by Alwyn Hill and the Birman Heart Foundation in the United Kingdom. She understood that they had more significant heart disease in Europe, especially the UK and Scandinavia, than was seen in the United States. Two studies had been funded; one to determine the phenotypic characterizations of heart disease in Birmans, from which it appeared that in over 150 cat samples looked at, ten percent of the cats exhibited heart muscle changes. Further studies were being made to search for a genetic cause for this condition.

At the instigation of various breed groups a similar study had been set up for HCM in Norwegian Forest Cats. The results of a recent study had been published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. The results were interesting in this breed as it appeared there was not always a heart murmur and the biomarker changes were not always seen so it needed to go further into the genetic phase.

The study into Amyloidosis in Siamese and related breeds has been founded by Kathy Hoos and other interested breed groups. This condition had been known and written about for many years. There were two studies going on, one with Dr Leslie Lyons on Siamese and related breeds and another on the Abyssinian and Somali breeds. This was being worked on by Dr Lyons in co-operation with Dr Maria Longheri in Milan. The analysis of samples was still going on but Dr Thayer understood that it had progressed further with the Abyssinian. Where they had found sixteen areas of interest and they have some information.

The Speckles Abdominal Cancer Campaign was a relatively new study. It had been funded by an anonymous donor to try and find answers on alimentary cancers such as Lymphoma, carcinomas and mast cell disease. Dr Thayer said that speaking as a practitioner, she knew this was one of the huge issues in middle-aged and especially geriatric cats. Three studies had been funded in the area of lymphoma and trying to differentiate it from Inflammatory Bowell Disease. It has been found that there was a Gammehernesvirus that is found in the faeces of a number of species, that caused lymphoma and in recent years it had been found in cats. The possibilities of whether it would be possible to vaccinate against it were being investigated.

She spoke about the “99 Lives Cat Genome Project” established by Dr Lyons at UC Davis and the University of Missouri that had gained a lot of support. In 2011 Winn joined with Morris Animal Foundation, American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the American Association of Feline Practitioners to form the Cat Health Network in order to move genetic research along. With one million dollars in Feline SNP arrays and one million dollars in funding, CHN had supported 28 studies. One of the recent results was finding the mutation for hypokalemic polymyopathy in Burmese cats. Dr Thayer believed that over a hundred cats had been genosequenced. Dr Lyons was currently looking at precision medicine; as a result of geno sequencing it was possible to find an exact problem in an individual cat. The genetic research field is advancing rapidly and research into stem cells had been evaluating regenerative and immunologic applications. They had been looking at treatment of Asthma, examining a population of adult progenitor cells, treatment of chronic kidney disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. They had found that there were cats that responded and improved, She showed a picture of Rinkie a cat that had successfully had stem cell treatment and had travelled around extensively, also in Europe. He could also be followed on Facebook.

Speaking of further studies with stem cell regeneration, she referred to Chronic Gingivostomatitis, which was very important. A lot of information had been generated. The national Institutes of health were looking at this with a view to possibly doing trials on people. They were looking at ways that stem cell treatment could be beneficial. It was also being studied with FIP and HCM.

There were also studies on GI/Infectious Disease on Feline T. foetus; those concerned evaluation of the role played by a cellular protein in feline T. foetus cytopathogenicity; the diagnosis and treatment of feline T foetus through target surface antigens; determining a new gold standard treatment for cats with ronidazole-resistant T. foetus infection and probiotic use to treat T.foetus.

Dr Thayer said she was very proud of the wide range of the 11 projects they had funded and thanked CFA and all those who had financially supported the projects. She added that without financial support Winn could not continue to help cats as they did and she hoped people would think of investing in the future of their hobby. She finished by informing the audience of the next Winn Symposium in Chicago just before the CFA Annual on June 29. The speaker would be Dr Niels Pedersen who would be reporting on the status of FIP treatment, She provided contact details for Winn as follows:
Cat Health News Blog

Dr Thayer had been an interesting and readily understandable lecturer on a subject that is of great importance to the cat owner and breeder. It was much appreciated by all who attended.

