The Feline Club of India is the first and the ‘only’ cat registry of India. It is working for the betterment of cats in the country through series of conventions, registration drives, and cat shows.
Creature Companion Magazine had an opportunity to have a conversation with Mr. Saquib Salim Pathan, key person behind the Feline Club of India. He took an initiative in the form of this club to bring together like minded people and cat lovers in order to educate them and make them aware about cat issues in India. He shared with us a few excerpts from his journey of bringing about this change and his mission for cat population in India.
What inspired you to start with the ‘Feline Club of India’? Why you specifically chose felines amongst all other pets?
I have been a cat lover all my life; I have had multiple cats at my home for years. But apart from just having a cat, I was very keen on knowing the best practices in cat’s upkeep. So I tried searching for it and found that we in India lack tremendously in knowledge about cats grooming, show culture, and breed standards as compared to dogs, where the show culture is much developed and the breeding practices have improved due to it. Sadly, this was not the case with cats. We lack behind western countries and even some Asian countries when it comes to general awareness, breeding practices/standard, knowledge among cat parents, breeders, and even veterinary practitioners.
To fill this knowledge gap, we thought of bringing together like minded or rather cat crazy people where we can educate them, share each other’s experiences, and ultimately improve the cat hobby in India. We analysed the problems faced by the cat parents, what India lack as compared to other countries, and decided to tackle them with our own ways and that is how Feline Club of India was started.
We started with the first requirement i.e. a central registry of cats, where each cat will be registered. We plan to register up to 7 generations. FCI has conducted more than 80 Conventions where experts speak on various topics related to felines, this has greatly helped spread knowledge across all stakeholders. This year, we have also put up 20 championship Cat show that has inculcated cat fancy and show culture in India.
Tell us something about ‘Indimau’, a breed named by FCI.
Indians have long had a fascination with cats; they too served a purpose, like dogs, of keeping the mice at bay! Even today lakhs of Indian cats have a loving home but they do not have the recognition, which they deserve. People in general do not value them as much as exotic breeds, but we should remind ourselves that a lot of the exotic breeds loved around the world are local breeds of some or the other region like the Norwegian Forest cat, Siberian breed, Main Coon breed etc. FCI is striving to give our Indian cat its due recognition, hence given the name INDIMAU. We are doing anatomical and morphological study with research institutes and will soon get it registered as a breed internationally.
We have encouraged their registration with FCI Registry and have seen a change in people’s perception.
Many NGOs are happy with increased adoption of Indimau cats and kittens as they are having Registration certificate now, which gives a sense of pride to the parents.
How are you using technology for solving various issues of cat population in India?
FCI is the only organization globally, which follows 100 percent ‘microchipping’ for registration of cats. Each microchip comes with unique ID number. Now, this activity of registration is vital for many reasons, if we have the record of a cat with details like breed, father – mother, DOB, colour pattern etc, we can solve numerous problems:
- Prevent in-breeding i.e. in the same family, which leads to genetic problems in future generations
- Improve breed specific standards
- Access to information about the lineage/pedigree of a kitten to new parents
- Medical study and research of diseases in cats
The possibilities of putting this data to good use are immense.
Due to our unique requirement and for optimum utilization of this data, we had to develop our own software; the software development took almost a year and is still getting improvement updates time and again. The software has capability to track 7 generations of any blood line. It also keeps track of the FCI Championship Show marks tally for each cat to determine Champion cat of the year, Best breed, and other categories of awards.
The future potential of the software also includes DNA analysis, where once we have the DNA samples of the cat in our record, we can determine the sire in case of Multi Sire Litter or Dual Sire Litter by the same mother. The DNA samples of the Champion Cats can also be recorded.
The data and software can be used to eliminate the errors during breeding and also improve breeds. With the help of our scientific panel and its ties with PETBIOTECH and IISc Bangalore, we are working on genetic finger printing, breeding mutations, DNA testing, and colour coat genetics. Cats with genetical disorder like congenital disorder, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia etc. will not breed as it passes on in generations down the line.
Neutered cat for Show – Everyone knows and talks about health benefits of Neutering a cat, FCI has been keen on promoting Neutering of cats in its Conventions, Webinars, Cat shows. We altogether have a different category for Neutered cats in our cat shows, which is called as Premiership Division (on similar lines, for non-neutered cats, it is called as ‘Championship Division’).
FCI is also working with government agencies to develop cat-centric policies for its welfare. FCI recently worked with Indore Municipal Corporation for generating its first-ever database of cat parents in the city.
What is the driving force that keeps you going, while spreading awareness about the cat issues and changing the face of Indian Cat Fancy?
The kind of support and love FCI has received in this short time is overwhelming. We have grown from a small group to thousands of cat parents. Cat parents who have become better informed with FCI are engaging with even more enthusiasm with our every activity and show. The difference we are able to bring in cat fancy and grooming is acknowledged by the judges of our shows who have witnessed firsthand the difference in quality of groomed cats from our 1st to the 10th show.
Cat was not a prominent segment for vets who usually had a few cats visiting the clinic in a week as compared to dogs. Our efforts to educate cat parents about various health issues and hygiene have also resulted in vets getting an increased number of cats at their clinics and even the vets benefitting from the Feline conventions to abreast themselves of new treatments.
The pet industry, dominated by dog products, also got a platform in the form of FCI, where they can reach the cat parents directly, which was missing previously. The FCI events have given an opportunity to companies to directly connect with cat parents to promote their products and to get feedback. The support from the industry has been instrumental in supporting us in our efforts for raising the cat hobby in India.
As in abroad there have been cases, which suggest that cats are susceptible to coronavirus infection from their owners, what initiatives is FCI taking to educate cat owners amidst this Covid-19 crisis?
There have been speculations and lot of misinformation around this topic, which is understood given the unprecedented situation faced by the world presently. But the cases reported have been of human transmission of COVID-19 to animals and no case showing the other way round yet. As there is no clear evidence of COVID-19 spreading from cats to humans we need not panic unnecessarily, but need to take precautions for our cats as we take for ourselves.
What is your vision for Indian Cat population and what role will FCI play in it?
VISION AND MISSION
- To bring the scattered Indian cat community together on a common platform.
- Promoting the welfare of all cats, both pedigree and feral, through progressive actions that range from legislative advocacy to the support of feline research and providing breeder assistance.
- Promoting the interests of breeders and exhibitors of pedigreed cats.
- To educate cat owners on how to help their cats live long, healthy, and happy lives by spreading information on cat health issues, how to spot, prevent, and cure them.
- To encourage our members to take an active role in the community and encourage responsible pet keeping by holding awareness campaigns for public education.
- To prevent inline breeding
- To improve the Indian breeds’ standards