Mrs. G.H. Walker of Woodheys Park, is the chief supporter of the Northern Counties Cat Club and is a member of the National Cat Club Committee. For several years she has been a well known breeder and exhibitor of silver Persians, and has a most excellently planned cattery, which I had the pleasure of seeing, when on a visit to Woodheys Grange. Mrs Walker kindly had some views taken specially for reproduction in these pages. I consider the arrangements for the pussies comfort and well being, as complete as it is possible to make them. The floors of the outside catteries, which face south are cemented, so that they can be washed over every day. The roofs are boarded and then covered with galvanised iron, so that all the rain runs away easily. The spacious apartments are fitted with benches and ledges and trunks of trees, and leafy shrubs are planted in the ground, for the cats special amusement and exercise. The kennels which for the purpose of photographing them, have been placed outside, are the cosy sleeping dens of the pussies. There is a maid in attendance on these fortunate cats, and the man who looks after the kennels of dogs, also gives a helping hand.
In one of the pictures will be seen a staircase, and this leads to three charmingly arranged rooms. All the appliances and utensils connected with the animals are kept in one of these apartments. Another is set apart for mothers and their families, and a third is kept in case of illness, for an isolation ward. In one of the loose boxes near at hand, the cooking for the pussies is carried on, and there is a larder specially for the cats food. Mrs Walker devotes much of her time to looking after her pets, and great has been her sorrow over the untimely death of some of her treasured pussies. After one of the large shows, infection crept into her cattery and worked most cruel havoc. Such losses as Mrs Walker sustained, were enough to damp the ardour of the most enthusiastic cat lover and fancier, but the lady of Woodheys Grange bravely faced the situation, and after a period of sad reflection she once again resumed her hobby with renewed interest. At the Northern Counties Cat Show at Manchester in 1902, Mrs Walker exhibited a really wonderful silver kitten, I say wonderful for this youngster bred from the owner's Woodheys Fitzroy and Countess, was the most unshaded and unmarked specimen of a silver I have ever seen. This unique specimen will be watched with interest by silver fanciers. May his shadings ever grow less.
The average number of cats of this cattery is about thirty, but at one period of Mrs. G.H. Walker's catty career, the silver fever ran high and there were sixty three cats and kits, within the precincts of the spacious and luxurious catteries of Woodhey Grange.
Mrs. Martin of High Wycombe, who has often acted as judge, has been a most successful breeder of silvers, and the progeny by St Anthony her noted sire, have distinguished themselves by winning over one hundred prizes. St Anthony has retired into private life, but he will always be remembered, if only by his two children Silver Dove and Fascination. Mrs. Martin says, "I am all in favour of the male being older than the queen in breeding silvers, also select a good coated stud cat, short in the legs. Eyes are a worry just now, Of course I like green best, but if a cat is good in all points, but colour of eye this should not upset an award. I find that if a kitten is born almost self silver, it will develop into an indifferent silver tabby later, but if the body is dark, and head and legs light and clear, you may hope for a very unmarked specimen, in due time.
Mrs. Wellbye's silver cats Dossie, Silver Lotus and Silver Veronica were at one time, well known winners, and for length of coat and beauty of eye, have seldom been surpassed. Mrs. Wellbye is a most astute judge of silvers, and her remarks on this her favourite breed, will be read with interest.
"This handsome variety of the Persian ranks high in the estimation of cat lovers, indeed its ardent admirers consider it the creme de la creme of the cat world. And why not! Surely there is nothing to compare with a lovely young chinchilla Persian in full coat. Its very daintiness and seeming pride in itself is quite charming. One is reminded of a pretty child dressed out in its party frock, for puss appears to know it is well dressed, and desirous to show her charms to the best advantage. She dances pirouettes and throws herself into the most graceful and entrancing attitudes, until we feel in sympathy with the Egyptians of old, and are willing to fall down and worship our adorable pets. We all love beauty, but to those who love cats, there is something beyond even beauty, for only they who keep and care and treat them well, know the comfort these little creatures are and the happiness they can bestow, by their sweet caressing ways, perhaps more especially to those whose hearts are starved of human love, but still to all whose sympathies are wide of the varieties of silver cats. I will first treat of the chinchilla."
"The Crystal Palace show of 1895 or 1896, was the first I remember with a class for chinchillas, previous to that I believe, they were not recognised as such, but were shown with the silver tabbies. Strictly speaking, the name chinchilla is a misnomer as applied to these cats. The soft grey coat of the little animal called the chinchilla, whose lovely fur is so much prized as an article of ladies dress, differs diametrically from the cat so called."
"The fur of the chinchilla is dark at the roots, and shades quite pale grey at the tips. The cat's fur on the contrary is absolutely pale grey, almost white at the roots, but tipped with black at the outer edges."
"The points as laid down by the Silver Society are as follow: Chinchillas should be as pale and unmarked silver as it is possible to breed them."
"The aim of the breeder of this variety, therefore is to obtain a cat, with none of the markings of the original stock the silver tabby, the dark tippings to be slight and faint. Breeders have found this ideal most difficult to obtain, although some kittens are born pale all over with no markings in a few weeks or maybe months the hope of the family is no more for the lighter the kitten, the more delicate. 'Whom the gods love die young.' Or again if the cherished one lives over its baby troubles, and starts on the change from its first or kitten coat, to the second coat, too often do the markings appear the shadings get darker or fine black hairs are seen amongst the pale grey. Some of the best chinchilla kittens have been born quite dark and with tiny stripes all over. At a month or six weeks/ these marks have disappeared and later the coat has become an even silver."
