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Three new fashionable breeds of cat, banned from shows in the US, yesterday took several dainty steps towards official recognition by the UK's governing council of the Cat Fancy.

For the first time at its annual Supreme Cat Show, a corner of the hall at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre was dedicated to owners of Bengals, Ocicats and Singapuras.

Spokeswoman Caroline Macaulay, herself a proud Bengal breeder, made it clear, however, that Sphynx cats, which are bald, and Scottish Folds, which have funny ears, are not going to be tolerated. Nor are Persians with short noses.

The Bengal has caused alarm in the US because it is a cross between an Asian leopard and a domestic cat, but Ms Macaulay insists they are not feline Rottweilers. "No, they make lovely pets, they're not difficult at all," she said. The big difference is that while a normal tabby male weighs about 10lb, a Bengal male is a chunky 18lb.

Currently the council recognises such exotic creatures as Norwegian Forest Cats and Somalis, and the Bengal could join the exclusive club next year.

"There are lots of things we want to be careful about," Ms Macaulay explained. "We are insisting that you can't breed with cats imported from the US, nor can you get leopard cats from zoos, because what we are trying to do is stop any more being taken from the wild." explained Ms Macaulay.

She also thought that owners of Singapuras, a dainty creature weighing only 5lb fully grown and developed in the US from four cats found in north-eastSingapore, and the beautifully spotted Ocicat, could soon be celebrating.

About the Sphynx, Ms Macaulay was less encouraging: "It is a bald cat and there is a strong feeling that it would not cope with the British winters.

"Because it has no fur, it cannot disperse the sebaceous oils that come out of the skin, so it can get blackheads all over its coat". It's a grooming task that few owners would relish.

The Scottish Fold - because its ears look as if they are folded in half - is getting the cold shoulder because, according to the council's official guidelines, "a lethal gene in the make-up of these cats causes severe skeletal abnormalities and large numbers of dead kittens".It is also prone to Cyril Smith Syndrome: stubby legs that cannot support its weight.

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