Dr Heather Lorimer addressing the Seminar

Dr Heather Lorimer addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

Lorraine introduced the next lecturer who was Dr Heather Lorimer, an Associate Professor of Genetics in the Biological Sciences Department at Youngstown State University; her research interests included mitochondrial DNA and molecular oncology. She was also, as she pointed out, the chair of the TICA genetics committee. She explained that she would be speaking on different levels as she knew the audience’s genetic knowledge would be varied. With the aid of numerous readily understandable slides she went through a comprehensive genetic seminar from basics to the more involved aspects influencing colour, pattern and type. This was an absorbing and extremely informative lecture on all levels of genetic knowledge and gave rise to some interesting questions from the audience.

In the afternoon Pat Jacobberger, a CFA all breed judge and co-ordinator for the Breed Awareness and Orientation Board and Chair of the CFA Judging Program Education Committee. She was speaking about ‘The Psychology of Judging’ and she wanted to thank Peter Paul Moorman, who had been her inspiration and from whose article on this subject she had taken a lot of her material.

The purpose of this lecture was to identify some of the elements of the psychology of judging cats, to review some of the things that influenced the judge to make decisions, to provide an understanding of those influences in order to manipulate – or try to manipulate - the outcomes, and to open a dialogue that allowed further discussion of the subject.

She described psychology as being the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context. She explained that judging cats was work and all work involved a process and all processes could be studied and therefore be changed. Therefore, if judges understood what influenced their behavior as judges, they could change and control that behavior and may then be able to control and avoid situations that lead to exhibitors displaying some very unsporting reactions. She illustrated these reactions with some very amusing photos.

As judges, they were judging a beauty contest governed by written standards which described the various phenotypic dimensions of the breed; this included the head, the ears, the eyes and their colour, the body, the feet, the tail, the legs, the coat in both colour, pattern and texture and the temperament – there were also penalizing and disqualifying faults. This means there was a lot of information to keep track of and there were also many breeds. The Judge is expected to have all these things in mind and having evaluated all the cats in the class, to come up with the right answer. It was questionable as to whether one human brain was in fact able to do that.

Another point to consider was that judging cats was subjective; it was quite likely that two judges on the same day, at the same show would come up with two different results on the same cat. Much of judging is subjective and involved personal opinion that varied from person to person.

Pat Jacobberger addressing the Seminar

Pat Jacobberger addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

The exhibitors tended to make assumptions as to why the judge picked a particular cat; things such as the owner being a friend of the judge or the cat being from the judge’s breeding lines. They might also consider the judge was dishonest and had a political motive. The judges were aware that people made these assumptions and that their decisions might lead to disapproval by both exhibitors and other judges. However, whilst sometimes judges did make mistakes, sometimes people’s assumptions were simply wrong.

There were several areas of interest that came under the umbrella of psychology when talking about judging a cat. Two of the most important things were the short term memory and the things that affect it as well as the fact that decision making changes over a judge’s career. With regard to the first point, the human short term memory did not exceed about seven items, which meant the brain could not remember more than seven or so items at one time. Certain things, such as green rings in the eyes, unbroken necklaces or white spots might just filter through the short term memory and be forgotten. Long-term memory storage and long-term memory recall could be affected by interference of similar material. Interference was more the rule than the exception when judging cats in a big ring of cats of the same breed. If a point on a particular cat was missed in that process, it was not because the judge was ‘a bad judge’ but because the human brain could not assimilate all the information involved. Short term memory could be affected by many things; first of all was the person’s physical state, so if the person was sick or not feeling well, was older, inebriated or tired their perception was affected as well as their ability to concentrate and their speed of judging because information processing was slower, Short term memory could also be affected by a person’s mental condition, their emotional state or their mood. Extreme nervousness and anxiety, irritation, anger, hostility, extreme happiness or euphoria might all influence how much detail could be retained and how a judge performs. In trying to assess how much a human being could keep track of in the short term, Mrs Jacobberger quoted statistics from some professions: stock traders could keep track of up to seven dimensions, radiologists up to six dimensions and attorneys only three – which gave rise to laughter! With regard to expert judges, be they figure skating judges or cat judges, they appeared to be only able to hang on to three at a time. The differences being those concerned in laboratory situations as opposed to those in natural situations. There were some individual judges who were able to keep track of more but this was not the general trend.

