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The Premier Online Magazine devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats
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PandEcats

The Premier Online Magazine
devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

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Close this search box.

PandEcats

The Premier Online Magazine devoted
to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

Search
Close this search box.

Gary Powell: Red Sky Persians & CFA Judge

PandEcats.com and ShowCatsOnline.com are honored to be able to share with our members a candid interview with CFA judge, Gary Powell as he discusses his Persian breeding program under the Red Sky cattery prefix.

When, how and why did you start breeding?

As a kid I had always enjoyed the company of cats. We never had one but there were plenty of them around in the close knit neighborhood I grew up in. One family had a big old Brown McTabby shorthaired female that was always nursing a litter of kittens. I spent a lot of time looking at and playing with her kittens. When I grew up and left home, I finally found myself in a position to have a cat. I went shopping at a local cattery and bought a cameo female for $125.00. After talking with several breeders and joining a cat club, Twin City Cat Fanciers, I had enough information to know that I needed to breed this cat to a black male in order to get a tortie. Tortie always has been and probably always will be my favorite color. I found someone with a nice black male and we did the breeding. My foundation cat was born, a tortie, CH Red Sky Kimberly. She went on to make all kinds of kittens and even today one or two of my cats still go back to her. I started attending cats shows and found I was hooked. I went back to the same local breeder and put in an order for a tortie. One was born out of 2 cats that I really liked, so I bought this girl for $450.00. That was a lot of money in 1974 for a show cat, but she did go on to become a Grand Champion in 3 shows. Unfortunately she never conceived, but I did manage to find her a Premiership home and she continued to go Best in Show even at the age of 12. In the meantime I naturally added some other stock to my breeding program, which was very small at the time.

What were your original goals?

I really just set out to breed some nice cats. I got my hands on every cat publication out there and studied the cat’s looks and memorized the lines and put together a visual in my mind of what I hoped to accomplish. I started out thinking I wanted to make lots of torties and a simple twist of fate made me a tabby breeder. I still have shelves full of old cat publications and sometimes it is fun to go back and look through them. Cats sure have changed over the course of time.

How did you choose your cattery name? 

Well, for some reason I thought the name “Misty Morning” sounded so nice. That was the first name I tried. LOL. I think I probably sent in over 5 different names and I always got the same letter back saying, that name was already taken. A friend of mine at the time suggested I try these 2 names, Red Sky or Stone Bleu. Those were the names of 2 local recording studios at the time. I received a letter form CFA telling me that Red Sky was a GO. At the same time I became a Flight Attendant for Northwest Airlines and the tails of our airplanes were red so I always thought it all worked out for a reason.

What do you consider your greatest achievements as a breeder? 

I hope that my greatest achievement as a breeder has been to be perfectly fair with everyone I worked with over the years. I can even remember replacing a breeder quality female I sold for $500.00 because they hadn’t been able to get her bred. Shortly after I replaced her, she did get bred and ended up having all kinds of kittens. I didn’t care, I felt that I had done the right thing. I think it is hard to be fair sometimes because so many human factors come into play. Jealousy is very detrimental to friendships and working relationships in this hobby. I remember Evelyn Prather, my mentor by the way, telling me that it was very rare to find yourself working with the same person throughout your entire existence in the cat fancy. She was right on with that statement.

What do you consider the Red Sky look? 

Hmmm, years ago people thought I had a certain look and that was before I started doing agouti tabbies. Now however, I don’t really know if there is a look. I know quite often when people see a nice brownie they ask me if it came from my stock. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. I am fortunate to have a homozygous brown tabby male so I do happen to produce a lot of brownies here.

How did you get the most outstanding characteristics of your look? 

Because I don’t know if there really is a look, I don’t know how to answer this question.

What factors do you consider in planning a breeding? 

Unless I am using a cat for the first time, I usually start by recalling what this cat or that cat seemed to promote on their previous offspring. If they produce bad ears or good ears for that matter I remember that when planning out the next breeding. Occasionally I will look at the pedigree and if there is something there that seem to work with most lines, I might go that route. Certainly GC RW Red Sky Wooden Ships, DM has been one of those cats that just seems to work with just about anything he has been bred to, except for Siamese…just a joke!

