In 1934 there was a long-drawn-out debate in Fur and Feather about show cages. A number of prominent fanciers weighed in on the argument.
The first article in this year was from J Wilton Steer, titled “Mice Show Cages”.
This question of show cages keeps cropping up. One or two judges have made mild protests, but nothing happens. I think the climax was reached at Derby, where Mrs. Blowers, my steward, towards the end complained of a sore arm and knuckles.
The trouble arises from the type of cage where the wire front is built up on what is known as “punch-bar”. Tinned ironware is not a good material to scratch oneself with. Some time ago I received a nasty scratch from one of these cages, this wound giving me a deal of trouble and pain. Will all who have this type of cage kindly examine the ends of the “punch-bar” , which in many cases is crudely pinched off, leaving an edge like a knife, and file it smooth and round.
Insecure cages are always with us. These are generally of the type that have one or two wires across the top. These are useless, as the mice can get between them. An amusing incident occurred at Derby. Mr. Clark wanted to show a mouse to the secretary, but it jumped off his hand onto one of these cages and coolly walked in. If exhibitors value their stock so little as to risk losing them form one of these cages, that is their look-out. If I were a steward, and all the mice got out and were lost, it would not disturb me in the least. It is not the duty of stewards to look after insecure cages.
Apart from that, these wires are a nuisance, as one cannot get his hand in properly, and often the mouse jumps out. In the official type of cage the wire door fits properly, leaving the opening wide and free.
The biggest scandal of all is the cages that do not begin to conform to the rule governing them. The Executive must take serious action, and give club judges definite instructions to disqualify these cages. Before the first St. Albans Great Show I wrote to Fur and Feather pointing out these cages, and adding that I should disqualify them. What was the result? Over 389 cages, and not one I could justly complain of, there being only two insecure ones. Since that time we have had shows with two or three times that number, but there is no reason why everyone should not conform to the rule.
Bradford Championship Show looms ahead, but there is plenty of time to set our cages in order. It is agreed that this unique show should be supported at all costs, it being a duty all must share. Our Fancy did well last year, providing over 700 entries, but we must do far, far better this time; also we must make the section the most attractive in the show and so help that most important item, the “gate”. Then, as the “Cinderella” of the small live-stock fancies, we shall be able cheerfully to ask for that slipper.
Turn to it at once, scrub every cage perfectly clean, make the fronts secure, and then, where necessary, give each a fresh coat of paint. The two club colours, Middle Brunswick Green (outside) and signal red (inside) are standards to the trade.
More rumblings went on for a while. Eventually Walter Maxey himself put his point of view forward under the heading “DOES THE MOUSE FANCY WANT A NEW SHOW CAGE? The Father of the Fancy Gives His Views on Questions of the Moment.
May I, as the inventor of standard show cages, say a few words about them.
The question of type of cage and colour has formally been put as a proposition on the annual voting paper sent out to all members, so that every member could vote as to what type of cage and colour should be the standard. Several colours were proposed, but Maxey cages had an overwhelming majority of votes.
If members now wish the type of cage and colour to be altered it should not—indeed, cannot—be done at any meeting, annual or otherwise. It must be put in the form of a proposition, proposed and seconded by two fully paid-up members, so that the whole of the members can vote for or against. The question of alteration to cages is too vital to be passed at a meeting.
Now let us consider the question of show cages without lids. At a recent Crystal Palace show it was very cold. The mice were almost dead with it, and I, along with other well-known fanciers, closed every lid before we left the show at night. Had we not done so I am afraid there would not have been many mice alive in the morning. Now I ask fanciers who think a cage without a lid is all that may be required, “What would have happened to the mice if the cages had no lids?” If you want your mice to come home with asthma and singing like canaries, then send them in cages without lids.
This question of lids was thrashed out years ago, and, I thought, finally settled. However, if some fanciers think the show cages would be better on the show bench without lids, then again let every member vote for or against it. This is a vital question and the vote of the whole of the members must be taken.
I have no axe to grind. It does not matter to me what shape, size, or colour cages may be. I am only writing in the interest of the Fancy in general. But whatever kind of cage or colour is voted for it must be the one and only type of cage and colour. We cannot have two kinds on the show bench.
The question of bedding has arisen. Fanciers should never place anything in the cage other than sawdust, hay and oats. This is all that is required. If a mouse should happen to win, and there is a piece of carrot or anything else noticeable in the cage there may be nasty remarks.