Cat Breeding - Pedigree or Moggie?
You may already have decided that you want a particular breed of cat because you have seen one you like or you have come to know one through friends or relatives. Or you may be a fan of good old mixed-blood moggies and wouldn't consider anything else. Your choice may then be based on the individual looks and the character of cats of a particular pedigree. However, perhaps you have always had moggies and are rather tempted to try a breed to see if there really is any difference or because you decide you want a certain coat color or length. Unlike dog owners, who often seem to favor one breed above all others, cat lovers often have a cat of a particular breed and a moggie, enjoying the differences in personality and form as well as the similarities of feline behaviors. Individual cats do vary widely in their personalities and these variations can span the breed differences too, but there are tendencies within the breeds to exhibit certain characteristics or degrees of behavior that make them a little different.
I would like to stick my neck out and generalize very broadly about some differences between pedigrees and moggies. Given a level playing field of an excellent breeder, be it for moggie or pedigree, where kittens get the same handling and attention, would there be any difference? Until recently I might have said no, but I am becoming more convinced that many of the breeds are much more interactive and people-oriented than moggies. This is not to say that one is any better or worse, it just sets up a different type of relationship. Many people want a cat because it is independent and doesn't hang on their every breath or activity; they want to be able to go out without worry and know the cat won't mind at all. They don't want to feel guilty that the cat is not always the center of attention when they deal with the kids, the house, their job, and hobbies.
Which breed? If you think you might like a particular breed, then do some research and try to find somebody experienced in that breed who can tell you about it. Good breeders will be happy to discuss this with you. There are over thirty breeds to choose from, but there are probably ten that could be discussed with some confidence in terms of personality.
Typically a small percentage of the cats owned are pedigree cats. Unlike dog breeds, which differ hugely in size and shape, cats are pretty much the same; some a little smaller and some a little larger. However, the difference may be a factor of one or two, rather than ten found when comparing the extremes of canine breeds.
Within the different breeds of cat there can be very different rules about coat color or pattern. For example, Russian Blues come mostly in blue (actually a steely gray color), although I have a feeling there is also a rarer white version. Some breeds have a limited number of colors, such as the different point colors of the Siamese (the term "point" refers to face, tail, and legs). And some breeds include an unlimited variety of colors and patterns but specify a particular body shape and coat length, which is known as the "breed standard." Most dog breeds have one look, such as the Golden Retriever, or a limited number of variations, such as yellow, black, or chocolate Labradors. Cats can have a much more varied coat pattern and color than dogs, as well as three basic coat lengths. The density of the coat can vary tremendously too. While most moggies will fall into the short-haired or semi-long-haired categories, within the pedigrees the Persian has a hugely dense, long coat and the Sphynx has only a fine down of hair, which gives it the appearance of baldness.
Your cat's coat type and length do require some thought. While many people may see the lush coat of the Persian and think that it seems very exotic and beautiful, they are probably unaware of the hard work that goes into maintaining it in that form. The cat itself cannot maintain this much coat in the clean and untangled condition we so love to see and which cats seem to yearn for. So many Persians become victims of their own coats, their owners either unwilling or unable to groom them and the tangles becoming larger and larger until the whole coat is matted. The only way to remedy this is to take the cat to the veterinarian for a general anesthetic and to have the coat cut or shorn off to start again. This much hair is also likely to find its way in copious amounts onto furniture and clothes, which may not suit the meticulously minded unless they are very conscientious cleaners.
An easier way to enjoy a flowing coat without providing so much care is to choose what is known as a semi-longhair - breeds such as the Maine Coon or the Norwegian Forest Cat, the Birman or the Ragdoll. While these breeds will need a helping hand with their coats, they do quite a bit of the work themselves. Problems often occur when seeds or sticky things get stuck in the coat and form the core of a knot. Having owned a semi-long-haired moggie originally called Smokie but later changed to Debris on account of the ring of bits and pieces he left behind (usually on the cream duvet) after a grooming session, I can say that I am not really a long-haired-cat sort of person! If you don't think that even a small amount of regular grooming is up your alley, or realistically speaking you don't have the time, even if you wanted to, then aim for a short-haired breed that is perfectly in control of its own coat maintenance. Sleek and shiny, that's how I like them!
Another reason people consider coat length is if someone in the household is allergic to cats. However, this is usually based on the incorrect assumption that it is the hair that causes the allergic reaction. To be scientifically correct, it is not. The allergen - the protein that causes the allergic reaction of sneezing or wheezing in some people -is found in the cat's saliva. When it grooms, the cat coats the hair with saliva, spreading the allergen onto its coat. Even practically bald breeds will groom themselves and thus could cause an allergic reaction. However, it does seem that long hair causes a greater reaction - this may just be because there is more hair and therefore more allergen both on the cat and in the environment. There are lots of allergens in our environment, not just from cats but from dust mites and pollen, etc. Decreasing the total volume will help the sufferer, as it lessens the cumulative effect. Replacing carpets with solid flooring such as wood, tiles, or laminates that can be easily cleaned, choosing furniture that is upholstered with leather or leatherlike material, using blinds instead of curtains, and doing without cushions or covering them with plastic or leather material will all help to reduce the allergen load. Vacuum with an air filter, open windows as much as possible, and wear clothes that do not hold on to allergens. As well as often being itchy for those with sensitive skin, wool apparently holds up to ten times more allergens than cotton or synthetic materials.
Remove excess hair from the cat with daily brushing -outside so that the hair can blow away - and make sure grooming clothes or an apron do not come into the house except for frequent washing. Experts also advise that the cat be bathed weekly - while some cats may tolerate this, others will not. Bathing could become a difficult and sometimes dangerous struggle for all concerned, and it can take away many of the joys of owning the cat in the first place. Keep the cat out of the bedroom and don't hug it closely; washing your hands after stroking will help too. There are also several products available that can be wiped over the cat that are supposed to reduce allergens.
Many allergic people don't want to live without a cat -the measures above may help to reduce symptoms such as sneezing and wheezing. For some it does not work -allergies are a complex problem and we are still learning. Perhaps their only hope is an allergen-free cat - one is actually being genetically engineered at present, and no doubt there will be plenty of cat lovers with several thousand dollars to spare who will want one.
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