Up Close and Purr-sonal
Cat Talk|February 2021
Welcome to the new Cat Talk series "Up Close and Purr-sonal." While we might know what someone breeds and shows, we often have no idea about what their life and interests are outside of the show hall. And we are surprised at what we are learning about them as well! Do you have a recommendation for someone to interview? Let us know! Email Teresa Keiger at tkeiger@cfa.org.

CYNDI LEWIS interview by Ann Strople

Cynthia (Cyndi) Lewis is a name known to just about anyone who’s been involved with CFA, even if just for just a year or two. Most have also seen her beautifully presented Persians—many white, but black and bicolor, too, either in photos or, if they are lucky enough to be at a show with Cyndi, in person. What all these cats have in common is that they are beautiful, impeccably groomed, and exquisite examples of her chosen breed.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Cyndi has lived all but three years of her life in Atlanta and the Atlanta metro area. Those three years were spent in Germany, which, in her words, “was one of the greatest experiences and educations of my life.” Now retired after 30 years with the Board of Education, Cyndi worked as a purchasing agent. “It was the perfect job,” she says, “for someone who has always loved to shop.”

Cyndi married her husband, Jim Barbre, when she was 40. They have 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this year. When Cyndi isn’t campaigning cats, she and Jim enjoy traveling and have visited a number of countries and continents. While Paris is Cyndi’s favorite city, her “magical, happy place,” she says she also particularly enjoys Sao Paulo and New York.

Pedigreed cats and cat shows weren’t part of Cyndi’s life until she attended her first cat show. She was 27 at the time.

“It was love at first sight! I walked up and down aisles of satin-covered cages with marabou boas and saw the most beautiful cats I had ever seen. Something called a “final” caught my eye and I went to watch. A judge dressed in a cut-away tuxedo was holding up cats and telling the audience why each was so fabulous. And then… he pulled out a white Persian dripping with coat that was floating in the air. He swung it up high above his head, and then brought it down to eye level with a graceful “swoop.” He kissed it right on the lips and exclaimed, “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present MY VERY BEST CAT!” At that moment, I was hooked.

“I saved my money until I had enough to purchase a breeder quality kitten, and CALCAT Persians Cattery was registered in 1980. This is the only breed I have worked with, because I adore the glamour of the fabulous flowing coats, especially the whites!”

(from left to right) with Donnatella at a show; with husband Jim Barbre; en route to visit her sister on Sullivan Island.

Cyndi has bred Persians for 21 years and shown them for more than 40. Over that time, she has had 16 national winners in kittens, championship, and premiership, including three winners of the prestigious Premier of the Year (POTY) title.

Campaigning cats is considered a family affair. Cyndi’s husband, Jim, takes care of things on the homefront when Cyndi is away showing the cats. “It’s very difficult to do this without a partner who is 100% supportive,” Cyndi says. “Jim takes care of everyone at home so that I can be gone every weekend during a campaign.”

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