It all began with a breeding that gave me the possibility of producing a chocolate calico, something I had been hoping and dreaming about for some time.
August 30, 2007, my dream came true. My queen gave birth to three kittens ... a pet quality dilute calico, a cream and white van male ... and a chocolate calico with beautiful type and markings!
I was on cloud nine!
My chocolate calico was everything I wanted ... and yet, oddly enough, my eyes kept being drawn to the cream and white baby boy. I questioned why. I certainly didn't need a boy. Yet for what ever reason, he struck me hard and wouldn't let go.
Time passed and the babies' eyes started to open. Imagine my surprise to see two red glowing eyes staring back at me from the cream and white boy's face! Could it be that he was blue-eyed?
I was ecstatic! His eyes glowed bright red like two laser beams in any light, day or night.
Of course, Persian kitten's eyes are all blue at first and only develop their true color over time, so I went to a dear friend of mine who was familiar with producing odd-eyed bi-colors to ask what she thought. She told me that eye color on cream and whites can tend to develop more slowly - so she suggested I be patient, calm down, don't get excited ... so if I was mistaken the disappointment would not be too great. She instructed me to send photos of him when he turned 9 weeks old. Then we'd talk.
My baby boy was almost 3 weeks old and I couldn't wait any longer for confirmation of his eye color. I took several photos and emailed them to my friend. She was rather surprised with what she saw and agreed that perhaps he was indeed a blue-eyed bi-color.
The weeks passed and I couldn't take my eyes off my beautiful baby boy. I had my dream show quality chocolate calico and I admired her and appreciated her and at the same time my excitement over my bi-color boy filled most of my thoughts.
The day came to register my litter and officially name my kittens. I filled out the CFA form and put it in the mail. A few days later while feeding my babies, I realized something was not quite right about my chocolate calico's eyes. It had been right under my nose the whole time. My chocolate calico was odd-eyed! I contacted CFA by phone ASAP and notified them that I needed to change her eye color from copper to odd-eyed.
As the babies grew, their quality and personalities never ceased to amaze me. I was fascinated about how they changed daily. I worried about their weight, were they eating enough, what do their eyes look like now? Months passed and I was always afraid something would go wrong. Perhaps it was a premonition. At 5 months of age, my chocolate calico's blue eye started to change yet again. A straight line divided her eye coloring turning it 1/2 copper and 1/2 blue. It was a fault and meant I'd not be able to show her.
It was a difficult decision, but in the end I opted to place her with a breeder friend and focus my attention on my blue-eyed cream van male, now registered Ceylon's Ready Or Not Here Eye Come, and dubbed Racer for short.
The First Show
It was time to consider taking my first step with Racer, so I entered him in the kitten class of a local show.
I had noticed his coat wasn't as bright white as my retired Grand Champion calico van. A friend suggested I try a product called Crystal White Enzyme Shampoo. I immediately purchased a gallon. After his first bath with the shampoo I was pleasantly surprised. There was a definite improvement.
Being a newbie, I figured if one bath was good, more baths were better, so I bathed and re-bathed enthusiastically.
It wasn't until I was actually in the show hall, up against all the other beautiful bi-colors, that I could see how grey in appearance my Racer's white coat looked. Fortunately for me, some of the top breeders took me under their wings and gave me grooming tips. I learned I had probably over done the enzyme shampoos, making his hair slightly translucent in the process, resulting in the greyish hue.
I was given some grooming wonderful advice and I was off to buy a few hundred dollars worth of new products to try on his coat. It was going to take a time for his coat to recover though, so I didn't show him any further as a kitten.
Showing As An Adult
Time passed and Racer became an adult and his coat was healthy once again, full of lift and well moisturized.
The decision was made to return to the show ring, this time in search of titles.
Once again in the show hall, I could see a subtle difference between his coat color and the other bi-colors. His had a hint of yellow in the white where others were a bright blue/white. I decided it must just be his natural coat color. When ever I saw another cream & white with that bright blue/white coat I assumed it was their genes that made the difference.
Racer championed quickly, and I continued showing him, making finals and earning those coveted grand points. I typically traveled to the shows with breeder friends and one travel buddy gave me a grooming suggestion. The white on her bi-colors was bright and white and she gave full credit to the Chris Christensen Systems. So off I went to buy more products.
I loved how easy they were to use and how they made Racer's coat look and feel.
Excited by how Racer looked, I felt he was ready for the long weekend show. After setting up his cage at the show, I pulled Racer out of his carrier. It was then I realized the show hall's lights revealed a whole different Racer then my lights at home. Racer was once again grey.
I was devastated! How could this be? I frantically asked my friends what they thought happened to his coat color? Why is he so grey AGAIN?
