(Foreign Press: Ukraine) He used to be the most valuable cat in the world and just last year one frozen ampule of his semen was worth upwards of $10,000 — making him the most valuable cat in the world, but today, at a mere 7-years-old, poor Voyko Donko-Svetaslav-Shenko, or “Svet” as his owners lovingly call him, is washed up. After hundreds of veterinary tests and treatments, it has been determined that Svet is permanently sterile and unable to father kittens.
“We got used to living very well because of his value,” said his owner, a cat lover and sculptor, Svetlana Shenko, 78, through an interpreter from the small town of Kovel in northwestern Ukraine where she and her husband Olech have been living since their marriage over 60 years ago.
“Now that he is unable to sire offspring, we will have to live more modestly. My husband and I cancelled our winter vacation in the Canary Islands because the money is not coming in like it used to but construction on our home near the Black Sea is almost finished.
“Svet himself lives more modestly, continued Mrs. Shenko.
“He used to spend all his time in our home under the constant eyes of a caretaker and an insurance man who came to check him once a week, but now he is allowed to roam around the garden and the nearby meadow just like any other cat. He seems happier now than when he was an internationally celebrated breeding male, but we miss the money. I must admit that.”
Without realizing it, Svet was insured against mortality but not infertility so the insurance policy does not help in this case.
Svet’s value comes from the fact that he is the rarest of the rare as far as cat fanciers are concerned. He is a purely bred direct descendant of a family of felines called Les Polonaises Peritskas or The Polish Peritska Cat. This is the link to the zoologist who did the research into the bloodlines of this particular cat ——-> http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3834680/?ref_=sr_1
The slate gray breed was always scarce and only belonged to royalty or the Polish Catholic Church, but their numbers dropped to near zero when just about all of them were wiped out during World War II. Poland was overrun by the Nazis who used to shoot the naturally friendly cats whenever they approached.
“Svet’s kind are a very friendly and highly intelligent breed,” said Mrs. Shenko. “They had no fear of gunfire or strangers and they would often try to befriend the Nazi occupiers. They behave more like loving dogs than aloof cats. This did not sit well when Nazi officers found out that some soldiers were sharing food rations with the friendly cats.”
Since the breed in its pure form was only found in one small part of Poland where the Nazis had set up a communication post, one General ordered all the cats to be shot on sight. This wiped out more than 95% of the Peritskas.”
Svet’s extreme value comes from the fact that he is one of a very few remaining Polish Peritskas, but more importantly, he is of absolute pure blood — and nobody knows how he came to be. Since he is only 7-years-old, it is assumed that his parents are still living, but a thorough search by the ICS, International Cat Society, and the offer of a $5,000 reward turned up nothing.
“Svet is steel or slate gray and has four white feet and a white chest,” said Mrs. Shenko as she stroked the affectionate cat.
“He also has a white muzzle and green eyes. Those attributes prove that his bloodline is pure and there is no evidence of any other breed in him. Svet and a few other cats who looked like Peritskas were owned by my aunt who was an impoverished Ukrianian Countess . She died here in town in 2006 at age 103 and left behind seven of the Peritskas, Only Svet carried the four white feet, white chest, muzzle and green eyes. I imagine that the others were mixed but we keep them as pets. There was no sign of a mother or father cat and we believe that Svet and the others were smuggled to her by a Polish couple who went to jail for illegal gambling and public drunkeness.”
After Mrs. Shenko collected the cats from her aunt’s estate she knew he looked like a Peritska, but she didn’t really think he had any value. However, a visiting British hiker/bicycler, Andrew Kotterov, of New York City and London happened to see Svet in the summer of 2006 and immediately stepped in to offer his expertise.
Kotterov is a restaurateur and cat historian, and when he stumbled upon Svet and his human family whilst biking across Ukraine, he knew that he had stumbled upon a gold mine.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Kotterov from his posh New York City apartment.
“I had always believed that except for a few breeding pairs in the USA and the UK, the Polish Peritska breed was gone or bred out, but there he was, right in front of my eyes — and he was the real thing.