"The breeder must not even then build high hopes. Again change may occur. There is no cat which varies so much, it is quite chameleon like in this respect."
"A few years ago, the Cat Club adopted the name of self silver, as applied to the chinchilla, another misnomer, as a self silver should have no tippings or shadings and the silver cat has not been bred that had fur the same shade throughout from roots to tips."
"The slight dark edging to the fur constitutes to most people the charm in these silvers. Sometimes it is almost imperceptible to the casual observer or when the cat is in full coat, the fur being from three to seven inches long, on the tail sometimes as much as nine inches, the tiny flockings are lost in wavy tossing, billowy coat. But let the coat become damp, however slightly, it will be seen that the dark edges are clearly in evidence. As however breeders could not always produce the pale shade of silver, the litters even with the most careful mating being generally assorted in good, bad, and indifferent, so far as colour was concerned, many fine cats dark silvers, had no place assigned to them. It was then suggested that a class should be given at the shows to be called shaded silver, the points according to the Silver Society being as follows: Shaded silvers should be defined as pale clear silver shaded on face, legs, and back, but having as few tabby markings as possible."
"The dark or shaded silvers it was understood should have pale clear undercoats, but instead of the fleckings of the self silver so called, the dark edges ran a considerable way into the fur. The shaded silver is a handsome cat, but too often much marked on the face, and barred on the legs, a defect most difficult to overcome. Many cat fanciers describe the shaded silver as a spoilt tabby."
"The third in the group of silvers is the silver tabby. The points are here stated The colour of a silver tabby should be a pale, clear silver, with distinct black markings."
"This variety ought in equity to have been mentioned first, as it is the original stock, but it has been overshadowed by the superior attractions of the chinchilla. Silver tabby enthusiasts will perhaps pardon this eulogy of my favourite breed. There is not the slightest doubt this handsome cat the silver tabby has suffered materially from the craze for the newer variety, and consequently the type has not been kept pure. They have been mated over and over again, with cats of less markings, in the hope of breeding chinchillas, until at the present day there are very few silver tabbies true to type. The position of the silver tabby in the feline scale is very peculiar. As a Persian it is of course necessary that its coat should be long and fine, whilst as a tabby it is desirable that the markings should show up to advantage. How to reconcile the two is the puzzle, for the longer the coat the less the markings are evident as the stripes are merged in the flowing coat, so that we sometimes see at the cat shows, exhibits woefully out of coat, placed in the first rank, as the markings are much more distinct. It follows then in this variety of the silver, a long coat is distinctly a disadvantage when competing at shows."
"Having now obtained three types for silvers and the Cat Club willing to give classes for them at the great shows, held in St Stephen's Hall, Westminster, the outcome was looked forward to with much interest. But it was one thing to get four types and quite another matter to get silver breeders to understand the fine distinction, consequently the cats were entered in self silver, shaded silver, and silver tabby classes indiscriminately. The result was of course muddle and confusion, many exhibitors having the mortification of finding Wrong Class on the cat pens.
"At a recent show held at Westminster, under the auspices of the Cat Club, the judge was asked by the Honorary Secretary to go round the classes first, and if any exhibit was wrongly placed, to re classify before judging. This worked satisfactorily so far as disqualification was concerned."
"At this show however the judge was confronted with another difficulty, it being found that most of the cats in the classes for shaded silver had deviated materially from the standard of points laid down by the Silver Society. Instead of the clear pale undercoat the fur was a dark grey right down to the skin. The majority of these cats were quite dark and rightly speaking were not silvers, that is if one bears in mind the metal so named. It is difficult to say, in what class they could be placed, unless a new class was created to be called clouded or oxydised silver. If we go on to these subdivisions we shall not know where to stop Self silver or chinchilla, shaded silver, clouded silver ,and silver tabby, a truly appalling problem for the bewildered judge to decide, for the majority of exhibitors would not appreciate the variations."
"It may come to this eventually, but at the present time the threefold classification leads to much confusion, for as nearly or very nearly all silver cats are more or less tabby marked, so will exhibitors be in doubt as to the class to which their cats rightly belong."
"It is a question if the introduction of the shaded class at shows, has not done more harm than good, for as previously we saw very few of the dark silvers, it not being worth breeding the variety when there was no class in which to show them, so now the tendency of exhibits as anyone who attends shows can see, is to run to darkness rather than light, and breeding for colour purity of colour, and absence of markings has received a set back, for with some judges colour is nothing and prizes will be showered upon a spoilt tabby, if it happens to have perhaps a broader head, or a bulkier body, good points as everyone will allow, but points which the common or garden cat may possess, and we do not pit our dainty chinchillas against all and sundry."
"Without wishing in any way to detract from the good qualities, which the more plebeian branches of the cat tribe undoubtedly possess, it is impossible not to award the palm for grace and beauty, to the highly bred aristocratic chinchilla, Coal and iron are useful but we give our admiration to diamonds and pearls."
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