First published in 2019 by Murray Books (Australia) www.murraybooks.com
Copyright ÂŠ 2019 Murray Books (Australia) Copyright ÂŠ 2019 Peter Murray ISBN: 978-0-9943945-1-4
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History of the Cat The domestic cat as we know it today began life as a Near Eastern Wildcat around 8000 BC in Asia.
Millions of years earlier, ‘Panthera’ migrations out of Asia across land bridges resulted in eight main
lines of ancestry, and one of those was the ‘Felis’ genus - the ancestor of the domestic cat. It was
originally thought that Ancient Egyptians were the first civilisation to domesticate cats. However,
in the last decade, a Neolithic grave in Cyprus has been found, containing a human and a cat together
and placing the domestication of cats back at least 7,500 years. Genetic studies indicate that
domestication originally took place in the Middle East when man made the switch from huntergatherer to agriculturalist, and cats were then taken to Egypt and Cyprus afterwards. Further
discoveries surrounding the domestication of cats in China place humans and cats living alongside each other in Quanhucun at least 5,300 years ago, possibly as a result of the grain-rodent-cat cycle of life. It is also believed that domesticated cats existed in late Iron Age Britain, as well as having
been present across the vast Roman Empire.
From its earliest existence as a companion or working animal alongside man, the cat has progressed
through the centuries to become a much valued species that has been bred into specific pedigrees.
Pedigree cats are registered with organisations that keep ancestry records, and a cat is considered a
pure-bred when its ancestors are confined to the one breed only. Cat breeds are registered by one of
four global organisations, those being the International Cat Association, with 58 breeds, the International Progressive Cat Breeders Alliance, with 73 breeds, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, with
44 breeds, and the Fédération Internationale Féline, with 43 breeds. The world of cats however, is
not confined to pedigree and pure-bred cats. Many millions of cats of mixed ancestry exist today as
companions and feral animals, and most are referred to as domestic long-haired and domestic short-
Cats, Religion & Superstition Throughout history, the cat has long been associated with myths, superstition, witchcraft and religion. Ancient Egyptians revered the cat, which they associated with Bastet, a goddess who was often
depicted as a feline or a lion. In Norse mythology, the goddess Freya was carried about the place in a chariot pulled by cats, and European folklore cats are commonly depicted in the role of a witch's 'familiar' or animal guide, capable of assisting them in their practise of magic. Superstition and cats
go hand in hand, and many countries have their own. In France, a magical black cat known as
Magatot brings prosperity to its human companions, and the Japanese believe the black cat to be capable of healing children and offering protection against evil. Thailand, Sumatra and Java have superstitions that consider the cat capable of bringing rain, while in Madagascar, cats are believed to carry the souls of the dead within them until they are laid to rest. In Iceland, children are raised
on fairy tales containing an evil child-eating cat, while other cultures revere the cat, which is portrayed as benign and harmless to humans. One of the world's most iconoclastic cats is Japan's
'Maneki Neko', or the Beckoning Cat, which is reputed to bring prosperity and subsequently appears all over the country as a good luck talisman (opposite).
Cats have their own patron saint, and she is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles. Cyprus too has a history of
concern for the cat, and the Monastery of Saint Nicolas of Cats in Limassol has existed on the country's 'Cat Peninsula' since the 4th century. Human existence includes certain beliefs, and in terms
of the cat, there are many beliefs surrounding the feline's longevity. Believed to have nine, seven or
six lives, the cat has intrigued man for centuries in its ability to survive near disaster and often land
on its feet against all expectations.
Cats in Art & Literature Artistic depictions of cats have been produced for centuries, but in the Middle Ages (476 AD – 1492)
they were often the subject of fear and superstition. However, by the Renaissance (1300 – 1600),
the nicer side of the cat appeared in the works of the great painters, including Christus' 'Madonna
and Child' and Ghirlandaio's 'The Last Supper'. In the Baroque era (1600 – 1750), cats were cuddled,
while the cats of the Impressionist era (1870s – 1880s) featured in some of the 20th century's great works of art, including Renoir's 'Portrait of Julie Manet', Steinlen's 'Le Chat Noir', Picasso's 'Still Life with Cat and Lobster', and Warhol's 'Blue Cat'. Other greats such as Bresslern-Roth, Leger, Fini, Picabia and Hockney transferred their love of felines into art.
