CFA Abyssinian Breed Council International Aby
and Other Color Study Committee Report
Diane Cruden, Coordinator, Casey Fish, Janet Leigh and Cathy Welch
Cats of other than the four currently recognized colors have been born into Abyssinian litters since the beginnings of the breed as recognized in the fancy. This is due to hybridization to try to preserve the few remaining cats in Great Britain at the end of WWII, through accidental breedings, or knowingly by breeders to fix a desired feature, regardless of the ancestry of one of the parents. Cats of the colors are registered and shown as Abyssinians in several associations in other countries. With the expansion of CFA to be come a truly international association, and the registry of other colors as Abys in other associations in the United States, it seemed time to learn about the other colors and make some recommendations to the breed council about possible action about them. Other breed councils are already considering the possibilities. Last year the Burmese breed council reaffirmed the current CFA policy on pedigree requirements and limits on registrations of Burmese to four colors (in two divisions). They were declared out of order in their vote to force any other color to be registered as a separate breed. At the same time, the Tonkinese breeders voted to open their AOV registration status to additional colors which were not previously accepted, and the Board accepted this recommendation.
Worldwide there is considerable variation in standards, requirements for registration, and acceptance of color of Abyssinians. However, the great majority of the cats registered and shown are in the colors accepted in CFA Variations in numbers are local, and, as here, are due to the activity of particular breeders. The most commonly accepted other color is silver, a genetically dominant character, with its variations for the four colors: black-(from ruddy) ,red-, blue-and fawn-silver. Pedigrees of silvers show ancestors (fairly recent) to be silver and chinchilla Persians (which would also have introduced the gene for longhair), silver British Shorthairs, and Siamese (which would introduce chocolate and pointed genes as well - and some of the silver Abys in photos the committee received from Australia have very blue eyes!). Even though one could avoid the dominant silver color, since one of the parents would have to be silver, the recessive genes introduced at the time of the hybridization could be masked for many generations. Some associations do not allow the non-silver offspring of silver parents to be used in breeding programs, because the desired silver removes the rufousing so desirable in the other colors, and many silver breeders will use only very pale Abys in their programs. In this country, too, more silvers than other colors appear. Breeders working with the silver gene in Somalis intend to register them eventually as a separate breed.
Russian Blue breeders occasionally have a litter with one or more 'white Russian' kittens, which are actually pointed, and the result of hybridization to preserve the breed after World War II. Similarly, kittens of the other colors (sometimes harder to recognize as 'other' than white Russians) appear in Aby litters. Occasional hair length variants show up as well. Normally, responsible breeders pet out such kittens, and will not continue to use the parents for breeding, since both obviously carry the trait. The fact that some other colors already exist in the gene pool should not be taken as a serious argument that they should be accepted. We considered the argument that increasing the colors allowed would increase the Aby gene pool, which might help the health of the breed. We feel that the Aby gene pool is large enough if the total pool is utilized. The problem has been the over-utilization of too few cats (the ones which are wining at the moment), which has reduced the effective gene pool. Introduction of hybrid genes could introduce a whole new set of health problems - Abys are not the only cats which suffer from health problems which have genetic components.
The committee feels that it is not necessary to change our standard to accommodate ether colors. We recommend that the breed council be polled, asking it to affirm to the board the current standard; that AOV status not be given to any new colors; that current CFA requirements for a five generation pedigree for registration of Abyssinians from other societies be reaffirmed and maintained (and possibly strengthened to six or eight generations, although CFA has had problems with other associations with even the five generation pedigree requirement, and eight would most likely prove to be unworkable).
CFA has established policies for the establishment of new breeds and colors. Several of our more popular breeds have been derived by hybridization of the breeds. Two of these are the Ocicat (which still allows Abyssinains to be used for outcrosses), and the Oriential Shorthair (which originated from and still depends heavily on the Siamese). Breeders dedicated to working with silver (and other color) cats of Aby type, temperament and ancestry should be encouraged to use these established procedures to create a new breed in which to work.