Why are people so oblivious regarding breeds?

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Has been COTD!
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 12:38am PST 
Sorry, the word "oblivious" probably sounds hostile. But it is exactly what I mean. By "breed," I don't mean that you need to know a Tonkinese from a Himalayan. Heck, even I can't recognize a lot of breeds (Singapura, anyone?). Yet so many people on Catster (mostly those on the Answers Board) seem to have at best a vague understanding of cat breeds--many people seem to think that color (for example, "calico") indicates breed.

The simplest answer to this question is that cat breeds really didn't start getting recognized until around a century ago--as opposed to dog breeds, for example. Another reason is that in the past several decades, a number of new breeds have been developed.

However, breeds are recognized and judged by breed standards, not by color (with the exception of breeds like the Abyssinian, the Russian Blue, and pointed cats) and not by personality (although judges get a bit testy if your supposedly laid-back Maine Coon is hostile). A large number of questioners do not seem to understand that. We get lots of questions to the tune of "My calico is...". Sorry, but there is no relationship between Fluffy being a calico and having tummy problems.

I also have problems with the term "mixed breed." I haven't lived in the U.S. for 30 years, but in those days, every cat in the neighborhood was...just a cat. Tabbies, black cats, whatever. Different colors, but not different breeds. Now everyone wants/expects their cat to have a "breed." Sorry to say, but most cats are just cats. There ARE mixed breeds--you can breed an American Curl with a Scottish Fold--but chances are that Fluffy is just...a cat.

I wonder if the interest in the genetic heritage of cats comes from the fact that Americans themselves are "mixed." I know that I'm English, Dutch, and German, and I'm pretty sure there's something on my father's side that is not Caucasian. We love to speculate about things like this. No wonder that we want to know what "breeds" our cats may carry in their ancestry.

However...as Freud may or may not have said, "Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe."

Now we come to the most controversial question. Everyone wants to know the genetic hertitage of their cat (even though a few photos show that it's just what we used to call an "alley cat"). I can understand that curiosity--I always suspected my late brother and sister duo to have had Siamese blood because they were so talkative, and the male had longish fur that made the vet think him part Persian (kittens can have different fathers).

BUT...if everyone is so keen on learning what kind of "breed" their cat may be, why are so many people hostile towards breeders?

If you check that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, you will read the saga of how Turkish Angoras (still a very rare breed) were only kept from extinction by the Turkish government. Maine Coons, beloved by people in many countries, won the first prizes at the first cat shows a century ago, but after World War II almost went extinct. Cat breeds deserve to be preserved as much as obscure fish and insects.

Yes, we all know about backyard breeders. Dead cats lying on other dead cats, mountains of feces beneath their cages. But "hobby breeders" (there's no money in this business, believe me), do not treat their cats that way. In fact, the higher you go up the food chain in breeder-land, the less likely you are to have one deign to sell you a cat. You will be required to fill out forms, have the cat desexed if it hasn't been already, and keep in touch with the breeder for the rest of the cat's life. Good breeders take their responsibilities to the point that many burn out after 10 years or so.

Catster caters to people with rescued cats. I have a rescued cat myself. As I wrote in another post, he's actually my favorite cat, and I find him more loyal and sincere than my Maine Coons. However...there will always be people who want a certain breed of cat, and if someone is going to provide these cats, then it should be a conscientious and loving breeder. In Japan, at least, I think there are more such breeders than there are breeders at puppy and kitty mills.

The questions: Why don't people understand the meaning of "breed" regarding cats? And why, if people are so fascinated by "breeds," do they dislike breeders so much?

(This is ignoring the argument that if you buy a breed cat, you automatically sign the death sentence for a moggie in a shelter. People who want a certain breed will buy it no matter what, and better they should deal with a reliable breeder than some backyard hack.)

