Why buy a cat close to foundation?
It is lucky that the Siberian stud-book is still open and foundation cats are tools that will allow us to operate with lower inbreeding CO now and in the future.
That said, it is important to mention that like everything in life, there are good points and also bad points about all these new cats being brought in and all the people interested in them. We can say that it became a current thing and even fashionable to buy a cat close to foundation.
Some years ago, most people wouldn’t even think about attempting such a demanding endeavour and leave the hard work to others who would be willing to take the challenge and who have all that takes in order to accomplish something positive for the breed with new blood, introducing it the way it should be: slowly and with caution.
Merja Tolonen from Amantes cattery took in Amur, helped by Alex Kolesnikov, and did great work uniting the new blood to lines we knew already, fixing type as well along the way.
What does it take in order to make a positive difference with such cats?
The ideal profile of a breeder who will be able to work with a cat close to foundation is a breeder who has experience, motivation, means, time, several other studs/queens with a full pedigree and a breeding work plan. Think about it like a game of chess:
Once you pick a cat that you find interesting, you will elaborate a plan and always think one or two moves ahead. What is the best line to use with that particular cat and why. Thinking also about type: cats close to foundation often will not be like regular Sib kittens that you might be used to. It will be up to the breeder to take the challenge of fixing the type, size or whatever feature which is in need of work by using the right matches.
All of this can also be executed by small groups working together but it requires a rock-solid team with similar goals.
You will need:
Several studs and queens
Budget to invest in ALL the necessary tests
Time for shows since some cat clubs require Riex cats to be shown and confirmed by judges to obtain a pedigree in the counrty it was relocated to (France for example).
Observation: kittens from these cats should also be tested and observed before the new lines you planned and worked on (with the cat in question) are released to other breeders.
Recording your work, any data and total transparency: It is important first to gather information about the foundation you picked and then document all your work. It is also important to share any information in case of a detected disease or problem with the new line. HERE IS THE importance of combining NEW and OLD. If there is a problem detected, how would you know where this problem comes from if in the lines you picked to work, there are several empty spaces like a foundation cat on either side?
A foundation cat does not mean a “clean slate”, new easy clean lines it means UNKNOWN. It means it could be a great clean line ONCE you worked out these points and obtained good results in type and of course good test results BUT at the moment you buy the cat, it simply means it is UNKNOWN even if there could be potential for something great. It is a double-edged sword, it could be a great addition to the Siberian gene pool but it could also be a danger.
So you should consider all these points when you think about buying one of these cats.
Objectively what are the dangers? Allowing diseases that we don’t have at the moment (or extremely rare within the breed) like PKD slip in. Bad selected cats pushing us further from what Siberians are now. Remember that country side Russian scenery changed A LOT the past 30 years: there are now 10 / 20 times more cats that were brought in roaming freely and quite often, they are still fertile, since these cats are expensive and people want to make kittens with them. British LH and SH, Persian and several other breeds.
Also new kinks, problems related to other breeds and hereditary diseases. Loss of hypoallergenic factor.
Last but not least, there is a certain percentage of new cats and blood that should be brought in without altering considerably the existing gene pool but who is in charge of calculating this for us? EACH ONE of us has the responsibility of taking care of the breed and each of our actions will affect the future of the breed. Working with foundation cats or cats close to foundation, should be reserved to breeders who have the experience and means to do it in an effective responsible way or in groups leaded by a breeder with experience.
How to buy a cat close to foundation?
This part is mostly common sense:
The first thing to think is about is PHENOTYPE. We are looking here for cats who correspond to Siberian phenotype and the most important aspects are a barrel shaped body, heavy boning and “roundness”: profile, head and body in general. We also want good FUR texture and to avoid fluffiness:
This is a post extracted from the clean genealogy group that explains in just a few words Siberian fur by Alex Kolesnikov.
There is certain rule of thumb regarding Siberian fur. It can be fluffy to any possible extent in the collar and downwards to the belly, but at the shoulders and back it should lay rather flat irrespective of the season. Underneath, you can see a lot of dense and relatively thin fur, but the cover decorating fur is harsh and by no means fluffy. Sometimes it forms a kind of very dense and thick “pillow” like in the photo below. Many judges are just unaware of all the above said. https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/…/292442…
Of course you won’t be looking at a perfect “Siberian” cat as we imagine them; in fact, if the cat looks absolutely perfect comparing to the cats we usually see and that have been selected by breeders for years, there is actually something wrong there: Remember that what is too good to be true, you can bet, it simply isn’t true.
I am not implying that the breeder presenting the cat is cheating but remember the breeder can also be new and lacking experience and select a cat that won’t correspond OR his/her views might be different regarding Siberian type or maybe the cat is good looking and similar but not what we traditional breeders go for and you would have noticed if you could see and touch the cat for real (there is the distance barrier).
I like particularly the old fashion Siberian type. Ears are medium size not tiny, I give a lot of importance to fur texture and I don’t like an unbalanced muzzle or an over-sized muzzle. Other people enjoy what we call Persibs and even also some judges. So define before hand what you are looking for and your priorities and make sure the cat corresponds.
Also observe the area the cat was found in and compare it to the lines of you own, where they come from.
Ask all the questions about the foundation cat you picked like;
Where it was found and dates.
What age the cat was presumed to be according to its dentition.
How it was found and by whom.
Conditions of life (street / farm / newspaper advert, etc).
Other cats around? Remember cats are solitary animals, agglomeration of cats means a stable source of food and prey. It is important to know how many cats were around and to consider that the cats could be naturally a bit inbred already and depending on the quality of the cat, you can evaluate if the risk is really worth.
Its look and photos and also what you cannot check like fur texture etc
Ask all tests made:
Blood type, CS carrier or not and colour panel, PKD, PK deficiency, HCM
Judges that gave its certificates admiting the cat in the breed and dates.
And whatever the breeder would like to add, all dates are important for now and for the future.
In the past this documenting and testing was limited because they had limited means. Nowadays, if we don’t leave good data for the future Siberian breeders to be, it is because we are being selfish, sloppy and lacking professionalism! We think about the cats that we want to preserve and leave for the future and also the data and information that is important to pass along.
Thankfully there are several excellent Russian breeders that constantly give their contribution and all the data we need so we can work all together for the sake of the breed.
We must also keep in mind that there is only a percentage of cats that should be brought in the gene pool in a certain time frame to avoid altering Siberian gene pool in a dramatic way without being certain of the cats we are bringing. The numbers should be also determined according to geographic area cats are found. and exactly in search of guidance, I have been consulting with known geneticists to seek help about this matter and the results will be published on clean genealogy soon.