A litter by "Tachin."
I have often remarked at our cat shows that strangers in the fancy will inquire and ask to be directed to the Siamese class, and many and varied are the exclamations of surprise and admiration expressed by them on seeing, perhaps for the first time, a row of Siamese cats seated in their pens. Nor is it always necessary to direct visitors to the Siamese classes, for generally these animals will betray their whereabouts by the unique tone of their voice, which is distinguishable at a great distance.
There is certainly a great fascination about this peculiar breed of cats, which is yearly becoming more popular and fashionable. But fanciers are also learning a lesson in the school of experience, where frequently the fees are high, that they dare not trust their valuable specimens on the show bench. Siamese cats seem to be more sensitive than even the most delicate of the long-haired breeds, and if attacked by any of the ills that catty flesh is heir to they do not appear to have any stamina to bear up against the ravages of the disease. Their recuperative powers are almost nil, and they rarely pull through a severe illness. I have never kept Siamese myself, but I have had many opportunities of observing them in sickness and in health. I have seen grwon-up specimens go out like the snuffing of a candle with acute pneumonia, almost before one has realised they were even ailing. These creatures are quite human in the way they look at you with those bonnie blue eyes, and when you talk to them they seem to answer in their croaking voice. I can well understand what companionable cats these may become, and to fanciers of this unique breed other cats must appear lacking in interest and wanting in intelligence.
From time to time there have been discussions in our cat papers on Siamese cats in general, and on their kinked or kinkless tails in particular. It is certain that those cats known to us as royal Siamese are not the only species in Siam, the common cat of the country being tabby or black. So many friends who are fanciers and breeders of Siamese have kindly supplied me with interesting facts concerning this variety, that I do not intend to enter into any details, but will state that in 1902 a Siamese Cat Club was started by several enthusiastic admirers of this breed, and the members have certainly done much to improve the classification at shows, by offering prizes and guaranteeing classes.
The garden cattery at Bishopsgate.
The following is a list of the officials of the specialist club, with a standard of points for royal Siamese cats: -
President. - Mrs. Vary Campbell.
STANDARD OF POINTS FOR THE "ROYAL" SIAMESE CAT.
Body Colour. - As light and even as possible, cream being most desirable, but fawn also admissible, without streaks, bars, blotches, or any other body markings.
Remarks. - While admitting that blues, blacks, whites, tabbies, and other coloured cats may be also cats of Siam, these being common to all parts of the world, this club recognises only as Siamese cats those cats the points of which conform to the above standard, and is, in fact, desirous of encouraging the breeding of those particular cats first made known to British fanciers as the "royal" Siamese.
The points of the "chocolate" Siamese are the same as above, with the exception of body colour.
VALUE OF POINTS.
Body colour................... 20
Mrs. Robert Locke, with "Calif," "Siam," and "Bangkok."
Any cat failing to obtain 75 of the above marks shall not be eligible for the club's challenge prizes and medals.
It was shortly after the formation of the Siamese Cat Club that the following letter appeared in Fur and Feather: -
POINTS OF THE SIAMESE.
The committee of the Siamese Club wish to draw attention to the unfortunate diversity of opinion concerning Siamese cats expressed in articles which appear from time to time in some of the papers which devote a portion of their issue to cat news. One great object of the Siamese Club is to encourage the distinct breeding of the royal cat of Siam and also of the chocolate cat of Siam - both beautiful in their own way, but recognised as distinct breeds. The siamese Club is young, and nnot infallible; but, containing as it does most of the principal breeders and exhibitors, its committee would like to record their opinion on some few points which have appeared in the Press, in order to avoid a silence which might be construed as consent. With regard to colour, they cannot agree that a royal can be too light in body colour, nor can they endorse "we like a rich cream body, chocolate saddle, and the points glossy black, whading away to chocolate." Another paper advises the mating of royal Siamese wit hthe chocolate variety. It is true that the young kittens are very pretty, but after six months old quickly become dark and blurred. The great beauty of royal Siamese is the contrast between the sharply defined, deepest brown markings and a body of as light a cream as possible. A third paper gives the information that an exhibitor known to it has bred prize-winning Siamese from a cross between a white cat with blue eyes and a Siamese queen. It also mentions another case where such crossing has produced good Siamese kittens, and thinks "that many other people have, with more or less success, followed the same tactics. The above experiment has often been tried, purposely and accidentally, but no case is known to the writers where the result has been anything like Siamese, the kittens always favouring the English parent. All Siamese are born white, and therefore if the children of one white parent died quite young such a mistake might be natural. It certainly would be very unfair to sell such kittens, as their progeny wuld inherit, and might pass on, an English parentage, not even necessarily white. A white is, or may be, merely an albino variety. - (Signed) A. Forestier Walker, Jean A. Spencer, May Robinson, L. Parker-Brough, S. E. Backhouse, Constance Carew Cox.
Miss Forestier Walker and Mrs. Vyvyan were amongst the first to introduce Siamese cats into England, and they have always owned a direct descendant from the first and famous "Tiam-o-Shian," and many are the prize-winners they have reared and shown from this celebrated strain. Miss Forestier-Walker has frequently acted as judge of Siamese, and took a very active part in the formation of the specialist club for this breed. She has kindly furnished me with the following notes, and given me some photographs of Mrs. Vyvyan's cats: -
"Siamese cats were first introduced into England about twenty-five years ago, but were not often seen until a few years later. Among the earliest were those belonging to Sir Robert Herbert, Lady Dorothy Nevill, the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, Mrs. Cunliffe Lee, Mrs. Vyvyan, and myself. Since then they have become fairly common.
