I grew up in a dog family, my mother being a breeder of Shetland Sheepdogs for over thirty years. As a teenager, I occasionally took a dog into a show ring, but most often I was involved with the whelping and raising of puppies. I loved animal husbandry but never suspected that I would someday be so involved with cats.
In 1985 I went to my first cat show--just to see what it was like. I was amazed by how different it was from showing dogs, and equally amazed by how many breeds of cats existed that were previously unknown to me. As I rounded the end of a row, I saw my first Birman. It took my breath away! I'm sure that I must have uttered an audible gasp. I had never seen such a beautiful animal with such presence. I spoke with the breeder, added my name to her waiting list, and acquired my first Birman in 1989. She was strictly a pet, and I had no intentions of ever breeding or showing. But I had been bitten by the Birman bug and soon had to have another. I went halfway across the country to get what became my foundation queen, Bleustone's Qarolina. I became involved with showing and bred my first litter of kittens. "Qara" was an exceptional mother, and I immediately knew I wanted to promote and share this extraordinary breed.
My husband and I built our home in 1991 with the cats in mind, knowing that this "Birman thing" was not going to go away. Good animal husbandry calls for grouping cats in families to assure good health and sound breeding practice. Our cattery has been inspected by two licensed veterinarians who approve whole heartedly of our accomodations. We have earned the Cat Fanciers' Association's highest level of cattery management and breeding practice as a Cattery of Excellence.
For a short time, my husband Tom and I also became involved with breeding and showing Abyssinian cats as well as the Birmans. We derived our cattery name, Abirwood, by combining the beginning of "AByssinian" and "BIRman", and added "wood" since our home is nestled next to the wooded part of our property. Abys are athletic, fun-loving, ready for anything (and I mean ANYTHING), and are a little too smart for their own good. Coming home to Abys was like coming home to more Kindergarten students (I teach Kindergarten by day.). I once came home to find that one of my Abys had pushed out a screen in our bedroom, fell down an entire story, and was perched in a tree near the house! It became clear that, since Birmans were my first love, we needed to stick with just the Birman breed.
Since that time, we have continued to breed Birmans exclusively. We began with seal and blue points. In 1999, we were fortunate to add an outstanding lynx point stud cat to our cattery, and have produced a number of lynx point kittens. We have since added chocolate points and cream points to our breeding program.
People have often asked me if my mother was disappointed that I went into cats rather than following her footsteps into dogs. On the contrary, I think she was pleased that I made my own way, after my own heart. I must say that she was my biggest supporter, and I owe her a debt of gratitude for instilling in me a love of animals, a wealth of knowlege about animal husbandry, and encouragement when breeding wasn't always as easy as it looks.
Thank you to Karen Wylie and Tim Tyndall for their warm, southern hospitality, for educating me about Birmans, and for sharing their beautiful cats with me for my foundation in breeding.
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