HDW Enterprises and Foothill Felines Present:

IAN ANDERSON (of Jethro Tull) and his Bengal Cats!

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

We are delighted to be able to share with you some of the humor, the charm, the insight, and the love for felines of Ian Anderson, flute player for the famous rock band, Jethro Tull. Ian is a devoted Bengal owner, and was kind enough to grant us this exclusive interview. What an honor for us to be able to talk "cats" with this fascinating and passionate man!!

HDW: Ian, thank you for taking the time to tell us about yourself, your cats, and some of your thoughts about cat-keeping and the Bengal breed in particular!! First of all, could you tell us a little about your background?

I.A.: For almost (a cat's whisker away) thirty years I have been the flute player, singer and occasional guitarist in the rock band Jethro Tull. We have played over two thousand concerts in most of the countries of the world where electricity is available, and sold (so EMI Records tell me) over forty million albums.

My musical and touring commitments over all these years have left me little time to follow the usual range of manly hobbies and so my private recreational time is usually spent at home in the company of my wife Shona, our two children James and Gael, and the four or five cats which, at any one time, we have enjoyed the company of in our English home surrounded by our farming estate and woodlands.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

HDW: You currently have both dogs and cats at your estate, don't you?

I.A.: Some people drift naturally towards a preference for either dogs or cats over one another and, since the very early days, my own preference has always extended to "felis pussy catus" (my terminology!) as a non-human companion. We do have a couple of big, smelly, greasy, large and fierce dogs who come with a large pedigree stating their Belgian Shepherd authentication but it should be stressed that they are only here to do a job. I am not sure what that job actually is, but it may have something to do with ensuring that the Postman never brings us our mail anymore and strangers stopped dropping by a few years ago! Anyway, we don't pay them very much and they do not seem to object when the cats help themselves to the dogs' food as well!

HDW: How did your interest in exotic felines and cats in general get started??

I.A.: Our family cat-keeping began with the "love me, love my cat" introduction by my not-quite-then wife of a large and usually disgruntled black male of advanced years going by the startlingly original name of "Fur" who had been Shona's companion through her teenage years. His main claim to good sense was to fall out of a third-floor window and land on his head in the yard of the Indian Restaurant, above which my wife's apartment was situated. Happily and evidently, cat was not on the menu that day, but a stunned Fur nursing a bruised ego may have been heard to say, "Thank God it wasn't Friday!"

After his short but happy retirement to the country following our marriage, a number of other cats have come and gone. Most of those have been feral farm cats usually taken from their completely unapproachable mothers at around six weeks of age when, after a couple of weeks of hard work, they have adjusted to their human providers and been a source of pets for both our family and many others to whose good homes they went. I think there were about twenty-three kittens over the years which we reared from this fairly wild and opportunistic gene pool.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

Ian's Two Bengal Cats!

HDW: We'd love to hear about the cats that you have now!!

I.A.: We currently have two black ex-farm moggies by the names of Kirin and Mauser, both middle-aged and verging upon over-weight and elderly! The two recent additions are a female Bengal, Tiffen, from one of Britain's most established breeders and the even newer F-2 male, Sambhar.

HDW: As a Bengal breeder myself, I have to ask…what was so appealing to you about the Bengal cat in particular??

I.A.: Our move towards Bengals began as a replacement for my daughter's beautifully marked tabby who sadly lost an argument with a truck having ventured too far from home. Having read about the Bengal breed and its origins, we were sufficiently captivated to acquire one and begin our current high level of interest in the development of the breed both within and without the sphere of influence of the cat fancy associations with whom I have some points of disagreement. But, being new to the Bengal game and ornery and feisty enough to get away with all too often, I can say that I disagree with some of the current breed standards and the reluctance of these associations to allow further input of real foundation stock, at least here in the U.K.

HDW: What is Sambhar's background?

I.A.: Our own F-2, Sambhar, was taken from his unapproachable mother at four weeks and hand-reared by the breeder concerned prior to his coming to us (at my insistence) long before the statutory twelve weeks usually recommended by the cat association tradition. Sabhar's grandfather was an Asian Leopard Cat from a zoo in Belgium.

HDW: Why did you insist on having Sambhar come to you at such a young age?

I.A.: All too often, I feel that kittens reared on concrete in traditionally run catteries lack the human bonding necessary to become good and reliable pets when their sole involvement with humans has been a brief couple of times a day for feeding or changing litter. On the other hand, too many cats reared indoors by even the most loving of breeders can often lead to the squashing of personalities and uneasiness associated with such territorial restrictions applying to too many animals in small domestic, if loving, environments.