"There are two distinct varieties in the present day. (1) The royal cat of Siam, cream-coloured in body, with sharply defined seal-brown markings on head, ears, legs, feet, and tail; eyes a decided blue. The cats generally become darker after two years old, but where great care has been taken in breeding the true royal cats keep the light colour longer. In any case the body colouring should be even, not blotched or striped. The larger, lighter-coloured cats have china or ultramarine blue eyes; the more slender, darker cats have deeper-coloured eyes. (2) The chocolate cats are deep brown in colour, showing hardly any markings, and have blue eyes.
"All Siamese kittens are white when born, but in a few days slight markings appear on tail, ears, and paws, and by four months old the markings are dark and complete, excepting those which connect the face and head; these are seldom perfect before eight months old.
"The tails are sometimes straight, which is not a fault; but a knot or kink in the tail is a peculiarity of the breed, and therefore desirable. In England it has been asserted that this is a defect, but in Siam it is highly prized, and cats from the royal palace which have been given by the King as presents of value to important people have had this distinction. In the East a cat with a kinked tail fetches a higher price.
"The Siamese have a greater affection for animals, and there is no doubt that the cats are much valued, those in the royal palace having been kept exceptionally pure.
"There is a legend that the light-coloured cats, with blue eyes, represent silver; the dark cats, with yellow eyes, gold; and that the possessor of both will always have plenty. This rather gives the idea that originally the eyes of the pure chocolate cat were yellow, and that the present variety has been crossed with the royal cat.
"Mr. Young, of Harrogate, had some years ago a chocolate cat with yellow eyes.
"Another belief is that they receive the souls of their owners at death, and it is well known that the King of Siam had one on board his yacht when visiting Europe a few years ago.
"It is a great mistake to mix the varieties, as the result after they become adult is a blurring of the markings and a patchy coat.
"The males are extremely powerful, and will kill strange cats and fight dogs. They are devoted to their wives and children, and to their owners. They are exceedingly intelligent. With the dogs of the house they will be on excellent terms.
"The litters vary in size, but four to five is the usual number. The kittens are difficult to rear, as they suffer from worms and teething, but after seven or eight months old there is little danger. Some people think a meat diet best, but I find it satisfactory to bring them up on lighter food, such as Ridge's food, milk, gravy, and fish, until they begin to cut their teeth, when meat is required.
"A pair from the Palace were given to Mrs. Vyvyan and myself in 1884-5, and we have been very careful in breeding, mating when possible with such good cats as Mrs. Lee's celebrated 'Meo,' Miss Moore's 'Siam,' Mr. Harrington's 'Mechi,' etc. and have bred in consequence the famous 'Tiam-o-Shians' II., III., and IV., 'Polyphema,' 'Susa,' 'Kitya Kara,' 'Goblin,' 'Champion Eve,' 'Mafeking,' 'Vishuddha,' 'Ah Choo,' 'Suzanne,' and many others."
Among fanciers and importers of Siamese cats in the past, I may mention the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, Lady O'Malley, Lady Decies, Mrs. Brodie, Mr. Temple, Mr. Gambier Bolton, Miss Moore, Mrs. Elliott Hill, Mrs. Cunliffe Lee (owner of the celebrated "Meo"), and Mrs. Carew Cox, who later in this article will give some account of her "King Kesho" and the breed with which her name is still associated. Mrs. Herring has exhibited good specimens from time to time. Mrs. Chapman's "Wally Pug" used to cross the Irish Channel to visit English cat shows. Mr. Young and Mr. Inman, both of Harrogate, favoured this breed, and had some lovely cats. Mrs. Nield owned a charming little female named "Minthamee"; and Miss Sutherland, who lives in the south of France, used to breed a lot of good Siamese from her imported "Prince of Siam." Several of her breeding have been sold in England, and have won at shows. Mrs. Patton Bethune has often exhibited, and is an ardent admirer of the breed. Mrs. Parker Brough, in whose care "Tiam-o-Shian IV." is placed by Mrs. Vyvyan, is well known as a Siamese breeder, as is also Mrs. Spencer, of Eye Vicarage, who exports quite a number of cats; one of her breed - owned by Mr. Vary Campbell - is a beautiful animal. Mrs. Vary Campbell, the president of the Siamese Club, is a generous supporter of the breed. Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Hawkins have always had some fine specimens; and Mrs. Hankey, Miss H. Cochran, Miss Derby Hyde, and Miss Armitage are among others who owned some notable Siamese cats. Mrs. Backhouse's "Champion Eve" was a distinguished prize-winner, and Mrs. Robinson's "Ah Choo" was chosen as a model for the medal of the Siamese Club. But it is chiefly as the owner of the celebrated "Champion Wankee" that Mrs. Robinson is known in the cat fancy in general, and among Siamese breeders in particular. "Wankee" was the first Siamese to win the title of "Champion." He was bred in Hong-Kong, his mother - "Nims" - being a stolen palace kitten. "Wankee" was six months old when he arrived in England: and was born in September, 1895. He has won over thirty prizes, but was never shown till June, 1898, therefore losing the time in which most Siamese cats gain their honours - namely, between six months and two years, when they are pale in colour of coat.
Mr. Ratcliffe's Siamese."
