Contests for darn near everything ...

cat shows, the cages in which the cats are displayed are a standard size (24 × 27 × 27 inches). While there is much fuss about grooming the cats in preparation for the shows, there is also plenty of to-do about the cages themselves—owners decorate them with cushions, curtain, fabrics, bric-a-brac and other ornaments. It won’t surprise you that some of the cat shows actually give prizes for the best-decorated cages.

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“Vetting in”

All the people connected to cat shows are, of course, fanatical about the health of the cats, given that so many cats in close quarters could lead to the spreading of an epidemic. For this reason the cats exhibited in British shows all have to be “vetted in,” meaning that a veterinarian checks each cat for fleas and other disorders.

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No outcasts here!

There was a time when cat show competitions were for purebred cats only, and the many happy owners of mixed-breed cats could not enter their pets in cat shows, no matter how beautiful and adorable they were.

That has changed, and now many cat shows award prizes in the Household Pet Competition. The strict rules applied when judging purebred cats are waived, except that mixed-breed cats entered in shows must be neutered and must not be declawed.

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The show season

winter, and this is also true for cat shows, which mostly take place between September and February.

There are several reasons for this schedule, notably that the longhaired breeds’ coats will be at their most luxurious during the fall and winter. In the spring and the summer, females are likely to be queening (giving birth and mothering), and thus will be out of commission for awhile.

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The cleanliness obsession at cat shows

disease.

This concern is felt by everyone associated with cat shows, which is why the judges and other folks associated with them are as fanatical about cleanliness as the cats are. Antibacterial cloths are used to wipe down the judges’ hands; ditto for the tables where the cats are judged. Considering that the cleanest animal in the world is being judged, this is appropriate.

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No performance at cat shows

You may have attended dog shows or horse shows, and if you have, you know right away that cat shows are different, for the cats are not expected to perform in any way.

They show up, well groomed and healthy, and get judged, whereas in a horse or dog show the animals would be expected to jump through the hoops (literally and figuratively) to prove they are not only beautiful but sound in the muscles as well. Cats (luckily for them) are required only to sit and be beautiful (which they are very good at), and all the movement and hustle are on the part of their anxiety-stricken owners.

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Not “a guy thing”

Yes, there are lots of men who love cats (the author is one), but the old stereotypes and prejudices—dogs are the proper pets for “real men,” and so on—linger. Thus, while you will see lots of men at dog shows, it is evident that there are far fewer men than women at cat shows.

This is changing as more men “out” themselves as cat fanciers, but part of the prejudice against cat shows (which the author fully understands) is the feeling of many men that cats ought to be kept and enjoyed but not necessarily fussed over and entered in competitions.

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Why so many?

Christian denominations instead of just one. Simply put: members can’t agree on everything.

The different cat associations mostly disagree on which breeds are registered and which standards should be used in judging the breeds. For example, the Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes a certain number of breeds, while the American Cat Association recognizes a different number, and both believe they have good reasons for including or excluding a particular breed.

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The oldest U.S. cat club

American Cat Association (ACA), formed in 1904 as the offspring of a cat club in Chicago.

Typical of any human organization, disputes arose among members over various rules, and, inevitably, the dispute led to the founding of another group, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). Generally speaking, the CFA is considered the most prestigious of the various cat registry groups, but (obviously) the rival associations would not agree with that.

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Alphabet soup time

Most cat owners have no interest in entering their pets in cat shows, but for those who do, seven different organizations in the United States and Canada register purebred cats, create breed standards and sanction cat shows and cat show judges.

They are the American Cat Association (ACA), American Cat Fanciers’ Association (ACFA), Canadian Cat Association (CCA), Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF), TheInternational Cat Association (TICA) and the United Cat Federation (UCF).

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Harrison Weir’s legacy

English artist and, as it happened, also a lover of cats. He is credited with organizing an 1871 cat show in London’s Crystal Palace that is considered to be the world’s first cat show. Weir served as one of the judges in the show, and he also created the standards for all the breeds exhibited.

Weir also published the book Our Cats and All About Them, which helped promote further interest in cat shows. A footnote to this “first” show: prior to this, cats had not been exhibited for their glamour—rather, “working cats” (mousers, that is) were displayed at agricultural fairs, along with cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals.

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Oriental Shorthair

original Siamese cats of centuries ago were not always the familiar cream color with points. Many of them were solid colors, and there were solids among the first Siamese brought to the West. Chalk it up to the fickleness of human taste: cat fanciers decided they preferred the pointed Siamese, so for a long time their solid-color cousins were rarely found.

Known as Oriental Shorthairs, they are gaining in popularity. They have the typical Siamese personality—gregarious, active, chatty and willing (some of them, anyway) to walk on a leash. They have the body type of the Siamese: long, lanky, with a wedge-shaped face and fairly large ears.

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A word about “points”

legs and tail. Siamese kittens are born “pointless”; the points develop as they age. Over the years, several varieties of points have been perpetuated through breeding.

The classic was the seal point (seal meaning “very dark brown”), but you can also find blue point, chocolate point, lilac point (light brown, not purple), cinnamon point, cream point and fawn point.

Each variety is attractive, and each has fans, though some cat fanciers consider the oldest varieties (seal and blue) to be the only “real” Siamese. Whatever variety they are, all Siamese tend to darken if they spend a lot of time outside.

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Siamese

If there’s one breed of cat that the average person on the street recognizes, it has to be the Siamese (though Persian owners might not agree). Siamese are blue-eyed, slender-bodied, with a wedge-shaped face, slightly slanted eyes and the very distinctive “points” of dark brown on the ears, muzzle, feet and tail. Whether the breed actually originated in Thailand (formerly Siam) is debatable, but we do know that the Thai people valued them highly.

So have many generations of Europeans and Americans, who find these cats to be graceful, playful and extremely inquisitive. They are also “chatty,” so much so that their loud voices (especially of the toms) do not endear them to everyone, even serious ailurophiles.

Another less endearing trait—one that many owners overlook—is the frequency of crossed eyes, a trait that ensures the cat cannot enter a cat show. Over the years, Siamese have been “bred thin,” apparently on the assumption that owners prefer the lanky body. The Siamese of a century ago had a more solid build than the Siamese of today.

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