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The Tortoiseshell Cat

I now come to the section of the short-haired domestic cat, a variety
possessing sub-varieties. Whether these all came from the same origin is
doubtful, although in breeding many of the different colours will breed
back to the striped or tabby colour, and, per contra, white
whole-coloured cats are often got from striped or spotted parents, and
vice versa. Those that have had any experience of breeding
domesticated animals or birds, know perfectly well how difficult it is
to keep certain peculiarities gained by years of perseverance of
breeding for such points of variation, or what is termed excellence.
Place a few fancy pigeons, for instance, in the country and let them
match how they like, and one would be quite surprised, unless he were a
naturalist, to note the great changes that occur in a few years, and the
unmistakable signs of reversion towards their ancestral stock--that of
the Rock pigeon. But with the cat this is somewhat different, as little
or no attempts have been made, as far as I know of, until cat shows were
instituted, to improve any particular breed either in form or colour.
Nor has it even yet, with the exception of the long-haired cats. Why
this is so I am at a loss to understand, but the fact remains. Good
well-developed cats of certain colours fetch large prices, and are, if I
may use the term, perpetual prize-winners. I will take as an instance
the tortoiseshell tom, he, or male cat as one of the most scarce, and
the red or yellow tabby she-cat as the next; and yet the possessor of
either, with proper care and attention, I have little or no doubt, has
it in his power to produce either variety ad libitum. It is now many
years since I remember the first "tortoiseshell tom-cat;" nor can I now
at this distance of time quite call to mind whether or not it was not a
tortoiseshell-and-white, and not a tortoiseshell pure and simple. It was
exhibited in Piccadilly. If I remember rightly, I made a drawing of it,
but as it is about forty years ago, of this I am not certain, although I
have lately been told that I did, and that the price asked for the cat
was 100 guineas.

This supposed scarcity was rudely put aside by the appearance, at the
Crystal Palace Show of 1871, of no less than one tortoiseshell he-cat
(exhibited by Mr. Smith) and three tortoiseshell-and-white he-cats, but
it will be observed there was really but only one tortoiseshell he-cat,
the others having white. On referring to the catalogues of the
succeeding shows, no other pure tortoiseshell has been exhibited, and he
ceased to appear after 1873; but tortoiseshell-and-white have been shown
from 1871, varying in number from five to three until 1885. One of
these, a tortoiseshell-and-white belonging to Mr. Hurry, gained no fewer
than nine first prizes at the Crystal Palace, besides several firsts at
other shows; this maintains my statement, that a really good scarce
variety of cats is a valuable investment, Mr. Hurry's cat Totty keeping
up his price of L100 till the end.

As may have been gathered from the foregoing remarks, the points of the
tortoiseshell he-cat are, black-red and yellow in patches, but no
white. The colouring should be in broad, well-defined blotches and
solid in colour, not mealy or tabby-like in the marking, but clear,
sharp, and distinct, and the richer and deeper the colours the better.
When this is so the animal presents a very handsome appearance. The eyes
should be orange, the tail long and thick towards the base, the form
slim, graceful, and elegant, and not too short on the leg, to which this
breed has a tendency. Coming then to the actual tortoiseshell he, or
male cat without white, I have never seen but one at the Shows, and that
was exhibited by Mr. Smith. It does not appear that Mr. Smith bred any
from it, nor do I know whether he took any precautions to do so; but if
not, I am still of the opinion that more might have been produced. In
Cassell's "Natural History," it is stated that the tortoiseshell cat is
quite common in Egypt and in the south of Europe. This I can readily
believe, as I think that it comes from a different stock than the usual
short-haired cat, the texture of the hair being different, the form of
tail also. I should much like to know whether in that country, where the
variety is so common, there exists any number of tortoiseshell he-cats.
In England the he-kittens are almost invariably red-tabby or
red-tabby-and-white; the red-tabby she-cats are almost as scarce as
tortoiseshell-and-white he-cats. Yet if red-tabby she-cats can be
produced, I am of opinion that tortoiseshell he-cats could also. I had
one of the former, a great beauty, and hoped to perpetuate the breed,
but it unfortunately fell a victim to wires set by poachers for game.
Again returning to the tortoiseshell, I have noted that, in drawings
made by the Japanese, the cats are always of this colour; that being so,
it leads one to suppose that in that country tortoiseshell he-cats must
be plentiful. Though the drawings are strong evidence, they are not
absolute proof. I have asked several travelling friends questions as
regards the Japanese cats, but in no case have I found them to have
taken sufficient notice for their testimony to be anything else than
worthless. I shall be very thankful for any information on this subject,
for to myself, and doubtless also to many others, it is exceedingly
interesting. Any one wishing to breed rich brown tabbies, should use a
tortoiseshell she-cat with a very brown and black-banded he-cat. They
are not so good from the spotted tabby, often producing merely
tortoiseshell tabbies instead of brown tabbies, or true tortoiseshells.
My remarks as to the colouring of the tortoiseshell he-cat are equally
applicable to the she-cat, which should not have any white. Of the
tortoiseshell-and-white hereafter.

To breed tortoiseshell he-cats, I should use males of a whole colour,
such as either white, black, or blue; and on no account any tabby, no
matter the colour. What is wanted is patches of colour, not tiny streaks
or spots; and I feel certain that, for those who persevere, there will
be successful results.

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Previous: The Russian Long-haired Cat

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