What Is a Cat Council or Registry?

Last Updated on July 25, 2021 by Julia Wilson

What is a cat council or registry?

Also known as a cat association or cat registry, a cat council is a registry of purebred cats. It is the job of a cat council to maintain a register of pedigree cats, create, maintain and update breed standards for each registered cat breed, oversee the development of new cat breeds, organise and run cat shows with qualified cat judges and ensure all registered cat breeders follow a strict code of ethics.

The first cat registry was The National Cat Club (NCC) which was established in 1887 in England. Harrison Weir considered the father of the cat fancy was the first president. Lady Marcus Beresford founded The Cat Club in 1899 but was replaced by the (British) Cat Fanciers Association in 1903. The Cat Club and The National Cat Club merged and became the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1910.

Issuing breeder prefixes

Purebred cats have a registered name and a call name. The breeder submits a potential prefix and the registry approves or denies it. Prefixes as Champion or Platinum would be rejected as they are misleading. Offensive, racist, sexist names will be rejected as well as names that are too similar to that of another registered breeder.

The registered name is the name recorded with the cat registry and will begin with the prefix of the cattery. So, for example, a breeder has the prefix Sunnyside Cattery, all kittens produced by matings will carry the name Sunnyside. A litter of kittens may look like this: 

  • Sunnyside Blu Wonder
  • Sunnyside Black Bean
  • Sunnyside Pink Panther

Each registered breeder has his or her own method for choosing the pedigree names of kittens. Some will allow the future family of the kittens to help in the naming of their chosen kitten, others prefer to name the litter themselves. Many breeders follow a theme, others follow an alphabetical sequence. For example, litter A has kittens named Sunnyside Amber, Sunnyside Alfie, Sunnyside Alice. The next litter will start with the letter B. Other breeders may choose a theme, names of gods, or stars for example.

Pet owners generally will choose their own name (known as a call name) for the kitten, so while its official name may be Sunnyside Blu Wonder, which is listed on the pedigree or when showing the cat, the pedigree name generally isn’t be used at home.

When a litter of kittens is born, the breeder notifies the cat registry, who issues pedigrees for each kitten. The pedigree is essentially a birth certificate that outlines the kitten’s parents, grandparents, and great grandparents as well as the name of the cattery, and is proof that the cat is purebred. The kitten’s official pedigree papers are issued and certified by the relevant cat council, however, some breeders will issue their own ‘pet‘ pedigree. Unlike the cat council issued pedigree, the breeder issued one is not an official document. However, people looking for a pet-quality kitten may be happy with this, on a personal note, I’ve always asked for and received the official pedigree issued by the cat registrar. 

Recognising cat breeds

There are several levels of recognition with purebred cats, which the cat register is responsible for. Each cat council decides which breeds they will and will not accept. Many breeds are recognised by all of the cat associations, while some, including the Munchkin and Scottish Fold are not recognised by a number of councils due to concerns over the welfare of the breed.

  • Full: The breed is fully recognised by the cat council and can compete for championship titles
  • Provisional/preliminary: A registry for the progeny from breeding programmes until they breed true to their registered standards, introduce new coat colours or traits in established breeds, register the progeny of developed breeds where the breeder has used a permitted outcross
  • Experimental: A provisional register for cat breeds in development such as the planned development of a new breed, a planned or unplanned mating between a purebred and mixed breed to meet a goal

Studbook

The studbook (breed registry) is an official list of every cat registered cat of a specific breed whose parents are known. Studbooks the details of each cat, which includes its date of birth, sex, and ancestry. This can be of huge assistance for breeders when researching lines. 

Types of studbook:

  • Open studbook: Cats whose parents or ancestors were not previously registered with the cat association can be registered. This means breeders can include cats who conform to the breed standard but are from unknown or undocumented origins. 
  • Closed studbook: Cats who don’t have a three-generation pedigree from a registry cannot be registered.   

Regulations

All members must abide by the Constitution, By-Laws and Code of Ethics set out by the cat council and failure to do so will result in expulsion. These regulations serve to ensure the integrity of the council and ensure breeders uphold the highest of standards with regards to the welfare and health of cats and kittens. 

Cat shows

Cat councils or cat clubs affiliated with the cat council regularly hold cat shows where cat judges evaluate cats according to their standard of points (SoP) and award titles to those cats who most closely meet the breed standard. Each breed has its own standard of points which outline set characteristics including head shape, eye colour, body confirmation and coat colours and patterns.

Training judges and stewards

Cat councils are responsible for training cat judges. Many judges will start out as stewards, whose job it is to assist the judge on the show bench.

The judge must have a sound understanding of feline genetics, breed standards, paperwork, show rules and regulations, how to handle cats on the show bench, cat husbandry, genetic diseases, safety and hygiene.

Research

Cat councils play an important role in research, working closely with veterinarians, universities and geneticists. This ensures they are up to date with the latest developments in cat health, breeding practices, genetics, husbandry, welfare and genetic diseases which can be shared with cat breeders.

Mentorship

Cat breeders, stewards and judges make up the cat council, and between them have decades of experience. This knowledge is invaluable for novice cat breeders. 

Does it matter if a breeder isn’t registered with a cat council?

Most people don’t want a purebred to show or breed with, so why buy from a registered breeder? When you purchase a kitten from a pet shop, kitten farm or backyard breeder, you will not be issued with a pedigree, so don’t know if what you’re getting is what you have paid for. The ‘breeder’ is not be bound to a code of ethics, does not breed to the standard or with the welfare of the cats first and foremost and won’t screen breeding cats for genetic diseases. Registered cat breeders will follow a breed standard, test for inherited diseases, ensure the health and welfare of the cats in their care and offer a health guarantee.

List of cat councils

Some cat councils (registrars) are international and as such, breeders from all countries may register their cats, some are national, while others cover a state, but are generally affiliated with one of the worldwide cat councils.

Worldwide

Australia

Canada

New Zealand

South America

United Kingdom

United States of America

Choosing a breeder

Do your homework! There are a lot of scammers out there who are out to take your money. One potential kitten buyer contacted me to ask if somebody claiming to be a registered cat breeder was in fact legitimate. They had been told the breeder was registered with the Purina Cat Club or something similar. This is not a legitimate cat council, it is a membership for a pet food company. They were also crossing breeds (Ragdoll x Bengal), which breeders should not do unless it is a part of a breeding programme overseen by the cat council. 

The best place to find a reputable cat breeder is a cat show where you can meet breeders in person and their cats. Most of the cat councils (listed at the end of the article) will list show dates on their website.

Always do an internet search of prefix the breeder is using and find out which cat council they are registered with. Look for reviews online, and comments on social media pages. Check with the relevant cat authority to verify that they are actually registered with them.

Leave a paper trail, and never pay for a cat in cash. Save emails and texts.

Questions to ask:

  • Are you a registered breeder?
  • What is your breeder prefix?
  • Which cat council (registrar) are you registered with?
  • Does the breeder screen his or her breeding cats for inherited diseases?
  • Do they offer a health guarantee? How long for?
  • Are you able to meet the dam (mother) and sire (father)?
  • How old are kittens when they go to their new homes?
  • Will the kitten be vaccinated (how many), wormed, microchipped and desexed?

An internet search including the prefix and the breeder name can be a great help. Do they have a Facebook page? What are people saying? If they have a website (and most breeders do now), do they list their full names and a contact number and state who they are registered with? Most cat registrars include a list of registered breeders on their website, check to see if the breeder is listed there.