China Grove native Teresa Keiger raises prize-winning Russian Blues

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 21, 2008

By Susan Shinn
GREENSBORO ó Step into the foyer of Teresa Keiger and Rob Miller’s Greensboro home and wait.
In a few minutes, cats come from everywhere to greet you.
Welcome to the couple’s cattery ó Platina Luna. They raise the breed Russian Blues.
One of their cats, Blade Runner, was recently named best in show at the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s Iams Championship in New York City ó the first time a Russian Blue has garnered this honor.
It’s easy to see why Blade Runner is a prize winner.
He has a beautiful light gray coat ó significantly lighter than some of the couple’s other Russian Blues ó and gorgeous green eyes.
He also has a lithe and graceful body, and a well-shaped head ó both standards for his breed in competition. Also, judges look for a linear face with a straight line from the tip of the nose to ridge of the brow ó a perfect profile.
Runner has that, too.
“But then there’s than other intangible factor, the wow factor, that’s greater than the sum of its parts,” Teresa says.
Runner’s definitely a “wow” type of cat.
Anyone who has ever been around cats knows that the animals only do what they want to do.
So … how exactly do you train a cat?
Well, quite simply, Rob says, the cat has to want to.
Along with Russian Blues, Teresa has other breeds, because she’s learning to be a judge for long-haired cats.
Kepler is a seven-month old Maine Coon with a friendly and curious personality. He wastes no time chewing on a reporter’s pen and notebook.
“He’s a good guy,” Teresa says. “He’s gonna be a big, big boy.”
Maine Coons typically weigh 20-plus pounds when full-grown.
The short-haired Russian Blues are much smaller.
Most of the couple’s cats are sociable and outgoing ó not two adjectives that always spring to mind when considering felines.
“You have to keep in mind, show cats are used to being in crowds and around people,” Rob notes.
Another member of the cattery is Mah Jongg, a black Persian with pumpkin-colored eyes.
She’s breathtaking, but a little more standoffish than the other “girls,” as Teresa calls them.
Because there are so many girls in the room, Blade Runner’s appearance this evening is necessarily brief.
Cats can be shown in either the championship category or the premiership category after they’ve been spayed or neutered.
Since Blade Runner shows in the championship category, he’s kept separate from the young female kittens.
When Teresa places him on the kitchen counter to show him off, you know what he’s thinking … helloooo, ladies!
And he bolts.
Several times.
Finally, Teresa tires of chasing after him ó sure enough, it is like herding cats, after all ó and takes him back upstairs.
That’s when the girls hop up onto the sofa to get their attention ó Kissy, Tex, Aja, Starshine and Winky. Even Tasha, the shyest one, comes round.
They all look alike to a first-time visitor, but Teresa and Rob know each one by a quick glance.
Rob and Teresa got their first Russian Blue 17 years ago.
“I had heard they were neat cats, and Rob found a breeder,” Teresa says. “I really liked the breed.”
Well, two cats are just as easy to take care of as one she thought…
The breeder told them that the second cat was good enough to show.
Hmm, Teresa thought. That sounds fun…
Before they knew it, they were into showing and breeding Russian Blues.
“If you’re a breeder, you’re looking toward developing that breed,” Teresa says. “We love the breed and we are developing our vision of the breed. Runner will make an impact on the breed.”
“It’s typically a slow process,” Rob adds. “We’ve been breeding for 15 years.”
Back to the question of training a cat.
You really can do it, Teresa says. “You start handling them when they’re young kittens as a show kitten. They have to want to cooperate.”
“The cats ultimately make those decisions,” Rob says. “If they don’t want to show, they don’t show.”
Cats who don’t become show cats are sold as pets.
But Blade Runner wants to be a show cat.
He proved that at the CFA Championship in October.
“It is a very big, prestigious show,” Teresa says.
It’s the cat breeder’s version of the Westminster championship for dogs, she says.
There were 43 breeds of cats in the New York show ó and Blade Runner was named the best of the best.
He was also named the best in nearly every ring or judging segment in which he competed.
“That surprised even us,” Rob says.
Teresa is a member of the Central Carolina Cat Fanciers’ Association.
“We’re a real small club, but we do two shows a year,” she says.
The couple is keeping busy at the moment, showing Blade Runner every weekend they can.
“Right now, he’s the best cat in the country,” Teresa says.
The ultimate goal for any cat in competition is to be named the CFA’s cat of the year.
Teresa will also be showing the kittens in competitions as well, to give them experience.
“It’s just a good way to acclimate them,” she says.
With all the work and travel that the cats require, it’s really just a hobby for Teresa and Rob, who have been married for 26 years.
Teresa does digital imaging and retouching for a photography studio, and Rob is a systems analyst for Moses Cone Hospital System.
Through the cat shows, the couple has made friends all over the country and all over the world.
A native of China Grove, Teresa is the daughter of Dale and Gayle Keiger.
Gayle, it seems, wasn’t real keen on keeping a cat in the house when Teresa was growing up.
“I told my mom I was going to have as many cats as I wanted when I grew up,” Teresa says. “I think I’m at that point now.”