The cat show was a natural situation and the judge was affected by all the extraneous factors that go on in that place. Given that the average judge could only handle three dimensions – by which was meant for example, the body, the head, the coat etc., it appeared that the most important dimensions that a judge focused on were type, colour and coat. In order to do something about this, the judge needed to be aware that their short term memory could go wrong if it was subject to interferences and interruptions. The Judge needed to be aware of that and be prepared to avoid it by not allowing distractions such as announcements on a speaker, being interrupted by a worker at the show or people generally; the judge needed to stay focused on judging the cat and ignore peripheral activity.

The judge needed to develop techniques that support the judging process, for example get the steward or clerk to intercept anybody trying to interrupt the judge, not looking up until the judges book entries were completed and taking time when things were difficult as rushing makes the short term memory work more poorly. When judging a large class, she advised that it was better to treat each encounter as a contest between only two cats and decide the winner of those two before moving on to the next contest.

Decision-making changed over a judge’s career. Judging styles in a cat judge could be put into two groups – the holistic and the analytic. Judges tend to align to a specific style but this could be changed and indeed would change as the novice judge matured to be a more experienced judge. The analytical style is used more by newer judges; it assumes that the whole was the sum of the parts and this involves applying the point allocations in an additive and rational way that used the left hemisphere of the brain. This did not always work because the whole can in fact could be more than the sum of its parts; a great cat can rise above its faults and make the judge see it as a whole entire cat, rather then focusing on one thing. The holistic style is one used by more experienced judges. She thought it important that the judge was aware of changing as it meant making progress as a judge. The holistic style assumed that judges were inclined to start with a global impression of what a specific breed of cat should look like. She mentioned the term “epiphany” cat, which was a term for the cat that came onto the judge’s table and the immediate reaction was to think, “that is what this breed is supposed to look like.” The closer the cat on the table fitted the mental image of the judge, the higher the appreciation of the judge would be. There might, however, also be some problems with this way of judging, as it could be possible to miss some minor faults of a particular exhibit. This method of judging relied on the right hemisphere of the brain, which is the area where artistic appreciation and balance play a part. Mrs Jacobberger considered that both styles could be used in judging and most judges developed a style that used both the analytic and holistic part of the brain. The brain itself helps the individual as the two lobes of the brain do communicate with each other and pass some information back forth and it is that communication that assists the judge. It would be a mistake to rely exclusively on one way or the other.

Most association used some method of getting to the point of naming the best of breed and the judge could use the system advantageously. Mrs Jacobberger’s final advice was to practice as much as possible so that vital experience was gained. The judge should also be patient and keep in mind that he or she is only human. The exhibitors also should appreciate that the judge is doing his or her best to work with all the information that has to be taken into account when judging a cat.

This lecture was much appreciated by both the judges in the audience who could identify with so much that was said and by the exhibitors who could gain more understanding of some of the difficulties involved in judging.

Joe and Grace Ruga addressing the Seminar

Joe and Grace Ruga addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

The next half hour was given over to a presentation of a truly American breed, the American Curl. It was presented by the Breed Council Secretary Michael Bull, who said it was an honour to present the breed and they were very lucky to have there Grace Ruga, the founder of the breed, together with her husband Joe. Grace would give the presentation from the point of view of the founders.

Grace Ruga opened by saying that it was her husband Joe who had first presented the cats to both the CFA and the TICA boards and was the primary voice in insisting that they be recognized as one breed in both the longhair and the shorthair variety, for which she would like to thank him.

She explained that she would be using the current CFA standard for most of her comments. She would focus on the core identity traits of the American Curl within the standard. She thought that the standard had retained the terminology and physical intent of the original standard. The disqualifiers and penalizers were an integral part of their genetic protection and encouraged breeders and judges to use them in that context.