My feeling has always been that in taking on the responsibility of cat-keeping, whether a single pet or from a breeding point of view, simply must involve the commitment to invest a good number of hours each day to developing and nurturing the bond between feline and human companions. Regular introductions to other animals including dogs, as well as to strangers, is important in developing the trust and depth of character to which most, if not all, cats can aspire.

Sambhar, Ian's F-2

Ian's Bengal Cat!

HDW: What has it been like for you to share your home with Bengals?

I.A.: Much has been said about the admirable temperament of the Bengal breed and my own experience certainly bears this out. But even the most confirmed playmate and companion needs a matching commitment from its keeper and the aesthetic appearance of the cat's appeal should not be allowed to sway common sense on the part of a wood-be owner. Those who would like to share their home with a "wild little leopard" should always place the emphasis on "share", and make sure the commitment is in both directions by obtaining their pet from a reputable breeder who has raised the animal in a hands-on manner, whether for further breeding or simply as a pet.

HDW: Any words of advice for people interested in finding a good, reputable Bengal breeder?

I.A.: Luckily, the cat magazines are full of advertisements for Bengals here in the U.K., and even more so in the U.S. Asking around must always be recommended even if you might have to drive a little further to find the animal of your choice from a breeder whose facilities and methods are top-notch.

Ian's F-2!

Sleeping Beauty!

Gorgeous Bengal Cat!

HDW: Okay, Ian, I know that you have some rather strong personal opinions about the future direction of the Bengal Cat. If you were able to set the breed standards yourself, how would you describe the purr-fect "Bengal Cat"?

I.A.: With such a rapidly growing breed, it seems to me of paramount importance not to lose sight of the wild origins at least from a visual point of view. Too many Bengals have, for me at any rate, high pointed ears, cute little noses, narrow cheek pads, raccoon tails, bars rather than spots on the legs and flanks and TOO MUCH GLITTER! Also, the over-emphasis on the aesthetic value of the various marbled types seems like it might be sidetracking the breed down another difficult to control route. Marbling and rosettes might be nice, but like all good things, in moderation.

I would love to see the breed return to the appearance of its classic wild ancestor. High contrast markings, white chin and tummy background, broad noses, rounded ears set on the side of the head, white eye spot on the backs of ears, spotted rather than ringed tail and the boldness of eye associated with the wild counterpart. In the interests of safe identification, however, ideally a single feature should be bred for which unmistakably sets the Bengal apart from the Asian Leopard Cat in order that there should be no confusion, deliberately or otherwise, at cat shows or when pets are offered for sale.

At the moment, of course, there is absolutely no mistaking the Bengal from the Asian Leopard Cat or early generation hybrids (F-1, F-2, F-3), but I do feel that the balance, visually at any rate, should be closer to the wild appearance. With such a young breed there is everything to play for and I am sure many breeders would prefer, like me, to keep the look authentic and simple, and not go down the route of "glitzy" and glamorous show-biz types.

HDW: What do you think about the various exotic hybrids and new cat breeds being developed now?

I.A.: There are, of course, many other exciting hybrids being developed from other compatible wild sub-species of felines. Fertility, I am told by Jean Mill (founder of the Bengal breed), seems to be a major problem in experimental breeding, especially in the first couple of generations.

I think that, in all, the truly exciting thing about Bengals and other hybrids are the benefits they can bring in the respect and understanding shown by the public to other natural wild counterparts. Ultimately, it is the protection of their wild habitat, rather than the protection of the species itself, which must be the priority.

Stretching out for Dad!

HDW: Any final words of wisdom you'd like to share with us?

I.A.: As more and more small wild cats across the world are displaced from their natural territories as a result of commercial activities, they are forced to scavenge close to human settlements and many are killed as pests or for the fur (and even the food) trades.

In raising the consciousness of the public to the plight of many small, wild cats, the Bengal and some other hybrids can be like a signpost pointing the way to a broad and unselfish commitment to save not only endangered species but those whose fate may also one day become inevitable.

These sometimes gloomy thoughts are what keep me passionately interested in all the cats, big and small, lap-tops and loners, fat cats and scavengers, and often sets me thinking how lucky my furry friends are to have a Dad who owns the second largest smoked salmon producer in the U.K.!

(HDW Enterprises and Foothill Felines wishes to thank Ian Anderson and his family for providing us with these wonderful photos and interview!)

Foothill Felines Bengals & Savannahs "Stalking the Majesty of Nature; Inspired by the Heart!"

Here's Our WebSite Selections!






© 1997-2002 Copyright by HDW Enterprises, Inc. - All Rights Reserved. Copyrighted, baby!
HDW Enterprises, Inc., P.O. Box 418104, Sacramento, CA 95841-8104 (916) 481-CATS ph/fax
http://www.hdw-inc.com e-mail: holly@hdw-inc.com