“What he wanted most was something wild”

Toyger Tiger

“What he wanted most was something wild”. The words are those of Ariel Levy, who is a staff writer at the The New Yorker. She was writing about people’s desire to have a bit of the wild in their living rooms. Specifically, she refers to Anthony Hutcherson’s desires. Mr Hutcherson now holds a senior position at one of the world’s largest and best known cat associations The International Cat Association (TICA) and he breeds cats of a rare cat breed called the “Toyger”. The toyger, which is meant to look like a “toy tiger” has no wild cat blood at all but before he got involved in cat breeding he was enamoured by the Bengal cat, described as “a living room leopard.” The Bengal cat was the first mainstream wild cat hybrid – part wild cat (Asian leopard cat) and part tabby domestic cat.

The Bengal cat, which was first created in the 1960s, was produced from Asian leopard cats that were being used in a laboratory experiment and the person who first created the Bengal cat kept her breeding cats in outside cages as if they were poorly treated zoo animals. This was an inauspicious start to what became a glamorous and desirable cat breed because “people wanted something wild” in their living room.

The breeder, Jean Mill, understood that desire. She was good in a business sense and lousy in an ethical and moral sense. The whole Bengal cat breed is based on a very small gene pool – a few “foundation cats”, just like white tigers. This results in health problems that people hate to discuss. A classic little niggle is Bengal nose, one of those odd, almost bizarre health issues that has come to haunt the breed because the breeder was feeding a desire by the population to “have a bit of the wild in the living room”. A heart disease called “HCM” is also something that is uncomfortable for breeders as it is a sign of failure.

Ostensibly, the Toyger is worse. This is a breed that was designed on the drawing board in the same way you design a….piece of furniture. The heavy focus on appearance – a Frankensteinian attempt to create a miniature tiger for the living room – has resulted in inbreeding problems, we are told.

The creator of the breed, Judy Sugden, apparently declared “I’m an artist!” That does not bode well either, does it? If a breeder is treating the creation of a new cat breed as a work of art, she is automatically a million miles off-target. The breed has not done well.

I am also informed that an associate Toyger breeder, Nicholas Oberzire, has had difficulties getting his breeding female cats to breed:

“We’ve gone through four miscarriages on this cat. The first was just blood….”

I don’t think we need say more about that. I think we are entering the area of human madness; the desire to satisfy a human need to have something wild in the living room because we also have the desire to destroy nature that is outside the living room.

Humankind is knowingly and wantonly destroying nature and all the beautiful wild cat species that live in it. Then, bizarrely, humankind wants a bit of that wild in their homes. What is this? Is this a desire to possess everything that is wild? Is it because we can’t allow wild animals to be truly wild?

We seem to prefer feeble copies of the real thing. We prefer a toy tiger to the real tiger, which is will no longer exist in 50 years.

Important: The picture of the Toyger cat is copyright Helmi Flick. Don’t copy it.

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“What he wanted most was something wild” — 5 Comments

  1. I just find it all very sad that some people yearn for something that no one else has something intangible that they know will never really be theirs. I wish with all my heart that people would just leave wild animals out of the equation and stick to purely established domestic breeds.

  2. In Cyprus, Turkey, and Egypt there are many striped and spotted cats like the Toyger and the Bengal.
    I presently have 2 such spotted cats and others are easy to find. I don’t see a way to post a photo here so I will send it to Michael separately. This photo is of a spotted male and some of his family in the centre of Kyrenia/Girne, N Cyprus. I sent his DNA sample to UC Davis USA and surprising he is 78% Turkish Ankara kedisi, and 28% mixed bag which UC Davis strangely calls Turkish Van. These cats are often quite strongly built. There never was any need to create wild type breeds. They already exist in many parts of the world and are healthy and affectionate.

    Update: Here are the pictures referred to:

    spotted street cat

    Spotted street cat

    Spotted Street Cat stray cat

    Note to Harvey: there is an uploader on the home page at the moment but it is easy to miss that.

    • You’re right. There are beautiful cats on the streets in Cyprus and Turkey etc.

      I just see a sort of craziness going on. Maybe it is too personal an opinion but the obsession with wild cat hybrids is part of the problem with our inability to cope with nature.

  3. Yes it’s such a shame that there are thousands of unwanted domestic cats desperately needing homes, so why do some people not think about them instead of wanting to take wild cats freedom from them?
    I hate the selfish ‘I want and I must have’ culture nowadays.

    • I agree – we are such shameless consumers of anything and everything and it’s shocking to behold. To even think of trying to ‘own’ the wild nature of an animal is ridiculous. By doing so it no longer remains wild. What a complete and utter disaster humans often are. Shameless, arrogant and egotistical and totally unaware of the fact. It’s embarrassing to be a part of it.

      And I agree Ruth that the same old argument is only more valid as each day passes – we can’t be killing animals in shelters and creating new ones – it’s not right and never ever will be.

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