Many are the prize kittens he has sired, too numerous to mention. Mrs. Robinson, who is a member of the National Cat Club committee, has frequently acted as a judge of Siamese, and has kindly written the following account for this chapter: -
"One of the most beautiful of the shorthaired cats is undoubtedly the royal cat of Siam, and the breed is greatly increasing in popularity; but is never likely to be common, as the cats are delicate in this country. The best description is that drawn up by the Siamese Cat Club in their standard of points. The points of the chocolate Siamese are the same as the royal, with the exception of body colour, which is a dark rich brown all over, thus making the markings less noticable. All Siamese cats darken with age, and when they get dark there is a tendency to call them chocolates. I know of only one real chocolate - Mr. C. Cooke's 'Zetland Wanzies' - so consider them more likely to be a freak than a distinct variety.
"Of the royals there seem to be two types in England: the one - rather a small, long-headed cat, with glossy, close-lying coat and deep blue eyes, and with a decided tendency to darken with age - is generally the imported cat or having imported parents; the other is a larger cat, with a rounder head, a much thicker, longer, and less close-lying coat, and the eyes a paler blue (these cats do not darken as much or as soon as the other type, and have generally been bred for several generations in England).
"The kittens are born absolutely white, and in about a week a faint pencilling comes round the ears, and gradually all the points come. At four or five months they are lovely, as generally they retain their baby whiteness, which contrasts well with their almost black ears, deep brown markings, and blue eyes. Some kittens are much longer than others in getting dense, these making the lightest cats.
"This breed is said to be kept very carefully in the palace in Bangkok - hence the title 'royal' - and is by no means the common cat of Siam. One gentleman (a missionary), who had lived there fifteen years, had during that time seen only three. A few years ago there was a pair of these cats in the Zoological Gardens at Bangkok, but they were very poor specimens.
"They have occasionally been given by the King as presents of great value, and several pairs have come to England in this way; also kittens have undoubtedly been stolen from the palace from time to time.
"There is a legend that these cats were kept exclusively and with great care in the King's palace, as resting places for royal souls. The Siamese are Buddhists, and consequently believe in the transmigration of souls; but with the growth of Western ideas and Western scepticism I doubt this being admitted.
"They are very intelligent, almost doggy in their ways, and very affectionate, but not universally friendly. The males are great fighters, and freely use their terrible voices; but they are well suited for house pets, as they seem happiest with their human friends.
"The first specimens were brought to England about twenty-five or thirty years ago, and Mr. Harrison Weir says that among those who possessed them were Lady Dorothy Nevill, whose cats were 'imported and presented by Sir R. Herbert of the Colonial Office. The late Duke of Wellington imported the breed, also Mr. Scott of Rotherfield.'"
Lady Marcus Beresford's "Ursula."
Miss Armitage, of Chaseleyfield, Pendleton, has sent me some charming photographs of her pets. She writes: -
"I have very few cats at present; I lost so many beautiful Siamese last year, and I think I made rather a mistake in having their skins made into mats! 'Cora,' the mother of my Siamese cats and kits, is still a beauty, and I really think she improves with age; and though her eyes are not all I could wish for in colour, yet her kittens have always had the desired tone of blue. I have now a lovely daughter of 'Cora' and 'Champion Wankee,' aged nine months. When she was a few hours old I put her to be fostered by our old English garden tabby, who makes her headquarters in the greenhouse. This kitten has never had a day's illness. She leads a wild life, catching birds and mice, and nibbling the tips off the ferns - much to the gardener's annoyance. I am hoping to send her to our next National Cat Club show, if I can catch her that day, but she is generally up a tree when wanted!
"I find the way to succeed in breeding and rearing Siamese kittens is to only keep a few. I strongly believe in putting them forth into cottage homes. Distemper spreads like wildfire amongst this breed, and it is heartrending to lose whole litters at once. It is strange how much stronger the females are than the males. I have never lost a female kitten yet; but, alas! many a promising male."
I remember a beautiful male bred by Miss Armitage that she exhibited at one of the Manchester shows. "Sam Sly" was as near perfection as possible, and after taking everything in the way of prizes, medals, and championships this fine fellow came home and died! Mrs. Spencer, of Eye Vicarage, to whom I have alluded as a Siamese fancier, has bred so many large litters of kits that I wrote to ask if she would kindly give me and my readers the benefit of some of her experience in rearing young Siamese. She writes in repky: -
"My 'Royal Siam' came from the royal palace, and I consider him a splendid specimen. I did not breed from him until he was between three and four years old, which may be one of the reasons why all the kittens by him are so wonderfully strong and healthy. he has never ailed anything since I had him. I have never placed him at stud, but have allowed a few friends to send their queens to visit him. Neither have I ever exhibited him, for he is far too precious a pet to be allowed to run any risks. My queen 'Princess Maimowne' is also a fine strong cat, a daughter of Mrs. Carew Cox's 'King Kesho'; and many are the prize-winners bred from these two. I heat my catteries during the day in the winter, and at night in cold weather I give the cats a hot stone bottle in their sleeping boxes, for it is the damp and cold of our English winter nights which are so dangerous. The windows of my catteries face south, and this is important in rearing Siamese. I always allow my cats an abundance of fish; this I give - mixed with bread soaked in water - twice a day, with another meal of something different, thus making three meals a day. I boil all the milk. Sometimes I give a little cod-liver oil over their food - with very beneficial results. If the kittens have bad colds or any trifling ailment, I indulge them with a little finely cut up raw beef. I have been breeding Siamese for over five years, and I have only lost one kitten my own rearing. I think the reason of my success is that I never pass over the most trifling symptoms of illness, and it is very necessary to take the temperature of Siamese at the slightest sign of sickness. I send a great number of kittens away to purchasers, and I am most particular in the way I pack the kits for their journey. The basket outside should be covered with thick brown paper, leaving just a square piece in the lid for ventilation. Inside I line with new house flannel, and place a soft cushion at the bottom, and if verfy coldweather I put an indiarubber hot-water bottle under the cushion. If the cats have to pass through London, I arrange with the District Messengers Company to meet the cat and convey it to its destination or to another station. Thus dangerous delays are avoided at a very little cost."
