My fascination with tuxedo cats began years ago...
when I was just 4 years old. A next door neighbor had a black and white cat called, "Buzzy." Ol' Buz was a very
large guy... and terribly spoiled.
Fast-forward to high school: A friend was moving...
She had a tux that could not go with her. To my house he came, unannounced. (Hey, I was a teen; assumed that everything
is cool.) He was dubbed, "Kookie."
Then my cat life took a turn as I became fascinated
with Siamese cats. Picked up a pair, "Choco and Gigi." Bred Gigi twice while living in apartments. This
worked well, because the space limitations curtailed any ideas of keeping the kittens! And Gigi's Siamese heat screams
threatened a permanent loss of hearing and apartment friends. That was the end of Gigi's breeding days.
Once in a home with acreage, it was time for horses.
Bred Thoroughbreds for years; then drove Standardbreds pulling four light, open carriages around the mansions and downtown
of Newport RI under the livery name Newport Coach & Carriage.
In 1990, a queen (a female cat) decided that my barn
was an ideal place for her early March delivery of five polydactyl (more toes than normal) kittens. She had white masking
her gray tiger stripes. Two of her litter looked like her. Another was white with butterscotch colored tiger stripes. And
then there were two tuxedos which you see to the right.
I knew then that I would eventually breed them.
Dubbed the kittens "Fred and Ginger" after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers... and decided that this tux/dance
theme would continue with future generations.
By the way, the name "HiHat Cats" comes from my tuxedo-attired gig called
"Johnny HiHat & His Status Cymbals of which the main playing cymbal is the "hihat." Oh, you know this cymbal
but probably not by name. It is the set of two cymbals -- top and bottom -- that go up from action on a foot pedal.
Due to another business life, the breeding program
did not start until years latter when I acquired another tux. Called him Sammy after Sammy Davis. Sammy has
a gorgeous coat of a slightly longer staple. Unfortunately, Sammy is single toed.
Finding an un-neiter polydactyl male tuxedo cats at the time was monumental, due to Massachusetts requirement that
all cats, male and female, leaving a shelter be "fixed." Regardless, the cattery was on its way; and the single
/poly toe marriage has had its educational benefits.
Unfortunately, I was not able to keep "Freddie"
whole due to the usual tom (male) cat problems. So, while
my "conceptual" foundation cats are Fred and Ginger... the real foundation cats are Ginger and Sammy. Nonetheless, Freddie
constantly fought Sammy for control. Solution: Freddie became the king of the queens-out-of-heat when placed with
In my non-cat life, I have had a career in marketing.
I enjoy "making" markets. I also have a bio-science background. Oddly, though tuxedo cats grace everything from
greeting cards to decorative flags, they are not an official breed, just American Shorthairs. Of course, this
was financially unfortunate, for had I started with a registered breed, I'd have a valuable cattery. But,
it would also be a boring one, for I'm not about "me-too" anything... Isolating genes to perfect a breed was
My parameters going into the program were to develop
a breed of double-toed tuxes, period. Four white boots or spats, a white underbelly and bib, a white stripe down
the snout, green eyes, black pads, and nose. Seemed simple enough. I had two in front of me. Ah, but Mother
Nature and cat genetics are devious, especially with an unknown gene-pool.
The Challenge... Starting with Unknowns
Ginger came from a tiger queen described. Her
tom was unknown. Sammy came from an all black queen with a litter of all black cats -- some with a little white. There
was another black queen at the same location, also with kittens; they were black and white as well. The owners reported
that the tom was all black, since a cat fitting this description prowled the premises.
My Initial Mission...
Scrub the gene pool! And develop a breed of polydactyl
tuxedo cats known as Johnny HiHat Cats.
My Revised Mission...
After the initial two generations of breeding from which I retained all kittens, I became more curious
about the behaviors of the separate cat communities -- friendly to down-right feral despite equal care -- which brings my
study to the present.