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Beware Of The Imposters

By Teresa Schroeder

In October, at a show in the Houston area, the Himalayan class had 5 adults entered. Three of those entered were listed as visuals, a Lilac point male, a Chocolate-Tortie point female which were both owned by the same person, and my Chocolate point male. "How exciting, "I thought," more than half the class were visual." I couldn't wait to see the other cats. However, when I did see the other 2 cats I knew immediately they were incorrectly listed as Lilac & Chocolate-Tortie point.

The first judge insisted on changing the Lilac point male to the Blue point color class. Yaaa... I applauded the judge's decision, even though the judge allowed the Chocolate-Tortie point to stay listed in the wrong color class. I thought maybe the next judge would catch the fact that the Chocolate-Tortie point was listed as the wrong color class, and switch her to the correct color class; however, I was quite disappointed when this did not happen. The fact is, none of the judges that weekend questioned the cats color.

I have been working with Chocolate and Lilac for the past 8 years so I feel I know a visual when I see one. I also know from personal experience people like to jump to the conclusion that a cat is visual if the coat is clear, there is not much body shading, and the paw pads have any hint of pink or light brown. This is mainly the case in young cats, and if they're not a Chocolate they will definetly get darker with age.

Both of these cats had shading. Not the usual shoulder and hip areas of darkening but, more of an overall even shading. Still more than a visual should have. ( A true visual in my opinion, should have NO shading.) Also, the cat's nose leather, and paw pads were incorrect in color to be visual. It was quite possible both of these cats were carriers of Chocolate, and were showing Incomplete Recessive.

Incomplete Recessive is quite common with Chocolate carriers. This is when it just takes a little longer for the complete color of the cat to come in. When this is the case breeders need to stick to their guns when others try to tell them that the cat is a visual Chocolate. The breeder has the responsibility to keep the integrity of their pedigrees correct, and should not be swayed by others to change the cats color, using this opportunity to educate others on why this cat is or is not a visual and how to recognize the difference.

Simply reading the standard is not enough to help you recognize the difference between a Chocolate and a Chocolate Carrier showing Incomplete Recessive. It's best if you can see and compare the difference. Yes, there are variations in most every color, this problem also exists in some Flame Points and Cream Points, where you have neither-nors. Some of these variations are acceptable and others are not. How many of us have seen a Solid or Tabby class where the judge STOPS the class to examine a Red or Red Tabby they feel is incorrectly listed? They pull out the Show Rules, read them, look, compare, talk to the owner, talk with the other exhibitors, all in a effort to determine what the correct color division of the cat really is. Now why didn't we see this happening nearly as often with such an uncommon color like Chocolate-Tortie.

When I had the opportunity I went to the owner to chat with her, to find out why she believed her cats were visual. She was very excited to speak with me. She really wanted to talk with someone who had knowledge about Chocolate and Lilac. She was unfamiliar with the colors and had just recently found out that Chocolate and Lilac existed in the background of her cat's pedigrees. I thought, "Great, now we can get to the bottom of this."

First we compared her cat's paw pads to those of my cat, the difference was clearly evident. I explained that her cat was quite possibly a Chocolate carrier, and was showing Incomplete Recessive. Also, her female already had shading on her body at the age of 8 months. My boy was 1year 2 months the date of the show and had not even a hint of shading on his body.

She showed me the pedigrees of her cats. Yes, the pedigrees had Chocolate and Lilac several generations back, which would indicate the cats were quite possible carriers of Chocolate. I asked the owner who had convinced her that these cats were visual? Her reply was, "Well, the judges who saw her for Champion Ribbons obviously thought she looked like a Chocolate-Tortie, because they Championed her. Also, I had some breeders tell me she looked Chocolate." I asked her, "Did any of these people breed Chocolate or Lilac?" Her reply was "No." Then I asked if she had ever had a Chocolate breeder look at her cats and what that persons opinion was. She told me I was the first Chocolate breeder that had seen her cats. She had talked on the phone to someone who worked with Chocolate but, they were unable to give her much help.

Now, what is so very puzzling to me is that the judges never compared or questioned her cats color when they had the perfect opportunity by having a true Chocolate point in the same class. Yes, the lady's cat is a nice Seal-Tortie point that, according to the pedigree, is a possible Chocolate carrier. This female would be an asset to any breeding program, and could hold her own as a Seal-Tortie point in a show, but the cat is not a visual.

In my opinion, very few, if any judges have ever seen a true Chocolate-Tortie point Himalayan, and this is no excuse for hanging ribbons on a improperly colored cat. The lady was showing her cat to try to determine via the CFA judges if her cat was a true Chocolate-Tortie point or not. She had very limited experience and wanted the truth regarding the color of her cat so she would know which direction to plan her breeding program. Isn't it a shame that most of the people that looked at her cat didn't know the cat's true color.

We need to educate our judges and help them realize that those of us who breed for true Chocolate and Lilac have and still are working very hard to prefect our cats, and when someone tries to show a cat as being a visual that is not, we all get a little uptight when ribbons are hung. This simply encourages these people to keep on showing their cats in the wrong color class. The owner of this Seal-Tortie point told me she would keep showing her cat as a Chocolate-Tortie point because this cat was the closest she had come to having a possible Grand. As long as the cat was being recognized as a Chocolate-Tortie point, why should she change and start over as a Seal-Tortie point?

Doing this will give people the wrong impression of Chocolates and the people whom breed for the color. Judges unknowingly hanging ribbons on incorrectly listed cats simply encourages these people, and this is doing the Himalayan as a breed a great injustice. Breeders like the owner of this Seal-Tortie point / Chocolate-Tortie point will have pedigrees which are not worth the paper they are written on and this will reflect on the Himalayan as a breed in the end. We as Himalayan breeders (of any color) need to hold accountable those who falsify their pedigrees, and show under incorrect colors. This has to be done among us as breeders. We, and the cats we love so much, have the most at stake.

If you (exhibitor or judge) would like to examine one of these colors closer, please ask a true Chocolate Breeder if you can examine their cat closer, and ask us what we look for to determine when a cat is a visual or carrier. We love to show off our babies and answer any question about Chocolate.

When looking to purchase a Chocolate make sure you are dealing with a reputable breeder who knows their pedigrees and what they are doing where Chocolate is concerned. Do your homework, and as with all purchases buyer "Beware of the Impostors...." Those of you who have a cat or kitten that looks like it may be Chocolate make sure it is before you register it, check with someone who has been breeding the color for several years and know what to look for.

A Foot Note:
Several weeks after the Houston area show the owner of the Chocolate-Tortie point called me up. She told me she had read the Cat Tracks articles I suggested, The Chocolate Drop, and To Be or Not To Be Chocolate. These articles helped her understand what was going on with her cats, and helped her make the decision to change the cats to non-visuals and breed them as carriers. So now she is moving in the right direction at last.

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Reprint from Cat Tracks, 1998
This article used with permission. © Teresa Schroeder
(Photos for this article was added by Chocolatecats.com)
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