The World of Smoke Persians
by Pat Lichtenberg
What a glorious if sometimes obscure road the elusive smoke has travelled from its origins in the late 1800's in Great Britain from whence it can be traced. No one knows the true origin of the smokes, but many long time smoke breeders tend to agree that these cats evolved from breeding silver tabbies to blacks and blues. Early smokes had green eyes! In the late 1800's breeders began to cross their resulting smoke offspring from the silvers back to blacks and blues, and eventually bred in the copper eyes.
Another theory as to how the smoke coloring developed was published in a July 1963 issue of All Pets Magazine. Donald Martin, in an article titled "Breeding Smoke Persians," states that "Originally, the smoke came from a tabby in which the gene for marking mutated and, instead of producing black markings on top of a silver white coat, the mutation gave a solid black coat on top of the white."
The black smoke is one of the earliest colors on record. In the 1800's blues were a new color and did not have their own class assigned to them until 1889. Silvers were given their own class some years later, in 1893, THE SAME YEAR that the smokes achieved their own class. Before this they were considered AOC (Any Other Color). With all of its glorious history, however, the smokes have only in recent years begun to compare with their solid color Persian counterparts.
General Smoke (CFA # 2675), born May 15, 1918, and pictured in CFA Stud Book, Vol. VI, is representative of the smokes as they were shown in the 1920's. Inverness Dark Beau (CFA 11-SB-052), born April 15, 1939, and pictured in Stud Book, Vol. XXVI, was shown extensively between 1944-1945, and yet there is really no outstanding change in type between these two cats. Examining stud books as far back as the early 1900's right through the 1950's one can see that the type had not improved to any great degree, and far too many breeders had lost the dense black top coat or had reverted to barred legs and tabby facial markings.
In 1958 (the year of the first CFA Yearbook), an English author published a book entitled "Pedigree Cats, Their Varieties, Breeding and Exhibition." It was a very informative book, loaded with photographs featuring many of the most popular English cats of the day, and included an excellent chapter on smokes. In the very first paragraph, Soderburg mentions the plight of the smokes: "The smoke is a breed which was much more commonly seen at the shows fifty years ago than is the case today, and it was during the first twenty years of the present century that there were a few smokes of really outstanding quality which could hold their own with the best specimens of any other breed. Since that time the position has changed considerably. Although several of the breeds which at that time were in their comparative infancy have improved almost beyond recognition, the smoke as a breed has tended to disappear."
Why the slow progress? There were far more smokes at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century than there are now. There were thirty smokes in the National Cat Club Stud Book and Register for the years 1900-1905, but when the newly-formed Governing Council of the Cat Fancy published its first stud book in 1912, there were only eighteen smokes. By the end of the Second World War in 1945, the smokes were practically non-existent. There were just not enough breeders willing to give their "all" for the smokes. The few serious breeders were scattered and had to go it alone. With the problems involved, it is surprising that they accomplished anything.
Some of these early smoke breeders were Alice and Judy Phillips of Inverness Cattery, breeders of Double Champion Inverness Dark Beau who took several Best Smoke wins in 1944-1945 (and was advertised for stud in Our Cats Magazine for the stud fee of $20.00!); Lydia O. Cypher of Akanta Cattery, exhibitor of Best All-Eastern Smoke Female, Clairdale Champion Dusky Star of Akanta; and Carrie and Lucy Clingan of Kerry Lu Cattery, breeders of Kerry Lu Smoke Gem, A-W Smoke Male who won several Best Smoke wins (Best Novice in Show). Mrs. Mildred Joseph of Nani Lei Cattery owned and exhibited Triple Champion San Mateo Star of Nani Lei who was 1953's All-Western Smoke Female.