To what do you think you owe your breeding success? 

Well, I owe a lot to the individuals I have worked with over the years. Some I still work with, some I don’t but with many combined efforts the strategies have paid off. Of course some of it has been the bloodlines and sometimes I think there has been a little luck along the way.

Is there a particular cat or cats you believe to have been most important to the development of your breeding program? 

I have to say that my cats didn’t really start coming together until I added the Marhei lines. At that point I noticed that I was producing some nice things in every litter. My brownie lines came from a Marhei female and Willafred male and that breeding just clicked and put me on the map as far as a tabby breeder. There was a beautiful black boy in the same litter with Woody and he was a one show grand Champion too.

Is there a cat/cats that are the most important in your program today?

Definitely Woody. Not only does he continue to produce nice things, he is one of the sweetest cats I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He makes biscuits and purrs continually while I am bathing him and I have to put my face down to his so he can push his mouth all over my face. He does bring a smile to me.

How did you go about improving type?

 I really think we have come a long way with regards to what our Persian cats look like today. I think the good ones are quite complete in every way and personal preference is the determining factor when we strive to improve. I stated earlier that I would pay attention to what cats seemed to promote and try to combine that with what the other parent was lacking.

What do you look for in evaluating a pedigree?

 I used to be a total pedigree hound. I couldn’t get my hands on enough of them. I studied and studied and really had a gift for remembering who promoted what and then I would try and get something with that or those cats to work into my program. Of course it looks nice to see lots of titles and DM’s and sometimes that is a consideration as well.

What do you think are the Do’s and Don’t of Breeding? 

I am not one who does too much inbreeding. One of my best friends that I work with has always done close breedings: brother – sister, father – daughter, mother – son. That is too much for me. My friend does enjoy quite a bit of success and it works for her. I don’t usually like to double-up on things generation after generation. Another don’t for me is breeding the cats too often without a nice rest in between. I try to put myself in their shoes….ya right. LOL

Is there a fault you would ignore if the rest of the cat was wonderful?

 It depends on the fault. I am not crazy about tail faults. I don’t like them and I sure wouldn’t be breeding cats that are known to produce them. Bad mouths bother me less if they don’t throw off the lines of the jaw and everything on the outside is still balanced and in harmony. Small eyes can be a turn off but if the rest of the cat is glorious well then maybe they are not so small after all. After all, the cat can still see, right?

Is there a fault you would not breed with even if the rest of the cat was wonderful? 

I would not breed to a monorchid. I have had 2 of them over the years, totally unrelated. It is a disqualifying fault so why take a chance. I would not consciously breed to a tail fault either.

What traits did you find the easiest to acquire and set? 

Hmmmm, I have been lucky with ears and ear sets. Some people struggle with them. Coat factor seems to come pretty easily around here. I don’t really know how to answer this question .

What traits were the hardest to acquire and set? 

Eyes, expression and good, smooth, frontal doming on the cats. I call the doming factor the final frontier. I think it is difficult to achieve the full roundness that is free of bumps and ridges.

What is your average ratio of show/non-show in a litter? 

Wow, I have a litter of 4 right now and I think it is the nicest litter ever born here. All of them are lovely. Another litter of 5 and 3 of them are lovely and 2 are pets. Occasionally I get a whole litter of males and if they are not up to snuff, they all get petted out.

How many cats do you think is a minimum to have a quality breeding program? 

I think you can do it with 6-8. That is usually what I have. I was very pleased a couple of years ago to have 8 new Red Sky Grands with just a handful of cats in my breeding program. I think that the catteries that have 50 cats better be producing a bunch of grands every year or they are really doing something wrong. If you do your homework, pay attention to all of the details in your breeding program and keep your cats in good shape, you should succeed.

Do you have a favorite color? 

A favorite cat(s)? Tortoiseshell is definitely my favorite color. I have a tortie GC, Dm. named “Red Sky Aurora Borealis” “Aby” for short and she is one of my favorites including of course the “Woodster” as well.

