An interview conducted by Rowe Ann Durant for a 1994 article in Cat Tracks Magazine 

Twenty CFA grand champions in four years? For a Himalayan breeder  that has to be some kind of record! Fifteen grand champion colorpointed  cats, three grand champion CPC's (colorpoint carrier), one colorpointed grand premier and one CPC grand premier. And where did it happen? Down in Southern California in Thousand Oaks, once famous as the training site for America's Team, now with new claim to fame with us Himalayan fans as home of Prancenpaws Himalayan Persians. Virginia  King is the "coach" of this program. Her specialty is cream points and flame points with a bit of blue in the mix. So let's ask Virginia King how all this happened.


How and why did you get started with breeding and showing Himalayans?

 
 In 1981 the mailman of my company came to my office and asked me if I liked catsÖ that someone had ordered a C.F.A. Yearbook and had left the company with no forwarding address. When I said yes,  he presented me with the book. I figure that book has cost me about $500,000.

I opened the book to a Himmie... two weeks and lots of phone calls later, I owned my first Himmie. I had to drive several hours to get her, and my friend and I laughed all the way home because the breeder said she was getting rid of her because she wanted better quality Himmies. We laughed because we thought that was really a lame excuse... there certainly were no better quality Himmies than Pixie. I've never had one of anything. So pretty soon, Pixie was joined by Katy and Tina. Then I began going to cat shows I'd walk around and see all those people sitting in front of beautiful cats and I'd wish so that I was the one sitting there. I bought cage curtains several years before owning a show cat. I began breeding healthy, happy pets, but I dreamed of show cats.  

When my youngest son (now in medical school) went off to college, I decided to do it. But no one would sell to me. I hadn't shown so I wasn't a good risk to grand a cat. I couldn't grand a cat when I only had pets. I finally got Noel Newton (you've probably hear of her, huh?) to say she might sell me a seven month old kitten named Good Vibes. I called the airlines and made a reservation for several days hence and flew to Syracuse, N.Y. I was so afraid she'd change her mind. I called Noel from a motel... She almost fainted... and she graciously agreed to meet me for dinner. A Lincoln Towncar arrived at the motel where I shivered in the cold waiting outside (I had borrowed a winter coat because in Southern California I didn't own one). The license plate said "Madame Nu" but the lady who got out of the car couldn't be Noel Newton. Noel Newton - Madame Nu - had to be oriental, tall, thin wearing her hair in a shiny black ponytail and wearing a cinch waisted leopard outfit. Instead, here was a woman who looked like me... little makeup ... a little over the hill ... a little past thin. She really had to convince me she was indeed Madame Nu. To make a long story short, by Sunday she agreed that I could purchase Good Vibes. I told her the plane home was two hours earlier than it was so I could get him to the airport and she couldn't change her mind.


 To what do you think you owe your remarkable success?


 I owe my success (I don't think it is remarkable) to 1)
Good Vibes and Noel, 2) Pat Hancok (Lotsapurr), 3) Right Shot & 4) My tenacity.

I learned on Vibes. Coming from Syracuse in January to Southern California, he promptly dropped his coat and regained it the following Fall. I granded him in his pajamas. I didn't know how to groom. I didn't know how to bathe. I was afraid to admit Noel how little I know. Vibes took 15 show to grand, not because he wasn't  wonderful, but because he was naked and what fur he had looked terrible. In my own region, no one would help me. They laughed at me ... big expensive cat who looked terrible. One person did help me...  she told me to take him out of the region. Vibes and I flew somewhere almost every weekend. Because we were strangers, people would tell me what I was doing wrong. They knew I wouldn't be back next show. I learned so much. When Vibes finally granded in May (open show in February), I cried (sobbed ) when I heard his number. Everyone crowded around me because he had come in only needing 2 points so anything would grand him. They all thought I was crying with joy, but I was crying with sorrow... Vibes and I had been so many places... places no one knew we were there. We had spent so many nights together in motels we'd forgotten the names of. And now I knew it was over. In the airplane, he nestled in my lap under the blanket. I kissed him and told him that I was sorry it had taken so long for him to grand...  but that I would do whatever was necessary to make him a D.M. He smiled... because he knew he needed no help.