In the 1960's notable among smoke breeders were: Mr. & Mrs. Paul H. Raine of Fair Oaks Cattery, exhibitors of Quad Champion Uwahi Nui Nui of Fair Oaks, All-American Smoke Male in 1960; Mary Appleman and Eileen Gleeson of Miss Tiny's Cattery, breeders of Miss Tiny's Josey-by-Joe, All-Eastern Blue Smoke Persian Female 1958 and All American Blue Smoke Persian Female 1959-1960, and Miss Tiny's Duke of Margate, All-American Blue Smoke Persian Male 1960 (All-American Awards were given by Cats Magazine and included all organizations - CFA still had not recognized the blue smoke for championship status); Wolfgang Cattery, breeders of several grand champions and double grand champions including Wolfgang Melody of Be-Ba, 1958 Cat of the Year, opposite sex; and Mrs. Rex Foster, Jr., exhibitor of 1966 Best Smoke Division Male, CH Mar-Geo Mighty Thor of Rangemore. Mrs. V. V. Shuh of Skyway Cattery had 1960's American HM Smoke female, CH Skyway's Elata of Silver Bell.
In 1961 the cameo colors, including the red smoke, were awarded championship status in CFA. No one at that time could have predicted what a far-reaching effect the lovely little shaded cameos would have on the smokes. At that time no reputable breeder would have considered "ruining" the smokes' purity of color by purposely mixing the red gene into the black smoke gene. Whatever would they do with all the little "cameo-recessives," as the smoke tortie was known then. They were certainly not worthy enough to have their own name!
The twenty years between 1958 and 1978 were formative years for the smokes. As interest in the cameos bloomed, so did interest in breeding for the smoke-torties, instead of just using them to produce more cameos.
The blue smoke, interestingly enough, was not recognized for championship status until July 1, 1962, nearly a year after the red smoke. It was 1965 before the smokes received their own class, however. Before that they were shown in the Shaded Class, which at that time consisted of chinchilla silver, shaded silver, black smoke and silver tabby (which could be shown as either silver or tabby).
In the late 1960's the smokes from Araho Cattery were virtually unbeatable at the shows. In 1967-1968 the Araho Cattery bred, owned and finished four black grand champion smokes, a feat unequaled by any other breeder of any other variety that season. In 1967 the Best Black Smoke was Araho's Grand Champion Moonshine, who also claimed the title in 1968. In 1969 Grand Champion Araho Cheyenne of Polly Pur-Jhan was Best Smoke and Grand Champion Araho Moonmist was Best Smoke of opposite sex. "Cheyenne" also claimed the title once again in 1970, and "Moonmist" was Best Smoke nationally in 1971 when the Hydon-Goodwin Awards were replaced by Top 10 and later Top 20 National Awards. The owner of Ja Bob Cattery, concentrated on the smokes from 1960-1970. She wrote a very informative article for the 1968 CFA Yearbook entitled "The Cat of Contrasts."
In 1972 a blue smoke female, Catsrealm Berrenda of Nor-Mont, captured the coveted title of 4th Best Kitten nationally. The 5th Best Kitten, Catsrealm Bienquista, was a black smoke female. What an accomplishment both for the smokes, and for their breeder! Who could have guessed that it would be twenty-two years before there was another smoke national kitten win?
1972 was also the year of CFA's first blue smoke Grand Champion, Castilia V.I.C. of Nor-Mont. 1976 brought the first adult national win of a smoke cat. 13th Best Cat and Best Smoke was Baji Windjammer of Black Creek.
May 1, 1977 saw the lovely tortie smoke finally recognized for CFA championship status! What a red-letter day for the breeders who had been striving so hard for so many years for these little Shady Ladies! On May 1, 1982 the blue-cream smoke also achieved championship status in CFA.
There have been two national premiership wins by smokes. The first, in 1988-1989, was 9th Best Cat in Premiership awarded to GC, NW Meadowood Masquerade; the second, in 1991-1992, was 10th Best Cat in Premiership earned by GC, NW Palmetto A Yankee Came A Courting. Both of the above named cats are tortie smokes!
The 1970's saw more catteries working with the smokes: Peari's Cattery produced CFA's first tortie smoke grand champion, GC Peari's Cordial Cherry, in 1978. Other catteries included Palmetto, Les Mew, Surfside, Tempra, Windy Oaks, Ron-Lean, Baji, Black Creek, Catsrealm, Peri, Colbyshire, La-Fume, Rodabi, and Charcoal. Several of the above mentioned catteriesare still actively pursuing their smoke breeding programs, and are the foundation of many of the beautiful smokes being shown today.
