Iams Cat Championship
Written by Steve Dale   

Dog shows and cats shows are both beauty contest. The biggest difference between the two is that you have to tell dogs just how beautiful they are; the cats know it. Every cat among the over 300 participating at the 3rd Annual 2005 CFA – Iams Cat Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City, October 8 and 9 feels he or she is the most beautiful there. To the cats, it doesn’t matter what the judges decide.

“People are more acquainted with dog shows because they tend to get more media exposure than cat shows, but we’re out to change that,” says Pam DelaBar, president of the Cat Fanciers’ Association, the largest registry of pedigreed cats.

Dog and cat shows both judge pedigreed animals according to written breed standards. Cats are shown in three divisions: Kittens (four to eight months). Adult Class (these are unaltered animals over eight months) and Premiership (these are spayed or neutered animals over eight months). The three divisions don’t compete against one another.

Depending on the way an individual cat show is configured, there are anywhere from four to eight rings. Each ring has its own presiding judge who makes determinations for all the breeds in the show. So, in a real sense, a cat show is four to eight shows in one. Interestingly, a cat may win Best in Breed in one ring and not in another.

“Sure, there’s some subjectivity, but I prefer to say it’s a matter of interpretation of the breed standard which can vary from judge to judge,” says DelaBar. While dog show judges are tight-lipped about their decisions; cat show judges are a chattier bunch, actually explaining their logic to the crowd. “It helps people to understand,” says all-breed judge Gary Veach.

From here, to understand a cat show, you have to follow the bouncing catnip ball. A best male and best female are both named for each color in each of the three Classes, which are:

  • Open Class: A newcomer that has never competed.
  • Champion Class: Holder of six first place wins in Open Class.
  • Grand-Champion Class: A cat that’s defeated 200 Champions.
  • As if this isn’t complicated enough, color plays a role. For example, in Siamese cats there are four colors which may be judged. A best male and best female is named for Open, Champion and Grand-Champion (six cats) for each of the four colors in the breed. That’s a total of 24 cats who may qualify to be named Best in Breed, and whom a judge for any single ring may select from.

    At some shows, competition ends there. But at a selected group of shows – including the Iams Cat Championship – a Best in Breed cat will be named for each breed; and each of those cats will compete in a Best in Show event. Veach, who will be the Best in Show judge (at the Iams Cat Championship), will be sequestered until the big moment comes so he has no preconceived notions.

    Veach, who is from Maywood, NJ says, “Cat shows are to inform the public about cats in general and about pedigreed cats; the goal is always to achieve the ultimate cat within a breed.”

    Arguably, one of the greatest differences between dog and cat shows is that many cat shows welcome household pets or mixed breed cats, which compete in their own category. However, you can’t just show up with your beautiful housecat – advance registration is required, and pets must be spayed/neutered and not be declawed. “Since there is no breed standard for mixed breeds, this is a subjective beauty contest if there ever was one,” concedes Veach. “Personality matters big time when you judge household pets; the cat who wins is the cat who charms his way into my heart.”

    Cat shows abound with additional pleasures, from shopping for unusual items not found at typical pet stores, ranging from litter boxes which also double as furniture (like end table/litter boxes all-in-one) to unique toys.

    Walk up and down the aisles where the cats stay when they’re not in the ring and check out the often-decorated carriers or cages. At one show, an Egyptian Mau’s cage featured a min-replica of a pyramid setting against wallpaper of the Sahara Desert.

    Like many dog shows, a pawful of major cat shows are now presenting agility (an obstacle course event where participants are timed). But this isn’t your dog’s agility event. “For one thing it’s the cats who are in control,” says CFA ringmaster Carol Osborne, of Floyd, Va. “We’re competitive to an extent. More than one cat has stopped in the middle of the course for a little self-grooming. Another cat began the course methodically, then raced around the perimeter – ignoring all the obstacles – but ended up where the cats are supposed to finish, and looked up at her person as if to say, ‘I did it. What next?” This really isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about showing how athletic cats can be. And they can be trained, sometimes.”

    DelaBar agrees people not owned by cats might have mistaken notions about felines. Cats’ personalities are as variable as dogs’, from the talkative Siamese to the large but gentle Maine Coon to the agile rex breeds. She says cat shows are a great way to celebrate the wonderful world of cats.

 
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