In literature, cats feature heavily in children's tales such as 'Puss in Boots', 'Dick Whittington and
His Cat', ‘The Cat in the Hat’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and a number of Beatrix Potter and Lewis
Carroll books. T. S. Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' features Alonzo, Bustopher Jones,
Old Deuteronomy and Bombalurina among other cat characters, and eventually became the musical
phenomenon known simply as 'Cats'. Cats have become an essential part of human existence over
the past centuries, and they continue to feature strongly in art and literature, as they have done since
man first daubed feline representations on the walls of caves.
Opposite: The Conversation, by David Bles, c. 1870-90, Dutch painting, oil on panel. Two relaxed young women conversing in a salon with a kitten.
Cats on Film The film industry has featured cats since Hollywood first began churning out silent movies, and
many of Europe’s great filmmakers have featured the cat in some of their most iconic works. The Academy Award nominated ‘A Cat in Paris’ is a French film that has a cat rescuing its child owner
from kidnappers. While many movies have cats playing supporting roles or as extras, many others
have feline stars, with humans in the supporting roles. ‘La Dolce Vita’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ featured cats in supporting roles essential to the storyline, but not specifically focussing on the cat.
US film ‘Milo and Otis’ and the well-known Homeward Bound, Bewitched and Harry Potter
franchise also star cats, in important roles. Animated cats have also been popular since the cartoon
was invented, and characters such as ‘Tom’ from ‘Tom and Jerry’ and Looney Tunes ‘Sylvester’
have been family favourites for decades.
The cat has also featured as the companion of many on-screen ‘baddies’, notably James Bond villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s blue-eyed Persian and the hairless ‘Mr. Bigglesworth’ from the Austin Powers movies. Due to concerns about animal welfare, many film cats are actually a number of identical
felines. The welfare of the animals is closely monitored, and regulations ensure that veterinarians
are always on hand. Today, cats can be funny, romantic, evil or dramatic on film, and some of the
greatest cat characters have appeared in adverts or in television shows. The cat continues to entertain generations today, and has a future on film that is certain to last for many more generations.
Cats as Therapists Cats play an important role in the medical world today as therapists. The main reason for introducing
felines into human therapy is to aid in the healing benefits of relaxation. Therapy cats are specially trained in their roles, providing a means of interaction that stimulates beneficial hormone release.
Nursing homes, hospices, retirement villages, schools and other care facilities are involved in
programs that use cats as therapists. Size and breed are no barrier to a catâ€™s ability to offer therapeutic services, as it is temperament that determines its suitability. Patience, gentleness and confidence are the hallmarks of a suitable candidate, which can, at times, be handled clumsily by humans struggling
with a range of ailments and conditions. When a therapy cat is introduced to a human, physical
contact includes lifting, climbing, sitting or laying for some time, as well as petting. Children and
the elderly are particularly fond of having contact with animals in times of pain, confusion or stress,
and many stroke victims have found cats to be beneficial bed companions during their recuperation. Animal companionship and contact is known to reduce blood pressure and anxiety as a result of sensory stimulation. Victims of depression who struggle to find a sense of purpose are also ideal
recipients, as are young people with developmental, hearing and speech barriers. Sociability is also
an important part of dealing with everyday life, and a cat can provide companionship to many isolated
people. This is especially significant in the treatment of dementia related conditions, as many sufferers feel isolated regardless of the number of people around them. Having a cat to stroke often
increases the mindâ€™s ability to engage with a single, repetitive task, and enables better human to human communication for many. While many institutions are continuing to learn about the benefits
of cats as therapists, there are many people around the world whose connection with their cats has
resulted in reduced levels of anxiety.
THE WORLDS FAVOURITE CAT BREEDS
Persian The lineage of the Persian cat stretches back into ancient times, and as its name indicates, the breed
originated from somewhere in the Persian Empire. Persian cats first arrived in mainland Europe in
the early 17th century, and the breed quickly became popular there and in the United Kingdom.