She related how a pretty, petite stray cat with curly ears had entered their lives in 1981; this cat had become known as Shulamith and was to be the prototype for what was to become the American Curl. Two of her kittens, a male and a female sibling, had been placed with Carol Keenan with a view to doing a first close breeding which came about in 1983. She showed a very old picture of Schulamith as a young cat, but unfortunately not very clear because of its age.

She stressed at this point that she and Joe knew nothing about the cat fancy but at that point they entertained CFA judge Jean Grimm at their home. Jean had the opportunity of seeing three generations of these cats and was amazed at what she saw. She had explained to Grace and Joe that they had something that was unknown in the cat fancy and that should be developed and recognized as a recognized breed. She outlined the basics that would be involved to get them recognized, telling them that it could take twenty years and a lot of money to get them developed and recognized in CFA.

As a first step they needed to find a name for thee cats and they followed the example of the Scottish Folds by using their place of origin and their identity trait so the cats became known as “American Curls”.

With the assistance of Jean Grimm and their own persistence they managed to the cats shown under “Exhibition Only” at a CFA show in Palm Springs in October of 1983. Those early cats would probably not be of championship quality currently, they had made quite a stir at that time.

The next step was to create a standard. They understood that a standard should describe the desired features of the cat. Being totally new to the fancy they used the currently out of print “Book of the Cat” as a guide and drafted the first standard together with detailed drawings. They had to draw on other standards for the terminology of specific traits and in the course of going through different breed standards they had decided that the Turkish Angora was the nearest in body but with many other differences such as the profile. They, therefore, had looked at other breeds such as Somali, Havana Brown, Egyptian Mau, Ocicat and Tonkinese borrowing terms from these other standards to create a description of the American Curl. They also had input from various judges ad eventually created the standard, which was from the female perspective. It was in effect a cat with Turkish Angora body type and coat texture but with curly ears. She listed the core identity traits:
• Type: elegant and slender
• Ears: Showing at east a 90-degree curvature not only 180 degrees, which point she illustrated.
• Head: a modified wedge, slightly longer than wide
• Eyes: walnut shaped
• Profile: straight nose with a slight rise to the forehead and a gentle curve to the top of the head
• Body: semi-foreign, a longer body weighing up to approximately 10 lbs
• Coat: Either semi-long or longhaired, silky texture with minimal undercoat. The semi-longed coat should ideally be one and a half to two inches long with the tailcoat being longer. The shorthair coat, whilst being short has also minimal undercoat, the same silky texture, ideally not longer than one inch.

She illustrated these points with early drawings of the ideal.

In order to develop the breed they had relied on geneticists such as Dr Roy Robinson, Dr Solveig Pflueger and of Gloria Stephens, who later published “The Legacy of the Cat” and was also deeply interested in genetics. To go further they had to decide on an outcross but came to realise that for many reasons none of the recognized breeds could be used. The goal was to have a healthy breed and whilst the Angora was the nearest cat in type, there were not many available so the gene pool was small and they were mostly white. They, therefore, decided to return to the domestic cat as an outcross. They looked for domestic cats with most of the distinctive traits, except of course for the curled ears. This was difficult but eventually one was found. She showed a picture of this cat. The outcross to domestics had been closed in CFA since 2015. At that time they were told that limited in-breeding was acceptable and they concentrated on using cats with no negative genes; anything questionable was not used in the breeding programme. As they progressed, they concentrated particularly on the ears, avoiding ears that were not attractive or that showed horizontal crimp. There are different variations of this; one having an abrupt change of direction that was any curve that did not follow the line of a circle, referred to as a ‘flat top’, she illustrated this feature. It was very undesirable s anything that interfered with the airflow in the ear canal was a bad thing and not wanted in the breed. It was more difficult to identify visually in a longhaired cat. She also spoke of a thick ear that could only be identified by handling the ear. She explained that the ear should feel the same as that of a normal straight-eared cat. These points were incorporated into the standard, as they wanted judges to be aware of and discourage those negative points. Grace laid stress on the importance of the ear canal being free and advised breeders not to breed with any cat where it was not possible to fit a q-tip or something similar into the ear canal by the age of four months. She and her husband had always paid particular attention to this in their own breeding, as they did not want such an undesirable genetic trait in the breed. She commented that whilst they had been scrupulous in avoiding the negative genetic issues, this was not the case with all breeders and unfortunately these undesirable traits were now in the breed worldwide.

