ACT News


Cat, champion ... boofhead

One of the elite cats on show at this weekend's Royal Canberra Show, a big and beautiful blue point Birman, has two of the most contrasting names imaginable.

''His name officially is Blue Imperial, '' proud owner Brian Richings explained on Wednesday in his cat-riddled Ainslie living room, ''but we call him Boof because he's a boofhead.''

This is reminiscent of how Henry VIII was called Old Coppernose, and how Ivaylo the emperor of Bulgaria was also called the Cabbage.

On Wednesday something, perhaps it was being called a boofhead, was making Blue Imperial grumpy and he made a half-hearted attempt to bite both his owner and this cat-loving columnist as we tried to run our admiring hands over his imperial, pedigree body.

Another possibility is that he didn't like having to share the limelight with the 10 other cats in the room. Seven weeks ago, Mr Richings explains, a litter of Birmans was produced and those babies (the overworked word cute doesn't come close to capturing their loveliness) was creating the lovely chaos. Everywhere kittens peeped out of cupboards, sprang up on chairs and posed on tables.

Mr Richings has had a little limelight lately as one of the Manuka Oval operators of the Jack Fingleton scoreboard reportedly forced, by onerous new OH&S regulations, to give up that work after 30 years.


But now he has more time to devote to an even longer-lived enthusiasm. He's been a cat enthusiast, a shower of cats and a steward at cat shows for almost 34 years. He'll be stewarding at this weekend's Royal Canberra Show and will also be showing Blue Imperial/Boof who is already, in his desexed Birman class, ''a double grand champion''.

Those of us who own knockabout cats may struggle a little to understand the world of cat shows where notions of perfection are aimed for. And Blue Imperial/Boof approaches perfection in his breed and class, Mr Richings explains, because he has qualities like a Roman nose and a classical setting of his ears in the right places on his regal skull.

But as well as all this, Mr Richings insists, he is first and foremost a pet albeit, on Wednesday, a rather cranky one.

Mr Richings loves the Birmans (and his late wife, a cat show judge whose bags Mr Richings used to carry, even carrying them as far as New Zealand, loved them too) says that they are especially endearing.

''They're a people cat. They're the sort of cat you have when you want a dog. They follow you around. They meet you when you come home. You pull into the driveway and they're there at the door.''

Letting myself out (while Fairfax Media photographer Mel Adams and Mr Richings were busy trying to herd some of the cats into a place where they could be photographed) I found myself ankle-deep in perfect Birman kittens.

The 2013 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Show is from Friday 22 February to Sunday 24 February.

Push to make cockatoo Queanbeyan's emblem

Given that the ACT is blessed with a lovely faunal emblem, the Gang-gang Cockatoo, one wonders why neighbouring Queanbeyan has never been driven, by seething emblem envy, to imitate us. Now, at last, in this year of Queanbeyan's 175th birthday, there are the shy beginnings of a push to persuade Queanbeyan's people and its council to adopt the magnificent Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) as an avian emblem.

Those doing the pushing include Greening Australia and the Kosciuszko2Coast movement of conservation-minded landholders. In a little over a week from now they're going to have a meeting that will be attended by, among others, ''Fifty'', a live, young example of the species. ''Why it it called 'Fifty'?'' I hear you marvel. The poignant answer to that question will be supplied in a moment.

But first, the push on behalf of the vulnerable species is also an overlapping push to have more places in our region reupholstered with the sorts of Casuarina species the seed-eating cockatoos have to have. Greening Australia is co-ordinating the planting of 10,000 Casuarina seedlings and other cockatoo-friendly trees in our region.

The aforementioned meeting, on March 4, will discuss trying to persuade the local council to embrace the cockatoo as a fowl of special importance to the city.

Being probing and investigative (in pursuit of the Walkley Award that continues to so cruelly elude this column) we contacted the mayor of Queanbeyan, Tim Overall, to ask him how receptive he is to this idea.

The cautious Mr Overall said that until now he'd not felt any pain at the absence of a Queanbeyan faunal emblem. He imagined the idea would go to council's appropriate committee and that then there'd be a great deal of community consultation. He says there has been discussion of making the platypus the city's emblem since it does occur in the river at Queanbeyan. He and his family have watched platypuses from a Queanbeyan bridge. But we tossed around together the thought that, hmmm, Bombala already makes rather a fuss of the platypus in its promotions of itself and that perhaps platypuses, seldom seen, are not such good emblem material as in-your-face and in-your-ear cockatoos.

But back to ''Fifty''. Peter Gowland of Queanbeyan-based Priam Parrot Breeding explains that ''Fifty'' belongs to his son Daniel, who has hand-reared it from the moment of its hatching. Of all the parrot species, Mr Gowland fancies, this one is the most fiendishly difficult to successfully hand-rear from an egg. And so ''it was 50/50 he [the hatchling] wouldn't make it''. But ''Fifty'' did make it and will be an inspirational avifaunal presence at next month's meeting.