At what age do you usually know you have a show prospect? 

I can tell when they are born who is going to have potential. I am sometimes fooled by a kit that looks awful at birth and then comes around and catches me completely off guard. Usually around here if they look good at birth, even if they go through awkward stages, they come back around.

What do you look for in a campaign quality cat? 

I would never represent a cat as campaign quality. I have over the years shown a few cats to some nice regional wins and these were cats that enjoyed going to show.

I do not get into this campaign thing. It has never been for me and I would therefore never represent a cat as such. If someone comes to me in the show hall and asks my opinion on whether they should run a cat, I probably reply, why not, go for it. If you see a chance, take it. If the cat can hold up, you can hold up, you can afford it, do what you want. It is not for me however.

What is your show grooming routine? 

Pretty standard. Start them young and put them through the whole nine yards. I start by clipping their nails, and they soon learn that the next thing in the step is the bath. I use baby shampoo on the face, goop on the greasy spots and Dawn dishwashing liquid. I will usually lather them up a second time with a nice human shampoo and then rinse, rinse, rinse. I think the key is a squeaky clean cat and then a thorough drying. I happen to use an Oster dryer and an Airforce dryer and that works for me. The time you take in the drying process is more free time in the show hall as far as I am concerned. I use a steel comb for combing.

What are your most cherished moments in the show ring? 

Years ago I had a red tabby kitten name Red Sky Crimson Tide. He went Best across the board at his last kitten show and that was a thrill for me. Anytime one of my cats does well, I cherish the moment. It is the combination of my hard work and the essence and charisma of the cat. When it all comes together it is a special moment.

What do you look for in the buyers of your kittens? 

I can be pretty fussy at times. I want to like the buyers first off. I like to watch the interaction between them and the kitty they are buying and it can be a gut feeling too. I am sure over the years we have all made some mistakes, bad judgment calls, we are after all only human. We can only hope that our intuition was right on when the buyers leave with their kitty.

What do you look forward to in the future? 

Retiring from the cat fancy. I know that is probably not something one should admit to in an article of this nature. I have been breeding cats since 1974. Judging since 1985. I have accomplished what I set out to do. That was to breed some nice cats and have a good time. I know it is time for me to step down because I am at a point in my life where I am trying to “uncomplicate” things. I want to free up some of my time and I want to start doing some things for “me”. I’m telling everyone I want to get a life!

What improvement would you most like to see in today’s cats?

 I think today’s cats are lovely. I rarely have trouble finding something beautiful to present to the exhibitors and spectators alike on the weekends I judge. I would therefore like to see some improvement in some of the people who attend the shows. This is after all a hobby and these are after all cats. Let’s try and tune in to the human aspect of this hobby and take notice of how we treat each other and recognize that perhaps everyone would like to be treated in a positive way. Be kind to the spectators, they may be tomorrow’s fanciers. Take the time to talk with them, answer their questions. If you are busy at the moment when they come to talk to you, tell them you are busy but you will have time later. If you don’t want to talk to them, help them find someone who will be willing to talk to them. Taking the time seems to be a wise investment for my viewpoint.

Tell us a bit about yourself outside of your “cat” life 

I have been a Flight Attendant for 26 years with Northwest Airlines. In July of 1986 I was selected as Flight Attendant of the Month from over 4000 other Flight Attendants. I usually spend about 4 months every year teaching the newly hired candidates the ropes of the Flight Attendant role. I am an avid gardener and find great comfort digging in the soil. I noticed that the plants don’t talk back to you, they don’t usually bite you and they reward your hard work with a glorious array of color. I find that a win, win situation. I love to unwind by doing needlepoint. When I was younger I did a lot of theater. I spent a year on the road with a touring company – even playing Las Vegas, the holy land. I spent a summer doing summer stock theater on a showboat on the Mississippi River. I have had a great life. It has been more than I ever imagined and I am hopeful the best is yet to come.

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“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.”
*Christopher Hitchens ( English-American critic & intellectual)

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