I have always been an animal lover, but not especially a cat lover. Until the age of 30, my 2 main center of interest were my job (I am an airline pilot) and rock climbing. I discovered with the latter many wild places all around the world.
My wife loves dogs and cats, and right from the beginning of our relationship in 1989 she tried to decide me to have a dog. At that time we were living downtown Paris and I offered many rational arguments to prove that this would not be good for the animal. We endured the city life 4 years, then decided that we were not born for it and moved to the country 30 miles south close to a beautiful forest which happened to be one of the best spot in the world for rock climbing: fontainebleau forest.
Needless to say as soon as we had moved I faced a total psychological war to get a dog, and we ended up with our first newfoundland, Irun. Irun was extremely gentle with every animals, and quite often caught us young birds, boars, ferrets, etc, always unharmed and frightened. This is how we resumed contact with wildlife. When he died, we were so in love with newfoundlands that we took a puppy of the same breed named pilou. He is the one you saw on the pictures with ella.
Pilou was around 6 month old and I had been rock climbing in a remote part of the forest for about 2 hours when I noticed that he was missing, and that I could distinctly hear a tiny meow from a distance. My first thought was that he had caught a cat and hurt it (pilou is as gentle as irun but acts more "rough" as if he is not conscious of his strength). I hurried and finally found him licking a very very tiny baby cat completely covered with fly worms but apparently in good health. We took it to the local vet who estimated his age around 10 days and was very doubtful about his survival.
I answered that we were going to try to save him and put him back in the forest when he would be old enough. He and my wife nodded ironically, knowing from the beginning that if he survived he would stay with us. This kitten named misty was later found to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an extremely serious and always fatal heart disease and died at the age of 18 month.
I developed such a strong bond with him that during the last 6 month of his life we spent hours roaming the woods behind our house, and I like to think that he taught me most of what I know about a cat life. He showed an enormous courage during his last days and died at home among us. I had to euthanize him to spare him too much suffering, our vet having been trustful enough to give us the lethal dose and just thinking about this night still makes me cry 2 years later.
After this painful experience I was in love with cats and we quickly adopted domino, a 4 month old black and white european who was living unattended outdoor with his mother because the owner was divorcing his wife. Domino, although very shy, quickly adopted our home but when he reached the age of one year we felt that he needed some company. After misty 's death I had become fascinated with the feline world . I did a lot of research and discovered what wonderful animals wild cats were and that, although difficult, individuals could live with them. After a lot of thinking, soul searching and talking to convince my wife, we decided to give it a try.
Enter Tanga and Kassaļ, female and male savannah F2s that we got from Dale and Holly Hummel (Select Exotics). I figured out that F2 hybrids would be a good transition before owning a wild cat and we choose the savannah race because I was attracted by servals . Both showed such a good nature ( although it took them a couple month to be friends with Domino ) that 6 month later we felt ready for a wild cat.
I was especially attracted by 2 breeds for opposite reasons . The first one was the serval because I loved its leggy look, affectionate behavior and aloof playing, the second one was the asian leopard cat, with its miniature leopard look and untamable reputation.
Meanwhile, I had been corresponding by email with David Sparandara from the czech republic, a true cat lover and director of the consortium for small feline, a fully licensed non-profit organization working with breeders for small wild felines conservation.
David was supposed to send 2 young (3 months old) asian leopard cats to the US but the shipment of the young female was canceled at the last minute, and he asked me if I was interested . I answered that I was but wanted to see ella first and left a few days later to the czech republic.
Once there I was welcomed by David and Simona and could see by myself
that ella was perfectly socialized, not afraid at all of human beings. A quick talk on the phone to my wife and I decided to take her home.
6 months later we were so much under ella's charm that we decided to
give her a mate, and since David did not forecast any litter unrelated
to ella in a near future we got Abou from a french breeder in southern
Many thanks to Plaud Thierry for allowing the use of this article on exoticcatz.com. This article is copyrighted 2005 by Plaud Thierry. All rights are reserved.
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