Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers
"Don't create more designer species. Go to the pound and save a life! There are so many cats out there that are being put to sleep because of overpopulation."
-- Arnold Plotnick, New York City veterinarian
About twenty-five rapacious breeders around the world are working feverishly to perfect a new breed of cats known as Toygers. The name is derived from combining the words toy and tiger which is precisely what the new cats are designed to resemble: toy tigers. (See photos above and below.)
Although created by Los Angeles-area breeder Judy Sugden of Eeyaas Cattery in the late 1980s and registered with The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1993, the Toyger is very much still a work in progress and is not expected to be perfected before 2010. Nonetheless, four-hundred imperfect Toygers already have been registered with TICA and beginning next month they will vie with other breeds at cat shows.
The medium-sized cats are being bred to be muscular with short rounded ears, thick chins, wide noses, long muzzles, ropey tails, and white bellies. Sugden's cats have reddish-amber fur with dark stripes and resemble Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Meanwhile, Pamela Rohan of the Lake Mountain Cattery in Eagle Mountain, Utah is concentrating her efforts on creating silver Toygers. Cats bred by Jenifer Santee of Santee Pride Cattery in Manteno, Illinois even have webbed feet like Sumatran tigers.
In personality, Toygers resemble canines more than felines in that they walk on leashes, come when called , and even play fetch. They also are reported to be affectionate, intelligent, playful, and aquatic.
Of course, it goes without saying that the idea of creating a miniature tiger is a total sham. For obvious reasons, a tiger cannot be bred to a domestic cat and therefore Toygers actually do not contain any tiger genes.
As usual, the capitalist media is extremely tight-lipped about what goes on at designer pet breeding farms. In its February 23rd issue, Life magazine did reveal, however, that Sugden began by breeding a Bengal cat with its domestic cousin. (See "It's a House Cat! It's a Tiger!") In this context it might be recalled that it was her mother, Jean Mill, who created Bengals back in the 1960s by breeding an Asian Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis) to a domestic cat.
The union of Bengals and domestic cats did not, however, result in offspring that looked anything remotely like tigers. In the mid-1990s, Sugden located and imported a street cat from Kashmir that had spots on its head and bred it to her earlier efforts in order to produce Toygers. Through years of breeding the spots changed into stripes.
As far as the actual breeding is concerned, Sugden denies that either genetic manipulation or artificial insemination are used. She told Life that she instead relies upon an elaborate courtship ritual whereby the cats are introduced to the smells of one another and therefore coaxed into having it off.
This is, quite obviously, a heavily redacted account. In fact, it does not even sound credible. First of all, what does this mysterious Kashmir cat look like? And, how was Sugden able to get them into the country in the first place? (See photo below of her holding one of her creations.)
It is known, however, that breeders keep dozens if not indeed hundreds of cats in cages as virtual guinea pigs so that they can manipulate them at will. These breeding facilities are neither inspected nor regulated by the authorities and this opens the door for all sorts of forced breeding, genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, and other sorts of unspeakable cruelty and killings.
Of paramount concern is the fate of those cats that do not turn out as expected. Most likely the breeders kill them shortly after birth because they are too cheap to house and feed them and too lazy to find homes for them. Besides, shelters around the world already are full of not only purebreds, such as Persians and Siamese, but hybrids such as Bengals and Chausies (a domestic cat and Felis chaus mix) as well.
The death toll in such breeding mills must be over the moon not only owing to the large number of cats deliberately killed off by breeders but also because of miscarriages, premature births, infant mortality, and genetic defects engendered by the breeding process. Just as Persians are prone to kidney woes, Toygers are being born with cleft palates, flattened rib cages, and heart defects. (See National Geographic, March 21, 2007, " 'Toygers' Breed Conservation Awareness, Animal-Rescue Concerns.")
With shelters, veterinarians, and animal control officers exterminating tens of millions of cats each year and bird lovers, wildlife proponents, PETA, and National Geographic repeatedly calling for the roundup and extermination of the United States' estimated seventy-million feral cats, it is difficult to understand how designer cat mills are allowed to operate. The breeders are, of course, motivated by money, ego, and the will to dominate.
Once Toygers are ready for retail sale they are expected to fetch up to $4,000 apiece. In the meantime, breeders are peddling their less-than-perfect creations to other breeders for up to $2,500. Other Toygers are sterilized and sold to individuals for up to $1,200. Rohan, for instance, also peddles Bengals (See photo immediately below) for $2,000 and sterilized versions for $800. (See Daily Herald of Provo, March 4, 2007, "Queen of Utah's Toygers.")