Eventually, the Persian arrived in America in the 19th century, where it became ones of the most
popular breeds of cat. The breed is heavy boned and has large paws on the end of short and stubby
legs. This broad chested cat also has large shoulders and a short, thick neck, to support it’s large
head. The coarseness of its build, however, is offset by huge expressive eyes set in a sweet looking
The nature of the Persian is one of gentle sweetness and affection. They love the company of both
humans and other cats, and they usually get along with most members of a household - human or
animal. The Persian is known to prefer a household without lots of noise, but it also thrives on company, so a balance of activity interspersed with quiet moments is ideal for this breed. Indoors is
its preferred habitat. The Persian has a number of different coat colours, and those colours are divided
into six separate categories for identification and showing purposes – black, blue, cream, cameo
(red), smoke, tortoiseshell and blue-cream smoke. Its coat requires grooming daily to avoid matting
or knots and to ensure that skin health is at its peak. Today, the flat faced Persian is one of the world’s most popular breeds.
The long haired Persian has a distinctive round face and a short muzzle. The breed was first imported into Europe in the 17th century from the Middle East, where it is known as the Shiraz.
Sphynx Hairless cats are believed to have lived in Mexico at the time of the Aztecs, but the Sphynx is a
purpose bred cat that arrived in Canada in the mid 1960s. Fine boned and muscular, it resembles the hairless Rex cats of England, but the breeds do not share a common ancestry. The eyes of the Sphynx
are generally the same colour as its skin, as is its nose. This long-tailed, hairless breed is not totally
hairless, as closer inspection reveals the lightest covering of fine hair all over its body. Possibly as
a means of compensating for the lack of a coat, the skin of a Sphynx is quite warm to touch, and it sweats constantly, necessitating a constant bathing routine to remove the resulting oil that is secreted.
The personality of the Sphynx is one that includes great affection for its human companions, and
although it might initially not seem to be the prettiest of cats, its inner cat is generally quite beautiful.
In terms of its unusual aesthetics, the Sphynx can be one of a number of colours, including white,
black and lavender, and its skin is only wrinkled on specific parts of its legs, body and head.
Elsewhere, the skin remains taut throughout its life. Unlike many cat breeds, the Sphynx will not overindulge in food for the sake of eating. Instead, it seems to be able to maintain a weight of between
four and seven kilograms, and it will generally regulate its own calorie intake.
Siamese Once considered sacred, the Siamese is a breed of cat about which many legends have been written.
The breed’s ancestry is unknown, however a number of theories include crossbreeding between
Burmese and Cambodian breeds. Regardless of its true ancestry, the Siamese cat arrived in mainland
Europe and the United Kingdom in the late 19th century. The Siamese has a very striking coat pattern – its face, ears, tail and paws have dark points, while the main coat is a often a creamy golden colour,
but can also be blue, chocolate, lilac or seal (dark brown). This short-haired cat has soft and silky hair, which covers a lean but muscular frame. Long necked and elegant, the most striking feature on a Siamese cat is its beautiful blue eyes.
In terms of personality, the Siamese is character personified, and it lives for attention and interaction with other cats and humans. Highly intelligent and ‘talkative’, it is not unusual for a Siamese cat to
have a running conversation with its human companion and to follow a person around as they continue to ‘chat’. A Siamese cat has characteristics similar to that of a dog, and it will often play ‘catch’ with its human companions. Bonding is extremely important to the Siamese cat, and part of
the relationship includes the cat being the centre of attention. It is also not unusual for a Siamese cat
to have a ‘favourite’ human within a household.
Ragdoll The Ragdoll Cat is a specific breed, created by Ann Baker, in the USA in the 1960s when a Persian
or Angora type cat that was crossbred with a Burmese type cat with Siamese markings. The resulting litters contained two male kittens, named Daddy Warbucks and Blackie, who bred with other cats
from their mother's litter, creating the Ragdoll breed. In the 1980s, the breed was introduced into
mainland Europe and the United Kingdom. When a Ragdoll kitten is born, it is always all white and
darkens as it matures. The pattern on a Ragdoll cat can be either mitted (white paws), bi-colour or colourpoint, and its eyes are a beautiful shade of blue.