As everyone knows, Lady Marcus Beresford has always been especially fond of Siamese cats, and many splendid specimens have inhabited the Bishopsgate cat cottage. At present "King if Siam" and "Kholua," and a quaint little female called "It," represent this breed. In the days gone by "Tachin" and "Cambodia" were the admired of all admirers, and I doubt if ever a more perfect pair has landed on these shores. These cats were given to Lady Marcus Beresford twelve years ago by the late Lord William Beresford, who brought them straight from the palace at Bangkok. Lady Marcus writes: -
"I never once had any trouble or anxiety with them - dear, gentle, friendly little people, so clever and attractive. i have never seen any I have so admired. They had many fine, healthy litters, scattered about now amongst various friends. My success all round was great with them - no illness of any kind, till one day a fiend poisoned both 'Tachin' and 'Cambodia,' and some of their six months kittens. I have replaced them with some bred in England; and my opinion is that, as a rule, the imported ones are much stronger. A pair of Siamese imported from the temple at Bangkok I purchased from Mrs. Vary Campbell, and had the great misfortune to lose them. They differed from the royal Siamese, being darker and having a more pointed head and face, and their eyes were larger and fuller.
"I consider that Siamese cats are much cleverer than other breeds, and with patience can be taught several clever tricks. I intend to go in more largely for them in th future."
Several of Lady Marcus Beresford's Siamese found their way into Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins' possession, and were exhibited from time to time, always gaining great distinction. Mrs. Hawkins possessesa daughter of "Tachin," and so hopes to keep up this unique strain. Mrs. Hawkins has some of the best arranged and very solid built catteries at Brighton, of which I give an illustration. These are specially adapted for the breeding of Siamese and silvers, the two varieties which find favour at Shalimar. A long experience with Siamese enables Mrs. Hawkins to write with authority, and I give her notes as given to me for the benefit of my readers: -
Miss Armitage's "Cora."
"The first thing you have to consider with regard to these animals is that when newly imported they are naturally delicate, and must be hardened off, so to speak, just as our delicate foreign birds have to be; that is to say, you cannot treat them at first as you would our ordinary fireside cats. If you are fortunate enough to pick up newly imported ones, even if you have to pay a good price for them, they will prove a good investment; and perhaps you may be able to get some from one of our numerous cat fanciers, though they are very scarce at present and difficult to obtain. My advise is to get the best possible pair, and let them breed in the spring in the house, if you can let them a spare room, which need not be warmed in any way. Leave the mother quietly with the kittens; and having provided a warm bed and bedding for them previously, leave them to nature as much as possible, just going in now and then to see that all is going on all right, and giving the mother warm milk, etc., and coaxing her to get used to you.
"Siamese cats are particularly gentle and affectionate, and if you are kind to them they soon get to knowand love you. It is a pity their nature is not more copied by human beings - then the world should not have so much dissention and wrangling in our cat fancy. But this is a digression! As the kittens get on it is as well to have a warm place outside prepared ready for them; but do not put them out too soon, and if they show the slightest suspicion of cold they must be brought in and allowed to get over it completely before being turned out in the garden or outhouses, with the others.
"My own Siamese kittens were born in a cat house in my garden at Brighton, but they were June kittens, so by that time we were having very nice weather. The father and mother I had as kittens; I pulled through their baby ailments successfully, and as soon as the weather was propitious and sunny I put them in their outside houses. Siamese and chinchilla kittens (both of which I go in for) must be hardened off gradually. They are just like English children brought from abrouad, who have to be carefully nurtured at first and trained to get used to our English climate.
"What we want is to establish a really healthy, strong strain of Siamese in England, and by following the above suggestions I think it is possible to do it - not without difficulty, as, of course, it takes a little time and trouble (like everything else), but what is worth having is worth trying for.
"I may say I won with my Siamese at Brighton shows every time I exhibited them, and am now starting breeding them again; and I think that everyone who will have the patience to go in for this charming variety will find themselves well repaid, as the kittens command £5 to £10 each if successfully reared, and sometimes more. Of course, one must keep a careful watch over the diet, and not over-feed (this is a great point, as they will contract skin diseases if you do); but all these things apply as much to all cats, and I cannot see why Siamese should be more difficult to breed and establish thoroughly in England than other cats. One of mine, a female, is out now (and has been all winter) in a brick cat-house, and is perfectly well. I have benn told Siamese are so delicate that people cannot rear them. This is often the fault of the people themselves, for if they will not take a little trouble over animals they cannot expect to make money by them. By this I do not mean fussing and worrying your serverants over them. Look after them yourselves, see that they are all right every day (a good feed twice a day is quite sufficient), and then your Siamese will soon be as healthy and strong as your other cats. All the points of a good Siamese are so well known that I need not touch upon them here. Start with a good strainm be carefulm be patient, and you will be rewarded in the end."
I have mentioned Mrs. Parker Brough as a breeder of Siamese cats, and I am indebted to her for the following account of her favourite breed: -
Pair of Siamese belonging to Mrs. Armitage.
