Cats, with their clean and quiet ways, are becoming increasingly popular pets. A new study sponsored by the Pet Food Institute indicates that in 2000 the number of pet cats in America reached a new high of over 75 million, surpassing dogs by 16 million. So it's not surprising that pedigreed cats have a strong following of fans. While purebred cats have never achieved the popularity purebred dogs enjoy, the cat fancy – the term for the group of people involved in showing and breeding pedigreed cats – has an enthusiastic and devoted following.
Every year the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) compiles breed registration totals for each of the 40 pedigreed cat breeds it accepts. Since CFA is the world's largest cat registry, these registration totals are good indicators of overall popularity.
CFA's Top Ten in 2000
Other popular breeds include the wavy-haired Cornish rex, which ranks 11th. With 807 new registrations for 2000, up from 759 in 1999 and 735 in 1998, the Cornish rex has moved up from 13th in 1999. The Tonkinese, a cross of the Burmese and the Siamese, was close behind with 803 registers, ranking 12th overall and 8th most popular shorthair. The Tonkinese appeals to traditional cat lovers, since the body and head type are moderate and similar to the traditional Siamese. The Bengal, a breed originally created by crossing domestics with Asian leopard cats, is also a very popular breed, but since the breed is not accepted by CFA no registration totals are available.
In 2000, CFA registered 49,551 pedigreed cats, down from 55,645 in 1999 and, staggeringly, down from 84,729 in 1990. Why such a large drop? The reasons are many, say fanciers, but the two main reasons are the increased costs of breeding and showing cats, and recent legislation. CFA, in an article available at their website (www.cfainc.org/articles/face-extinction.html), cites the "restrictive breeding ordinances, possession limits, burdensome cat licensing and breeder permit laws, as well as restraints on the display/exhibition of animals." Cat fanciers say that these well-meaning laws, intended to reduce overpopulation and the many animals euthanized in shelters, target the wrong groups since most shelter cats are not from planned breeding programs.
Rather, they are the offspring of unaltered free-roaming cats and of unowned ferals. "Misdirected, costly and ineffective," says CFA's article, "these laws are punitive toward people who selectively breed to preserve the desirable personality and appearance traits of pedigreed cats." Rather than pass legislation, CFA advocates programs that will educate cat owners, provide low cost spaying and neutering, and manage feral cat colonies, so purebreds will be around for future generations to enjoy.