KORATS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Korats arrive in South Africa
Being a dutch resident living in South Africa, I was visiting my homecountry in April of 2003. My sister had gotten herself 2 cute Korat Kittens from Korat Cattery Songsuda from Bas and Marijke Pel. That was the first time I saw Korats. Although I am an absolute animal lover, I had no intentions to get cats, at least not yet. But staying with my sister for twee weeks made me fallen a victim to this beautiful breed of cats.
At first, they were just beautiful cats, grey in color and playfull and curious in caracter. But aren't all cats like that anyway?! But as all kittens draw so much attention, I found myself finding so many "advantages" of my sisters cats; they are playfull, love being around human beings, curious, their shiny silver coat that doesn't flake when handeled. Also the way they were playing with eachother, was a real entertaining site. So, ok, I was convinced I wanted to have Korat cats too, so the search began as soon as I came back to Johannesburg. We soon found out that no Korats existed any longer in South Africa.
We contacted Johan Lambrecht - a well known catlover and Judge here in South Africa - and he informed us that we should look in Europe or Australia if we wanted to get Korats in the country. We heard through various channels that Korats were once imported by a UK family when they emigrated to South Africa. Other story's let us to believe that a Korat once lived in South Africa too, untill 1987.
At that stage we were wondering if we couldn't be just as happy with a another cat, as suppose to Korats. So we decided to go to a breeder and see how we felt about getting an abesynian cat. We visited a breeder, and although these cats were beautifull too, we still felt it was first price to go through with our desire to have Korats.
I contacted Stephan Franke from Germany, and he told me that he had a litter - born on the 6 th of august 2003- from an imported male from America (Pewpter Paws Si Fah Rahk). The litter was born from Busaba v. Baan Thai, and the owner was a good friend of him; Katja Pfeiffer. I was in contact with both Katja and Stephan via email.
I never really found out when exactly the decision was made that they approved of me adopting their Korats. But it was a great honour for me, that they trusted me enough (without ever meeting me) to have their Korats exported to South Africa. I am sure that the the breeder of my sisters cats (Marijke Pel) had some influence there and I suspect her telling Stephan that I was going to look after their kittens very well and that she would trust me completly. I got to know them too when I visited Holland. Bas and Marijke became good friends with my sister ever since they got in contact because of the Korat kittens. The passion and love we all had for this breed, resulted in a friendship.
The girl was given the official name Tien Yod v. Baan Thai (and we cal her "Tara") and the boy, Tong Lang v. Baan Thai (and we cal him "Igor").
When the kittens were 12 weeks old, Katja Pfeiffer brought the boy and the girl to my sister in Amsterdam. Because of the rules and regulations of vaccinating the kittens against Rabbies, we could only get them on a plane after the rabbies was given 30 days later. Me sitting in J'burg, and my Korat kittens waiting to be exported to Jburg for a months, was making me so anxious, that I decided to go to Amsterdam and spent a month in Amsterdam; I couldn't possibly miss out on a precious month of their kittyhood. My sisters Korats had to get used to these young korat Kittens, but soon they were all playing and sleeping together.
On the 10th of December 2003, we could take them on the plane from Holland to South Africa. Of course I was very nervous of them being in the cargo in the plane, and they were in the cage for about 18 hours. We got home at 23.30 and as soon as I got them out of the cage, they were exploring their new home, and it seemed like the trip had not impact on them at all.
Being a proud owner, I decided to email a couple of Cat magazines, to suggest to write an article about "The Korat". And within a months time, we had a photographer coming around (from the magazine "Animal Talk") and taking photos of them. (Igor made a great impression on him as he decided to climbe on his shoulder and fall asleep)
With the help of Donatella Mastrangelo, I wrote an article about the history of the Korat, their caracter and their specifcations.
Also in a couple of other catmagazines, they announched the arrival of the only Korats in South Africa, with a photo of Tara and Igor.
On the 20 th of March 2004, we decided to partake in a cat show. For me, Tara and Igor it was the first time. I have to say, I was quite nervous, and prepared myself a bit too much. I didn't know what to expect, so I brought kitten litter, food, water, toys, paperwork, vaccination booklets, family trees, passports... I even bought flowers to put on the table next to the cage, but left it in the car, as I would have been the only one who went trough that great length.