"A peculiarity of royal Siamese is that the kittens are born white, and at about fourteen days the points begin to look rather grey, turning at two months to a deep seal-brown, while the rest of the body usually remains white or cream for at least a couple of years (the whiskers and claws remain white). The colouring process resembles nothing so much as that of a meerschaum pipe. There are distinct varieties of Siamese known to fanciers - the palace or royal cat, the temple cat (chocolate), and there is likewise the common cat of the country, which is also found within the palace. The points of the chocolate cat are identical for shows with those of the royal except body colour, but the imported chocolate is often dark chocolate, with blue eyes, stumpy tail with a marked kink, short legs, and heavy, thick body. There are not many chocolates exhibited, owing to the preference given to the royal variety.
"It must be understood that there is no definite royal breed as such, but the palace breed seems to have originated by selection. The Siamese as a nation are lovers of anything quaint or uncommon, and the white-bodied cats in Bangkok seem to have been given to, or bought by, the inhabitants of the palace, until they have established a breed of their own, and reproduced the cat that fanciers know to-day as the royal cat of Siam. This should explain a point which has given rise to much controversy, as travellers agree that other cats than royal Siamese are to be found inside the palace, yet the King and Prince Damurong have given from time to time royal Siamese to friends, naturally choosing for a present the cat that has the most value in their eyes. That is to say, that the term 'royal Siames' or 'royal cat of Siam' is a descriptive term applied to a particular variety of cat, and should imply no more than this. We have a parallel case in 'King Charles spaniels.' The temple cat is under the care of the Jan priests, who have the greatest reverence for animal life, and whose temple is a sanctuary for all animals.
"Those who have kept Siamese will readily understand that, given a climate to suit them, only one breed of cat would be left in the temple - i.e. the Siamese, for this breed is distinguished as much by its pluck and activity as by hatred for any other breed of cat. The common cat of Siam is very much the same as anywhere else, except that the Malay kink in the tail is to be found in many of them. Until recently the Siamese was but little known in Europe, but occasionally was to be found in the various zoological gardens. At present there is a fine female-specimen to be seen at the Zoo at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, having been purchased from the King of Roumania. One or two are to be seen at Berlin, and we understand some are to be seen at the Hague. London has the first one it has had for six years, but it is not shown owing to its want of condition.
"A point on which the Siamese fancy is divided is whether the ideal cat should have a kink in the tail or not. The Club remains neutral. 'Champion Wankee' has a decided kink, looking, in fact, as though the tail had been caught in a door in his early youth. 'Tiam-o-Shian IV.,' on the contrary, has none. This kink is a peculiarity of the animals of the Malay Peninsula, and sometimes is so marked, as to make the tail appear like a corkscrew, though others of the same litter may have quite straight tails. There is a peculiarity in breeding Siamese - i.e. the rarity of female kittens in a litter, the average seeming to be five males and two females. This may be due to the artificial lives so often led by these cats; and, if so, corrobates the theory of Herr Schenk, the Austrian doctor, of the probabilities of sex at birth. Three of the most noted male cats in England have been Mrs. Robinson's 'Champion Wankee,' Mrs. Vyvyan's 'Tiam-o-Shian IV.,' and Mrs. Parker Brough's 'Koschka.' Probably Mrs. Backhouse's 'Champion Eve' and Mrs. Vyvyan's 'Polyphema' were the best females exhibited. 'Koschka' was, perhaps, the finest cat we ever saw, having eyes of the most glorious blue imaginable. 'Koschka' died after the Westminster show of 1900. Owners run a great risk in sending their Siamese (especially kittens) to shows, as in addition to being more liable to take cold, are apt to fret themselves ill at being separated from their mistresses. many fanciers are leaving off showing Siamese for that reason - for instance, the Siamese classes were cancelled at the Westminster show of 1903 owing to lack of entries.
Mrs. Robinson's "Ah Choo."
"It is hard to say how they should be kept and how they should be fed. Some Siamese thrive by being treated just the same as ordinary cats, but they are few and far between. We have known cats which have been allowed to run about in the snow, and in and out of draughts, and remain perfectly healthy; and others, who seem quite strong as long as they are taken care of, catch cold and die if they get their feet wet. However, if their cattery is kept constantly at a temperature of 50 degrees, and they are fed on scraped beef, milk (without boracic acid or preservative), water, and vegetables they seem to do better than under any other conditions. Personally, we have two catteries - indoor and outdoor. The indoor one is fitted up with 'foster-mothers,' as used for chickens, on legs about three feet from the ground. We find this very necessary owing to the draughts on the floor. The rooms can be quickly warmed to any temperature required, even in the depth of winter. We like our grown-up cats loose about the house, but it is impossible to allow kittens their full liberty when there are many of them, as they are bound to get into mischief and do much damage to the furniture, climbing up curtains and breaking ornaments on mantelpieces and scratching leather, etc. Of course, they are allowed downstairs a portion of every day when their mistress is able to look after them. They are most fascinating, frolicsome little creatures. The outdoor catteries - for use in summer - consist of a house and greenhouse, with covered runs leading from them, and so arranged that any or every cat can be isolated at will. These arrangements have taken a great deal of anxiety off our shoulders.
"This breed is certainly the noisiest, least dignified, most intelligent, and most active of all the cats, They are dog-like in their nature, and can be easily taught to turn back somersaults, and to retrieve, and in the country take long walks like a terrier.
