1983 - Sandra Hockendal found and rescued a pregnant stray cat who exhibited the short legs. This black cat soon delivered kittens and some of those kittens also exhibited the same short legs as their mother. Over time, a small colony of these short-legged felines was established on Sandra's plantation in Lousiana. Soon afterwards, these cats came to the attention of Dr. Solveig Pflueger - a a then clinical geneticist at Bay State Medical Center and faculty member of Tufts University School of Medicine, liked what she saw in the Munchkins. She began a long road to acceptance for the breed with exhibition in shows. The name Munchkin was eventually agreed upon and adopted.
1994 - TICA recognized the Munchkins as a registerable breed. Various breeders took up the Munchkin cause (along with Solveig) to get them established as a recognized "championship" breed. This entailed writing a standard, a breeding program, getting breeding programs established across the country, and preparing to petition the TICA Board for full acceptance.
1995 - June 12th - an article in the Wall Street Journal about the Munchkin cat breed showing a domestic looking cat with obviously very short legs caught the attention of Joe Smith, a Bassett Hound breeder. Joe began to do some research. After discovering the the short-legged gene was different in cats than it was in dogs - he realized that it would always be inevitable for the Munchkins to produce some longlegged "versions" in most litters as well as the short-legged version. These "longlegged" kittens would result in a domestic-looking cat which would look like the typical kitten that most animals shelters are overrun with. But, his notion was to cross the Munchkins with the Persian breed so that it would look similar to a Persian type - a very
popular breed - and any resulting longleggeds would look like pet quality Persians which would be highly desired.
1996 - Joe decided to breed some Munchkins to Persians. He called this new potential breed "Napoleons" as a take-off of Napoleon Bonapart who was known for his short stature.
2001 - Joe first contact TICA about the Napoleons and they were classified as an "experimental" breed.
2002 - Napoleons were recognized at Registration Status with TICA. This full recognizes the Napoleon name, allows Napoleon kittens within the breeding programs to register their kittens, and completes another hurdle on the way to full championship status for the Napoleons.
2002 - February - saw the Munchkin breed accepted by TICA for Championship showing which made them official.
2003-2008 - Joe Smith continued breeding Napoleons, created a website, began recruiting and encouraging breeders nationwide to join in with his efforts to establish the Napoleons as an official breed. He repeatedly submitted Applications to Advance to TICA - attending many board meetings and shows but was repeatedly denied advancement to the next level - Preliminary New Breed. No thorough explanation was ever given as to why the Board would not advance the Napoleons. Joe even experienced difficulty in getting national cat magazines to allow advertising for the Napoleons. Eventually,Joe threw in the towel. Joe neutered, sold, or gave away most of his Napoleon breeding stock. During this same period, many breeders across the country (and some beyond) continued their Napoleon breeding programs albeit disconnected from other Napoleon breeders and not in an organized fashion convinced that the Napoleon Breed would some day get their due justice. Even in a "Registration Only" category - these Napoleons drew great broad appeal to pet homes (and breeder homes) because of their specific attributes.
2008 Sam Tate of Wonderfulkitty Cattery was encouraged by a couple of breeders in the Dwarf Cat Association (a small registry created by Terri Harris of Munchkinlane Cattery to facilitate some sort of registration for all sorts of dwarf-related Munchkin offshoot breeds) to try to move the Napoleons forward - either through TICA or through CFA. Sam developed a website (www.thenapoleoncat.com) and began trying to advance the Napoleons. With little or no help, she too became frustrated with the process.
2009 - Margie Gardner of Creators Cattery had already been in contact with Sam Tate several times throughout 2008 but during a conversation in February 2009, Margie decided that somehow she needed to make a new effort to make contact with other fellow breeders and see about moving forward again. She knew that the only chance for the Napoleons to advance was to show unity in numbers and to become an organized force. In March, after internet googling and researching, Margie found 40+ people breeding Napoleons (at some level) nationwide and she sent out an emails trying to rally the troops called "Willing and Interested Napoleon Breeders." There was a huge reply which gave rise to confidence to once again try to petition TICA for advancement.
April began with submitting an application of our intent to petition the board for advancement. During this same time, communication, surveys, questions and answers, and such were being dealt with amongst this new and expanded group of breeders. Though this group had one thing in common - our love and commitment to the Napoleon cats - there were many obstacles in coming together and speaking with one voice. First were the requirements set forth in the procedures by TICA. Representatives were needed to spear head the application and be a liason to the broader group. In May, Margie Gardner of Creators Cattery won the vote for Breed Chairman unanimously. We also voted for Committee members with Sam Tate of Wonderfulkitty, Gloria Owens of Shortnaps, Dawn Lott of Bluebonnet, and Peggy Chenault of Resqmefarmscattery winning. This demonstrated to the Board as well as the Napoleon Working Breed Group (any and all Napoleon breeders registered through TICA) that this advancement was a group effort. With Joe Smith retiring from the fight, it was necessary to form a leadership group and not to rest solely on one person.
