Dr. Solveig Pflueger
Published August 2014

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On July 14, 2014, the cat fancy lost Dr. Solveig Pflueger. From the initial founding of TICA until her passing 35 years later, Solveig shaped and expanded the face of TICA through her talents, wisdom and genetic expertise.

Solveig was an extraordinary woman. She lived life at full tilt, endlessly energetic and always eager to take on a new project.

Solveig was born in Iowa and lived in West Suffield, CT, for the last twenty years.

She received both a PhD in linguistics and a MD from the University of Texas. Solveig then worked as a cytogeneticist and pathologist in Springfield, Massachusetts.

She was affiliated with several medical facilities in the area, including Baystate Franklin Medical Center and Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.

She practiced for 33 years, specializing in Pathology, Anatomic Pathology, Clinical Pathology, Clinical Cytogenetic and Clinical Genetics.


The International Cat Association (TICA) was formed in 1979, and was unique in that it was to be a cat registry based on genetics. From the beginning, Solveig was a prominent figure in its creation and development. She was appointed Chairperson of the Genetics Committee and brought her expertise in genetics to bear in order to create TICA's rules of registration. Her name was part of the first list of judges published in the debut TICA Trend in July 1979. She was TICA's Judge Of The Year in 1992.

Solveig was also the founder and president of the GeneTICAts Cat Club.

Solveig with Francine Hicks
, TICA NE Director

A Mentor & Champion

From those first days of TICA until her passing 35 years later, Solveig continued to mentor cat fanciers, always ready to answer questions and explain basic genetics to a newbie.

Amidst her mountain of accomplishments and contributions to TICA, perhaps what stands out the most was Solveig's championing of rare and developing new breeds. It was Solveig's responsibility to determine a new breed's unique genetic make-up — and especially to guide the fanciers of the breed in matings that would promote the future and health of their particular breed.

Terri Harris, Ronalyn Cooley (Solveig's best friend),
Logan Proctor (Terri's grandson) and Solveig Pflueger
on a cat rescue mission in Arkansas in 2009
Photo courtesy Terri Harris


The Munchkin is a relatively new breed of cat characterized by its very short legs, which are caused by a naturally occurring genetic mutation. Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was first proposed for registration. Critics voiced their concern over potential health and mobility issues.

Together with Dr. David Biller, Head of Radiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, Solveig conducted studies on the Munchkin and determined that the short-legged trait has an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance. She confirmed that the cats did not appear to have any of the spinal problems associated with the canine short-legged counterparts such as the Corgi and Dachshund.

In September 1994, TICA accepted the Munchkin into its New Breed development program. The Munchkin achieved TICA Championship status in May 2003.

The Napoleon

The Napoleon is derived from crossing of the Munchkin with the Persian. Once again, Solveig was called upon for her expertise in helping Napoleon fanciers develop the new hybrid. By sharing her knowledge of genetics with the breeders, Solveig was able to help develop the healthiest Napoleon gene pool possible.

Ojos Azules

The Ojos Azules is a blue-eyed cat with coat color not usually associated with blue eyes in normal feline genetics.

In 1984, a cat named Cornflower was discovered in a feral colony in New Mexico.

She was a tortoiseshell with brilliant blue eyes.

When bred to unrelated males, Cornflower's kittens exhibited the same blue eyes—thus proving the trait was a dominant one.

TICA recognized the Ojos Azules as a breed in 1991 but it remained a rare breed with only 10 known individuals in 1992.

It was discovered that when the Ojos Azules gene is homozygous it causes cranial deformities, white fur, a small curled tail, and stillbirth.

Solveig investigated and confirmed that when the gene was heterozygous, no lethal defects occurred.

Solveig was so enchanted by the colored cats with their unusual blue eyes that she became part of the small group of breeders working with Ojos Azules.

The Tennessee Rex

In Tennessee in 2004, a litter of feral kittens were born on the porch of a home in Tennessee.

Two of the kittens had a curly fur that has sparkles in the hair shaft that "glittered".

Solveig worked in cooperation with breeders to help this new mutation gain recognition.

The breed is now classified as Registration Only with TICA .

Solveig at the Napoleon Breed Booth
Photo courtesy Terri Harris

Solveig handling a Napoleon
Photo courtesy Terri Harris

The Polydactyl Maine Coon

Close to Solveig's heart was the fight to gain acceptance of the polydactyl Maine Coon—pedigreed Maine Coons with extra toes on the feet. Indeed Solveig bred polydactyls herself. The term polydactyl (poly meaning many and dactyl referring to digits) refers to the existence of extra digits. In cats, the extra toes are usually on the thumb side of the foot.

The TICA Genetics Committee, headed by Solveig, determined that the gene that causes polydactylism is harmless (unlike a different gene that produced lethal defects along with polydactyl feet) . Currently, the only polydactyl breed accepted for show status in TICA is the Pixie Bob.  Solveig thought that should change and that TICA should accept the polydactyl Maine Coon to full status in the registry.

In Catwatch, February 2006, in an article titled ‘A Little Bit Extra’, when Solveig was interviewed by Karen Commings, she made the following observations . . .