"If they think it is meal-time and they fancy themselves neglected, they cry like children. The points of the perfect royal Siamese lie in the eyes, which should be a most perfect blue, and the contrast between the seal-brown of the paws, mask, and tail and the white or cream of the rest of the body, which should not be distinguished by bars or blotches. Age should be taken into consideration in judging this contrast. There are many beautiful kittens shown that we never hear of again after they have grown up, age having blurred their coatsm thereby making the contrast less defined.
Mrs. Robinson's "Champion Wankee."
"For travelling short distances there are few better travelling cases than a Canadian cheese box, with holes bored in the side. They are cheap (say 4d.), light, and damp and draught proof, and can be burnt after once using."
It will be gathered from the accounts given by Siamese fanciers that these cats, though delicate, with the exercise of care may be reared like ordinary ones of other breeds. Miss Cochran is very emphatic on this point. She says: -
"If Siamese are treated like common English cats, given plenty of fresh air and proper food, they are hardy and healthy; and by proper food I mean a meat diet - raw shin of beef, and as often as possible any kind of bird with the feathers on, or fowls' heads and mice. The fur and feathers act as a mechanical vermifuge. If the Siamese cats are coddled, they will certainly die. They have naturally rather delicate lungs, and for these fresh air is absolutely necessary; a close, hot atmosphere and heated rooms are fatal."
Mrs. Carew Cox I have alluded to as one of the pioneers of the Siamese fancy, and she still remains an ardent admirer of this breed, and often acts as judge. She has kindly written a very valuable article specially for this work, and I have therefore great pleasure in giving her interesting experience in this chapter on Siamese: -
"Only those who possess Siamese can understand how reluctant a lover of this breed takes up a pen to endeavour to do justice to its characteristics - it is like attempting the impossible. One feels one must step softly - so to speak - in the presence of these wonderfully fascinating creatures, whose thoughtful yet penetrating eyes appear to see so far and so much, whose intelligence seems almost human, and who seldomly stay with us for long. Unfortunately, these cats are difficult to rear, the constant damp of our climate affecting their lungs and producing frequent colds and coughs, lowering vitality and causing debility.
"There are two recognised varieties of this breed - the royal and the chocolate. The former is certainly the most beautiful in appearance, the seal-brown points - sometimes black in adults - relieving the pale but rich cream colour of the rest of the body, and the brown mask forming a grand setting for the superbly blue eyes. the mask on the face should circle well above the eyes, but should not extend into the ear space; the cream colour should be in evidence beyond the circle; the ears should be seal and well and distinctly put on - i.e. the seal or brown should not merge into the cream; the legs, feet, and tail should be of the same shade of seal, the darker the better. The tail of a Siamese cat has been the subject of considerable discussion and argument, some preferring the straight tail and some the kinked. The former is surely the most to be desired for appearance sake; but the latter undeniably adds to the quaint and foreign appearance of the cat, and in Hong-Kong preference is given to them and higher prices paid for 'kinks.' The eyes should be large and luminous, of a bright shade of true blue, appearing flame-coloured at night or by artificial light; good specimens are often spoilt by small eyes, pale in colour. There appear to be two distinct types - the compactly built, short in body, short on legs, and round in head; and the long-bodied, long-faced, lithe, sinuous, and peculiarly foreign-looking variety. I am informed that the small cats are held in great esteem in Siam, some of the females being quite liliputian. It is a matter for regret that as the cat ages the beautiful clear cream colouring becomes cloudy and dark. There have been exceptions to this rule: the late 'Polyphema,' owned by Mrs. Vyvyan, retained her pale colouring and her well-defined points to the last, and was the mother of many very beautiful kittens. Male cats are generally larger than females, and possess voices, which demand instant attention.
The late "King Kesho."
"The chocolate Siamese are of a rich chocolate or dark seal, with still more intense points. These cats usually possess eyes of rich amber. I have Miss Forestier-Walker's kind permission to utilise the following most interesting - and hitherto unpublished - extract from a letter received by her in October, 1902: -
"I advocate that all kittens should be reared by healthy English foster-mothers, and am convinced that if breeders would adopt this plan we should in time succeed in establishing a far stronger breed of cats. As matters now stand, the kittens inherit and develop many ailment or weakness to which their mothers may be subject, so that from the very commencement of their existence they have but little chance of becoming strong and healthy enough to withstand our climate of many moods.
"Plenty of sun and air they require, but damp and draughts are fatal. All young kittens should be encouraged to take exercise; empty cotton reels cause hours of amusement, also a rabbit's foot tied on to string or otherwise; corks of any description must be avoided. Large bones should be given when the kittens are two months old - they assist the growth of teeth; small ones, such as of game, chicken, or fish, are dangerous. The best and safest of all is a bullock's foot boiled down and pulled apart; these bones will occupy kittens for a considerable time.
Lady Marcus Beresford's "Cambodia."
"Worms cause an enormous mortality amongst Siamese, and are, I feel convinced, at the root of nearly every ailment from which cats or kittens suffer; therefore, however reluctant one may feel as to giving medicine to youngsters of tender age, it is better to do this than to run the risk of these odious parasites establishing themselves, for they are most difficult to dislodge permanently. I have used Saunder's worm powders with considerable success. Of course, the dose for kittens must be administered in minute quantity - just a small pinch given in warm olive oil early in the morning after an all-night fast. In giving the powder to adults I always enclose it in capsules. In cases of weakness or exhaustion a few drops of brandy or whisky in a teaspoonful of warm milk works wonders. It is often necessary to give some sort of tonic after medicine of this description.