Pat Hancock was my shoulder to cry on, my veterinarian when my vet failed (which was often), my inspiration, my friend. I called her when I saw Lotsapurr Lulu's Back In Town in an ad, and she supplied wisdom, a breeding program, and the cats to do it with. When Pat went out of cats, I bought the best of what she had. One of the cats was GRC Lotsapurr Rose Royce. Six years old now, Rosy could grand today. She was way before her time.  CH Frenchcreek Right Shot of Twinshire, (Shotty) was a stroke of luck. Judy and Jackie were selling him as a kitten at a show in Malibu and I brought him. It was love at first sight and Shotty and Vibes have made the perfect combination - Vibes daughters bred to Shotty and vice versa make up a large portion of my grand champions.

My own natural tenacity was the final key. When local breeders wouldn't sell to a greenhorn (or backyard breeder as one called me), I made up my mind I would succeed. If they had sold to me, I probably would be doing much less than I've done. When no one would help me groom, I made up my mind to learn. And when I've lost precious show quality babies, I've gone out in the backyard and shaken my fist and said "God, if this is a test, I will pass it. I will not give up. No matter what you give me, I will go on." When I lost Fantasy, I thought I'd never recover. I still think of her so often and know she's waiting for me.


Do you cage your cats?


Yes, I do. I realize that many breeders proudly point out that their cats aren't caged. However, Pat Hancock strongly advised against this early on. She used to tell me that nothing was worse than a common litter box. By caging, I know what's going in and out. And show coats suffer from static electricity in carpet. However, my cages are large and have three levels. The second level is almost the same area as the floor. If I opened my cages and let everyone out, they'd all be back in their own cages within fifteen minutes. When I let Tempe run free after showing her all last season, she had a fit that someone else was in her cage. Every time I opened it, she'd dart back in.


Do you work full time on your cats?


Unfortunately, no. I am a Personnel Manager for an insurance company in order to keep my cats in the manner to which they've become accustomed. I do have someone home with them all the time and have a man who comes in to clean and change boxes, etc. I do the feeding, show bathing of whomever I'm showing at the time, and loving.


Do you depend on your own cats for all of your breeding or do you sometimes send out for some stud service?


I depend on my own cats. I've never used stud service and given in only for very close friends.


Is there a particular cat (or cats) that you believe is the most important you have used in your breeding program?


GRC Madame Nu's Good Vibes and CH Frenchcreek Right Shot of Twinshire (Vibes and Shotty). I think my future is in their son, GRC RW Prancenpaws Booster Shot. Booster is Vibes grandson and Shotty's son. His kittens are gorgeous. He is an avid breeder and the consistency of the look of his kittens (whether outcrossed or line bred) is incredible. Richoshot hasn't figured it all out yet... we're loaning him the book Booster read... but I think he'll be a very valuable stud soon.


How do you go about planning breedings for the year?


Itís all very scientific. If a boy looks lonely, I give him a girl. If it's his birthday or anniversary, I give him a girl. Pat Hancock used to tell me to put so-and-so with so-and-so and I would. Mainly now I just check to see that a breeding isn't too close (I don't inbreed). My cats all seem to fit together. I have added several Persians to my line for type and its all worked well.


Do you have a particular color choice for breeding?


Cream points are my favorites. Seal points are my least favorites. But I'd rather have a wonderful seal point than a mediocre cream point. Usually whatever I'm showing is my favorite color and I show more cream points than anything else. I think many breeders make a mistake when trying to buy "a grand quality flame point (blue point or whatever)". I think color is the least important part of a cat. I've had people turn down a cream point that was super and I've seen them showing a cat who never did grand, who was the color they were stuck on.

 
Do you do CPC to CPC breedings?


Occasionally. Pat Hancock did.
Rose Royce was from a CPC to CPC breedings. Her litter sister, Brazen Brat, is a red CPC who carries the point gene. She has produced some lovely grand champions. Of course, I don't like the problem of not knowing if a cat carries the colorpoint gene, so I don't do those breedings that much anymore.