GC Peri Perizadah was a regional winner in the 1981-1982 show season, and also the first Smoke Persian DM in 1986. Not only was the cat both a regional winner and a DM holder, she was also homozygous for smokes! What more could a breeder ask for???
Several more catteries joined the smoke revival in the 1980's including Pink Fantasy, Oxbow, Hight, Clermont, Shadyshacks, Seaondo, Marees, and Rajobet, who has the distinction of showing a smoke for the most years. GC, GP Rambo's Tiffany of Rajobet was shown for ten show seasons and was just retired in 1994.
Kikicat Cattery also entered the smoke world at this time and bred CFA's second smoke DM, CH Kikicat Story Teller of Catnippity, DM. The interesting thing about this smoke DM is that she was used specifically for tabby breeding and of her five Grands, only one is a smoke!
The blue-cream smoke was finally accepted for Championship status in CFA May 1, 1982. In 1986 Seaondo Cattery had CFA's national Best Smoke, GRC Seaondo's Rhapsody In Blue, a blue-cream smoke Persian. Seaondo had Best Smoke again in 1990 with GC Seaondo's Sweet Caroline, a tortoiseshell smoke.
As more breeders became interested in the smoke, the type began to improve dramatically. Today's smokes can compete with any of their Persian counterparts!
The 1990's saw several more breeders joining the smoke revival including Tallysans, Sitara, Roann, Jenjo, PaJean (breeder of GC PaJean's Shadow Doll, a black smoke and CFA's Best Smoke 1991-1992), Hapajo, Joleigh, Eloc, Black Ice, LeBordo, Deity and Afi. CFA's Best Cat in Hawaii in 1990 was a black smoke, GC Lincia's Dark Crystal.
In 1992 CFA accepted the cream smoke for Championship status. In February 1995 the CFA Board approved the transfer of the shaded cameo and shaded tortie into the Smoke Division as of the show season beginning May 1, 1995. We welcome our lighter brothers and sisters, hoping we will grow together resulting in a larger and more competitive smoke class.
The late 1980's and early 1990's were banner years for Palmetto, which had three outstanding black smoke boys. GC Palmetto's On The Dark Side was a regional winner twice and national Best of Breed in 1988 and again in 1989. GC Palmetto's Sidney was a regional winner and national Best of Breed in 1992, and in 1994 the first national smoke kitten win in twenty-two years went to GC, NW Palmetto's Walking In High Cotton who was 2nd Best Kitten.
Breeding & Grooming
If you want to breed smokes the first thing you need to understand is that to produce smoke kittens one of the parents must be a shaded or a smoke cat. You cannot get a smoke out of two solid color cats, even if both of their parents were shadeds! Always remember, too, that a blue smoke must have blue nose leather and paw pads: only a black smoke will have black nose leather and paw pads.
Another thing to remember is that the Smoke Persian is still a Persian with the same requirements for head structure (including eye and ear set), body type (including leg and tail proportions), and coat type and length as all other Persians. This is as it should be.
I have worked with the smokes for 25 years, and I love them as much today as I did in 1970, when I saw my first black smoke in a show hall. In all of my years of breeding and showing smokes, I have never made a solid color breeding. One of the pair has always been a smoke. In the last 12 years, most of my kittens have come from smoke to smoke breedings. Even with so many smokes on my pedigrees I still have solid color kittens occasionally. Over the years I have used solid color cats for outcrossing, the two most notable being, GC Marhei's Light Up My Life of Palmetto and GC Purrlamb Eclectic of Klasik. All of their offspring that I kept always went back to one of my smoke males, however. Breeding smoke kittens is nothing more than a series of "moments." The day they are born you rush to dry them to see, "are they or aren't they a smoke?" When smoke kittens are born they have gray/white markings around each eye, and a splash of the same coloring above that. Some have a little of this color on their muzzles.