"Siamese kittens should be well fed; not much at a time, but little and often - lean scraped beef of mutton, vegetables, stale bread and gravy, boiled fish, rabbit, raw eggs, milk (previously boiled); in fact, anything light and nourishing. The remains of a meal should never be left on the floor. These kittens' digestions are not strong, and their intestines are most delicately formed.
"The colour of the eyes of Siamese kittens should be well determined at eight weeks. They are most interesting and playful at this age; a tunnel made of newspapers will afford endless amusement, and after a long and energetic game of play they will sleep for hours. It is not desirable to lift or handle them more than can be avoided whilst they are very young. In cases of bad colds or coughs, a simple but usually effective remedy is a mixture of three pennyworth of oil of almonds and three pennyworth of syrup of violets, mixed by a chemist - a quarter of a teaspoonful thrice daily (it is absolutely necessary to shake the bottle thoroughly before administering the medicine). For an adult an eggspoonful three times daily may be given. Cod-liver oil is always safe (also the best olive oil), and helps to build up the constitution. As a tonic I know of nothing to equal half-grain (coated) quinine pills, given early each morning for a few days now and again. In cases of bronchitis, Carvill's Air Purifier (about a teaspoonful) should be placed in boiling water, and the cat or kitten made to inhale the steam several times daily, and particularly the first thing in the morning and the last at night.
Pugs paying a visit to the Siamese.
"For adults suffering from bad throat complaint and total refusal of all food I have found no remedy to equal the following prescription, if given in time. I have administered it with great success to numberless cats: Forty drops Calvert's pure carbolic acid, two drachms spirits of wine, six ounces pure water. Not quite half a teaspoonful to be mixed with a teaspoonful of warm milk, poured down the throat three times daily; for very young cats a smaller quantity of the mixture should be given. I doubt if it would be advisable to give it to young kittens. Even if the cat does not swallow the whole dose, it acts beneficially as a mouth-wash and disinfectant, apparently removing an unpleasant taste and re-establishing the power to smell - the loss of this sense often preventing a sick cat from eating. Weak eyes, sickness, and diarrha are tedious ailments to which all kittens are very subject, and to effect a permanent cure the treatment must be very persistent.
"I do not know when Siamese were first introduced into England, but Lady Dorothy Nevill possessed some several years ago. Sir Robert Herbert imported some; and Miss Forestier-Walker and her sister (Mrs. Vyvyan), who have owned and bred many beautiful specimens, first made acquaintance with this breed in 1883, and soon afterwards were presented with 'Susan' and 'Samuel' direct from the palace at Bangkok. 'Tiam-o-Shian I.' also came from Bangkok. All these cats had kinked tails. From 'Susan' and 'Tiam-o-Shian I.' - mated with Mrs. Lee's 'Meo,' Mr. Harrington's 'Medu,' and Miss Moore's 'Siam' - descended, amongst others, the following well-known and typical cats: 'Bangkok,' 'Tiam-o-Shian II.,' 'Goblin,' 'Kitza Kara,' 'Queen Rhea,' 'King Wallypug,' 'Prince of Siam,' 'Tiam-o-Shian III.,' 'Adam,' 'Eve,' 'Cupid,' 'Mafeking,' 'Rangsit,' 'Vishuddha,' 'Tiam-o-Shian IV.,' 'Suzanne,' 'Ah Choo,' 'Tornito,' and 'Evangeline.' In awarding prizes in the Siamese classes at the Cat Club show at Westminster in 1901 I found 'Suzanne' quite the best cat present, and upon referring subsequently to a catalogue was not surprised to find that Mrs. Vyvyan was her owner. 'Champion Wankee' for a long time held his own in the show pen, and has sired some very good kittens; but, of course, as usual, age has darkened him.
Mrs. Hawkins' cattery.
"Mrs. Robinson's 'Ah Choo' and Mr. Cooke's 'Zetland Wanzes' are well-known cats of to-day. Lady Marcus Beresford's 'King od Siam' is imported, has glorious eyes of sapphire-blue, and sires exceptionally good kittens; he is short on the leg, has a coat like satin and an excellent constitution. 'Royal Siam,' the property of Mrs. Spencer, of Eye Vicarage, Suffolk (who has bred some of the best kittens I have ever seen), is a superb creature with eyes of deepest blue; he was given to a friend of Mrs. Spencer in Siam, is a genuine royal palace-bred specimen with bright blue eyes, a handsome cat with strictly typical points, and - he is never ill! Miss Harper's (late) 'Curly Tail,' a daughter of 'King Kesho,' was an excellent example of the breed, all her points were very good; unfortunately her life was not of long duration - she died a victim to dropsy. It is so long ago since I first possessed a Siamese kitten that I cannot remember from whom I purchased her; she was a very perfect little creature, absolutely adorable with her quaint ways, appealing and yet assertive nature.
"After her death from rapid decline I tried to put aside all thoughts of securing another, and not until September, 1893, did I again fall victim to the attractions of this breed, purchasing a female of about one year old from Zache, of Great Portland Street. I named her 'Yuthia'; she was supposed to have been imported, had very expressive blue eyes, and lived until February, 1899.
"In October, 1893 - immediately after the Crystal Palace show - I became the owner of 'Kitza Kara,' a very perfect male, bred by Miss Forestier-Walker, which won first prize and several medals and specials. He also carried all before him at Bath in March, 1894. Unfortunately, he died that year from congestion on the lungs.