The answer came when a fellow exhibitor asked what I use to dry my cats. I was stuttering for an answer because I failed to see what the dryer had to do with his new grey coat color. He asked me to humor him and tell him what I used. Well, a Metro of course. How old is my Metro, he asked? Approximately 2 years old and I use it a dozen times a week. He explained to me that the carbon combs were probably worn out and the dryer has blown carbon particle dust all over Racer's coat.
To test his theory, he suggested that when I returned home, I needed to blow my dryer onto a white towel for 10 minutes. If it left a black/grey circle on the towel, the carbon combs need to be replaced. I had never heard anything about carbon combs before this, but it sounded plausible.
Now I began to worry about what I should do if my carbon combs were bad. How could I replace them so I could re-bath Racer and bring him back to the show hall on Sunday? It was unlikely I could just I go to Wal-Mart and find the replacement parts I would need.
Fortunately for me, my new friend never leaves home with out an extra set of carbon combs, so after the show he gave me his spare set with instructions on how to replace them. What a blessing! This started a new found friendship that I cherish deeply and will always feel indebted to my wonderful breeder friend. He also sent me home with a new show bath protocol:
- Step (1) Jerobs Pre-Cleaning Creme which I happen to have just received in the mail a few days before the show (to use on Racer's tail as a degreaser).
- Step (2) Dawn. Check!
- Step (3) Use Crystal White Enzyme Shampoo cold, and rinse. Repeat up to 3 times. Now I felt nervous because I hadn't used this product in some time, but I put my faith in his advice and that nothing could go wrong.
- Step (4) Fill the sink, add Protein Pro V Ice Conditioner to the water and float his coat.
- Step (5) Beer: While explaining the new grooming regimes, my friend brings out a case of cheap light beer. I interrupt him. I explain to him, we don't drink, but if he feels I'd do a better job bathing my cat drunk, I guess I'm willing to try it. Laughingly he explains it's not me for but for Racer's coat. After I rinse him off fully, I should pour a can of beer all over his coat. This will dissolve anything that I've missed and provide nutrients to his coat. (See the PandEcats.com article titled Beer For Body for more information about the advantages of using beer on the Persian coat).
We left with a small shopping list and picked up the needed items before returning home. My husband went to bed and it was 11:30 at night by the time I could begin Racer's re-bath.
What I failed to take into consideration was my water itself. We live in an 120+ year old Victorian and we had a frozen pipe for nearly a week. We had to wait until Friday morning for the pipe to thaw before the plumber could fix it. By Friday afternoon we had running water again and life resumed as normal.
Saturday night, as I was bathing Racer, the water coming from the faucet began looking cloudy ... and worsened until it looked very red. With a wet, soapy cat in the tub at midnight, I had no choice but to carry on.
As I'm bathing Racer, I'm literally watching his coat turn yellow, yellow-er, orange, and finally red.
It's very late and I felt all alone with this new issue. I didn't know what else to do so I finished blow drying him in tears. Racer was no longer grey and cream, he was flaming red from head to tail! Yikes!
I was beside myself with embarrassment, humiliation, confusion ... and drained emotionally. I waited till early morning then called a friend begging for advice.
I built up the courage to take Racer back to the show Sunday morning. We arrived at the show hall and the inquisition began. Breeders approached me ... "What were you thinking?", "What did you do?" I kept trying to tell myself it was just a learning experience. I'll being stronger and wiser from this. Most importantly, I was praying for a quick, easy and painless solution. A friend gave me a white powder waterless shampoo. It didn't help. Not only was he still red, but now whenever he moved, a cloud of powder shivered off him.
People pointed. People laughed. The hardest to take were the looks of pity. I broke down a few times in private. I knew in my heart I had to stick this out, and not put my tail between my legs and pack up to go home. I would endure.
I put Racer in all of the rings. A few times, I put him in and walked away because I couldn't bear to see the judge's expressions. One ring I was able to sit through it because it was one of my favorite judges. I placed Racer in his cage directly behind the judge and sat in the front row. This judge was doing her thing when she stopped and asked if Racer's number was present. My friend looked at me. We were confused since Racer was in the judging cage. My friend spoke up to say, " Yes he's here, right behind you.". The judge quickly turned around and laughing said, "Oh I thought that was a Himi."
I know with all of my heart she didn't mean anything by it, but that hurt. I admit I think his legs were darker in the new rusty red color than perhaps his body looked. None the less, it was a painful moment.
The last ring of the day I was more than ready for it to all be over with. To my surprise, Racer was awarded with a purple ribbon. It was as if it was the one and only purple ribbon I'd ever be given. I was thrilled! I took Racer back to our benching area and breathed a sigh of relief. I was off to chat with friends before packing up and have a few laughs showing off my beautiful purple ribbon. Then a friend came over to me telling me I needed to stop talking and get Racer up to his final. What? I ran across the show hall and did my best to primp Racer and carried him off to the ring.
