NL Rainbow Warriors' Ms. Zozie Snugglebugs
That is her full name - we had not long established our cattery name, so, with Fitz's agreement, we got him to register her with our 'surname'.
It all started when we saw a Sphynx cat for the first time at a Danish cat show in 1999. One of our friends who breeds Manx told us how excited he was that there was the very first Sphynx in Denmark in a show for the very first time. The owner was Susanne Sonne and she let us stroke the kitten and admire it. She could not be be shown for judging as the breed was not at that time registered in FIFe - her name is Badyr's Wrinkle Face (Face) and she has now produced kittens of her own for Susanne. We fell in love with Face, and thought that we would like to promote the breed ourselves in Denmark.
Later, in 2001 an Introduction Show was held in Holland for approval of the breed, and this duly happened so that on 1st January 2002 Sphynx could be shown in competition in FIFe. Up to the time I started to write this story, September 2002, there had not been any Sphynx shown in Denmark since the early showings of Face.
In the autumn of 2001 Tony took an Internet course in HTML coding, which is the tool used for web design. It was good fun and for the last exercise (constructing a sample website) we asked the lecturer if it could be for a real purpose, instead of just a mock-up. Some time before, when we got Athos, we had joined the Rex and Sphynx Club, so asked Susanna the chairman, if the Club would like to have its own site. She thought that that would be a good idea, so we went ahead and completed the course with that. In the course of its development, I learnt even more about Sphynx, so decided that I really had to have one of my own.
The question now is; what is a Sphynx? Unlike most other pedigree breeds (which are mostly breeding by selection from the common stock), the Sphynx breed comes from a natural mutation in Toronto in 1966. There have been others before and since, but the ancestor of the modern cats is directly from that one. The Cornish Rex, from Cornwall; the Devon Rex, from Devon; the German Rex, from Berlin, are also mutations. In the Rex case, the fur lacks two of three normal hair types (or some are not fully developed), so only the curly underfur grows. In the Sphynx also, only one type is present, but this grows so short that the cats appear at first glance to be hairless. There are in fact, some much rarer cats where they lack hair follicles completely, so really are hairless.
When I decided to look for one to adopt (ie, buy!) in the Spring of 2002, then I looked around on the Internet and also checked with Susanna, to see what breeders there might be in Europe. I could not do the obvious, and get one from Susanne, as she had had to stop breeding from her own cats, as they would have become too inbred. At that time, there were only nine Sphynx in Denmark and even those not owned by Susanne shared very recent ancestors. As she had recently moved to Bornholm, it also made it difficult for her to readily access the other European breeders, who presently, are mainly in Holland, Britain, Sweden and Finland.
After my search, I e-mailed several breeders in Holland and Britain. The British were mainly for interest and more information as, although the Pet Passport scheme is now working, the travel time and costs really ruled that country out for us. So, I ended up with Holland, where two breeders had some kittens, or were expecting some shortly. I was lucky in eventually discussing it a lot with Fitz Usmany, as he is a very careful breeder, looking for show quality, strength and health in his offspring. He would not, in late-April, promise anything, particularly as he does not like to sell his kittens on to anyone that he does not know, or who cannot visit him several times before having a kitten. However, with the recommendation of Susanna, he did agree that we sounded like good cat carers, so would let me know when his next kittens were born. We also told him that we would come personally to collect a kitten, and spend at least a few hours with him before going back home.
By the middle of May he had new kittens, but he did not think any of them would be suitable for what we wanted - a pet that we could also show. At last, on the 25th May, he mailed me that a litter had been born on the 23rd, and one of them might be the girl that we wanted. The first photo that he sent was of the mother Serenka's, new brood.
There was great excitement in our house! We started talking about a possible name for her, and during the night of the 27th, I dreamed of a name, Zozie. The next morning I checked it against the big list of names on the Kabalarians website, and found that there really is such a name - as it was to be for a cat, I didn't bother about the analysis!
So I promptly e-mailed Fitz to ask him he would have any objection to that name, if he eventually decided that that kitten could be ours. He liked it, so that was OK, and on the 12th June came a new photo of the kittens just starting to crawl around.