It was perhaps a bit over the top. Tara and Igor were fine at first, but when I took them out of their travel cage, they realized they were in this big hall with another 150 family member, all looking and smelling different. They were very confused and started to hiss at each other. I wondered if it was all a good idea to let them go through the motions of shows. I put them separate cages and then things cooled down a bit.
A woman that had a Somali kitten, came up to me and said immediately "oh those two cats are Korats". She looked at them, and said how wonderful it was that Korats are back in SA. I discovered later on that she was a Judge. She told me that the last Korat was in SA about 20 years ago.
I believe the magazine was a great start to give some exposure to this "new", ancient breed in South Africa. A lot of people read the article and in stead of asking a "Kor-what?" They replied "Oh like those in that Magazine?!"
Some people walked passed their cage and whispered that these were the famous cats from Thailand.... I was more impressed than Tara and Igor who were fast asleep.
The Cat show had a kitten section with 3 rings. I was told that until 9 months, kittens can't get certifications, but can score points to be nominated for best kitten of the year. Although it didn't matter to me if they were seen as "good cats" or not, to me they both were super special. And by Tara getting some better scores than Igor, I felt almost bad for Igor and found myself giving him some extra attention.
The kitten's section had 3 rings, and it was time for to get Tara out on the table to be looked at by the judge. She was not happy and hissed at the judge. I was standing next to the table, and it was so nice to hear how happy the judges were to see a Korat in real life!!! This particular judge did her exam on Korats, but never seen one in real life!!! She knew allot about them, and I was very impressed how prepared she was; she had written down notes in her book and leaved through it to look and compare.
The second judge really took the time to look at them, and she gave them the time to get used to being handled on the judge table. Another judge came around and she couldn't believe she finally saw a Korat in real life. She has got a book on korats and a poster in her bedroom, but never saw one in real life. She asked me if she could hold one (of course she could).
A couple of judges never understood why they had to study the Korat Breed, as they have not been in the country for so long, but the Breed Council was determined that the Korat was not to be taken of the list. Now they had the pleasure of finally seeing a Korat in real life.
The third judge said that the Korats were not so favourable with the judges as their character was quite aggressive back then. I explained that they were a bit nervous today, as it was their first time, but we noticed they got used to the whole thing.
Here are the reports from the 3 judges:
Ring/judge 1: Tara - "Super heart shaped head, large expressive eyes, firm chin. Good body, legs, tail. Plush, soft coat of even blue with silver tipping. Condition: Good, Presentation: Good, Temperament: Nervous today, but settled." Placing: 1
Ring/judge 2: Tara - Conforms very well to standard. Love the face - muzzle and eyes. Tail could be a little thicker at base. Good Coat. A nice girl. Award: 1 st.
Ring/judge 3: Tara - Lovely body type and heart shaped head. Eyes large and luminous. Good green colour. Good length tail. Coat silvery blue. Lovely example of the breed. Placing: 1
Ring/judge 1: Igor - Good heart shaped head. Muggle of little blunt. Large expressive eyes, colour developing. Chin fair, good body, legs and tail. Coat fairly soft, colour a darker blue than his sister and lacks her silver tipping.
Condition: Good. Presentation: Good. Temperament: Let me know what he thought of shows. Placing 1.
Ring/judge 2: Igor - Muscular body, light bump on profile. Tail could have length for perfection. Large prominent eyes. Coat silvery dark blue. A little nervous. Placing: 1
Ring/judge 3: Igor - A good size, very talkative boy. Colour darker than girl. Girl is by far better. Good eyes but muggle spoilt by straight profile. What a pleasure to judge them!! Award: 1st.
Both Tara and Igor got 3 times first place within their category.
During the day they put a "nominated" card on Tara's cage. And at the end of the day, they called out Tara's number. I had to go to the main judging table in front of the audience. The nomination was for "Best Foreign Kitten". 9 Kittens were nominated and Tara got second place!!!! The first place went to a lilac Burmese.... Because Tara got second, she went through to the following nomination "Best Short Hair Kitten". Again, there were 9 kittens (also the lilac Burmese), and Tara got first place! I couldn't believe it, and was so proud. All the people that I got to meet that day were applauding for us.
The show Manager was announcing that it was a very special day, as Korats were back on South African ground again.
What a great welcome to us foreigners...
Many thanks to the following people:
- Stephan Franke en Katja Pfeiffer
- Marijke Pel en Bas de Ruiter
- Donatella Mastrangelo
- And of course to my sister Marianne for many reasons