Interview with Vlada Benynya, a TICA All Breed Expert
– How long have you been engaged in felinology?
Right since the second day of its existence in the former USSR. I think that the first day was the very first cat show held in Riga, and in November 1986 I came to the Riga club of decorative dog breeding, where a section of cats had been established. I came as a dog fancier, but left as a cat fancier.
– What breed was the first you bred?
Now, when many years have passed, and I have acquired much knowledge and experience, it is difficult for me to answer this question. Just for information purposes, a Persian cat was the first.
- Why did you choose this very breed?
At the very beginning only a Persian cat fitted the concept of a "pedigreed cat". Simply there was nothing else. Separate cats of the Siamese and the Russian Blue breeds were not understood by people. People wanted to see obvious differences from outdoor cats, and only Persian cats possessed such qualities. A Persian cat nicknamed Ambra that accidentally got to me during a trip to the Czech Republic, became my first truly pedigreed cat who gave me the first, truly pureblooded kittens. I do not know if I can call it a beginning of breeding, if the breed was selected not consciously.
– What was your first cat's name?
My very first cat had only a mother and a father in her pedigree, and it was considered a Maine Coon. Looking at old photographs, I understand why foreign judges at shows were so puzzled when they were to find features of this breed in my cat Asya. My love to it did not depend on its show results, and it still remains in my memory as the most favorite and devoted one.
- Your first show as an expert – how did it go?
I was not afraid, but it seems to me that it looked quite funny to onlookers. It was in August 1991, almost a month after my very first judge examination. Cat shows caused great interest of the public at that time, and especially, of spectators. Accordingly, holding of such an event should have brought good money to the organizers. So, there was a telephone call from Volgograd ingenious businessmen with a proposal to judge at the first cat show in their city, I immediately bought a train ticket and two weeks later I already opened this stately occasion. A small nuance: I was seven-month pregnant with my first child and seemed a cheerful Carlson to people around me. On the second day of the show, the participants brought lots of baskets with the tastiest southern fruit to the judges' room. It was very touching. At the same show I got acquainted with Irina Kirimova, who later founded the first club of cat fanciers "Minuet" in Volgograd. She came to that show with her first Persian cat Chivi Minuet.
- Have you ever worked with other breeds?
I divide my experience as a breeder into two parts: "As all have" - this is 16 years devoted to Persians and Exotic cats, and a "conscious choice" - this is Maine Coons, with which I have worked untill now. I must recognize that breeding of Persians was much simpler, and I succeeded in it to a much greater extent.
- What kind of shows do you like more: with traditional European judging or rings?
I definitely like the ring system more, it is much closer and much more comfortable for me. I will reveal you a small secret: in 2003 I decided to give up all this cat business and, if possible, to find another activity which would fascinate me like cats, and where I would succeed. I was really professonally tired. It suddenly struck me that a cat staying on the judicial table had become a kind of a tool for me. It is wrong. But in October 2003 I accidentally visited a TICA show in Germany, where I met an old acquaintance and widely-loved judge Massimo Picardello, and already in an hour I found myself on the ring as a clerk. The show could not start just because one clerk was lacking. And I got indulged into it! 3 years of the most interesting training and learning of quite another type of judging began. A deep contact with a cat, understanding of its mood with a single touch, a skill to manage its behavior are essential here. It seems to me I fell in love with cats with quite another love providing for more responsible and more tender treatment. I like ring judging, because I can manage my time, it is I who determines places in my ring, and I always have to learn something new.
– What is your sign of the Zodiac?
I have never concealed my age; it's nonsence. I am a 44-year-old Sagittarius born in the year of the Dog.
- You visit a lot of shows as an expert. In what country do people like Bengals most of all, do you think? Where is, in your opinion, the livestock of the highest quality?
Bengals honestly share with Maine Coons the leading position in a category of breeds, regarding which judges have different opinions and visions of the breed. As to my ideals, I am really professionally satisfied with Bengals in England. I can hardly imagine how such an energetic breed has become so wildly popular in a country, where most people live in quite straightened conditions, but it has happened, and I am very glad about that as a judge. You can hardly understand, how exciting it is to judge 48 kittens and 52 adults of one colour! As to America, Bengals are widely spread and popular there as in a country which has presented this admirable breed to the world. But it is in the United States where the work on this breed is not so active or not so scrupulous, in my opinion. American breeders work harder to create a brighter and a more glittering coat, like, perhaps, an appearence of an expensive product.
- How do you like to relax?
Continuous trips and little time at home with my family have taken their toll. The best rest for me is in our town house surrounded by amazing nature, in the society of my husband and all my children, if it is possible.
- What is your favorite dish? Drink?
I like absolutely everything, I am open for everything new, I eat and cook dishes of all world cuisines, but cherish special passion to the eastern cuisine. I am fond of the Chinese and the Thai cuisines. Good green tea is the drink of every my morning and good day, and good wine is the "crown" of a good evening. I know a lot about it, and it makes me happy.
- Do you have another hobby besides cats?
Sure! As I once said, my business will never be so bad to place a cat as my user icon. My garden is my second strongest love. It is super progressive, with automation of all possible processes. No, nobody in my family starves and there is no need in growth of vegetables, but I am really captivated by the way how a seed chips and grows into delicious harvest. It is like a birth and growth of children, but much faster. I share the harvest with all my friends, acquaintances and neighbours in my entrance in Moscow. It is this prosaic activity that I have changed all the shows for during the last years, beginning from early May and up to late September.
- What is an “ideal present" for you?
I do not consider myself mercenary, but life experience has shown me that freedom of choice is the most inportant thing there. This is mainly money or gift cards, though when I absolutely exactly know what a person dreams about, I try to make him happy with implementation of that dream.
- What is your life credo or motto?
To never overstep another person and to take all people as I find them. If my world outlook or, say, my ideas about morality do not coincide with those of another person, I will not judge him or chase after him to somehow re-educate. I just will not let him in my affairs and will not do business with him. No matter how banal it sounds, but observance of those Ten Commandments guarantees concord with yourself and the surrounding world. My inability to remain angry for more than 3 minutes can be called neither a credo nor a motto, but I like it very much. Bags, do not use it!:)