Big cat dwarfs competitors, sparks controversy in show

Avatar BCR | November 15, 2010 1 View 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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VANCOUVER, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) — A cat show in Vancouver on Sunday got a little wilder than usual this year with the appearance of an African serval, leaving the local feline lovers divided.

Unlike the prize tabbies on display at the Canadian-American Cat Show, the majority of which weighing between four and eight kg, the 18-kg serval, an African import that is now being bred domestically in North America, stood out head and tail above its competitors.

The medium-sized cat, which resembles a lynx and was worshipped in ancient Egypt, is considered controversial among some cat fanciers. One issue is the practice that the serval is bred with a much smaller domestic shorthair cat to create what is known as a F1 Savannah.

“Personally, I’m not really fond of that idea,” said Rose Boudreau, the owner of Gatobay Cattery which breeds Ruddy Abyssinians, a slender chestnut-colored variety. “What they are doing is breeding with wild cats. I think animals belong to the wild if they are wild animals.”

Another cat lover who declined to give her name called it “barbaric” that servals, a meat-eating animal selling for up to 10,000 U.S. dollars, were bred with “tiny housecats.” The offspring “cubs” were being advertised at the show held in the suburb city of Richmond, starting at 3,500 dollars.

“There are always people who don’t agree,” said breeder Sylvia Phoenix, who demonstrated how affectionate the cats could be when the serval “Stewie” kissed her on command. The animal was being kept in a separate area away from the domestic cats on display.

“He is much larger than a domestic cat. He’s been domestically bred in North America for many generations, so he’s not actually taken away from the wild of Africa. He’s been bred for many years as a domestic cat and lives in the house with the family. He’s not caged. He walks on his leash. He plays tricks,” Phoenix said, adding any potential owner for the animal would have to be “pretty dedicated.”

“It’s like taking care of a child. You have been kept your pet for 20 years. It would be like having a perpetual puppy for 20 years. He needs constant supervision.”

Another unusual cat among the many British shorthairs, bangles, Cornish rex and ragdolls on display was a pixie-bob born with 26 toes, 10 more than usual. The polydactyl named “Hummer” was thought to be the offspring of wild bobcats bred with barn cats in Washington State.

Hummer’s owner, Kay Doyle, said the feline, wearing a rhinestone-encrusted collar, worked as a service cat in hospitals and nursing homes two or three times a week.

“Hummer loves the patients. He purrs on command for them and that can lower the patients’ blood pressure,” she said. “A cat purrs at the same vibrational frequency as your body releases dopamine at and the result is your blood pressure drops whenever you hear a cat purr.”

Unlike the hairless sphinx on display who actively seek warmth and need to wear a coat around the house, Jinelle Girard’s Persian, the most popular breed of all domestic cats, sported a massive furry mane and tipped the scales at nearly nine kilograms.

“Persians are amazing pets,” said the owner, raising the animal at arms-length above her head. “They are very sweet and amazing companions. They are gentle and very mellow around the house. They sleep and rest a lot. They play and have their moments when they are really, really having fun. But they’re just fluffy, beautiful little stuffed animals to have around the house.”

Kay Devilbiss, a former president of the International Cat Association, said felines had become increasingly popular as pets, surpassing dogs in the United States and many other countries, as people began to realize they were easier to care for than dogs.

Cats, on average, could live around 20 years either in a large home or a small apartment. Unlike canines which needs daily walking and a regular food and water supply, cats are fairly independent, clean and affectionate without “being in your face,” Devilbiss said.

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