You then spend the next six to twelve weeks waiting for the undercoat to start coming in. Smoke kittens go though some very dramatic color changes. Some kittens, because of a very dense undercoat, will have a silver body with only a black spine line for several months. If you just sit back and wait some more, gradually you will see the black top coat come in and cover first the shoulders and gradually the body, almost like a mantle. On the other hand, some days you will look at a kitten that looked dense black yesterday, and find that today it looks splotched with brown; again you play the "waiting game." Before you know it, they are four months old and in "reverse coat," with the white on the ends and black at the roots.
I have often been told that judges do not understand smokes, especially the kittens which are in "reverse coat." I personally do not find this to be true, and have never felt penalized for this in the show ring. In all my years of breeding smokes I have never found a judge that would not put a good smoke up in the finals. It might not be my smoke, but judges do final good smokes. I have made many Best Cat and Best Kitten wins both with and without competition in my class.
My first regional winner was a cameo tabby. Since then I have stayed away from TABBY in my pedigrees. I find that the smokes would love to be tabbies, and will show stripes and bars extremely easily. Many tabby breeders use smokes in their tabby breeding programs to intensify the tabby patterns. Two prime examples of this are Jean Bassett of PaJean, and Joanne and Lawrence Miksa of Kikicat. As much as the smokes help the tabbies, it is my opinion that this type of breeding does nothing to improve the smoke color.
Smokes require more care than most Persians. Their coats are as fragile as cobwebs, and must be treated as such. To see a smoke in show condition presented to perfection is the result of year-round care. Grooming and nutrition are essential to keep your smokes in top show condition. The cat should never be allowed to mat because when you pull out the knot, you pull out the white undercoat, and the hair that grows in will be dark. I'm sure on my tombstone it will say "Don't pull out the undercoat!" You must take care to prevent the top coat from becoming rusty by keeping the smoke out of direct sunlight. Daily grooming and absolute cleanliness are a must. I give baths often, at least once a week in older kittens and adults and twice a week when the kittens are six weeks to four months of age. I blow the kittens dry with a high power dryer (I prefer the Metro Air Force Dryer-2 speed), and like the low speed for the kittens and around the face of the adult cats. I use Dawn dish soap for the first shampoo and then a good cat shampoo like Wonder Fluff or Ring 5. I use a comb as little as possible, especially when the cat is wet, and I fluff the coat with my fingers as I dry. I go over my show smokes 3-4 times a day with my fingers making sure they have no knots or mats. If they do, I work them out with my fingers, and never, ever pull a knot out.
I think every cat's hair is basically different, and what works for one does not necessarily work as well for another. I always try more than one shampoo on a kitten until I have figured out which one works best for that particular kitten. Some kittens (or cats) can be show-bathed on Thursday for an upcoming show, and for others I get up at 4 A.M. to bathe them the morning of the show. That "Moment in Time" finally comes when you are ready to take out the beautiful Smoke Persian that you have spent so many months nurturing. The judge pulls your cat from its cage, parts the hair so you can see the dramatic white undercoat, the audience gasps and murmurs in appreciation, and you know IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!
Breeding smokes is not for everyone. If you must be a winner first time out, stay away from smokes. If you are willing to work hard, face disappointment and keep on going until you do finally produce that winner, then "Welcome to the world of smokes!" To those of you who choose not to join us, please try to understand us. Next time you see a smoke up in the finals, remember it was no overnight success but the result of a carefully nurtured breeding program, and to us, it is the greatest feeling of accomplishment imaginable to have someone who knows, recognize our efforts in preserving this most stunning of Persian Cats!
* All Pets Magazine, April 1959
* The Cat of Contrasts, Mrs. Robert L. Green, 1968 CFA Yearbook
* Cats Magazine, June 1953, August 1959, September 1960
* Come To The Smoke Revival, Barbara Naviaux, 1986 CFA Yearbook
* Our Cats, October 1942, July & August 1946
* Silver Roots, Martha Wise, 1970 CFA Yearbook