"'King Kesho,' the well-known male (sire of many beautiful kittens), I bought from Mr. Forsgate in 1894; he claimed descent from the Duchess of Bedford's, Mrs. Seton-Kerr's, and Miss Forestier-Walker's cats; he had large bold eyes of a glorious shade of blue, and very dark points; he won many prizes and specials, but died in 1897. 'Lido,' a male bred by Mrs. Chapman and sired by 'Champion Wankee,' was descended from some of the best of his time; he was of the long-bodied, narrow-faced type, most graceful in his movements.
"Amongst the many females I have possessed, 'Cameo' was one of my best, her pale body colour being relieved by intensely dark points; this little pet died suddenly in July, 1896, from failure of the heart's action. 'Koko' was a very large cat, comparatively coarse in appearance for one of this variety; she won the Duchess of Bedford's special at Holland Park in 1896, for the best adult Siamese. 'Princess To-To' 1900, bred by Mrs. Bennet, became a great favourite; no words of mine could ever do justice to her remarkable individuality, her fascinating moods, her expressive little face and sense of the comic. She loved to be sung to sleep, closing her eyes with an unmistakable air of enjoyment and confidence, and clearly requesting an encore when the song ceased. I taught her to dance, and every night at ten o'clock the frantically enjoyed prancing round the room on her hind legs.
"Alas, that these little companions to whom we are permitted to become so deeply attached should be only lent us to brighten our weary way for so short a period! 'To-To' was always very delicate, and after lying at death's door on several occasions she finally entered in; with her very last breath she crept into my arms to die. 'Yolanda,' the female I now own, was presented to me by Mrs. Hankey, and bred, I believe, by Mrs. Foote. She is a small cat with very blue eyes, and has recently had a litter of five kittens by Lady Marcus Beresford's 'King of Siam'; these kittens all possessed the gloriously blue eyes to which both of their parents can lay claim.
"Romeo" and "Juliette."
"'Attaché' (a neuter) was given to me in October, 1900, when six months old, by Mrs. Spencer, of Eye Vicarage, Suffolk; he is a very large and powerful creature, with massive limbs, and an unconquerable antipathy to all other cats of any description, excepting only my Russian neuter, whose presence he tolerates. So great is his aversion to even the semblance of a cat, that he has attacked a life-size print of an assertive-looking Persian that acted as a stove ornament in the room he occupied during the summer months, scratching it several times across and across, and then retiring behind it, evidently to watch the effect from another point of view! He has large and luminous eyes, in whose unfathomable depths linger many and varied expressions; he is of a peculiar jealous disposition, capable of intense devotion. In spite of his living the life of a recluse, he is by no means a victim of ennui, possessing his own special play-things, which he keeps under one particular cushion, hunting them out when he feels inclined to play; for so large a cat he is remarkably athletic, and as yet his health has caused me no anxiety.
"It is highly desirable that all who own cats should keep a few simple medicines always at hand. Personally, I am never without the remedies previously alluded to. Delay, in neglecting to note and treat at the very commencement certain symptoms of illness, often proves fatal, whereas a 'stitch in time saves nine,' and may even save one of the nine lives that a cat is (or was) supposed to possess."
The love of Siamese cats has not seemed as yet to have developed in America, and specimens of the breed are few and far between. Lady Marcus Beresford sent out two good cats to Mrs. Clinton Locke, and I believe several fine litters have been reared, and some fine exhibits appeared at recent shows. I give an illustration of some of these pets, with Mrs. Robert Locke, on page 256.
In the foregoing remarks of noted breeders of this variety many useful hints are given, and some peculiarities of the breed mentioned. I would, however, draw attention to a curious and rather remarkable fact in connection with Siamese cats.
When they are ill, a sprinkling of white hairs invariably appears all over the face and head, the bright blue of the eye vanishes, leaving it a sort of pale opal colour. It often takes many weeks before the cat regains its ordinary appearance. Harrison Weir, in his allusions to Siamese, tells us that he had observed a great liking of these cats for "the woods," and goes on to describe them as not passing along like an ordinary cat, but quickly and quietly creeping from bush to bush; nor do they seem afraid of getting their feet wet - like the feline tribe in general. The male Siamese will take a most friendly and parental interest in the welfare of madame's family, indeed, he shows a great liking always to have the company of a lady, and frets greatly when left alone.
The males are, however, antagonistic to others of their sex, and fight with a terrible persistency. I have heard of a stalwart fellow who, being allowed his liberty, cleared the neighbourhood of all other wandering toms. When made neuter, Siamese become most charming home pets, and can be taught to do tricks more easily than other cats. The sole objection to a Siamese house cat is the trying nature of its unmelodious voice. Siamese are rather prolific breeders, the litters being generally large ones, and the females, as a rule, in the minority.
I do not believe that Siamese will ever become common in England, for many reasons. these cats are expensive to purchase, difficult to rear, and fanciers are afraid to risk them in the show pen; but in spite of these drawbacks, I think, as time goes on, and the Siamese Club extends its labours, we shall see and hear more of these really curious creatures, for what we call the royal Siamese bears no resemblance to any other cat, and the distinguishing differences, being so great, tend to make the breed one of our best show cats and a clear class to itself, for the Siamese of the purest blood should not be crossed with other cats. We have heard of "any other colour" Siamese, but these cats of varied hue claiming to be Siamese are but the offspring of a cross. We have been told of black and blue and tabby Siamese; but the fanciers of Siamese look askance at these freaks, and feel that it is worse than useless to attempt to produce any other variety than that which we have learned by custom to designate the Royal cat of Siam.