Breeders claim that they are concerned about adding to the already burgeoning surplus of cats and that is why they sterilize the Toygers and Bengals that they sell to private individuals, but that is a lie. The real reason is that they want to hold down competition so that they can get the highest possible return on their investment.
In addition to the money that they make off of breeding hybrids, they garner awards and notoriety by entering their new creations at cat shows. This in turn leads to increased sales and fame for the breeders.
Kristen Krantz of Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue of Kenosha, Wisconsin told Maryann Mott of National Geographic in the article cited supra that last year her organization took in five-hundred purebreds and spent in excess of $60,000 rehabilitating them. In particular, her foster homes are overwhelmed with unwanted Bengals and she already is bracing for an influx of homeless Toygers.
The number of unwanted purebreds is already at epidemic proportions as evinced by the thousands of them advertised every day on Petfinder. "I don't know if a lot of breeders, quite honestly, are really aware of how bad it is," Krantz said. "I think a lot of them are in tremendous denial."
She is soft-soaping the public with fatuous statements of that sort. She knows as well as anyone else that breeders know all there is to know about feline overpopulation since they kill so many of their own unwanted creations. The truth of the matter is that they simply look upon cats as objects of exploitation.
In addition to the money and fame that goes along with creating new species, breeders like to play God. They enjoy deciding which cats are to live and which ones are die every bit as much as they enjoy the creation process.
New York City veterinarian Arnold Plotnick said it best when he told Life, "Don't create more designer species. Go to the pound and save a life! There are so many cats out there that are being put to sleep because of overpopulation."
While the creation of hybrids has been going on since at least the early 1950s, it is now being carried to absurd lengths. In addition to Toygers, Bengals, and Chausies (See photo above on the left), there are also Savannahs (See photo below on the right) which are a cross between African Servals and domestic cats. (See Cat Defender post of May 19, 2005 entitled "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie.")
Other popular hybrids are Cheetohs, Serengetis, Orientals, Exotics, Ragdolls, Tonkineses, Ocicats, and Bombays. Although there is some disagreement about their pedigrees, American Bobtails, German Rexes, Peterbalds, Pixie-Bobs, Selkirk Rexes, and Sphynxes are most likely also hybrids. Numerous other breeds, such as American Curls, American Wirehairs, Cornish Rexes, Japanese Bobtails, LaPerms, Manxes, Munchkins, Ojos Azules, and Scottish Folds, are categorized, correctly or incorrectly, as mutations.
Last year, a California company created the world's first allergy-free cat. (See Cat Defender posts of July 10, 2006 and October 10, 2006 entitled, respectively, "More Devilry from the Scientific Community as California Company Creates World's First Hypoallergenic Cat" and "Dodgy Allerca and Dishonest CBS Join Forces to Market an Allergy-Free Cat Named Joshua to a Gullible Public.")
Whether the objective is hybrids, mutations, or allergy-free cats, the motivation is always the same: money and power. Cloning cats, however, failed to generate the gold mine expected and Genetic Savings and Clone of Sausalito was forced to abandon the enterprise and close up shop last fall. (See Cat Defender posts of October 16, 2006 and January 5, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Unable to Turn a Profit, California Cat-Cloning Company Goes Out of Business" and "World's First Cloned Cat, CC, Finally Gives Birth to Three Healthy Kittens at Age Five.")
Because of their canine personalities and size, hybrids require a good deal more attention and expense than do domestic cats. Consequently, the odds are high that a good portion of them are sooner or later going to wind up in shelters where they will be exterminated. They also reportedly have a difficult time adjusting to new homes and this increases the odds that even those that are adopted will be later returned.
As it might be expected, bird lovers are heavily involved in the creation of hybrids. For instance, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES) in New Orleans has used domestic cats to clone African wildcats and is currently experimenting with using them to clone fishing cats, black-footed cats, and rusty-spotted cats. (See Cat Defender post of September 6, 2005 entitled "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Healthy Kittens in New Orleans.")
Scientists at the Superior Scientific Research Council are also using ovaries harvested from domestic cats killed by Madrid veterinarians in order to test the fertility of sperm taken from endangered Iberian lynxes. It is unclear whether these cats are being killed for their eggs or for other reasons, but in either case their deaths are nothing short of cold-blooded murder. (See London's Independent, March 20, 2007, "Pet Cats and Rabbits Come to the Rescue of Endangered Iberian Lynx.")
Although the preservation of endangered wild cats and lynxes is a worthy goal, the torture and killing of domestic cats in the process cannot be morally justified. In particular, it is difficult to imagine that the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) would sit idly by if a breeder decided to manufacture a designer bird by crossing a hawk with a robin.