I have to admit publicly, if Racer hadn't made a single final that show, I understood why he couldn't, looking the way he did, but that single final gave me the boost I needed to continue to work toward granding my first homebred. That final convinced me not to give up on my dream. I will always be grateful.
The Next Step
Rejecting the suggestion to shave Racer's coat and start over, I worked to reduce the red in his coat over the next few months. I tried everything that was suggested to me, and a few that I thought would be too crazy to try, but I did it all. I was able to dull down the rusted coat color from red to a dull yellow, and finally to an almost creamy yellow. It stalled at that color and wouldn't seem to lighten regardless of what I tried.
Still, I continued showing Racer since he was so close to granding. Some judges who had used him before, dumped him. A few never failed to give him a sour look, barely touching him before quickly putting him back in his cage. Then there were those that, bless their hearts, gave Racer an honest chance. They played with him and went over him as they would with any other cat. Some finaled him. Some didn't.
The Final Points
Although Racer only needed 7 points to grand, I took a few months off from showing to rest. I followed another friend's suggestion and didn't bath him for 3 full weeks. The theory was because I had dried out his coat, I should let his natural oils return and see if that helped. I sprayed him down in oil to help his coat as well. (I did so many things, we could go on and on, but I'll spare you from all the gory details).
A New Trick
One day I got the bright idea to do a search on line for whitening products. It couldn't hurt to see what else was out there. I found a dog breeder who recommended using #1 All Systems products. I decided I had nothing to lose in spending more money trying more products. After just one bath in the new # 1 All Systems products Racer looked better than he had in months. I combined using this new product with bathing Racer at a friend's house, using her city water instead of my well water. (We have a water softener, and filter system in place but it's still not good enough).
What's the worst thing I could do? Turn him blue :-)? Been there and done that already through far too many failed experiments.
Racer had been dubbed the "Cat of Many Colors" long ago by friends. The joke was, "What color is your cat this weekend?" Grey, purple, blue, yellow, orange and red had all been covered through this journey. However white was a color we hadn't seen yet.
After his bath, Racer was a better color than he had been in months. He had moved into the "white" family color spectrum at long last. I couldn't see him in the sunlight after he was finished because a bad storm had moved in but I could tell with out a doubt that the yellow hue had diminished greatly.
I couldn't attend his show due to family commitments, but a friend of mine agreed to show Racer for me. I met up with them at 4:30 the morning of the show. It was still dark out so I was still unable to see Racer's color in good light. Racer didn't make any points at the show but the good news was my friend reported his color was much better - just slightly grey. Slightly grey was a BIG move in the right direction. For the first time, light grey was a GOOD thing.
I kept using the #1 All Systems products and a few weeks later we went to our next show. Racer looked better than he had in what felt like forever. I was happy he had blown most of his coat because we needed the old ruined coat to come out ... but some coat is still nice on a show cat :-).
I'm proud to announce, Racer finaled and obtained his last 7 points and even received another final to put him over the top with extra points for a cushion.
I was on cloud nine to think that I'd successfully granded my first home bred in CFA - and a blue-eyed bicolor at that! Now I can't wait to shave him down! :-)
It was always difficult for me to show Racer after I had ruined his coat. The amount of humiliation I put myself through was sometimes overwhelming. The occasional snide remarks or disgusted looks were hard to take.
I know in this fine feline hobby we must have a thick skin and mine certainly grew with every show. It was never easy emotionally. At times I broke down, felt defeated, felt this was all a mistake. Never in my life have I had to work so hard to accomplish something. Never in my life had I had so many feelings of unworthiness to overcome.
On the other hand, I couldn't have asked for a better cat than Racer with whom to make this journey. I put my poor boy through so much, and all the time he remained patient with me and loved me. I appreciated every judge that took the time to make Racer's experience on the judging table enjoyable for him - both the judges who finaled him before I ruined him and the ones who didn't - the ones who finaled him all the time I was trying to correct his coat and the ones who didn't. I especially appreciate the judges who awarded him grand points and the one that gave him his cushion.
Thank you to everyone in CFA who laughed at me and with me. Thank you to everyone who encouraged me and those that told me not to give it up. With each every bath, show, remark, final, disappointment ... I learned and I grew. And isn't that what life is all about in the end?
CFA GC Ceylon's Ready Or Not Here Eye Come
Blue Eyed Cream & White Persian Male
CFA's First GC Blue eyed bicolor CPC Persian!
CFA's Second GC Blue eyed bicolor Persian
CFA 2009 2ND Best of Color Class Region 6 Award Recipient.
Atlantic Himalayan Club 10th Best CPC Cat Award Recipient.