The breeding programme to develop a new breed is different to that of an established breed and the Curls seemed to attract a lot of novice breeders with more enthusiasm than wisdom. Changes had been made to the standard, which inadvertently changed the structure of the entire breed. These inexperienced breeders had decided it was easier to change the standard to be in line with the cats they had, rather than breed to what the standard required. Some healthy traits were removed and some disqualifying traits were downgraded to penalize and some judges began to question the traits of some individual cats. After years of being told to handle the ears to determine the correct or incorrect form, suddenly the judges were told not to handle the ears, as it would disturb the cat. She said that if this procedure is done correctly, it is very simple and causes no discomfort. She demonstrated this on a cat that had been brought to the seminar, just holding the ear flat gently between thumb and forefinger and following the line of the curl. This procedure enabled the judge to feel both the quality of the cartilage and the direction of the curl. She also demonstrated how to view the curl visually. She maintained that handling the ears and establishing that they were correct was very important.

Another change in a standard was TICA’s description of the females being 5-8 lbs. and the males 10lbs had been removed. The word ‘substance’ was used and without the weights being mentioned, this was seen to indicate a larger cat with more substance, which was contrary to the original breed core identity.

She concluded by doing a demonstration of ‘judging’ one of Joe’s cats, pointing out both positive and negative points. She then invited everybody to have a look at the cats that had been brought. They could handle them if they wished and she would be happy to answer any questions.

Grace had given in interesting picture of the development of a new breed and her emphasis on seeking to maintain the genetic health of the cats was really appreciated.

After a break giving everybody a chance to handle and familiarize themselves with the American Curls, the programme resumed with Lorrain introducing Karen Lawrence, the Manager of the Feline Historical Museum and a member of the CFA Foundation’s board of Directors. Ms Lawrence had been involved in the cat fancy since 1972 and had long had an interest in the history and developments of breeds, clubs and cat shows as well as being an avid collector of historical ephemera and artifacts.

Karen Lawrence addressing the Seminar

Karen Lawrence addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

Ms Lawrence referred to the creation of the CFA Foundation, which had taken place in 1990 with the intent to preserve the history of CFA. The original Foundation Committee had been guided by Don Williams, Vaughan Barber, Tom Dent, Sy Howard and Michael Brim. Its mission statement was “To acquire and conserve the history of cats and show the development of the cat fancy through the acquisition of fine art, artifacts and literature.” The Foundation grew with support of bequests and donations and in 2006, under the direction of its President David Mare, the Committee developed into a board of directors that now managers the collection, the museum and the Foundation’s investments. David Mare actually lives in Las Vegas and regrets he could not be at the Seminar but is currently judging in China The Foundation now includes all cat fancy history rather than just that of CFA.

When CFA moved moved to offices in Ohio, the Foundation was offered the opportunity of leasing the ground floor of the building and saw the opportunity to open a museum. The building was renovated to bring it back to its former beauty. This was a big job involving a lot of workmen but finally the canteen was polished up and the building was ready to accept three palettes of storage boxes from Arizona to Ohio. Finally it was ready, the showcases and the bookshelves for the library were in place; they put pictures on the walls to indicate what it would look like eventually. On 10th June 2011 the Museum was officially opened with over 300 people attending the opening ceremony Ms Lawrence showed photos of the building at that time and explained that since then it had been added to with well organised displays in cabinets and on the walls and with a library full of books. One of the first donations before the opening of the Museum had been from Bruce and Diane Castor. This was a bronze sculpture of “Pixie” which the Castors had commissioned in the 1980s from J. Clayton Briant, a renowned American sculptor at that time and was the only cat figure he ever produced. Today it welcomes visitors to the museum.

