So you think you want to breed and show Persians....
Have you ever dreamed of starting up your own cattery and showing your cats? Do you love animals and have a naturally nurturing sprit? Breeding and showing pedigreed Persians is not for everyone, but it can be a wonderful hobby for couples who have entered that phase of their lives where they find they have extra time, money and in most cases an empty nest. Persians are for people who like to pay attention to detail. Showing and breeding can open up a whole new world for you to meet new friends, travel to different towns and talk about the breed that you love with others. If you are successful and work hard, you will be rewarded with beautiful rosettes, excitement and of course recognition. If you are lucky along the way, you will make life long friends and find a place in this world that may have been missing.
Back when I started breeding in 1989, there was no one there to help guide my way. I bought my first cat from what is commonly known as a "back-yard breeder". This is a person who breeds without knowledge or care of the animals, and whose primary goal is to try to make a few bucks, often at the expense and neglect of the cats they are breeding. They are only too eager to take your money, tell you that you are buying a Show Quality cat and you will never hear from them again. Meanwhile, you take your beloved Show Quality cat to a show and are mortified to find that it is not even close to being a Show cat! If you are lucky, the judges and the other exhibitors don't publicly humiliate you in the process~ What can you do?!
You need a mentor. A mentor is someone who already has the knowledge and connections in the Cat Fancy, and is willing to take you under their wing. They are an individual who has been there and has the patience and know how that will help you avoid the countless pitfalls and mistakes that you could be making on your own- mistakes that will cost you thousands of dollars and set your dream of a cattery back many, many years. CFA or the Cat Fancier's Association has a wonderful mentor program that you can sign up for. They will pair you with an appropriate mentor. This program didn't exist when I started out, but in my opinion it is the best way for anyone who wants to start out right. Here is the link: http://www.cfainc.org/mentor/index.html
Another way to find a mentor is to go to a local CFA sponsored Cat show. You will find CFA ambassadors there who will be happy to answer your questions. They are wearing buttons that say "Ask Me". You will also see many cats competing for titles and be able to actually get an idea of what a Show Quality cat looks like. Pay attention to the finals and to exhibitors who have many rosettes displayed on their cat's cages. These are the exhibitors who are winning. Don't be afraid to talk to exhibitors, especially if it looks like they aren't busy grooming their cats, or about to go to a ring. Persian show people love to talk to what we call "Newbies" and get them excited about our sport. Don't however, talk to the judges in the ring, as this is considered bad manners. For more information on CFA shows and showing, click on this link: http://www.cfa.org/shows.html
Alright, now you've been to a few shows and maybe you've even signed up for a mentor. What you need now is a cat you can practice your budding skills on. You need a Premier. A Premier is a Show Quality cat that has been neutered or spayed. Every Newbie needs to show a Premier before attempting to buy an unaltered Show Quality cat. Doing so accomplishes several goals:
1. You will learn how to groom and maintain a Persian. This is a lot harder than it looks, and if you find you have gotten into something that is going to be too time consuming, and costly you can stop without having invested several thousands of dollars on something you can't continue. Premiers typically cost much less than unaltered Show Quality cats.
2. It proves to other more experienced exhibitors that you are serious and that you have the ability to present a cat in the show ring the way it should be. When exhibitors see this, they will take note, and be more willing to sell you your first cat. No one is going to sell their beautiful Show Quality kitten to a person who has never shown a cat before- why would they waste that kitten on someone who will quite likely fail or quit, when they could sell it to someone with more experience or even show it themselves? If you do find someone to sell you a kitten, it will more than likely be a lesser quality animal that has been misrepresented as being better than it actually is. You will not be able to tell the difference, so you are at the breeder's mercy.
Many aspiring Newbies find that they are able to buy their first unaltered cat from the same person that they bought their Premier from, but it isn't necessary that you do this. You may find through the process of showing that cat, that you prefer a different color or maybe even a different breed. Showing the Premier should be a learning process that will bring you closer to making your ultimate decisions when you get ready to start your cattery. Many quality Show breeders offer cats for sale as Premiers, but don't say so on their websites. You should inquire about availability by email. Make sure you start your email with a polite introduction on who you are, what your intentions are and as many other details as you can think of. Show Breeders are sometimes very busy people and don't answer emails from people they don't take seriously, or who come off as rude. You should always show respect in you expect to receive it back, and remember it is a privilege for you to own one of these magnificent Persians. The country's Top Show Breeders can sell their cats to anyone, so you may have to settle for a lesser known cattery, but never settle for a mediocre cat with a poor pedigree. Look for pedigrees that have Grand Champions, Regional Winners and Distinguished Merits in the first 3 generations of their ancestors. An excellent pedigree becomes especially important once you start buying whole cats that you will breed. Catteries who brag about having Champions should be avoided. In the Cat Fancy, just about any cat can attain it's Champion Title, and many "back yard breeders" will take their poor quality cats to one show in order to win this meaningless title. Cats do not have to compete against other cats in order to become Champions, and can fulfill the requirement of 6 winner's ribbons by default simply because they are the only cat in that color class entered in the show. The two exceptions to this rule would be cats who are shown in the Silver-Golden division and also in the Shaded-Smoke division. These two color classes are much harder to show in, because they tend to be much smaller and the colors are much more difficult to breed. Judges don't always recognize a beautiful Shaded-Smoke because they are so rarely seen, and therefore they don't put them up in finals as often. Silvers and Golden is another difficult color division to show in, because their type is a little different than the standard Persian type, and judges do not seem to final these cats as often either. The best color for a Newbie to start off with in my opinion, is a solid Black or a Brown Tabby. Their coats are easier to groom and you will have just enough competition at the shows, but not too much competition, which can be a downfall too. I would never suggest Smoke to a Newbie or to someone looking for an easy win. Buy your Premier from someone who has Granded at least one of their own "homebred" cats, that way they will know what they are talking about when they sell you a cat that is being represented as "Show Quality".
These are just my own thoughts and interpretations from
someone who has made their share of mistakes over the years. I sometimes shake
my head whenever I see a hopeful Newbie trying to wade their way through the
maze of confusion that is the Cat Fancy, and even though I have absolutely no
desire or time to become a mentor to anyone, I hope these words will help
someone in their quest.
Feline Husbandry by Dr. Niels C. Peterson is an expensive book which I am lucky enough to own a copy of. For those who can't afford it though, the book may be downloaded for