“The form of polydactyly most often seen in cats is the result of a simple autosomal dominant trait. It does not appear to affect the cat adversely and is not known to be associated with other anomalies.”

"The gene that eliminates or produces a poorly developed radius has nothing to do with the normal form of polydactyly."

Just a few weeks after her passing, TICA’s Breed Section voted in favor of accepting the polydactyl Maine Coon by 53%. Without Solveig’s support, it might never have happened. She would have been so pleased.

Polydactyl Maine Coon, LeatherandLace Missundaztood PP
Owner and breeder: John Monster, The Netherlands
Photo by Poezels.nl

A Creator of Costumes

Solveig was a women of many talents . . . and lest you think that her only interest was feline, she was a talented theatrical costumer, designing and sewing costumes for theater companies in the northeast including the Broad Brook Opera House, Ivoryton Playhouse and The Music Hall Royale Players. She could often be found in a vendor booth at Renaissance fairs and conventions, showcasing her unique clothing.

Costume "Garden Party" 1998
Designed by: Gypsy Ames— Constructed by: Solveig Pflueger
Model: Solveig Pflueger

Photo by Ken Warran


Solveig was one of a kind. An original. In a world where we overuse the term "role model", she exemplified what it was to be intelligent, knowledgeable, generous, dedicated . . . and courageous. She shared her talents with many people—and in doing so, she made a difference in their lives and left her indelible mark on TICA.

Solveig faced life with a sense of humor. When confronted with a diagnosis of cancer, she continued working during her treatment. Few people realized she was battling the disease. In the end, cancer took her from us.

Solveig was a loving wife and devoted mother. She is survived by her husband, Howard Smith, son, Haldan and daughter, Sigrid. Our thoughts are with them.


Below are just a few excerpts of remembrances by those who were privileged to have known the remarkable Solveig Pflueger . . .

I know there will be many people who will miss this very special lady but few any more than myself. From her days here in Texas, to our days together at INCATS shows, to her recent help to me with Meet The Breeds — and all the millions of in-between moments when I stood in awe of Solveig's intelligence and grace. TICA would not be what it is today without her wisdom and guidance. She will greatly be missed.

Cheryl Hogan
TICA Specialty Judge

Solveig is the reason I came to TICA. She gave me my first purebred cat many years ago. Her son and my daughter shared drama throughout high school and Solveig took Ally with them through Europe. We did scientific laboratory rescues together when I just started showing. She was a selfless, generous and brilliant friend and heaven will be a little brighter while our world a little emptier.

Rene Knapp
TICA Allbreed Judge
Pentaclecats Abyssinians

She loved cats, all cats, dwarfs, curly, naked, cross eyes, kinky, fluffy, werewolf looking. You name it, she was interested in it, and would talk to you for as long as you would listen. She spoke her mind freely. I will so miss her voice . . . and picking up the phone to seek answers from her to cat related questions. I was so excited to tell her that the dwarf gene had been found in the Munchkins. Now I understand why my attempted contacts were not returned . . . My heart aches . . .

Terri J. Harris

Solveig has been a friend for over 20 years. She never stopped, always on the run, going somewhere - a cat show - a Ren-faire - sewing costumes. Her intelligence and logic can never be replaced. TICA has lost one of its most important founding members. She also loved ballet and Sigrid studied ballet for years. She would drive all the way from western Mass., to Boston to come and see performances of my dance troupe. Her consummate help with breeders and exhibitors was beautiful. She always made time for everyone, and never passed judgment on people. It was always what it was.

Jimmy Reardon
Boston Dance Company
TICA Specialty Judge

She has been a friend and comrade since my very first cat show nine years ago. Her intelligence and logic can never be replaced. Her consummate help with breeders and exhibitors was extraordinary. She always made time for everyone, even a novice like me. She has been our guiding light in the development of the new breed Tennessee Rex and has always been in favor of admitting the polydactyl Maine Coons into Championship. The cats that have crossed the rainbow bridge now have a champion companion, mentor and guiding star to be with forever.

Gordon Pugh
UpperValley Cattery

A wonderful knowledgeable person who seemed to work non-stop. She was the inspiration for my wife and I in starting a online database for polydactyl cats in 2005 from her studies of the past — just another way she could inform and educate many people worldwide, including me, who learned immensely. She will be missed in the cat world and TICA and in so many other areas of her life.

Ken Bussard
Maine Coons

Solveig was an inspiration to many people around the world. She has shown us what it means to be busy, intelligent, patient, kind, brave and informed. She has shared her gifts with many people and has touched so many lives. Her contributions to TICA can not ever fully be appreciated due to their sheer magnitude. The world has truly lost a great mind, a kind soul and a loving person. I will always remember her kindness, her words, her wisdom and her bravery.  We were all truly blessed and were better just for knowing her.

Francine Hicks
TICA NE Director
TICA Allbreed Judge

Solveig was a force of nature — she did so much for TICA as a whole and for many people individually.

Ellen Crockett
TICA NW Regional Director
TICA Allbreed Judge
Vicrock Devon Rex

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