“I stopped in a bakery and Mrs. Shenko was holding him in her arms. I was dumbfounded. Luckily, I speak fluent Ukrainian and I explained the situation to Mrs. Shenko. She was already aware that the Svet was unusual, but she didn’t realize he could be so valuable. How could she? There’s not a lot happening in her town.”
Kotterov, always an entrepreneur, spent the next two weeks ingratiating himself with the Shenko family and formulating a plan that would make him wealthy — and the Shenkos even wealthier.
“I took hair samples from him and sent them via FedEx to a lab in Philadelphia where his DNA was compared with the DNA of five known Polish Peritskas living in the USA in undisclosed locations.”
Kotterov spared no expense and even paid to have the remains of a well-known Peritska exhumed from a small crypt in the basement of a Polish church where it had been entombed since 1771. Experts were able to extract DNA from the bones of that cat.
“The DNA was a perfect match with the cat we exhumed.” said Kotterov. The miniscule variations in Svet’s genetic material and the existing Peritskas, however, proved that Svet was even more pure-blooded than those few who live in the USA, England and Rome. It was then that the phone calls started to pour in. Everybody want to breed to him.”
According to Kotterov, throughout the world there are only about 75 Polish Peritska females and far fewer males of unproven lineage, All of the females belong to wealthy cat fanciers and breeders. The pedigree had started to become narrow and many kittens either died or were born with extra claws — a sure sign of inbreeding.
“I partnered up with Mr and Mrs. Shenko and we put a breeding price on Svet for $10,000 per breeding. That’s higher than most racehorse stallions. We sold 75 breeding ampules in 2 hours. That brought in $750,000 and in a few months there were a lot of kittens with strong new blood.”
Svet continued to be “collected” three times per year until June 2011, and even more semen was sold to breeders in Sweden and Finland who wanted to create a new breed of gray cats, but Svet’s last collection of semen was a flop.
“None of the females got pregnant,” said Kotterov. “We did extensive testing and lots of medical work on Svet. I even flew in a feline veterinary breeding specialist from the San Diego zoo and he gave us the bad news that Svet’s sperm was no longer viable and the condition causing this to happen is untreatable. It will not affect Svet’s lifespan, but he will never again be able to breed.
“But we did get five years out of him and now there are 4,300 kittens of pure Peritska blood — most selling for well over $7,000 each. More importantly, the gene pool is much less narrow and the breed will flourish — for those who can afford to buy a kitten.
“I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of affection for Svet, because he can be a little nasty, but I was all about the money anyway. I do, however, donate 50% of my profits from Svet to rescue homeless cats. The Shenkos, however, have true undying love for him.
“They recently bought a small beach house on the Black Sea and next summer they plan to take him with them when they go there. The Shenkos are incredibly spry for an elderly couple and my best guess is that they will leave Ukraine by the end of November of this year (2011) and enjoy the millions of dollars they have made. Why wouldn’t they? The town they live in is a dump and they have a lot of money to go elsewhere.”
The Shenkos are happy with their new found wealth and they are also grateful that they got a chance to restore the Polish Peritska Cat to it’s former glory — a heritage that goes back to the 14th century.
“I don’t like one thing,” said Mrs. Shenko. “I do not like the fact that Svet is known throughout the world in pedigree papers as Voyko Donko-Svetaslav-Shenko. I had to allow the International Cat Breeders to give him that silly name. To me he is just Svet and to the people of our village he is just another friendly cat who wanders around. But to the world of cat breeders, he is some kind of king.
“It is sad that he is no longer able to make babies, but money is not all there is in life? My husband and I are very old. We just love our cats. A businessman in Japan named Kurisan Kawazoko offered to buy Svet in his current condition for $50,000 but we refused. He just wanted him for a conversation piece. Svet deserves better than that. He likes to be cuddled and loved and he would be very mean to a stranger. He loves only us.”
So good old Voyko Donko-Svetaslav-Shenko is now just plain old Svet — and that’s the way he likes it. Once he was the king of the domestic cat world and now he is a pauper. We think he likes it that way.