Which color cat do you most enjoy showing?


Cream Points. They don't seem to shade. You can see where the nose and break are placed.

 
Do you ever show CPC (colorpoint carriers)?


Occasionally. Because I prefer to show Himmies and have not had a problem with having something to show, I have not shown quite a few CP's that are grand quality. However, their pointed children get shown.


When do you know that you have a show prospect?


I usually wait until the cord is cut! Actually, this is true more times than not. My kittens are what they are at birth. Occasionally one will surprise me one way or the other, but most of the time we can tell immediately. Tempe (
GRC RW Prancenpaws Simply Tempting) didn't even have the cord cut when I said, "This one will grand."


What are some of the more exciting moments you have experienced in the show ring?


At a one day show in San Diego, we had two cats and a kitten. The grand finaled in all rings with several Best Cats, the champion granded and made all the finals, and the kitten made all the finals with several Best Kitten wins. I know this was a show to put in a capsule and bring out during the shows when we got nothing.

Also, Fantasy and Felicity, litter sisters, granded the same day of the same show. Fantasy was pointed; Felicity is a bluecream colorpoint carrier.

As I think back, one show stands out that I didn't know enough to treasure at the time. I took four Himmie kittens to a show. They were all out of Vibes and four different moms. It was quite a thrill, but the big thrill came later - the kittens turned out to be: GRC Prancenpaws Simply Rambunctious. GRC Prancenpaws Carmen of Operacats, GRC Prancenpaws Simply Capricious, and GRC Prancenpaws Simply Marvelous (Best Cat AB 2 years ago in Hawaii). These were the first Himmie kittens of my own breeding that I showed.


Do you believe there will come a time when breeders will not have to continuously introduce pure Persians in their breeding programs?


Yes. As Himmies become more and more "pure Persians", I don't think it will be necessary. I look for the day when "pure Persian" breeders and Himmies to their programs. (Dream on, Virginia.)


Will you describe the "Look" that you are seeking for Prancenpaws Himalayans?


I like the cats to look sweet. I like big eyes, round and poppy, and far apart. I like noses that you want to kiss. I like short legs and short bodies. I really like Booster and his sister, Candid Shot's look. And
Richoshot is a half brother - I love his eyes. They are so blue - so big and round - and he has such a sweet look. I like the look of confidence, sweetness, and enjoyment of their surroundings. Most of my cats love to be shown and are very out-going and loving. This shows in their overall look.

 
Did you in years past and do you now have a "dream" with regard to your Himalayans?


In years past. I dreamed of sitting in front of a cage with a beautiful cat inside who was mine to carry up to the ring. For the "now" part, I guess this is where I should say I want a National Winner or to have Prancenpaws cats on pedigrees, etc. But my dream is different. My dream is to have each cat placed in the perfect place for that cat. A place where each cat will live a happy, healthy life. We have such an awesome responsibility! Not one of my females has ever come to me and said, breed me. I make this decision and they then undergo the pain of birth and caring for the babies. Where those babies go is either to a wonderful place where they will live a terrific life, or we sentence them to a life of  horror. My dream is that not one of my cats will ever wind up in a tiny, dirty cage... unloved, untouched. My dream is that none of my cats will be bred and bred until they are thin and sick. My dream is that my show kittens will go to novice breeders and bring the joy to them that Vibes brought to me. Booster's brother, Silk, was sold as a kitten to a couple in Connecticut. They were quite insistent that he be what they wanted. I was a little nervous when I shipped him. The telephone rang... the man said, "Virginia..." The pause let me think he didn't like Silk... all kinds of things went through my mind. And then he said, "How did you ever let him go?" This is my dream... the Max and Norma's who adore my kitties, the Earl's and Peggy's and Linda's who call me and rave about my kitties and the kittens they are producing. The Charlotte's in Denmark and Maggie's in England and Max's and Marinella's in Italy who love my cats. And the Sharon's and Brad's who have become my lifelong friends. I guess my real dream is that someday, when I meet my Maker, He will smile and hand me the keys to the Nursery, and Fantasy and I will spend eternity watching the kittens romp and play.