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Stella looks back

All breeds judge, Stella Slabber, founder member of the All Breeds Cat Club (ABCC), and "mother" of the Chinchilla cats in SA, died in August 2006 at the age of 84.

Stella, although not always in good health, still judged just before she turned 84 - "kierie" (Afrikaans for a walking stick), cigarettes and all. This made her probably the oldest cat judge on a championship cat show ever!

Stella imported her first Chinchillas in the mid seventies from Jean Ramsdale, USA. In 1980, her Cherie Dear Nikki became the first Persian supreme in South Africa, and he was also the 1980 cat of the year. The Dearheart and Cherie tradition lives on the Cherie-Finesse Cattery.

Stella, assisted by her children, wrote down her memories of the SA cat fancy for us.

Jeanne Ramsdale: Viva Le Chinchilla!

June 2002

"And out of the ground the lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof."
(Genesis 2, verse 19).

The essence of this article is to thank and praise our Lord and Father for his gift of dominion over and care for His wonderful creatures to mankind and His gift of life to a farm girl, born in Swaziland during 1922, whose heart was ingrained with an intense love of animals; especially cats that bred so profusely in the absence of veterinarian care and safe sterilization techniques.

I clearly recall, at the age of four years, the wonder and awe with which I witnessed the birth of kittens, stroking a mother for hours while she lay looking at me with gentle eyes, as if to say "Look at the wonderful moment I am sharing with you." Little did I know that later in life fear and agony would regularly accompany me during the birth of my Longhair Chinchillas, many of whom tortured me with 'breach' births. This kept me in constant prayer for help and much thanks giving after each experience.

Even after 45 years of enjoyment within the cat fraternity, the Chinchilla remains my favourite of all felines. Prior to my involvement in the fraternity, I had a vague vision of the 'look' of the breed of cat I wished to own. I saw the Longhair Chinchilla for the first time in a book, by Jeanne Ramsdale of California, entitled "Persian Cats and other Longhairs."

Jeanne, recognized as a leading breeder in the United States of America, was most gracious in parting with seven of her best Chinchillas over time. These cats formed the cornerstone of the breed's tremendous success in South Africa. Word are inadequate to appropriately thank Jeanne for her benevolence. Six of these beautiful imported cats achieved championship status.

Name of CatSA Championship status
Cherie Dearheart Jennifer
  • First Chinchilla ever to win Longhair Grand Championship
  • Second ever supreme Champion
  • Cherie Dearheart Alexander
  • Champion
  • Cherie Dearheart Chantilly
  • Champion
  • Cherie Dearheart Daniel
  • Grand Champion
  • Cherie Dearheart Nicholas
  • Grand Champion
  • Cherie Dearheart Merlin
  • Supreme Champion
  • The greatest achiever of them all was Cherie Dear Niki, a second generation South African, who achieved double supreme championship status and became the first ever supreme longhair in South Africa.

    The South African Cat of the Year award started in 1979 and was introduced by Ken Theron. In the second round of SA Cat of the Year during 1980, Niki won this coveted award, which was awarded on accumulated points on show results throughout the year. Plaudits for Niki resounded throughout Great Britain and America.

    The following is a quotation from the 1981 Annual Yearbook of America's 'Cat Fanciers' Association':

    "We would like to give our special congratulations to Stella Slabber of Southfield, near Cape Town. Her Cat, Gr. Ch. Cherie Dear Niki, was named South African Cat of 1980. He is a combination of several pairs of Dearheart cats she imported from us. In 1981, the latest Grand Champion title was awarded to Cherie Dearheart Nicholas, Imp. This achievement also gave her the honour of having five Grand Champions in her cattery, "Cherie". No other South African cattery has ever equaled this number of grands. No other Persians has been Cat of the Year. We feel these two "Firsts", under British-Type Judging are truly remarkable. We are sure that the owners of other cats in our world-wide family will rejoice with us in this outstanding record. This year, both "Dear Niki" and Gr. Ch. Cherie Dearheart Jennifer, Imp. will each need one more win to complete their Supreme Grand Championships. This is the highest title possible in the South African Cat Fancy."

    I will never forget how hard Jeanne and I fought to prevent cross-breeding between Persians and Chinchillas. We eventually won and Utopia was ours. With it's own Standard of Points (unique to the Chinchilla breed), this wonderful cat has been renamed "Sterling" in America and "Chinchilla Longhair" in South Africa.

    Viva Le Chinchilla!

    Thank you Lord for the life and
    loving memory of Jeanne Ramsdale
    ....A dear and wonderful friend.


      v1.0.1 2002-07-12