In February 2020, the PDSA reported that with 51% of UK adults owning a pet. The split between cats and dogs was pretty even, with 26% owning dogs and 24% cats. Over recent years, cats have become almost as popular pets as the traditional “man’s best friend”.
However, although The Kennel Club is a familiar name amongst dog owners and non-dog owners alike, the feline world doesn’t have such a well-known equivalent. This may be because although pedigree dogs are common pets, the majority of cat owners have moggies – non pedigrees. As such, there is less demand for an organisation to look after the interests of pedigree cats and their owners.
The Kennel Club and its flagship show, Crufts, are also extremely well known in the U.K., and the average person on the street is much more likely to be able to tell a Rottweiler from a Chihuahua than a Burmese from a Bengal. The pedigree cat world, although just as passionate, is much smaller and less notorious.
So what exactly is The Kennel Club, and are cats – and their owners – missing out?
What is The Kennel Club?
The Kennel Club was founded all the way back in 1873, originally with the aim of adding some consistency to the rules of dog shows and field trials, both new activities at the time that were rapidly gaining in interest. It also undertook to compile a register of dogs, to aid identification.
It is by no means a UK-only institution. Around the world, there are similar clubs that oversee the purity of breeds and run national contests. From the United States to Australia, people are passionate about pedigree.
What does it actually do now?
The Kennel Club today states its aim is to “represent the interests of all responsible dog owners to ensure that dogs are welcome throughout society”.
It is involved in multiple areas of dog registration, showing and husbandry, including:
- Running its largest show, Crufts, a hugely popular and notable event in the pedigree dog showing world.
- Hosting the UK’s biggest register of pedigree dogs.
- Running a certified breeder scheme
- It is involved in training and agility schemes
- Their Charitable Trust supports dog health and welfare research and initiatives
- They partner with the British Veterinary Association on health screening schemes for various inherited conditions in pedigree breeds
What is the cat equivalent?
The closest match to a Kennel Club for cats is not, as you might expect, called The Cattery Club, but is actually The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The GCCF was established in 1910 and is an independent body made up of multiple smaller pedigree cat ‘clubs’ which become members.
The GCCF has some similar features to The Kennel Club. It also has a large annual show: The Supreme Cat Show, which features the best pedigree and household pet cats. There is a wealth of information about shows and pedigree breeds on their website as well as a calendar of major shows.
It also has a focus on feline health and welfare, with information about breeding health schemes and some breed-specific issues. One aim of the organisation is to provide information and support to people looking to become pedigree cat owners and provide resources to help guide potential owners to the correct breed for their home environment. This is similar to The Kennel Club’s information about different dog breeds and which kind of home environments they will suit. The GCCF is also a member of the Canine and Feline Sector Group, a collection of professional pet organisations.
The GCCF is the central and largest registry in the UK for pedigree cats. Globally, The International Cat Association (TICA) is the body with the largest number of registered pedigree cats, clubs and approved catteries, but is based in the United States.
Where else can I go for information about cats?
Good news! Although there is no specific organisation with quite the same scope for cats as The Kennel Club has for dogs, there are plenty of excellent resources out there!
The GCCF is the best resource for finding information on cat shows, and usually have plenty listed on their website by region. They also have lists of regional and breed-specific cat clubs for interested owners. Their breeder scheme can help link those interested in purchasing a pedigree cat or kitten with breeders who fulfil their requirements.
If you would like information about genetic health testing in pedigree cats, Langford Vets run the Cat Genetic Testing Service. They are one of the foremost laboratories for feline genetic screening in Europe.
General health advice on cats, pedigree or otherwise, is available in huge quantities on the internet, but it can be difficult to sort through the good from the bad! Check out the International Cat Care (ICC), which has a large section on advice for cat owners, including plenty of information about specific pedigree breeds, genetic conditions and breeding. It also has some excellent advice about choosing a cat and how to settle them into their new home. The Cats Protection also have advice on a range of common cat questions, including pregnancy in cats and kitten issues.
The community of pedigree cat owners may be much smaller than that of dogs, but there is still plenty going on to celebrate the wonders of each individual breed, campaign for optimal health and welfare and participate in showing – you just need to know where to look.
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