Safram Sphynx Odyssey
by Sandy Adler (with a brief introduction by Arden Gatlin-Andrews)
Sandy Adler was a dog person. Well, she was a dog person before she was a cat person and is, of course, the founder of the acclaimed Safram Sphynx Cattery in Westchester County, New York. Safram is the proud home of a number of International and Re-gional winners, Supreme Grand Champions and many, many beloved pets. That alone is certainly something to be very proud of. But the really interesting thing about Sandy Adler is that she was there from the very beginning; the very beginning of the Sphynx breed, that is, as we have come to know and love it in the United States. Please sit back and enjoy reading Sandy‘s account about how she became involved with this amazing breed and what it was like to be a part of the one thing that brings each person who is reading this article together, no matter who or where you are.
Sandy was not a cat lover as a child, but was inevitably won over in the long run. When her son, Michael, was a young boy, he brought home a stray that they named Moses. ―Not knowing anything about cats, I did not know if Moses was a neutered male or a spayed female. A few weeks later, Moses had 2 kittens. That was a big surprise. We gave one of the kittens to my sisteriIn-law and kept the other which we named Fatatita. Moses was spayed, but not renamed.
After Moses passed at a ripe old age, Sandy found herself searching for a companion for Fatatita. According to Sandy, ―My husband and I promised the heartbroken Michael that we would get another cat to keep him and Fatatita company. We looked in our local [classifieds newspaper] and saw that someone was giving away a Sia-mese cat to a good home. We went over and took home a beautiful apple-head, blue point Siamese cat named Xanadu.
Sandy‘s curiosity about this exotic breed brought her to internationally renowned Siamese breeders, Vicki and Peter Markstein of Petmark Cattery, who soon formed a bond with the Adlers and became their mentors for the Siamese breed and the cat fancy alike. Sandy became an active member of the Westchester Feline Club as well as a contributing member to the team that put on the first TICA cat show at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1986.
―Vicki and Peter became the show managers and Presidents of the Garden Cat Club and I [Sandy] became the Show Manager and President of the Westchester Feline Club. For the first show at the Garden, we needed something to bring thousands of people into the facility. Vicki, who was from France, said she knew of a hairless cat named ET that lived in France. The movie ET had just come out and what better way to get the public to come to the show, then to have a real live ET? So, ET was borrowed from his owner in France and I got to meet him at Vicki and Peter's house before anyone else in America saw him. At first, I did not like the way he looked, but I could not get over how smart and overly friendly this animal was. You would call him and he would run over and head butt you. I loved him and loved how he looked in no time and wanted one very much.
Sandy continues, ―ET did bring in so many people to the Garden show and it was a big success. The picture taken of him for the newspapers was taken when he was yawning and it looked like he had huge fangs. Everyone came to see this horror show like animal and was so surprised to see what he really looked like. The comments ranged from; ‗how ugly,‘ to ‗how cute.‘ To be honest, most people did not like his look but found him interesting. Things are so different now. I still hear an occasional ‗yuck,‘ but hear mostly how much the spectator loves these cats.
As Sandy‘s interest in the Sphynx continued to grow, she found herself in the midst of the controversial begin-nings of one of the most popular and recognized cat breeds to date. The following is Sandy‘s narration of her experiences:
―There were no other Sphynx cats that I knew of in the U.S., although they were being bred limitedly, in Europe. If I had to guess, I would say there were no more than 50 in the world. Obviously, the gene pool for Sphynx was very small. Dr. Solveig Pflueger, a well known human geneticist, was also the genetics chairperson for TICA, and a good friend to the Marksteins. She came up with the theory that if a Devon Rex, whose gene for un-usual hair was almost exactly in the same place as the Sphynx no hair gene, (were crossbred) you would get some hairless cats from a Devon-Sphynx breeding. A Devon Rex cat, owned by Carol Richards of Texas was bred to E.T. with the desired results. This increased the gene pool.
Lisa Bressler, who was a member of our cat club, lived about 30 minutes from my home. She obtained Z-Stardust Winnie Wrinkle of Rinkurl from Georgia Gattenby of Minnesota. At this time, some natural mutation Sphynx were found at a Minnesota farm. Winnie was bred to Britanya‘s Lord E. I'm Naked, the offspring of the first Devon-Sphynx cross between Chnomen de Calecat (son of Q. Ramses/Q. Paloma foundation Sphynx) and Devon Rex, Britanya‘s Aida Lott. One of the kittens, Rinkurl Minnie Winnie of Safram was entrusted to me. I was so ex-cited and in love with this kitten, who I called "Winlet."
Aline Noel, from France, a TICA judge, had been breeding Sphynx in Europe and allowed Lisa Bressler (of Rinkurl Cattery), and me to use Amenophis Cocoon (2nd generation foundation Sphynx). The breeding of my Winlet and Cocoon brought out two major concerns in the early days of the breed: (1) the theory that if you bred Sphynx to Sphynx you would produce a lethal gene (it was later proven that this lethal gene did not exist); and (2) whether to use Devon Rex in the Sphynx breeding program because of the spasticity and luxating patella issues. I chose not to use Devons, but to breed Sphynx to Sphynx. Again, I was very lucky to have had access to strong natural mutations to work with. Winlet and Cocoon produced four beautiful kittens. Aline took Safram‘s Kaleidoscope back to France where she became her main breeding female. Kaleidescope is at the base of many European as well as U.S. lines. As a side
note; the natural mutation Sphynx at that time looked different than the Sphynx of today. I believe the introduction of the Devon Rex ultimately changed the head type. You can see that Winlet has the longer head.
Pat Stevenson and I obtained two (natural) mutation Sphynx born on a Minnesota farm. Both were beautiful but the girl never cycled and could never be bred. The male, Gunzhof Easter Sunrise, was bred and produced wonderful kittens. Easter Sunrise, a red point and white (his call name was Sonny), is the basis of many European lines.
Later, Lisa Bressler and I acquired two kittens from Brenda Pena. Brenda's Bathsheba of Rinkurl and Brenda's Nefertiti of Rinkurl were littermates from Jen Jude Cattery (the parents were also descendants from the Minnesota foundation Sphynx). Sheba was bred to Amenophis Cocoon, and we had a litter of 4. We kept a male from the litter named Safram‘s Rhett Butler.
I still love this breed just as much today as I did when I got my first Sphynx. I can say that all of my years in the cat fancy have not been dull. What started out from chance continues to be a very rewarding hobby with lots of interesting experiences.
Editor’s note. When I was much younger, I lived in New York City for a few years. While I was there, I remember visiting the Madison Square Garden Cat Show in 1986 where I saw my first Sphynx. I fell in love with the breed from that day forward. The cats I had the pleasure of meeting that glorious day turned out to be owned, and graciously shared for viewing, by no other than Ms. Sandy Adler. I can safely speak for all of us when I say; Thank you Sandy, for everything you have done and for sharing this wonder-ful story with us all.
Some of Sandy’s favorite cats: IW, SGC Safram Pierrette, SGC Safram’s Boston Blackie, QGC Safram’s Rah, RW, SGC Safram’s Hale Bop (featured in Animal Planet’s Cats 101 – Sphynx) - IW SGC Safram’s Pierrette, SGC Safram’s Raggedy Ann.
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