Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist
Victoria, British Columbia
Published: Sunday, April 15, 2007
That may be a growl, not a purr, and Fluffy's affectionate kneading could leave the furniture in shreds and family members visiting the nearest walk-in clinic, some cat lovers are warning.
The designer cat fad, following on the heels of Paris Hilton-style designer dogs, is focused on wild and exotic looking cats, some of which carry the genes of the original wild animal, said Tina McPeak of the Garden City Cat Club.
While savannah cats, based on the African serval, or Bengals, based on the wild Asian leopard cat, are popular among cat enthusiasts, who know what they're getting into, the animals are not bred for apartment living or cuddling on the couch, McPeak said.
"A lot of these cats are ending up in the shelter because they've got wild blood in them. They pee on everything and tear the sofa apart. It's like getting a tiger cub," she said.
Some owners report their first generation offspring of wild and domestic cats are sweet and smart, but there are horror stories, McPeak said.
"Should we be sleeping with one eye open in case our new 30-pound companion feels the call of the wild in the middle of the night and begins stalking our toes?" she asked.
People want to see a wild appearing feline stalking imaginary prey across the carpet, but there are alternatives to the truly wild, said McPeak, the owner of six ocicats and two ragdolls.
Some breeds, such as ocicats, toygers and pixie-bobs, mimic their wild counterparts, but do not carry the genes.
Toygers were bred to emphasize the looks of a tiger, with braided stripes and a heavy muzzle, but, have come from domestic cats with those characteristics.
Ocicats were the result of breeding a Siamese to an Abyssinian -- something that produced an ivory spotted kitten, McPeak said.
Savannah cats and the milder, imitation versions will be on display this weekend at the Mad Catter's Tea Party, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this weekend at the Panorama Recreation centre in North Saanich.
The cat show is a fundraiser for veterinary research and pet-owner education and anyone thinking of taking a walk on the wild side can ask the experts, McPeak said.
Penny Stone, Victoria SPCA manager, said a few wild crosses have turned up in the shelter, but others are put down.
"People end up having them euthanized because they can't deal with them," she said.
"They want something wild and exotic, but they're totally not a house pet."
Cats such as Bengals are beautiful, majestic animals, Stone said.
"Should they be in your home? No."
Anyone wanting a pet should come and check out the cats available for adoption at the SPCA, Stone suggested.