Diana Wilder’s love affair with Burmese cats started, in a sense, before she’d ever actually met one.
“I’d seen a picture years and years ago of a brown cat with gold eyes,” the writer recalls, “and I thought, ‘That’s interesting.’” Something about the picture lingered in her subconscious.
After college, she saw an ad in the paper for sable Burmese kittens and decided to check them out. She came home with litter mates Merlin and Morgan.
Years later, when they died within a week of each other, Wilder thought, “I can’t live without this disposition. There’s just something whole-heartedly loving about them. They don’t write you off.” Shortly afterward, another Burmese cat, Boomer, found her — and then another.
Kristen Wookey of Northeast Abyssinian Rescue (NEAR) had never had an Abyssinian. But she had been owned by Maya, a rescue cat with an unusual in-your-face personality. “I just knew that it was different from any type of personality I’d known,” she says. When Maya “finally passed, I could not stand the thought of there not being that type of personality in the house.”
So Wookey did her research. And when she came to a summary of the Aby personality, “it was pretty spot-on.”
She went to look at some rescue Abys thinking she’d adopt a male. “There were about 20 Abys. I had my pick of 3 of them. I can’t explain it to you, but I looked at Rosie, and I just knew.”
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What’s in a Breed?
Some cat people, like some dog people, gravitate toward certain breeds. Sometimes it has to do with a particular type of cat they had before.
My love of Siamese, for instance, dates back to 2 cats who came into my life when I was a child: Christy, a three-legged Sealpoint, and Houdini, a Flamepoint. There’s something magical about those first feline connections, and we keep trying to find them again throughout our lives.
Sometimes the connection is less clear-cut. I did not have an Aby until I was in my 30s. But I had read Gladys Taber’s book about her Aby (Amber: A Very Personal Cat) as a child and had always been drawn to the breed.
Loving a certain breed of cat means more than having pictures and knickknacks of said breed scattered throughout your house. It means being ready, willing and able to do whatever you can to help.
That help can take many forms. A few weeks ago, Aby lovers worldwide rallied to donate almost $5,000 to help Sophie, a young cat who had come down with a mysterious illness. They did it because they shared a passion for the breed and because they wanted to see the story end happily.
Sadly, the beautiful little cat lost the battle. About a week later, the administrators of NEAR were staggered to receive more than $1,100 worth of donations, many of them from the same people who had donated to Sophie’s fund. Related or not, both things showed what happens when cat people follow their passion.
Contrary to popular perception, even purebreds get dumped.
- Somebody might not have been prepared to deal with a Sphynx’s health issues or with the extensive grooming that a Persian requires.
- Somebody else can’t deal with the over-the-top Siamese personality or with an Abyssinian’s hyperactivity.
- A child develops severe allergies.
- The cat’s human goes into a convalescent home or dies.
- And on and on…
On Cat Channel’s website is a 3-page list of breed-rescue groups. A few, such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association Breed Rescue and Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue, are multi-breed groups. The majority of them, however, focus on 1 of 2 breeds.
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Both Wilder and Wookey are involved in breed rescue. It’s a natural extension of their love for their particular breeds. “I like rescue,” says Wilder, who has been involved with Burmese rescue since 2006.
And she’s not just talking about purebred Burmese. Wilder believes that “any rescue worth its salt” has to go beyond that. If a cat “looks like it has some Burmese in them,” then the group needs to reach out to them as well. “They’re such sweet creatures, whether they’re full Burmese or not.”
For Wookey, working with homeless Abyssinians is a “way of helping them and righting the situation…. Because somebody has to be there. I think it is an important responsibility, if you want a purebred animal, to participate in the welfare of the breed, whether that’s through a rescue or helping the breeder when there are adult cats that need homes.”