Is there a new cat breed coming out next year? This is an actual question I have been asked by a cat lover. Though what true cat lover would think of a cat as a fashion item with a new style each year? Was she collecting new breeds like other people collect stamps? Admittedly I collect information “as breeds happen,” but I’m a gene-geek.
As a rescuer, I’ve came across quite young cats being traded in when the owner saw a different breed in the latest series of advertisements for a product.
A young and very stressed British Blue female, bought because of the Sheba ads, was traded in for a Chinchilla Persian seen on carpet advert. The owner didn’t actually admit this, she just claimed the British Blue was “dirty”. A year later, the Chinchilla was packed off for rehoming as the owner had seen a breed of dog on an advert. In the dog world, much the same happened with “handbag dogs” after the public saw a celeb carrying a small dog like a fashion item. As for cats, Paris Hilton comes to mind. She had a dwarf cat at one time.
Some eccentric breeders have treated their breeds as fashions, regularly launching a new breed. Ann Baker and her Ragdolls, Cherubims & Honeybears springs to mind. All too often her ads ended with “and a new breed coming soon!” (for the curious, the touted “coming soons” were the Little American and the Catenoid).
Baker viewed her cats as commodities and sold breeding franchises. When she died, her other “breeds” mostly become the “RagaMuffin,” while the “coming soons” never materialised.
I’ve worked with a number of breeders, especially those whose cats contain wildcat genes, helping to define goals and identify pitfalls so that their new breed has a sound gene pool and sound temperament.
Sound breeding programmes progress, using lots of genetics theory rather than simply “let’s see what happens if we mate those two cats”. Far from creating this season’s new fashion, those breeders know it takes several years before they can show representative cats as “exhibition only.” Some breeds never even make it that far.
Just like fashions, many new breeds fizzle out for some reason or another. Maybe they are too similar to an established breed. Maybe their genetic health is suspect. The California Spangled has come and gone. The Bristol never took off (in part due to the roaring success of the Bengal). The Singhalese wasn’t distinct enough. The British Savannah was near identical to the American Serengeti. The rather gorgeous Rexed Maine Coon fell foul of cat fancy politics.
Just think how many unnecessary cats would be brought into the world to feed a demand for a “new breed next year.” What’s also worrying, is that a demand for novelty could lead to more extreme breeds – even stumpier Munchkins, wrinklier Sphynxes, even flatter-faced Persians. even longer-faced Orientals.
Then comes pressure to update breed standards to reflect the “new look” (as previously happened with Persians and Siamese) … and if that happens, cat shows could well and truly cross the line and become freak shows.