|Purred: Sun Oct 23, '11 11:03pm PST |
|Black smoke is not an uncommon coloration for breeds that come in a wide variety of colors--Persians, Maine Coons, American Shorthairs, etc.--although I'm not sure what the prevalence of smoke coloration is in the moggy population. I just looked up Egyptian Maus on the CFA page, and indeed, black and smoke Egyptian Maus seem to exist, although I didn't find a reference to black smokes per se, and although they are not eligible for showing with the CFA (I don't know about the other cat registries). True, Memphis does have a distinctive face. The typical American moggy has a round or horizontal oval face, while Memphis has a triangular face with a well-defined muzzle and tall, unusually shaped ears. In the case of cats with triangular faces and tall, obliquely set ears, distant Siamese heritage is often suspected, as Siamese genetic heritage is not uncommon in moggies. On the other hand, Memphis' facial configuration does seem to resemble that of a Mau or a possibly a Burmese. I have seen Egyptian Maus at CFA shows in Japan, but have never seen a Burmese in real life, and don't know that much about either breed. However, there are fewer than 100 Maus (intact, altered, kittens) competing in the CFA worldwide this year, compared to hundreds in each class in the case of popular breeds such as Persians and Maine Coons. In other words, Maus are rare. Burmese are rare too, although not as rare as Maus. Generally speaking, the rarer a breed is, the smaller the chances are that it will have an opportunity to mate with the moggy population, or just show up at a shelter. Although Memphis does bear some resemblance to a Mau, statistically speaking, chances of her being part or all Mau are pretty small. The rarer the breed, the more likely it is to be owned by hobby breeders and/or cat show exhibitors, and the more likely it is that the cats will be sold to a non-breeder owner in an already altered state, thus preventing any random breeding, and that they will be so expensive that the new owner(s) will probably not choose to let the cat outside, or have to relinquish it to a shelter for economic reasons. Also, a responsible breeder will take back any kittens or grown cats that the new owner cannot keep.
Bodily configuration and coat (including color) are the way cat breeds are identified. Personality traits are of secondary importance. Not every cat of a certain breed has the same personality, and not every cat with a certain personality is therefore a certain breed. All of my Maine Coons have unique personalities, and the only thing they have in common is that they are not particularly nervous cats in most situations, and that they like to play with their drinking water.
Since I don't live in the States, I really don't have a good idea of what an American backyard breeder is like, or what breeds they specialize in. I do know that backyard breeders are not quite as bad as people who run kitten farms, and that there are fewer kitten farms than puppy farms. But the distinction between a backyard breeder and a reputable breeder is not always so clear-cut. A really top-class breeder is someone who is active in the cat show world. Showing your cats regularly means that you are constantly having them appraised by judges and other breeders, and that you are able to form ties with other breeders that enable you to buy cats with breeding rights. However, showing cats is expensive; your average hobby breeder typically uses any money they get from breeding for the purpose of putting more cats into shows. Backyard breeders are into breeding for the money, and do not show their cats, because it is expensive, and because a backyard breeder's cats would usually not do well in the show ring anyway.
However, that doesn't mean that a breeder who doesn't show actively is necessarily a bad breeder. For example, modern-day show type Persians and Siamese are too weird looking for a lot of ordinary people, and breeders who continue to breed the older versions of these breeds cannot always find a cat registry that will accept the older breed standards for showing. I'm sure that many of these breeders are ethical breeders who produce healthy and happy cats.
My suspicion is that sleazy breeders are into breeding for the money, and that they therefore tend to specialize in popular breeds. I'm not sure which are the most popular breeds in the U.S. at present, but I am pretty sure that, if there are so few Maus being shown with the CFA, that means that they are probably so rare that backyard breeders are not dealing with them. However, I really don't know exactly what backyard breeders are like in the U.S. I imagine that they tend to have only a few cats, which they mate twice a year or so. They may or may not sell their cats to pet shops (at least in Japan). Their breeding stock will probably not consist of superlative cats. However, my own breeder never had the money to do but a minimum amount of showing, and his cattery would never have made the top ten in Japan, but he produced some very good cats, and did everything that a responsible breeder is supposed to. My fledgling cattery has produced some Regional Winners, but, like every cattery, I need to move up the feeding chain by getting better and better breeding stock. There is no perfect cattery, and there is no gold standard for determining one, but, conversely, a sleazy cattery can easily be outed by someone who knows the cat world.
As for backyard breeders "dumping" cats that don't fulfill the requirements of the breed--I have a feeling that this is an urban legend in most cases. Why? Because conformance to strict breed standards is only something that really concerns someone who shows their cats, and backyard breeders and their customers, by definition, do not show their cats. Even the best breeders with the best cats don't always produce Grand Champions--thus, their cats are often divided into show quality and pet quality, and sometimes a third category, breeding quality. According to the CFA article, a black Egyptian Mau, while it cannot be shown, can certainly be sold as a pet. It may not command as high a price as a spotted Mau, but the costs involved in producing it were the same as those involved in producing spotted offspring, so a breeder can always make some money off cats who do not entirely conform to breed standards. The only time I can imagine a backyard breeder dumping a cat is if it has some physical deformity or other feature that makes it impossible to sell. Someone who buys from a backyard breeder probably doesn't know that much about purebred cats anyway, and will believe the breeder who claims that a cat is a superb specimen. In fact, one mark of a backyard breeder is often the price: hobby breeders who show need lots of cats, which means lots of cat turnaround in the cattery. You can often get a very good cat from a good breeder for a relatively low price because the breeder is more concerned with finding a good home for the cat than making a profit. A backyard breeder, however, is in it for the money, and will sell you an inferior cat for big bucks.
I have a backyard breeder in my immediate neighborhood. Even before I got involved with the cat world and started breeding, I thought she was strange. She has a few purebred cats that she breeds randomly with one another--a Norwegian Forest Cat with an American Shorthair, for example. Mixes like this cannot be shown (except as household pets), and the cat fancy is opposed to mixing breeds, unless outcrossing is necessary in the breeding program. Her cats are also known to die very young. However, she charges between $2000-$3000 for her inferior, unhealthy, mixed up cats. You need a license to sell cats in Japan (you can breed all you like without a license, and sell on the sly if you like, but you cannot advertise your cats without a license, which means that they are hard to sell). Apparently, her license has been revoked (is my guess) because her cat shop advertises "Kittens!", and there are obviously kittens within, a big sign says that "Our cats are not for sale." Obviously, they are, but she can't advertise that fact, which is what makes me suspect that someone finally caught up with her and she lost her license.
I really can't say one thing or other about Memphis. If you're really curious, you could send her photos to an Egyptian Mau purebred breed rescue group, or show her as a household pet in a cat show. However, my guess is that she's unlikely to be an Egyptian Mau or part Egyptian Mau. But one never knows. Stranger things have happened.
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