The ‘Origins of the Cat’ exhibit showed the history of the cat from its origins and its movement from Egypt to China and Asia by land and back through the silk route to Russia, India and Europe. The history of the cat fancy is also followed in its path from ‘fancy cats’ to today’s cat fancy. They have historical artifacts from the early days of the cat fancy representing clubs, associations and governing bodies all over the world. The museum is divided into two parts, the gallery section represents the cat in various art forms and the historical section presented trophies and medals from cat shows over the years from both sides of the Atlantic. She spoke about some of the special exhibits in the historical section including an elaborate pewter bowl that had been a 1st prize at the Boston Cat Show in 1883. Ms Lawrence showed a lot of photos of various exhibits in the Museum including some recent acquisitions.

This was very interesting to everybody and really whetted their appetite to visit the museum if and when the opportunity presented itself.

Laureline Malineau from Royal Canin addressing the Seminar

Laureline Malineau from Royal Canin addressing the Seminar.
photo: Chanan Photography

The next speaker was Laureline Malineau from Royal Canin. Laureline had attended the WCC Seminar for several years and she talked about the ongoing relationship between Royal Canin and the Congress. She spoke about the new “Cat Encyclopaedia” which Royal Canin would be launching in June and of the collaboration on some of its contents between the Congress and themselves. She stressed that Royal Canin was devoted to the health and welfare of cats and mentioned the on-going research in their laboratories with that aim.

The last item was the “Open Meeting” at which attendees could raise questions to the speakers and delegates. Amongst the issues discussed were the lack of young people in the modern cat fancy, the effect of government legislation on breeders, the problems caused by animal activists, the standardization of cat standards and nomenclature, the breeds that were not allowed to be exhibited in some areas, with reference to Bengals and pedigrees being changed when a cat moved from one registry to another. These issues were not being raised for the first time and there was no quick solution to them as the delegatrs emphasized in their replies.

That evening the delegates, advisers and some of the CFA cat show judges were invited by CFA to attend a performance of the Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio. This was an exciting and brilliant performance that was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the visitors; especially those who had not previously had the opportunity of seeing it live.

On Saturday and Sunday CFA organized a six-ring show in one of the beautiful ballrooms of the Rio hotel. The show was expertly managed by Rhonda Avery who was also the entry clerk and master clerk and was running around busily all day. Some of the delegates judged on one day or the other, an experience they really enjoyed. There were a lot of trade stands, the judge’s rings had also been independently decorated by different local clubs and altogether the huge room looked really beautiful. Sadly on Sunday the TICA judge/delegate was taken ill and had to go to hospital but this situation was also promptly dealt with extremely well by Allene Tartaglia who seemed to be able to cope with everything that came her way. Happily on the Monday at the Business meeting of the WCC, the delegates received encouraging news about Fate.

CFA had also organized optional outings for those delegates and judges who were not involved in the show; these included a visit to the “Mob Museum” that provided a fascinating look at the early days when Las Vegas was controlled by the Mob or a visit to the Red Rock Canyon and possible outlet shopping.

On the Saturday night a gala dinner was held at Carmine’s, a family style Italian restaurant locate in the Forum Shops at Caesars, where a very enjoyable dinner was served.

The Annual Business meeting also took place in a room at the Rio. A buffet breakfast, as well as afternoon tea break was provided by Royal Canin and was much appreciated. There were a few spectators present in a very large room and the meeting went well. The Minutes of the meeting are available elsewhere on this site.

Some of the delegates stayed for a few days after the meeting in order to take the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon that was relatively close at hand; this was an informative and enjoyable experience before everybody returned home to their normal lives.

The CFA team hosted a well organized and very enjoyable WCC Annual Meeting. The delegates and advisers also received a shirt with the WCC logo embroidered on it as well as some other goodies; a very kind thought. CFA deserves a big vote of thanks for this exceptionally well-run annual meeting, which, as the WCC President said, will make it a hard act to follow for future hosts of the meeting. Lorraine Shelton also deserves praise for her well-organized and very interesting seminar, which amazingly ran to time thanks to some really great speakers who effortlessly captured the attention of the attendees.

The Minutes of the meeting are available for download.