The Ragdoll is known for, and derived its name from, its ability to immediately relax when picked
up. It will go limp in a person's arms, and it makes an ideal lap cat. The Ragdoll is therefore often
used as a therapy cat - with its love of sitting on human laps it makes an ideal companion for the
aged or for sick children. The psychological benefits of connecting with an animal, along with the action of petting it, has been proven to be hugely beneficial in many situations. In its relationship with humans, the Ragdoll loves to be with people, and its sense of loyalty is much like that of dog's.
When not limp and compliant on human laps, the Ragdoll is very active and will follow people
around the house in an attempt to interact.
American Shorthair During Americaâ€™s early colonisation, European shorthaired cats arrived on ships that used them as
rat catchers. A few cats followed their human shipmates ashore, and they soon set up residence on
farms and in settlements - predominantly as vermin controllers. When cat shows began in the early
20th century, the American Shorthair became a much admired breed, and a breed registry was soon
established. This muscular cat has a long body that exceeds the length of its tail, and its chest is well developed, broad and deep. Medium sized, it has no extreme physical identifiers, and its round head,
standard sized nose and greenish eyes verge on the average in terms of feline good looks. The American Shorthair has a short but thick and glossy coat, and up to 80 different colours, patterns and combinations of both. In general, the male American Shorthair is larger than the female.
In terms of personality, the American Shorthair is a reasonably easy going cat and makes friends
easily. As a kitten, it is extremely playful, and that playfulness lasts throughout adulthood, only beginning to wane when advanced age sets in. The breed is not the quintessential lap cat, and it prefers to be in the company of humans rather than physically attached to them. Nevertheless, the
American Shorthair is happy to be petted and made a fuss of on its own terms, but it will equally
remain happily independent when part of a large household. The life span of the American Shorthair
generally sits at around 12 to 15 years.
Birman The ancient lineage of the Birman includes its legendary status as the ‘Sacred Cat of Burma’.
Geneticists believe that in history, cats of Siamese origin arrived with invading humans and bred
with the Burmese cat population, although the actual origins of the breed remain unknown.
Regardless of its true ancestry, the result is a beautiful, pale and dark pointed cat with brilliant blue eyes. Shortly after World War I, the Birman arrived in France in the form of a pregnant female, and
the breed was established in Europe. In the mid 1960s, the Birman arrived in the USA, and became a registered breed there in 1967.
The Birman is a well proportioned, silky cat that reaches maturity at about three years of age, and lives to around 15 years old. It has a round head and a distinctly Roman nose, with high set and
angled ears. Aside from its beautiful eyes, the Birman is also identified through its white-gloved
round paws. Sweet natured in disposition, it remains playful for most of its life, but needs a
reasonable amount of company to remain happy. Generally, a Birman will have a ‘favourite human’ with whom it bonds more deeply than others in the household. As a semi long-haired cat with a
dense coat, it requires a regular grooming timetable to ensure that hairs are trapped in a brush rather
than on furniture or in carpets.
Exotic The Exotic, or the Exotic Shorthair, is a breed that was first recognised in the 1960s. It was initially known as a ‘Sterling’ due to it’s coat colour. The Exotic is a short-haired Persian cat that initially
came into existence as a result of crossing Persians with American Shorthairs. Most Exotic litters
will contain both long and short haired cats. The Exotic has the thick neck, round face and snub nose of the Persian, with large and expressive eyes, full cheeks and round ears. It has a short and thickset
body, and when picked up, it is actually quite heavy for its size. Its thick, short hair is plush and a delight to stroke, and it comes in virtually every cat colour imaginable, including all 96 colours of
the Persian, including cream, blue, black and tortoiseshell . Grooming is easy with an Exotic, and
these cats are generally happy with a weekly brush to collect any stray hairs, and to stimulate the
It is thought that the cartoon cat ‘Garfield’ was based on the Exotic. This cat can be quite playful,
but for the majority of its life it is an easy going, almost laid back cat. Socialising with humans is a
favourite pastime for the Exotic, and while it is not as demanding as some breeds, it will trail a
human on his or her travels about the house. They are very quiet, and a soft mew is generally all that
is heard from the Exotic when it wants to communicate. The Exotic enjoys a growing number of
admirers in breed circles, as well as among the general public as a domestic cat, and is the second
most popular cat breed in the USA.