Edited by author Wed Feb 4, '09 1:00am PST


kaya skye

not fighting my- demons-we joined- forces
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 12:35pm PST 
i grew up knowing two hobby breeders-friends of my parents. we got our two cats, jake and katie from them when a queen from each respective cattery "got out". so, we had jake, half-angora silver tabby, and katie, half-Manx who basically just looked like a manx, but since robin couldn't be sure of her provenance...
they were great cats...and yes, janice and robin kibitzed. they stayed as involved in the lives of the "oops" kittens as they did with the lives of their purebreds...and they had moggies as well as purebreds in their home. they also had one challenge you don't face-they had kids. "caesar" missed some cat shows after robin's son brent trimmed his whiskers on one side...that was a very confused, very funny-looking persian. (brent was five, he was using those blunt kid's scissors for a craft project and apparently caesar kept sprawling over his papers and brent thought it would teach him a lesson...or something. again, brent was five, and the whiskers grew back)
neither robin nor janice made any real money breeding...indeed, janice eventually quit because she didn't have the money to continue after she had her second child-the girl had some sort of health problem, i don't remember, and insurance doesn't cover everything. they could no longer afford the breeding business, since some years it was a slight drain. they did it because they trusted themselves to do it right, which is a lot like what i'm hearing from you.
i sometimes wonder where people think cats are supposed to come from, if all feral cats are to undergo TNR, and all pet cats are to be desexed...i think we're taking this too far. those moggies on death row don't necessarily need to be there, if people wouldn't insist that every wandering cat needs to be shut away somewhere. are they breaking some law i haven't learned about, by living outdoors? no, the life of a feral cat isn't an easy one-but it's life, and not time spent in a cage as time runs out. (and where i live, feral cats are automatically euthanized.)
as for breeds and the fascination with them...i admit to trying to figure out what might be in kaya's genetic soup, simply because she is paws down the most intelligent cat i've ever had the sometimes dubious pleasure of knowing. i think i think that if i knew from which she sprang, i might be able to figure her out, even get the jump on her. the cat is just plain...weird. but basically, she's just a moggie-with all of the genetic superiority of the hybrid being, so that works for me. anyone else out there interested in knowing the breed so they could figure out why their cat does THAT? (puts my shirt in the litterbox, stares at naked lighbulbs obsessively, scratches the heating vent and makes chills run down my spine...)

Edited by author Wed Feb 4, '09 12:36pm PST



I'm the baby,- gotta love me!
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 2:20pm PST 
I tell people who have Domestic cats that they have a mixed breed cat. It's actually because, as you mentioned, the people that ask what breed their cat is are not the sharpest cards in the deck, and therefore do not respond to the description of domestic shorthair as "anything that is not a purebred cat". It tends to overheat certain brains... or lead to the endless question like "yes, but does Fluffy have Maine Coon in them?". Maybe, maybe not.

As for your complaint that people don't understand that calicos are a coloration, but not a distinct breed, you'd be horrified to know that I know people in real life who think "Tabby" is a breed. The problem is that they are the same people who are not inclined to read Wikipedia or any other source that explains what the difference between breeds and color is in layman english, or (better/worse yet) believe that everything they might read on the web is patently false (don't feel sad for me, feel sad for them), and I've sort of learned that you're better off not taking up the task of straightening them out, because it usually ends up with me getting a headache.

Oh, and did I mention I was told by Boris' fosters (who were excellent cat parents) that he was an American Shorthair, whereas he would only be such if both his parents were certifiably ASH (and insofar as I know, neither one of them is - not to mention that Boris looks like many things other than an ASH, cute mutt that he is)? I figured that much on my own by looking up his alleged breed. So you see, well meaning rescuers sometimes complicate things like that.

kaya skye

not fighting my- demons-we joined- forces
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 3:15pm PST 
er...so that i don't sound like a pinhead, when i described jake as a half-angora silver tabby i was NOT stating that silver tabby was a breed. he WAS a silver tabby, such was his coloration and pattern. his mother WAS an angora. his father was a cat. in appearance, a classic silver tabby. his mom WAS an angora, she just was.
katie's momcat was a purebred manx. her father was also a cat.
i do get that neither color nor pattern are a breed...but when i reread what i wrote, especially after rereading gracie's (hilarious) post, i thought i'd make sure y'all knew i wasn't a pinhead. or not a complete pinhead.

my roommate insists that "calico" is a breed, while she completely understands that "tabby" is a pattern. logic is a lost art.)

Edited by moderator Fri Feb 6, '09 6:15pm PST

Edited by forums moderator


I'm cute and I- know how to use- that :)
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 3:23pm PST 
Oh no, Kaya. I am referring to people I know in real life who, once they are told that Boris is a red shaded tabby (technically that's his color), have asked me whether that was his breed. When told that no, tabby is just a pattern of a cat's coat, they get this confused look on their face and say "yeah, so that's like a breed, right?". big laugh

I also knew someone who thought "Tortie" was a breed until they received an explanation otherwise, and it took a lot to convince them that "Tortie" is short for "Tortoiseshell" which means a combination of more than two shades (and also: my mom too, when it comes to Obama. It baffles me, because (1) he used to be her senator, so she should have known otherwise by now and (2) otherwise she's a pretty smart woman).

Edited by author Wed Feb 4, '09 3:32pm PST



Proud mother of- the Fab Four!
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 4:57pm PST 
I think it was Izzie who pointed out once that at cat rescue centers, it's much easier to place a cat if you can give it a "breed"--and Maine Coon is apparently the most popular. (However, I've learned from Catster that an awful lot of American cats DO have Maine Coon ancestry.) Hey, if it helps a cat to get out of the shelter and into a family, I'm all for it. However, it does increase people's confusion regarding cat breeds.