By the middle of July everything was settled and we just had to decide on a possible date to collect her. At that point, Fitz told us about a cat show in Rotterdam that would have a lot of Sphynx there, as well as other people we had been corresponding with via the Sphynx Yahoo Groups. It looked like a good time to go, as the show was only a couple of weeks after Zozie would be old enough to come to her new home. More mails to settle the date, ensure that her vaccinations would be in order by then, book a night in a hotel, and we were all set!
During all this, Myrtle made a cat quilt and sent it to Fitz so that Zozie would get some of our smell, and her family's smell would be on it to comfort her in her travelling basket, and in her new home.
As Fitz would be busy with his cats and friends at the show, it was decided that we should travel on the show day, 9th September, and meet Fitz at the show after booking in to the hotel. The final arrangements we had to make were for Gerd and Wasse to call in to our home to check on and feed the other cats, and we could finally be sure that we were going.
Came the 9th! 5am we were up (the car packed the night before) and away by 6am. We planned the journey to go by the most straightforward route, with an estimated travel time of 8 hours 17 minutes for the 495 miles - nothing like being precise! However, we got rather a shock when we got to the outskirts of Rotterdam, as the traffic was horrendous! The Rotterdam streets were also a surprise, as on the feeder roads they have a lot where the straight through lanes do not allow any turning, and the local lanes that do, have to be got onto before the feeder roads start. Eventually we managed to get on to the side roads, and with some helpful advice from one man, found the hotel. By then it was 2.45pm, so we were only half an hour late. We booked in to the hotel, left the car in their private, locked, parking area, and then walked to the World Trade Centre where the show was being held.
Again a surprise - the traffic was very heavy even though it was a Sunday. We later found out that nearly all of the city centre shops are open on Sundays, so Rotterdammers drive in from all around to do their shopping! At the show hall, we found someone who could describe Fitz and tell me where I might find him, so at our promised time of 4pm on the dot, we met for the first time. He was, of course, carrying a Sphynx! We spent the next three hours meeting people and cats and experiencing the very different way that the organisation SARA run their shows. Then, back to the hotel for food and sleep, having arranged that Fitz would meet us there the following morning to guide us to his apartment, just a few minutes away.
Fitz also needed extra sleep after his busy days, so we got to his home about 11.30am on Monday. There we met all the cat family, and our Zozie at last in the flesh. Quite an experience to have so many crazy Sphynx kittens tearing around with the new cat toys that Myrtle had made for them. Zozie said 'hi', and was then back to the fray! We had brought in her new cat carrier and left that on the floor for exploration by all and sundry.
Came the morning, I gave them all their breakfast, and then let them have a look at their new friend. The introductions went off very well, and after only a few hours, she was tentatively exploring a little way outside her temporary room. By the third day we had already sent Fitz photos of her asleep on my monitor as well as on me with two others after a hard time chasing madly around the house.
¤ Kirsten was thrilled to meet a Sphynx for the first time.
¤ The first cat show was on the 24th November where she attracted a great deal of attention, and was nominated for the Best In Show panel.
¤ The first new kitten was Willow, Myrtle's new Devon Rex kitten, and they are the very best of friends!
Since then Zozie has been to more shows and is always greatly admired. At every show people actually come looking for her to talk, stroke and cuddle. She is still the only Sphynx on Fyn, but now in 2005 there are double the number of Sphynx in Denmark (about 20) and two more breeders. Early in the year the editor of Kattemagasinet asked if she could have a photo of "that lovely cat who lives on Fyn" for the front cover - here it is, with permission of the editor. The first time that a Sphynx has been on the cover! Thanks to Myrtle who took the picture, and Gerd who made it ready for publication.
In 2010 Zozie got sick and was diagnosed with pancreatic failure. We changed her diet and treated her with Pancreatin to help with her digestion. She lost weight but for several months she was stable until on the 20th April 2011 she had a small supper at 10 pm and then laid on me until we went to bed at 11; rather earlier than usual. Then she moved to the radiator bed, where she almost certainly had at least one Devon to keep her warm and cosy.
Zozie died at about 8.30 on the following morning. She was still there at 7 when I got up, but by then she had almost lapsed into a coma. She noticed me talking to her, but that was all. Then at 8-30 we saw three of her friends suddenly go over to look at her, so that is how we know when she died.
This is the last picture Myrtle took of her three days before.