Perhaps no breed or variety of cat has been so much thought about talked about and fought about in the fancy as the silver or chinchilla Persian. If blues are a new variety, then silvers are of still more recent origin. Years ago this cat did not exist that is to say we should not recognise the silver Persian of today as the silver of bygone times for the simple reason that the only class of silver in the fancy formerly was the silver tabby.
In those days there were self-coloured cats and tabby or marked cats and broken coloured cats. Previous to the introduction of a Chinchilla class at the Crystal Palace in 1894 the class for silver tabbies included blue tabbies with or without white and it is curious to read in the old catalogues of the Crystal Palace shows the titles given to the various cats by the owners some describing their cats as chinchilla tabby light grey tabby silver grey silver chinchilla blue or silver striped.
We may infer that these cats were either blue tabbies or silver tabbies or something betwixt and between. I distinctly remember the large number of cats which in these enlightened days we should find it difficult indeed to classify. It is often said 'What's in a name?' But still in trying to describe a particular breed of cat, it is as well to endeavour to find a term which expresses, as nearly as possible, both the colour and the appearance of the animal. There has been a great deal of discussion as to the correct name by which these delicately tinted Persians should be called.
The National Cat Club began by classifying them for the Crystal Palace show in 1894 as Chinchillas and they have kept to this, although it is really a most misleading title, as the cats are quite unlike the fur which we know as chinchilla this being dark at the roots and lighter towards the tips. Now cats of this variety ought to be just the reverse.
It is difficult to give a correct idea of the real colour and appearance of these cats The fur at the roots is a peculiar light silver not white as one might imagine until some pure white is placed beside it and this shades to a slightly darker tone--a sort of bluish lavender--to the tips of the coat. The Cat Club introduced the term 'self silver,' but this is suggestive of one colour only without any shadings whatever. Another class called 'shaded silvers' was added, but then again tabby markings are not shadings. Formerly blues used to be called self blues, but this is entirely done away with and now we never think of using this term and speaking of them as blues we understand there should be the one and only colour.
Surely then the simplest term and the most descriptive of these beautiful cats is 'silver' pure and simple, for whether dark or light they are all silvers and so we should have blues and blue tabbies orange and orange tabbies silver and silver tabbies.
Then comes the question of what is nearest perfection in this variety of cat which has come upon us of late years evolved from the silver tabby and the blue. The ideal silver to use the words of a well known breeder of these cats, should be the palest conceivable edition of a smoke cat with fur almost white at the roots and palish silver grey at the tips and as free from markings as a smoke. I do not go the length of declaring that silvers cannot be too light, for I think that it is the delicate tips of silvery blue that lend such a charm and give such distinction to this variety. Without these delicate tippings a silver cat would look inartistic and insipid.
There has been of late quite a rage amongst silver breeders to produce a totally unmarked specimen, but fanciers would do better to endeavour to obtain a light shaded silver free from tabby markings with the broad head and massive limbs which at present are qualities not often met with in this variety. I am quite aware this is a most difficult task, but we must remember that all good things come hard, even in breeding cats, and if it were not so half the interest for fanciers would be gone.
Having therefore considered what a perfect silver cat ought to be, I will give a description of the type of cat generally bred and exhibited as a silver. I read the following account in one of our daily papers, evidently written by a non-admirer of these lovely cats. The chinchillas are very fashionable and very difficult to breed in perfection. They took their name from a supposed likenee the fur bears to that of the chinchilla. But the chinchilla cat as at present in request bears no resemblance to the little rodent. Most of the exhibits are of a dirty white, tinged with lavender, with a quantity of marks and stripes on the face, body, and paws. Now this is not a pleasing picture and one that would be considered libellous by a silver breeder It is however true that at present our silvers are too full of tabby markings, and in many cases the undercoat is not silvery white, but light grey or pale blue.
There are many silver cats with dark spine lines and shaded sides, but they are heavily barred on the head and legs and the tail is frequently almost black. It is a case of tabby blood, which needs breeding out of the silvers and which no doubt will be obliterated in time, so that two distinct types of silvers will only exist, the delicately tipped or shaded silvers and the richly marked and barred silver tabbies. Just as in the case of the blue Persians it took a long while to eradicate the tabby markings which showed the existence of tabby blood amongst silvers, the bar and stripes need to be carefully bred out, and we shall hope the good time coming to have not self silvers, but a very near approach to this namely a perfectly unmarked, but yet not wholly unshaded silver cat.
There is a greater delicacy amongst silver cats and more difficulty in rearing the kittens than in any other breed and this may be for by the immense amount of inbreeding that was carried on indiscriminately the beginning of the rage for silver cats the desire to obtain lightness of colour breeders to lose sight of the grave disadvantages of loss of bone and stamina it is that among the silver cats at our shows we seldom find massive or broad heads or full cheeks There a tendency to hare like proportions and the faces have a pinched and snipey appearance and noses are too long. However great improvement is taking place and with the numerous stud cats now at the disposal of fanciers there ought to be no difficulty in making a suitable selection The question as to the correct colour of eyes for a chinchilla or silver cat is still a vexed question. In self coloured cats the broad line is clearly laid down, blue eyes for whites orange for blacks and orange for blues, but when we come to the more nondescript cats such as silver and smoke and tortoiseshell, there seems to be a wider margin given and the line drawn is not so hard and fast. Still I think it is always well to have some high standard of perfection in each breed so that fanciers may breed up to it, and to my mind the bright emerald green eye, is the ideal for a silver cat. I have seen very fine amber eyes which could not fail to attract admiration, but if these are admitted then all sorts of eyes, not amber, but wishy washy yellow will be the inevitable result.
