In 1994 the Associazione Nazionale Felina Italiana, the Italian member of Fédération Internationale Féline, organised a major event in the cat fancy under the title “Cats and Man”. This event took place at the Cini Foundation in Venice in June of that year. It was not a casual choice to hold this event in Venice. Ever since cats were brought in several hundred years ago, to rid the city of rats, Venice has held her feline population in great esteem and today the cats even have citizenship.
Part of this event was a Symposium which was presented by members of the Academia dei Gatti Magici, a group of distinguished scholars, artists, authors and schientists who shared a common fascination and love for cats. It was chaired by Fulcro Pratesi, one of the founders of the World Wildlife Foundation in Italy and featured a number of “expert” speakers from Italy and France who spoke on such interesting themes as:
Following the lectures was a lively discussion between members of the audience and the speakers during which all present agreed that such a symposium should become an annual event.
An international cat show took place in another part of the Cini Foundation in which over 250 cats competed, including a number of FIFe World Champions. A special section of cages, decorated as Venetian palaces, was set aside for the cats from Venice.
History was made when, on the following day, for the first time ever the Presidents of the major cat organisations sat together at the same table to discuss common problems facing the cat fancy. Four of the five major organisations were represented – Georgia Morgan, the President of the International cat association was unable to attend – they were: Alva Uddin, President of Fédération Internationale Féline, Don Williams, President of the Cat fanciers' Association, Brenda Wolstenholm, Chairman of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and Anneliese Hackmann, President of World Cat Federation.
Despite their technical or political differences, those taking part in this first meeting saw the importance of international co-operation and recognised their common interest in the cat and its welfare. It was decided to establish a regular meeting of the presidents of the associations, to study and to seek solutions for problems of common interest.
Mr Williams, the President of CFA, commenting later, said “We have had a very positive meeting and we have all agreed to co-operate with each other in the future and this group will be the starting point for future meeetings that will centre on the health and welfare of all cats worldwide.”
For Mrs Wolstenholme, the GCCF Chairman, the meeting was “a great learning experience” as she felt that being in England isolated her from the cat fanciers on the continent, it was a “wonderful opportunity to learn first hand some of the problems in Europe.”
“Sitting at a table and talking together for the first time,” according to Mrs Hackmann, President of WCF, was the most important aspect of the meeting. “The actual results of this meeting are not as important as what we have set in motion,” she continued, “the results will come later.”
During those two days in Venice, the seeds were sown for a new age of co-operation in the World cat fancy.