One other point: with dogs, you've got tiny ones that can fit in your handbag, and enormous ones as big as Shetland ponies. As different as a Siamese and a Maine Coon may look from one another, they are still more or less the same size and have the same kind of configuration. This makes the idea of cat breeds even more confusing for the average person.

Regarding "mixed breed" and "domestic short hair"--yeah, the former is probably easier to understand for the average person. But I return to my original post: when I was growing up in the previous century, all the neighborhood cats were just "cats." No one asked "What breed is your cat?", but "What color is your cat?" Apparently things have changed.

Now, in Japan, which is a very brand-conscious nation, people will always ask you what breed your cat is. If it's a moggie, then it's a "Nihon neko," meaning "Japanese cat." Leaving the issue of American Shorthairs aside, I can't remember any American in my past saying, "Oh, Fluffy's just an American cat." C'est la difference.


Proud mother of- the Fab Four!
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 5:22pm PST 
I agree with Kaya Skye that there is something strange going on with the cat world in the U.S. In an earlier post, she predicted that eventually all cats would be TNR ferals (desexed) and certified purebreds (allowed to breed). It sounds chilling, but not unrealistic. I know that I am going against Catster thinking here, but I think it wasn't such a bad idea when Fluffy was allowed to have kittens and people who wanted cats got them from a healthy, happy cat.

At the same time...I also realize that not all of Fluffy's kittens got good homes. Aside from the ones who were whisked away to be abused or used for medical experiments, there was always the threat of Daddy putting the kittens in a sack in the dead of night and throwing it into a river. That was cat "birth control" in the old days.

Oddly, when I made a cursory Internet check on cat overpopulation, I found that spay/neuter became the norm in the 1970's, and that there are actually FEWER unwanted cats than there were in the past. This, however, is based on a single site that I accessed; there is a dearth of information on cat overpopulation and its history. When I asked about this on a Forum a few months ago, no one responded.

That shelters are full of cats who will die meaningless deaths is not to be disputed. But I continue to wonder if the situation has gotten worse or better compared with the past. As usual, I want hard facts, and yet no one seems to have them.

Kaya Skye has a point. Ferals may have lives that are nasty, brutish, and short, but if I were a cat, I'd much rather be living outdoors than being in a cage waiting to be gassed to death.

My, this thread has gotten dark!

kaya skye

not fighting my- demons-we joined- forces
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 5:39pm PST 
how do you track homeless cats, anyway? i know about a dozen of the new horizon feral squadron by sight, and have pictures of about half of those. i've caught brief glimpses of Bast-only-knows how many others...they're out and about in numbers only in the chanciest light, and at such a distance at times that i have no idea if i'm counting the same cat twice. if i don't even know how many cats are in the colony that this cul de sac hosts-much less the entire complex-how on earth can ANYONE know the population of unhomed/feral kitties? (this is an actual question...i suspect the number is staggering. cats are survivors. humans who live on the edge of their colonies may gain the trust of a few or even adopt a few of the weak or injured...but i'm convinced that i've only seen the leading edge of the ferals that inhabit this complex. and most of them are the result of a change in pet policy just three years ago...)


Tubby tabby- love!
Purred: Wed Feb 4, '09 5:52pm PST 
We're getting off topic here, but hey, that's our trademark. Dogs have had leashing laws for years. Cats have, up until now, been left up to their own devices. Now, think about birds. No one tries to control them (except the evil mayor of Tokyo, who somehow decreased the crow overpopulation; one suspects poison rather than deportation). Aside from the fact that feral cats leave you know what in children's sandboxes (for that matter, pet cats who are allowed out do so as well), why should feral cats be zeroed in on and controlled?

Arthur (Miss- You!- '93-'09)

Bucket of Fuzz

Purred: Thu Feb 5, '09 1:45am PST 
I tend to agree with the previous statement about dog breeding being different from cat breeding. Dog breeding has resulted in not only vast differences in size, but in temperament as well. Cat breeding has had minimal impact on temperament and is mainly devoted to superficial differences in appearance.

There are many, many cat lovers who simply don't care about differences in coat pattern, fur length, etc., and so haven't seen a need to study the specifications demanded of show cats. This doesn't mean that they love cats any less, or that they are less intelligent than those who take the time study what's expected in a show ring.

For the most part, I think that Catsters who post "What breed am I?" threads are largely first-time cat owners (especially those who've had dogs and think that dog and cat breeding are comparable), or by American-Japanese Maine Coon breeders who find themselves bored on one afternoon. wink wink wink

Edited by author Thu Feb 5, '09 2:13am PST

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