A Brief Overview of Cats in Society
by Anna Sadler
The world of breeding and showing pedigreed cats knows no national
boundaries. Thousands of people all over the globe proudly display their pets to judges
and to the public on any given week-end. An example of cat fancier dedication is that
once the Iron Curtain was lifted, the Russian cat fancy emerged from the underground
and began holding cat shows. Russian breeders have introduced their country’s own unique
breeds, including the Siberian (one of the oldest known breeds); and the Mei Toy and
the Kural Bobtail which were previously unknown to the rest of the world, but
which were carefully developed and nurtured despite a restrictive society’s laws and
Pedigreed cats are registered with various independent registries throughout the world,
each of which promulgates written “standards of perfection” against which the cats are
judged in competition, and that constitute the ideal toward which breeders strive.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), founded in 1906, is the world’s largest of these
registries and licenses shows held by the 582 affiliate clubs in the U.S., Canada,
Europe and Asia. CFA recognizes 37 distinct and unique breeds, and approximately 15-20
additional breeds may be recognized by one or more of the other world’s registries.
It should come as no surprise that cat fanciers love cats, and that this love is not
limited to the pedigreed cats. CFA leads the world in activities that promote the
health and the welfare of all cats. Cat shows include competition for pedigreed
championship cats, and for altered (neutered or spayed) pedigreed cats, and even
for the lovely random-bred household cats. CFA’s Winn Feline Foundation funds
important veterinary medical studies. The non-profit organization also has an
active disaster relief effort and programs that promote breed rescue and management
of feral cat colonies. Clubs work with local humane agencies to help place homeless
random-bred cats in new homes, and in promoting and funding low-cost neuter/spay
programs, as well as countless activities to educate the public about responsible
cat ownership and care.
According to the Pet Food Institute, there are approximately 65 million pet cats
in the United States today. There is a vast, but unknown number (possibly a number
nearly equal to the owned population) of unowned or feral cats. These unowned
cats and their unweaned litters represent the bulk of shelter euthanasia
currently. No traditional approach over the last century has effectively reduced
this population. The common “trap-and-kill” programs are not only unpopular but
inhumane, and restrictive licensing and “ownership” laws punish people whose
only crime is to provide kindness and food to these unowned cats. With no owner
to comply with laws, any that are passed are singularly ineffective in
controlling feral cats.
The cat fancy, in cooperation with other feral cat advocacy groups, is supporting
programs that have been proven in wildlife management, involving trapping,
testing for disease, vaccinating, sterilizing, returning to their original
location where there is ongoing maintenance by caregivers. The cats in these
colonies, then, will continue to defend their territory from intruders, will
be safer with respect to public health, and will over time reduce in numbers
due to attrition as older cats die and younger ones are incapable of
reproducing. People might tend to forget that cats still perform the
public service that they have done for thousands of years ... no one has
yet invented a better mousetrap! In areas where either massive trap and
kill programs or natural disaster has decimated the feral population, there
has been an almost immediate rise in rodent populations and their associated
Current campaigns promoted by some national animal welfare organizations are
designed to eliminate - by trap and kill - feral cats, purportedly to protect
birds. Most scientific studies of the contents of feral cats’ stomachs show
that the feral cat’s diet exists almost exclusively of rodents, garbage,
carrion, and lizards, with birds representing only a miniscule amount.
Birds represent under 10% in most of these studies, and even then no
distinction is drawn between live-caught birds and those consumed
New pet demographic studies are proving that, despite what is being incorrectly
touted as “fact”, cat owners are being very responsible. Five different studies
show that more than 87% of all owned cats are neutered or spayed. According to
a recent independent study in San Diego, which supports that percentage, a
significant number of those few that are not yet sterilized are too young
for the surgery, or their owners cannot afford it. In fact, were it not
for the kittens from feral populations, it is estimated that all of the
owned, unsterilized cats can fulfill only about half the United States
public’s demand for kittens - what is called the "replacement rate".
In fact, while some animal protection organizations continue to lobby for
stronger laws to restrict breeding and to fund raise based on skewed
shelter data, others have moved on to address the real problems of why
animals die in shelters. The National Council on Pet Population Study and
Policy released in 1998 a study of pet relinquishment to shelters.
Information from this study shows that pet cats obtained from breeders
and pet shops represent a lower risk of later relinquishment than those
obtained from most other sources. Only 3.4% of cats relinquished at shelters
were pedigreed cats originally obtained from breeders or pet shops, compared to 23.3%
which were obtained as stray.
Progressive animal welfare organizations are now recognizing that laws
restricting breeding are not needed, and are even not desirable. Many,
with the help of studies such as the National Council’s, are beginning
to identify and address the real reasons why the human/animal bond might
be severed. As risk factors are being identified, educational programs are
being targeted to accomplish the most good. Education and positive
programs - not laws - have already accomplished a 75% reduction in
shelter euthanasia nationally in the past decade. Notably, the
cities that have achieved the greatest success in that reduction,
such as San Francisco, have done so with virtually no restrictive
laws, i.e., mandatory neuter/spay, breeder permits or cat licensing.
While the cat fancy is dedicated to promoting the well being of all cats,
we are primarily committed to preserving our breeds. These pedigreed cats
are pieces of history, each having a distinct story and past. Some of our
ancient breeds have only 100 or fewer cats registered each year, yet they
have devoted admirers. Without responsible breeding programs, many breeds
would today be extinct. Current state and local legislation proposals
involving mandatory neuter/spay, expensive and intrusive breeder permits
and large intact license differentials could well mean diminished cat fancy
involvement that could lead to the demise of some of those breeds. All
pedigreed cats could become difficult, if not impossible to obtain.
While pedigreed cats have not been bred to perform specific tasks as many
dog breeds have, their beauty, predictable temperament, history and
individuality is worthy of preservation. The American Shorthair, for
example, is currently bred to the standard of appearance that existed
at the turn of the century in America, before the advent of the imported
breeds. The Turkish Angora cat had been thought to be extinct until a
controlled breeding colony was discovered in the Ankara Zoo in the 1960’s,
and imports allowed this distinct breed to once again grace showhalls and
peoples’ homes. These and the other beautiful and unique breeds have
devoted admirers among both cat fanciers and the public.
Cat fanciers are strong and unified in our opposition to anti-breeding laws
which violate our constitutional rights as well as put our beloved cat
breeds in jeopardy. The Cat Fanciers’ Association has joined forces
with other animal organizations to ensure that public officials are
aware of the serious consequences of these anti-breeding laws on our
pedigreed cats. A study of the issue clearly shows that many of these
laws are promoted by those organizations and individuals who are
fundamentally opposed to any purposeful breeding - indeed, even the
keeping - of pets.
About the author: Anna Sadler
died on Saturday, June 19, 2004. She was the CFA
Persian Breed Council Secretary and
was a member and past chairperson of the CFA Purebred Rescue Committee. She was also
the Legislative Information Liaison for The Cat Fanciers’ Association,
Inc., and was the director of the Coalition of Responsible Animal Owners of Texas, Inc.
Author of a book and many published articles on cat care and issues concerning
cats in American society, she bred and exhibited Persian cats for 23 years.
Anna was also a former NAIA Board member who
represented Purebred Cats.
Copyright © 1998-2005 Anna Sadler, copyright © 2005-2010 Purebred Cat
Breed Rescue, Inc. All rights reserved.