Ceylon Cat (Celonese) a lost breed

Not many people have heard about the Ceylon Cat. It’s sort of drifted out of current thinking about cat breeds but in the 1980s and 1990s it found favour among Italian breeders. It’s a natural breed that was discovered in 1984. It was recognised as an experimental breed in 1998. It is almost unheard of outside of Italy. Sarah Hartwell on her website describes it as a “lost breed”. It would be possible to restore it she says using “new imports from its homeland”. It’s “homeland” is the island of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).

Ceylon Cat
Ceylon Cat. The smaller image shows Dr Dottore Paolo Pellegatta with his imported cat from Ceylon now Sri Lanka. This image is courtesy messybeast.com. The larger image is in the public domain.
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RELATED: an early page on this breed.

On that island it is endemic and it is considered to be purebred because it is confined to an island environment and therefore isolated from the mainland.

The breed has a typical ticked coat of the modern Abyssinian but the legs have tabby mackerel markings. According to Dr. Desmond Morris, it is similar to the so-called “wild Abyssinian” which was developed in the 1980s from feral stock from Singapore.

In January 1984, Dr. Paolo Pellegatta, a veterinary surgeon based in Milan, was in Sri Lanka exploring villages when he spotted a local friendly semi-feral cat. He decided to bring a small group of them back to Italy. He imported two males, Tisa and Serendib, and two females, Taranga and Aralyia. Some more joined them later.

These cats formed the European foundation cats of the breed and they made their first appearance in public in the West a few months later in May 1984 at a cat show in Como, Italy. They were a success.

Following this event there was four years of selective breeding and in May 1988 the Ceylon Cat was submitted to FIFe (a major European cat association) and so began the first phase of its official recognition as a new form of pedigree purebred cat in Europe. Although, as mentioned, it has drifted out of recognition and is no longer recognised or listed on the FIFe website. It appears to have disappeared and is now a cat breed of historical interest perhaps to some aficionados. It was never recognised in the US or UK.

It is said that it has genes from the jungle cat, a small wild cat species. But this is not been confirmed in DNA testing.

This is an elegant, agile and graceful cat according to Sarah Hartwell. It’s a medium-sized cat with a slender appearance. As mentioned, it is a ticked tabby in all “natural colours”. The black-tipped golden colour is the standard and called ‘Manila’ after the envelope colour. There is the classic M-shaped marking on the forehead which is referred to as a cobra marking in this cat breed. It is considered to be a lucky sign in Sri Lanka.

They are said to have a sweet and affectionate personality and be friendly with strangers although that is probably an exaggeration because they are like any other domestic cat with a tendency to be cautious at least with strangers. They are said to have a non-aggressive and docile nature making them suitable for families with children. Being shorthaired they require less maintenance than longhaired cats.

We don’t know whether there are any individual cats of this breed left in Italy. They will still be in Sri Lanka of course.

Below are some more articles on cat breeds.

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