A cat registry is an organisation that registers cats for exhibition and breeding purposes. A cat registry stores the pedigrees (genealogies) of cats, prefixes or affixes of catteries, studbooks (lists of authorised studs of recognised breeds), breed descriptions and the standards of points (SoP) for those breeds; lists of judges qualified to judge at shows run by, or affiliated with, that registry. A cat registry is not the same as a cat club or breed society (these may be affiliated with one or more registries with whom they have lodged breed standards in order to be able to exhibit under the auspices of that registry).
The first cat registry was the National Cat Club, set up in 1887 in England. Until the formation of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1910, the National Cat Club was also the Governing Body of the Cat Fancy. A rival registry called the Cat Club was set up in 1898, but foundered in 1903 and was replaced by the Cat Fanciers Association. Cats could only be registered with one or other registry. These two fancies merged in 1910 and became the GCCF. In the USA, the 1899 Chicago cat show resulted in the formation of the Chicago Cat Club, followed by the more powerful Beresford Cat Club (named after noted British breeder Lady Marcus Beresford). In 1906, the American Cat Association became the main registry. In 1908 this became the Cat Fanciers' Association Inc (CFA).
In the intervening years, many cat registries have been formed worldwide. These range from international organisations or federations to national registries in one particular country. In many countries, independent registries have also been formed which may or may not be recognised by the main registries. While some cat registries forbid the practice, it is now common to allow a cat to be registered by more than one registry. The largest overall organisation is the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) which is a worldwide federation of member cat registries.
Cat Registries have their own rules and also organise or licence cat shows. The show procedures vary widely and awards won in one registry are not normally recognised by another.
The World Cat Congress (WCC) is an international coordinating organisation of the largest cat registries. The WCC operates an "open Doors" policy by which cats registered with one registry can be shown under the rules of another registry.
Some independent cat registries specialise in particular types of cat that are ineligible for registration with a major registry due to breed restrictions or certain genetic traits. For example The Dwarf Cat Association recognises breeds derived from the short-legged Munchkin (a cat body type genetic mutation) which are banned by FIFe and some other registries, while the Rare and Exotic Feline Registry specialises in cats derived from (or alleged to derive from) hybrids with wildcat species.
Most registries offer several levels of recognition (often called registers). The actual designations differ between registries, but typically these are:
- a breed that competes for championship titles at shows organised by, or affiliated to, that registry
- the level of recognition of cat breeds until they demonstrate that they breed true to their registered standards; there may be several levels of provisional/preliminary recognition e.g. new or advanced as numbers and popularity increase
- a provisional register for breeds in development; this may be separate from the provisional/preliminary register in some cat fancies
- Exhibition only
- a new trait, new import or minority variety that does not compete, but is exhibited in order to attract opinion and/or potential breeders
- Registration only
- status means cats of that breed can be registered, but do not have permission to be exhibited.
Not all breeds achieve Full (championship) status.
There may also be Active and Inactive registers that denote whether a cat may be legitimately used in breeding and its offspring registered.
In breeds known to carry recessive genes (e.g. longhaired cats born from shorthaired parents, colourpointed cats born from non-colourpointed parents), cats that do not meet their breed standard might be registered as variants or they might be registered under a different breed name. These may sometimes be used to maintain a good gene pool, but not exhibited in Championship classes for the parents' breed.
A Genetic Register is used by some registries for breeds where a genetic test is required before cats can be bred from. Cats that have not been cleared through testing remain on the genetic register until negative test results are provided.
A cat registry is at liberty to refuse to accept breeds if it feels the breed is not genetically sound; does not breed true to the standard put forward by the developer(s) of the breed (with allowances made for known variants); is not represented in sufficient numbers or is not sufficiently distinct from breeds already recognised by the registry. It may also expel breeders who do not conform to accepted standards of behaviour and ethics, with the result that their cats may be disqualified from its shows.
The rules as to what constitutes a new breed vary from registry to registry. The International Cat Association (TICA) is a relatively progressive registry that will recognise breeds derived from crossing existing breeds; mutations of an existing breed; naturally occurring breeds indigenous to a geographical location; a breed already recognised by a different registry and experimental breeds that do not yet have a TICA-approved breed name. FIFe will register some new breeds imported from other registries but have set procedures for these breeds to gain full recognition. The GCCF is a more conservative registry and recognise new colour variations of an existing breed, but do not usually recognise other mutations of an existing breed e.g. spontaneous rexed fur.
Breed Numbers, Acronyms and Codes
Registries allocate a breed number, acronym or a Code to the breeds they register. Most use a two or 3 letter acronym e.g. MK (Munchkin), JBT (Japanese Bobtail). This may be followed by numbers or lower case acronyms that indicate colour and pattern, these being subdivisions of the breed. For historical reasons, the British GCCF allocate numbers to breeds and the Black Persian Longhair is registered under a different breed number, and effectively as a different breed, to the Blue Persian Longhair. These lists may be found on individual registry websites (or in their printed publications where they do not yet have a website). All FIFe Member cat registries use the EMS (Easy Memory System) breed and variety code which consists of a breed abbreviation followed by pattern and colour letters and digits which are consistent across all breeds.
Where a breed is already recognised by another registry, it is becoming increasingly common to adopt an existing acronym (with the possible addition or subtraction of a letter) in order to avoid clashes and confusion. Where 2 breeds with different characteristics have the same name, it is usual to prefix the name with the country/area of origin e.g. in the US the "Burmese" and "European Burmese" are different breeds with different conformation. In the UK, "Burmese" refers to the European form as the "American Burmese" is not recognised.
A single breed may have 2 different breed names in different countries. In Britain, a cat of Persian type with the colourpoint pattern is called a Colourpoint Persian. In the USA it is called a Himalayan. The American-bred Serengeti was founded in 1992 by Karen Sausaman from Oriental x Bengal crosses to resemble the wild cats of the Serengeti plains but without the introduction of wild cat blood. In Britain, a Bengal x Siamese cross was originally called the Savannah, but was later renamed Serengeti because of an existing American breed called the Savannah. The American-bred Savannah resembles the Serval and the first generation cross is Serval x domestic.
Where colours have been added to a breed through outcrossing to another breed, not all registries accept the new colours under the original breed name e.g. Chocolate Persians and Lilac Persians may be recognised under the name "Kashmir" as the two colors were introduced through crossing to Siamese cats during the development of the Colourpoint Persian (UK) and Himalayan (USA).
- Co-ordinating bodies
- International registries
- Cat Fanciers Association (CFA)
- Emirates Feline Federation (EFF)
- Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe)
- The International Cat Association (TICA)
- American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA)
- National registries
- Felis Britannica - UK member of FIFe
- Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) - UK
- Cat Aficionado Association (CAA) - PRC
- Canadian Cat Association/Association Féline Canadienne (CCA)
Notes and references
- The Cat Club (1899-1902). "The Cat Club Register."
- TICA Registration Rules Relating to Breed Recognition and Types of Registration
- Simpson, Frances. 1903. The Book of the Cat.
- Winslow, Helen M. 1900. Concerning Cats.