About The Smoke Persian

by Patricia Lichtenberg

What a glorious if sometimes obscure road the elusive Smoke has traveled, from its origins in the late 1800's in Great Britain to the show ring of today's cat shows. 

No one knows the true origin of the smokes, but many long time breeders tend to agree that they evolved from breeding the silver tabby to blacks and blues. The 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 on the origin of the color on the smoke Persian came from a article published by Donald Martin he 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."
An English author, Soderburg 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. There was an excellent chapter on Smokes included.

In the very first paragraph, he 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 of the other breeds. 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 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 it's first Stud Book in 1912, there were only 18 Smokes.
By the end of the second World War in 1945, the Smokes were practically nonexistent. 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 Iverness Cattery, breeders of Double Champion Inverness Dark Beau who took several Best Smoke wins in 1944-1945 (and advertised for stud in Our Cats Magazine for the stud fee of $20.00). Lydia O.Cypher of Akanta cattery, Carrie and Lucy Clingan of Kerry Lu Cattery,and Mrs Mildred Joseph of Nani Leu Cattery all exhibited winning smokes in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

In the 60's Mr and Mrs Paul H. Raine of Fair Oaks Cattery exhibited a All-American smoke male, Quad Champion Uwahi Nui Nui of Fair Oaks. 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 1959-1960, Miss Tiny's Duke of Margate, all- American Blue Smoke Persian Male 1960, (Both of these were All-American Awards 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. Mrs Rex Foster Jr., was a exhibitor of smokes in 1966 showing the Best Smoke Male, Ch Mar-Geo Mighty Thor of Rangemore. Mrs V.V. Shuh of Skyway Cattery had 1960's All- 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 C.F.A.. No one at that time could ever predict what a far reaching effect the lovely little Shaded Cameos would have on the Smokes. At that time, no reputable breeder would ever consider "ruining the Smokes purity of color by purposely mixing the red gene into the black smoke gene. What ever would they do with all the little "Cameo-Recessives", as the Smoke Tortie was known as then. They were certainly not worthy enough to have their own name!

The 20 years between 1958 and 1978 were very 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 in CFA until July 1, 1962, nearly a year after the Red Smoke and 73 years after they had their own class in England.

It was not until 1965 that the smokes received their own Class in CFA. 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 either as a Silver or Tabby, depending on what Premium List the Show Secretary placed it on.)

In the late 1960's, Joan O' Hara's Araho Smokes 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 Gr.CH. Moonshine, who also claimed the title in 1968. In 1969 Gr.CH. Araho Cheyenne of Polly Pur-Jhan was Best Smoke and Gr.CH. Araho Moonmist was Best Smoke 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 in CFA.

In 1972 a Blue Smoke female, Catsrealm Berrenda of Nor-Mont, bred by Connie Davis and owned by Mrs Merald Hoag captured the coveted title of 4th Best Kitten National. Connie Davis also bred National 5th Best Kitten, Catsrealm Bienquista, a black smoke female. What a accomplishment both for the Smokes, and for their breeder! Who could ever have guessed that it would be twenty-two years before there was another kitten National Smoke win????
1976 saw the first adult National Win of a Smoke Cat,13th Best Cat and Best Smoke Baji Windjammer Of Black Creek, bred by Walter and Sidney Keller, owned by Wesley and Jacqueline Hyde.

May 1, 1977 saw the lovely Tortie-Smoke finally recognized for CFA championship status! What a red-letter day for the breeders who had strived so hard for so many years for these little Shady Ladies!! At the same time the Blue-Cream Smoke also achieved championship status.

There have been Two National Premiership Wins by Smokes. In 1988-1989, 9th Best Cat in Premiership GRC/NW Meadowood Masquerade bred and owned by Lileen and Ralph Dunn.

1991-1992-,10th Best Cat in Premiership was GRC/NW Palmetto A Yankee Came A Courting, bred by Patricia Lichtenberg and co-owned with Leslie Carr. Both of the above named cats are Tortie-Smokes.

The 1970's saw more breeders working with the Smokes. There was Lillian and Perry Gruel, who produced CFA's 1st Torie-Smoke Grand Champion, Peari's Cordial Cherry in 1978. Pat Lichtenberg of Palmetto, Vaugn Barber of Les Mew, Sue Stevens of Surfside, Mary and Tim Carroll of Tempra, Midge Wernig of Windy Oaks, Ron and Harlean Hershey of Ron-Lean, Walter and Sydney Keller of Baji, Wes and Jackie Hyde of Black Creek Connie Davis of Catsrealm, Jean Nordlund of Peri, Kitty Colby of Colbyshire, Sharon Arn of La-Fume, Barbara Naviax of Rodabi and Dorothy Rogers of Charcoal. Several of the above breeders are still actively pursuing their Smoke breeding programs, and are the foundation of many of the beautiful Smokes being shown today.

Jean Nordlund of Peri Cattery was the breeder of GRC Peri Perizadah who 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 Lea and Joe Costa of Pink Fantasy, Abigail Hand of Oxbow, Les and Nancy Hight of Hight, Lila and Bill Reach of Clermont, Renee and Marshall York of Shadyshacks, Melissa and Mike Palmer of Seando's, Renee and Marshall York Of Marees, and Betty Rasmussen of Rajobet who has the distinction of showing a Smoke for the longest amount of time. GRC/GRP Rambo's Tiffany of Rajobet (bred by Jim and Judy Rambo) she was shown for ten show seasons and was retired in 1994.

Joann and Larry Micksa also entered the Smoke World at this time and bred CFA's 2nd 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 May1,1982. In 1986 Melissa and Mike Palmer Of Seando Cattery had CFA's National Best Smoke, GRC Seaondo's Rhapsody in Blue, a blue-cream Smoke Persian.
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!

1986-87--brought the 1st National Breed win to Palmetto Cattery. He is GG,RW Palmetto"s The Circle Be Unbroken. "CB" was born in 1985 and still lives with us today. He received his name because he is from four generations of Palmetto's males.

The 1990's saw several more breeders joining the smoke revival including Sandy Rodriguez of Tallysans, Leslie Curtis of Sitara, Babe Gingerelli of Reaun, Pam Piveral of Jenjo, Jean Bassett of PaJean (breeder of GC Pajean's Shadow Doll, a black smoke and CFAs Best Smoke 1991-1992), Pat Hawk of Hapajo, Sue Bloomquist of Joleigh, June and Edgar Cole of Eloc, Bill, Margaret and Andrea Drake of Black Ice, Paul and Linda Russell of LeBordo, and Peggy Burch of Afi.
CFA's Best Cat in Hawaii in 1990 was a black smoke, GC Lincia's Dark Crystal, bred and owned by Linda Higman and Steve Garcia.

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 1990's were banner years for Palmetto, which had four outstanding black smoke boys. GC Palmetto's On The Dark Side was a regional winner twice and national Best of Breed in 1989 and again in 1990. GC Palmetto's Sidney was a regional winner and national Best of Breed in 1991, 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.

1995 brought Jeremiah into our lives another Palmetto's black smoke boy he was a Southern Region winner and best smoke National.

I have worked with the smokes for 27 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 out crossing, the two most notable being, GC Marhei's Light Up My Life of Palmetto and GC Purrlan Eclectic of Kiasik. 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 been 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 l 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 Met Air Force Dryer-2 speed), and like the low speed for the kittens and around the face the adult cats. I use Dawn dish soap (a little Dawn and lots of water) 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 many times a day with my fingers making sure they have no knots or mats. If they do 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 in the 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!*