Maine Coon The worldâ€™s most popular cat today is the Maine Coon, named, in part, after the state of Maine, from
which it originated. The origins of this breed can be traced back to America in the mid 19th century,
when long-haired cats arrived with sailors on foreign vessels and then bred with the local short haired
cat population. Over time, a new breed began to predominate, marked with a strong physique, a semi-long coat and a bushy tail similar to that of a raccoons. From this similarity and the geography,
the name â€˜Maine Coonâ€™ emerged. For years, the Maine Coon was one of the favourite breeds in
North America, but as the neutering of cats became more common, their numbers declined. In the
mid 20th century, those numbers began to rise again, and the Maine Coon soon began to appear in mainland Europe and the United Kingdom, becoming a much loved breed worldwide.
Enormous in stature, the Maine Coon has a powerful body and sturdy legs. Its head is slightly
elongated, and is set off by a firm jawline. The eye colour of a Maine Coon can be anything from green to copper or gold, and its coat can be any colour from dark to white. Over the century and a
half of its development in the colder East Coast states of the USA, the breed has developed a thick
coat that consists of an undercoat and a thick waterproof outer coat. The back ruff along its neck is
not as heavy in females, and its tail hair is long and prolific.
The Maine Coon is often described by its human companions as 'dog-like'. It is an active, intelligent breed that is happiest when socialising with its human house mates.
Oriental The Oriental resembles the Siamese Cat, but it has various coat colours and none of the pointing of
the Siamese. The breed first appeared in the 1950s as a result of a breeding program between Siamese
cats, Abyssinians and Russian Blues. The first Oriental was born with a brown coat. In the 1970s, the Oriental arrived in Europe and the USA, and in the United Kingdom, the Oriental is known as the Foreign Shorthair
The Oriental is an elegant and fine boned cat with a muscular body and a long thin tail that tapers to
a point. Its wedge shaped head, almond eyes and large triangular ears present a beautiful picture.
Combined with a smooth and glossy coat that comes in a variety of colours and patterns (apart from
points), Oriental litters can produce a variety of different kittens. There are approximately 600 different Oriental coat variations. In personality, there is little difference between the Oriental and
the Siamese. It is a ‘talkative’, intelligent and very sociable breed that remains kittenish well into
adulthood. Active and curious, the Oriental also enjoys ‘lap time’ with its human companions, and
many individuals have been accustomed to walking out on a leash. This sociable breed loves companionship in human, canine and feline form, and many families have pairs of Orientals as a
means of ensuring that their cat is never alone for long hours. The average life span of the Oriental
is 15 years.
The Oriental is not only intelligent, but it is also physically clever. It is not unusual for an Oriental to learn how to open drawers or cupboards as part of its inquisitive nature.
Abyssinian The Abyssinian is one of the world’s oldest known breeds of cat. Its exact origins remain unknown, but its similarity to ancient Egyptian cats lends to the theory of Middle Eastern/North African origins.
The Abyssinian first appeared in mainland Europe and the United Kingdom in the middle of the 19th
century. During that century, Britain’s Crystal Palace hosted cat shows, and an Abyssinian was shown
there in 1872 and was described as having been ‘captured in the late Abyssinian war’. Some cat
geneticists believe that the Abyssinian was created through crossbreeding brown and silver tabbies with local ticked (no stripes or spots) cats. By 1882, the Abyssinian was a recognised breed, and its standard of points was established before the end of the century.
The long-tailed Abyssinian is an elegant and muscular cat, slender of body with a short and silky
coat. Its wedge shaped head has distinctive almond shaped eyes, and its ears seem disproportionately large. Abyssinian breed colours include tawny, silver and ruddy. In temperament, the Abyssinian is
known to be highly intelligent, and it can be quite the extrovert. It is a very active cat, and it will
even play ‘fetch’ with its human companions. Humans and Abyssinians generally form strong bonds,
and although the breed has a soft ‘voice’, it will nevertheless communicate often with its feline and
human playmates. Loyal, inquisitive and extremely playful, the Abyssinian is a cat capable of becoming more than a ‘house cat’, and new arrivals will quickly establish themselves as the centre
of life within a human household.
Kittens have blue eyes when they are born, but their eyes will often change colour as they reach maturity. In some breeds, the blue is permanent, and its intensity is governed by light refraction.
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