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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