AND THE WINNER IS . . .
By Nancy Marano
The room was organized confusion. Exhibitors jammed the narrow aisles. One delicately fed his cat from a baby spoon. Another fluffed finishing touches onto her cat’s hair. Tables were cluttered with every conceivable cat product. Cages, separated from each other by partitions, took up half the room. In the center of each group of cages stood a table laden with ribbons, spray bottles of disinfectant and rolls of paper towels. My first cat show, and I didn’t have a clue what was happening.
A call for a particular cat class was heard over the hubbub. Suddenly, the breeder I was talking to reached into the cage, gently lifting the cream colored Persian cat from her blue velvet pillow. They headed to a ring where she put the cat in a holding cage.
Intrigued, I sat down to watch. Eight Persians awaited their big moment. The judge picked up each cat, ran her hands over its body feeling bone structure and weight, then put it down on the table where she used a cat teaser to watch its reactions. Satisfied, she put it back in its cage, wrote in her judging book, cleaned off the table and repeated the process. After each cat was examined, ribbons were awarded to the winners.
Still confused, I sought help from Pat Harding, president of The Enchanted Cat Club in Albuquerque. Pat has forty years of experience as a breeder and a TICA (The International Cat Association) all-breed judge.
“First you judge on their breed and color. You look at the cats and decide which has the fewest flaws according to standards set for that breed,” she said.
Each cat appears in all the rings and with all the judges. In a ten-ring show, a cat has a chance at ten wins. Every win earns points which accumulate giving the cat a chance to be called a champion.
“In finals judging you decide if this Persian is a better Persian than that Abyssinian is an Abyssinian. Basically, you count each cat’s flaws,” Pat said. “One cat usually stands out like a sore thumb, not only because he’s beautiful but because he’s happy. Some cats pose themselves, and those are more likely to win,” she continued. “If you’re really hung up on a decision, the cat’s personality will win you over.”
Becoming a judge requires many years of study and apprenticeship. Allbreed judges must know the standards for all qualifying breeds and must stay current on any changes made to those standards. They also have a responsibility, when judging, to consider the health of the cat as well as its beauty.
Cat shows are perceived as the domain of snooty, pedigreed cats, but most cat associations now judge household pets as well. It is a means to educate people on the joys of owning a shelter cat or a cat who doesn’t quite fit the breed standard. It provides an opportunity to teach the importance of spay/neuter programs and proper cat care, too. It also serves as an introduction to the cat fancy.
Nancy Marano is a freelance writer living in Albuquerque.
This article first appeared in the Spring 1998 issue.
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