So many silver cats have eyes that may be described as neither one thing nor the other. Often one hears the remark "Oh but if you see So and so's eyes in the right light they are a lovely green." But viewed by the ordinary eye of a critical judge, they appear an uncertain yellow. Therefore, it is best to set up a standard, and I think it is becoming an almost undisputed fact that silver cats of perfect type should have green eyes, and by green let it be understood that the deeper the tone the better will they accord or contrast with the pale silvery coat I would here impress upon fanciers the great importance of striving to obtain the large round, full eye, which gives such expression to a cat's face. How many of our silvers of today are spoiled by small, badly shaped or half open eyes. I do not think sufficient importance is attached by our judges to this point of size of eye. Many are carried away by the correctness of colour and fail to deduct a sufficient number of points for a beady badly shaped small eye. Colour is fleeting and with age our cats may lose the brilliancy of green or orange, but bold large eyes, placed well apart, and not too deeply sunk, will be lasting points in favour of our pets.
There is one rather peculiar feature in the eyes of some silver cats. This is the dark rim, which often encircles the eye. This rim decidedly enhances the beauty of the eye, and makes it look larger than it really is, and also throws up the colour Light, almost white ear tufts and toe tufts are adjuncts, which go to make up a perfect silver cat. The nose is of a dull brick red, darkening slightly towards the edges. Few Persian cats suffer so severely during the process of shedding their coats as silvers and they present a most ragged appearance at this period of their existence. The lovely fluffy light silver undercoat almost disappears and the top markings stand out very distinctly, so that a cat that in full feather would be considered a light unmarked specimen will appear streaked and dark after the coat has been shed. As regards the silver kittens it is a curious fact that these when born are often almost black or at any rate generally very dark in colour resembling smokes. It is seldom that a silver kitten is light at birth but gradually the markings and shadings will lessen and perhaps just the one mite that was looked upon as a bad black will blossom forth into the palest silver. In this respect silver kits are most speculative, but in another they are cruelly disappointing for a kitten at three months old may be a veritable thing of beauty and ere it has reached the age of eight months, bars and stripes will have, so to speak, set in severely and our unmarked specimen of a silver kit develops into a poorly marked tabby cat.
I may say that if the kittens are going to be really pale silvers they will in the majority of cases have very pale faces and paws with little or no marking, whilst the body will be fairly even dark grey perhaps almost black. In a week or two a change takes place as the undercoat begins to grow and it will be noticed that the kittens become more even in colour, the contrast between their light face and dark backs, will not be nearly so accentuated, and by the time they are nine or ten weeks old, they will look almost unmarked. The reason for this is that the dark fur they are born with is really only the extreme tips of the hair and as their coats grow in length this shading becomes more dispersed. And here I will allude to the so called threefold classification which was part of the scheme of the Silver Society, founded by Mrs Champion, in 1900.
At the inaugural meeting Mrs Stennard Robinson took the chair, Voting papers had previously been distributed amongst the members, asking for their votes on the question of establishing three classes for silvers namely chinchillas, shaded silvers, and silver tabbies. The votes recorded were fifty four in favour of the threefold classification and nine against, it So this was carried by a large majority and the question of points discussed and settled as follows:
Head .. 20
Shape .. 15
Colour of coat .. 25
Coat and condition .. 20
Colour shape and expression of eyes .. 10
Brush .. 10
Total .. I00
After much discussion Lady Marcus Beres moved, and Mrs Champion seconded, the following definition of Shaded Silvers.
Head .. 20
Colour of coat .. 25
Coat and condition .. 20
Colour shape and expression of eyes .. 10
Shape .. 15
Brush .. 10
Total .. I00
From this list it will be seen that for colour the highest points are given, and that eyes may be green or orange. But during the two years which have elapsed since the formation of the Silver Society, there has been a decided desire on the part of breeders for green eyes only, and certainly our best qualified silver judges are not partial to any other coloured eyes in this variety.
In an article on the colour of eyes in silvers Zaida of Fur and Feather writes: "Eye colouring threatens to become a matter of fashion. Some eight years ago we received from a first rate fancier and exhibitor a letter respecting a chinchilla cat which later became a great prize winner. It is useless, wrote this lady, to think of exhibiting her on account of her green eyes. What a change of opinion has marked the flight of eight years. It will be observed that as regards the description of chinchillas and shaded silvers. there is a distinction and yet no very great difference and herein lay the difficulty of retaining these two classes at our shows. The lightest silvers were deemed eligible for the chinchilla class and then came the question for exhibitor and judge to draw the line between the two so called varieties and to decide what degree of paleness constituted a chinchilla and what amount of dark markings would relegate the specimen into the shaded silver class.
The cat world became agitated; exhibitors were puzzled and judges exasperated. There were letters to the cat papers on the silver muddle Show secretaries were worried with inquiries I recollect a would be exhibitor writing to me sending a piece of her silver cat's fur and asking whether her puss should be in the chinchilla or shaded silver class, but even with her lengthy description and the sample before me I dared not venture an opinion and I used generally to reply to such letters by saying I did not know in which class to enter my own silver cat, and so I was going to keep him at home. One correspondent appealing through the columns of the papers wrote Everyone knows a black or white or brown tabby, but how can we exhibitors discern between the number of shadings on our silver cats, as to which class they belong? Do kindly air my grievance and oblige.
It was quite pathetic to see the faces of disappointed exhibitors at the Westminster show of 1901, when several beautiful creatures who had travelled many a weary mile to be penned and admired, were rewarded with a Wrong Class ticket only. They were either too light or too dark for the class in which their owners had entered them and all hope of honour and glory and golden coins and silver cups vanished into thin air. At one show, I recollect a cat was accounted by the judge a chinchilla and a shaded silver and he came off very well with special prizes for both varieties. No doubt he really was either one or the other or both!
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