Welcome to February's Meezer Musings! March, and Spring (and Mother's Day in the UK) are just around the corner and where I live the daffodils and tulips are poking their heads above the ground.
So what better way to celebrate all of these things and the coming of the new season than with one of AmyLyn Bihrle's glorious Siamese cat paintings to start us off?
What are we up to this month?
As you may have noticed, Life with Siamese Cats has moved to a spacious new home and undergone something of a Spring clean - just in time for the new season! Changes to the website will probably continue for some time but for now, everything is, I hope, working as it should be.
In January we took a look at the four main point colors of seal, chocolate, blue and lilac and learned how to tell one from another.
This month, in a historical timeline, we look at them again plus all the other colors - a veritable kaleidoscope of Siamese cats!
I thought it might be interesting to see how and when each of the point colors developed and gained recognition by the cat registries.
This has been illustrated, where possible, with photos sent in by some of you over the years. (Thank you, if you were one of them.)
But first ...
If you happened to take a look at the UK's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy Standard of Points that I linked to last month, you'll have seen that all the colors - seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, cinnamon, caramel, fawn, cream, apricot, red (flame) tabby (lynx), tortie, and tortie-tabby - are included, in the UK, within the Siamese breed.
This isn't always the case in other parts of the world, especially the USA, where colors other than the four main ones of seal, blue, chocolate and lilac may be classified as Colorpoint Shorthair or in some cases, Colorpoint Oriental.
It all depends on the breed registries, and sometimes, different registries within the same country may classify things in different ways, so it can all get a little confusing!
It's important to note, too, that the timeline below is a fast gallop through the permutations of Siamese cats and the dates when each point color first gained acceptance by one or other of the cat registries. Experimentation and development of the point colors often went on simultaneously in different countries for a long time before that color was accepted for showing.
For most of us, the story of Siamese cats begins in the late 1800s, with Siamese cats first arriving in the USA in 1879 and the UK in 1884.
From then on, up until the 1930s nearly all Siamese cats, particularly those in shows, were seal points, with the very first Standard of Points being written for the seal point (known at that time as the Royal Cat of Siam) in 1892 in the UK.
Occasional examples of both blue and chocolate points were also around at that time but they weren't considered true Siamese.
However, a lot of work was being done by breeders (often with a great deal of animated discussion about what, exactly, constituted a Siamese cat!) to develop both blue and chocolate points, with blue points gaining acceptance in the United States in 1932 and in the UK in 1936.
Recognition for chocolate and lilac points came along a little later, between 1950 and 1960 - a time when Siamese cats were at the height of their popularity. Chocolate points gained recognition in 1950, with lilac points being accepted in the USA in 1954 and the UK in 1960.
The 1960s also saw the arrival of tabby point Siamese (known also as lynx points in the USA).
To begin with they had a variety of names including shadow-point, silver point, tiger point and lynx point, but the variety eventually became known, in the UK, as tabby point Siamese on recognition by the UK's Siamese Cat Club in 1966. In the USA, the name 'lynx point' was kept although this color pattern is classified there as Colorpoint Shorthair, not Siamese.
Tabby or lynx points are known for their facial markings, reminiscent of the wild lynx - although they are no relation! - with a visible 'M' on the forehead, and banded tails and paws.
1966 was a busy year for Siamese cats as it also saw the first official recognition of Siamese cats carrying the 'O' or orange gene, producing red and tortie points.
In the UK cats with this coloring are known as red point Siamese (with two additional varieties - cream and apricot). In the USA, different registries use different names and tend to classify cats with this coloring as Oriental Shorthair rather than Siamese.
However, the term 'flame point Siamese' seems to have made its way into colloquial use as a generic term for cats with this coloring, and certainly seems quite widespread.
Fun fact! Most red (flame) point cats are male, and most tortoiseshell (tortie points) are female.
The newest colors to arrive on the scene are the fawn, caramel and cinnamon points, who gained recognition in 1993 and are, consequently, the least well-known.
Cinnamon points often look quite like chocolate points but are generally more of a warm, reddish, rusty-brown. Fawn is the ‘dilute’ color of cinnamon - a paler, bluer version, which can look quite similar to (and can be mistaken for) lilac.
Caramel points have a dilute modifier gene (which means it only works on the already dilute colors of blue, lilac and fawn), giving those colors an overlying brownish tone.
You can read more about all of them here.
While I was researching the timeline above I came across the following poem in Kathleen R. Williams' 1960 Foyles Handbook, Siamese Cats.
The poem is known to most Siamese cat-lovers and is seen in various corners of the Internet, but often without attribution to its author, E. Vivien Edmonds.
I wanted to put that right and find out more about the poet but sadly can find no information other than that there was, at one time, a playwright with the same name but spelled Vivian, rather than Vivien.
If anyone does have more details, please let me know! Here's the poem.
To 'Lob', the first Seal-Point I ever owned.
I fell in love with
Your blue eyes;
That cold clear gaze
Of ancient skies.
Your lovely grace,
Your perfect poise;
I fell in love
For the rest of my days
With Siamese cats
And their heavenly ways.
E. Vivien Edmonds
That's all for February. March brings with it (in addition to Mother's Day in the UK on the 14th) St. Patrick's Day on the 17th.
So for our Irish friends and all who celebrate it, no matter where in the world, I'll leave you with another of AmyLyn Bihrle's beautiful paintings, and hope you have a happy, lucky, month.
I'll be back towards the end of March when we'll be looking at everything to do with 'that cold clear gaze of ancient skies' or in other words, eyes - Siamese cat ones, of course!
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