There is also the matter of the unscrupulous National Geographic to consider. Back on September 7, 2004, Maryann Mott wrote an article entitled "U.S. Faces Growing Feral Cat Problem" in which she called for all feral cats to be rounded up and exterminated. (See Cat Defender post of April 15, 2005 entitled "National Geographic Trying to Exterminate Cats.") Three years later she is promoting the creation of Toygers with an online pictorial and essay that when printed out runs to in excess of a dozen pages in length! Since it hates all felines to begin with, National Geographic is more than happy to endorse the diabolical crimes of cat designers.
The bottom line on Toygers can be summed up by pointing out three rather obvious facts. First of all, a Toyger is not a miniature tiger and never will be one. More to the point, there is something inherently perverted about individuals who want not only to domesticate wild animals but also insist upon having cats that behave like dogs.
Sugden and National Geographic ludicrously attempt to defend the creation of Toygers by arguing that their development is beneficial to tiger conservation. "Wild animals are disappearing in front of our eyes. We can't keep big cats where we have people in massive numbers," she told Life. From that she concludes that the only viable alternative is to keep a smaller version, i.e., a Toyger, at home.
That is pure sophistry and Sugden and her fellow cat breeders belong in the same category as the flatheads in academia who want to implant RFID tags in every animal, both wild and domestic. Neither Frankenstein pets nor tagging are going to save either wildlife or the environment. The only way to save tigers and other animals is to protect their habitats, outlaw hunting, ban and strenuously enforce the trafficking in pelts, body parts, and flesh, and to enact strict curbs on CO2 emissions.
There are estimated to be only about two-hundred-fifty Sumatran tigers (See photo above) left in the wild and their days are numbered as palm oil plantations continue to eat away at their habitat. (See The Guardian, April 4, 2007, "Palm Oil: The Biofuel of the Future Driving an Ecological Disaster Now.") The industrialized world's plan to use palm oil in order to power its automobiles will likely also mean the demise of both the Asian elephant and the orangutans of Borneo. For example, late last fall at least one-thousand orangutans were killed by villagers while fleeing forest fires set by oil exploration and timber companies. (See Stern, November 6, 2006, "One-Thousand Orang-Utans gestorben.")
Also facing extinction is the Sumatran rabbit. (See photo below.) It is so rare in fact that when it was captured on film by a camera trap in January that marked only the fourth time that it had been spotted since 1972. (See Agence France Presse, March 6, 2007, "Rare Sighting of Endangered Indonesian Rabbit.")
The clouded leopards of Sumatra and Borneo, which only last month were determined to be a distinct species from their cousins on mainland southeast Asia, are also threatened by destruction of the rainforest. (See BBC, March 15, 2007, "Island Leopard Deemed New Species.")
Farther afield in India, Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) also are being pushed to the brink and only twelve-hundred of them are estimated to still be alive. (See London's Independent, April 10, 2007, "Tigers Fading Fast in Last Stronghold.") Asiatic lions are also on the decline as the result of poaching and deadly falls into open wells. (See Reuters, April 9, 2007, "India Steps Up Protection for Rare Asiatic Lions.")
Secondly, the capture and imprisonment of both domestic and wild cats is cruel and inhumane and should be immediately outlawed. Cats are not pets! Rather, they are sentient beings with inalienable rights, such as the right to life and the right to be free from all abuse. Included in these rights is the sovereignty over their reproductive organs and DNA. That means no forced sterilizations, captive breeding programs, genetic manipulation, cloning, and vivisection.
Thirdly and lastly, the individuals involved in the creation of designer cats and clones are in it solely for the money, recognition, and sadistic thrills that they get out of torturing and killing animals. Unless they are acting in order to save a life, consumers who purchase these new breeds are almost as morally warped as the sellers.
Buying a cat is not the same as purchasing a teddy bear or some other inanimate object. Individuals who want to have baby tigers and leopards around the house should invest in either virtual or stuffed versions, not domestic cats that have been tortured and manipulated to resemble their cousins in the wild.
Photos: Bob Rohrbaugh of WildFX Cats and National Geographic (Toyger lounging in chair), Mike McGregor of Life (Toyger kittens), Casarocca (Sugden and Toyger), Gabel Le Bonne of Wikipedia (Bengal), Chausie Breed Committee (Chausie), Jason Douglas of Wikipedia (Savannah), Monika Betley of Wikipedia (Sumatran Tiger), and Agence France Presse and Wildlife Conservation Society (Sumatran Rabbit).