The Napoleon Breed Standard that was submitted was basically the same written standard that Joe Smith had submitted. The only "tweaks" that were made were agreed upon changes by the committee and working breed group. These changes stemmed from the years of experience between the "Age of Joe" and the "Age of the New Petitioning" where we saw a smaller body on our Napoleons - thus we toned down the size of the Napoleons from that of the Persian. Also, we toned down the massive quantity and cottony texture of the Persian breed to a somewhat silkier long in order to better present a specifically longhaired Napoleon that did not require the constant maintenance or perpetual shaving down. But, beyond this, there was across the board consensus to try to present the Joe Smith written standard as the Proposed Written Standard to the Board.
Ongoing discussions on a breeding program, a breed standard, and point allotments were conducted and decided on. Plans to attend the Orlando, Florida board meeting were made.
2009 September Board Meeting Orlando was attended by Breed Chairman- Margie Gardner, two Committee members-Peggy Chenault and Sam Tate, along with one of the Napoleon Working Breed Group members, Terri Harris. Two Napoleon cats approved by the committee were brought for display by Margie Gardner. During the interviewing-and-presenting part of the meeting, Peggy Chenault was introduced and participated as well. An extra Napoleon cat was brought and exhibited to the Board though it had not been approved by the breed committee due to its extreme facial features. Solveig Pflueger was in attendance and spoke up to support the Napoleons as well s debunk any health concerns. Some questions were posed at Terri Harris who was also in attendance to the meeting. Her association with the Dwarf Cat Association prompted several questions towards her. Two issues of contention were raised; (1) the extra Napoleon cat brought was not consistent in type with the others - it was too extreme in the face for the Napoleon standard, and (2) a few of the breed standard descriptions were rejected because they were not official terms (such as "baby doll face.). There was no outright suggestion given to the Napoleon representatives as to "what to do next" or "what to change." A comment from Solveig Pflueger to the Board even suggested that any of these consistency issues or standard wording issues are generally to be addressed in the Preliminary New Breed level where a mentor is provided to the group. Yet, no comment regarding this half-question half-statement was given by the board. A vote concluded the presentation with only four in favor of advancing the Napoleons. The only four that voted for the Napoleons advancement were Bobbie Tullo, Jo Paris, Cheryl Hogan, and Donna Madison. Not enough to adance.
So, Napoleons denied once again.
An informal meeting was conducted afterwards by Solveig and the Napoleon representatives. Though were all, including Solveig, were blind-sided by the meeting and the resulting vote, a plan of action was suggested and a good discussion by the group gave rise to a few changes and hope to attempt to advance the following year.
2009 - October through December saw a revisiting of the breed standard wording. All discussions were posted on a "Cafe-mom" internet forum site with feedback, questions, and debate quite active and final vote/approvals by the committee. Though all are in an agreement to leave the spirit of the Napoleons the same as Joe envision and Joe petitioned for, it was obvious that some changes were necessary if we, the hope of the Napoleon cat, had any chance to advance. Deciding which changes, how much change, what wording, how best to describe, and how to gain consensus and keep civility and unification was indeed a challenge for this new and somewhat inexperienced group. Plans to begin petitioning once again were made with January of 2010 beginning the process again. Two committee members, Sam Tate and Gloria Owens bowed out of their participation on the committee. Yet, with most of the committee still in tact and most of our original group of breeders in the Working Breed Group, we trudged on. By year's end we had indirectly established three separate but general Napoleon information websites: This one (www.thenapoleoncat.com), one run by Nathalie Legresley in Canada (www.napoleonat.com), and one started up by a fellow committee member, Peg Chenault (www.napoleoncatbreed.com).
2010 - January began by submitting paperwork again. Initial plans were to aim for a board meeting of May but that board meeting ended up being a teleconferencing meeting. It was also discovered that a breed must wait at least one year to petition the board if it is denied. So, actually, aiming for the
September board meeting in CA or the January 2011 meeting in Texas was given to us by TICA Executive Office. Committee opted for January 2011 due to better accessibility. All paperwork has been submitted so we will coast through the remainder of this year - trying to breed some high quality Napoleons that can be brought to the board meeting along with our presentation.
Confirmation of this change was received by Leslie Bowers from the TICA Executive Office. Courtesy emails were sent to all of the Rules & Genetic Committee Members of this change. Plans are currently being made to attend the January 2011/Harlingen, Texas Board meeting by Peg Chenault, Dawn Lott, and Margie Gardner. Plan is to have at least two or three Napoleon cats at this presentation.
2010 Fall - Excitement permeates the Napoleon Cat Community as we learn that the popular cable show Animal Planet who has a feline series called CATS 101 will be highlighting the Napoleon cat. Filming has already taken place. Shots taken at Judyscuties Cattery near Tampa, Florida highlights the shortlegged kittens. Judy always has a beautiful and exotic array of colors on her kittens. Judy had one of her customer's adult Napoleon cat to show up too. He is use to greeting visitors at a local vet office so he made being a cat actor look easy. Next, a story angle of Sue Rivero in New York who owns Creators Frenchie Petit Chaton - a show level lilac tabby bicolor longhaired standard male. Sue often attends High Society Cat events in New York where celebs and New York movers and shakers bring their felines all dressed up in cat costumes for various fundraisers - usually concerning cat shelters or such. Sue arranged with her costume maker to create a Napoleon Bonaparte costume for little Frenchie to wear. CATS 101 shot the seamstress making final stitching on the costume then proceeded to Sue's home where they shot Frenchie and Sue as they got ready for this gala costume event. They then followed Sue to the event and got lots of coverage with other local celebs. All comments were positive and enthusiastic regarding the new breed of the Napoleons. We are all anxious to see the segment which is scheduled to air mid-fall. Hopefully, the coverage will be so popular and positive, that this too will encourage the TICA Board to advance our Napoleon Cats.
2011 January - Animal Planet "CATS 101" TV segment featured the Napoleons, along with Animal Planets "Too Cute".
In late January, another TICA Board meeting was held - this time in Harlingen, TX - the home town of the TICA offices. The Napoleons were on the agenda to once again, petition advancement to Preliminary New Breed Status. We had a good showing of support this year with Napoleon Breed Committee showing up in force by Peg Chenault and Dawn Lott accompanied by Breed Chairman, Margie Gardner. Napoleon cat owner and enthusiest, Sue Rivero, attended too. Sue brought her infamous cat Frenchie - a lilac tabby bicolor longhaired standard Napoleon boy that has been hitting the show circuit in the northeast in the HHP category. Dawn Lott also brought her young Napoleon - Foxy, a black/white longhaired standard Napoleon female. The pitch was made to the board highlighting the many years that the Napoleon cat has been in existence, the many Napoleons both here in the states and world-wide. Peg Chenault gracious provided a full color hand-out showing pictures along with descriptions of how the Napoleon standard is written versus the Munchkin and the Persian. The pictures which painted a visual image showed how our breed was influenced by the parent breeds but were very distinct. We emphasized that our breed was proven healthy, viable, very popular, and that we had a good group of breeders dedicated to the breed. The vote was cast at 6 yes's, 7 no's, and 1 abstained. Reasons for the denial ranged from 1. The worry that the Napoleon breed would be so popular that it would be a detriment both in the ring and in sales to the Munchkin breed, 2. The worry that we were using the Persian breed as our outcross which might bring in health issues, i.e. Foxy exhibited an underbite, 3. some said that the Munchkins were different but we didn't need two short legged breeds, and 4. some said that the Munchkins and the Napoleons were the same. The rules did not allow any rebuttal of these stances by the board. We left frustrated over the reasons for the refusal to advance but the thread of encouragement was still there because the vote had been so close - much closer than before. Several board members encouraged us to continue the fight and to try again.
2011 February - Due to internal struggle with one of the outspoken Napoleon breeders, the current Breed Chairman Margie Gardner opted to resign her position of leadership. Following her resignation, committee member Peg Chenault also resigned. At this stage it is unsure where the leadership hangs - whether in someone taking over by default or another vote to be taken. Either way, there is still a large group of dedicated breeders who are intent on producing nice Napoleons according to the current breed standard. Any petitioning for advancement must wait at least one year from the last petition - making it January 2012 in Harlingen again or later that year.
2011 September - Terri Harris, a Munchkin/Napoleon Breed, took over the BC position - formed her own committee and began to petition advancement to the board. She submitted a revised breed standard (created without consensus), letters & pictures from various Napoleon catteries touting their own cats and their cattery goals, and displayed a few part-Napoleon cats. The board asked only one question and voted in the majority to advance the Napoleons into the Preliminary New Breed category - to actually begin in late May 2012. The fellow Napoleon breeds were excited that there was an advancement finally....many, many years in the making. Anticipation builts as Napoleons would be able to venture into the show halls in May 2012 under the Preliminary New Breed group - competing against other Napoleons or other cats that are in that category.
This category is primarily an "introduction" phase...meant to
1. expose and educate the judges with our new breed
2. expose and eduate the general public about our new breed
3. to demonstrate to the TICA Board that there are quality Napoleon cats that fit our written standard being produced and now shown across the country and
4. to have feedback from judges and breeders and showman as we may tweak our standard for an ultimate bid towards championship status within a couple of years.
2012 May arrived and Napoleons across the country began attending shows with their Napoleon cats in tow - finally! From PA to Florida to California to Tennessee - and other points around the country - Napoleon cats have graced the arenas.
2012 November in Chattanooga, TN is a cat show where the largest display of Napoleons ever in history will converge into the showhall. Seven to ten Napoleon cats are expected to enter. The Napoleon cat founder, Joe Smith, will be attending and bringing a computerized slide show of the Napoleon History and breed information.