If you love cats and enjoy competition, you may have considered entering the realm of cat shows. Maybe you want to start showing and perhaps someday breeding purebred cats, or perhaps you want to enter your pet in household pet competition. This is a brief guide how on to get started showing in CFA.
Shows are held by cat clubs, which are in turn affiliated with a cat registry. The three largest ones in the United States are the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), The International Cat Association (TICA), and the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA). There are also several smaller registries. Since clubs, not registries, sponsor individual shows, you may be limited in your choice depending on where you live and how far you are willing to travel. For example, in northern California, there are no cat clubs affiliated with ACFA and a few affiliated with TICA, and consequently no ACFA shows and only a handful of TICA shows are held there. The area has many CFA clubs, and consequently, many CFA shows. Also, not all registries recognize all color variations (like lynx-point Siamese or solid lilac Persians) or breeds (like the American Curl or Norwegian Forest Cat). Contact a registry's main office to order copies of their rules and breed standards to learn what is accepted for competition by that registry. This article describes how things operate for shows held by a CFA-affiliated club, and assumes that you are showing a registered purebred cat. Judging and scoring for Household Pets is different than for the purebreds, but the general show routine is the same. The procedures for participating in shows licensed by other registries are similar, but not identical, to those for CFA shows.
Read a registry's show rules and by-laws before deciding in which association(s) you want to compete. CFA is considered the most conservative and prestigious, while ACFA prides itself on being the most democratic. TICA has a simplified points system, while CFA's scoring system can be baffling to someone without a degree in mathematics. CFA is by far the largest registry holding the most shows, while TICA and ACFA may seem less intimidating to a novice. By all means visit shows affiliated with each registry before you actually enter a show. You can show a cat in shows licensed by any and every registry in which it is registered. On the other hand, scattering your cat's points among multiple registries means that it could take longer for your cat to win any titles.
If you already own a registered purebred, talk with its breeder or with exhibitors experienced in that breed to see if your cat has what it takes to be shown successfully. If you plan to purchase a kitten or cat to show, be sure that you purchase one of show quality. Breeders sort their kittens into show, breeder, and pet qualities, and price them accordingly. A show-quality kitten will conform to the breed's standards, has no (or extremely subtle) penalized faults and absolutely no disqualifying faults, and must be a generally excellent example of the breed. A breeder-quality kitten will also conform to the standards, but isn't perfect enough to catch a judge's eye or has the wrong temperament for the show ring. Again, these cats will have no disqualifying faults and should have only a few minor faults if any. Excellent show-quality male kittens are often sold at pet prices (with a spay/neuter contract) when they are not needed for a breeding program . These kittens are ideal for those who want to show a altered purebred. All other kittens are pet-quality - still lovable, of course, but not appropriate for the show ring. They may have too many minor faults to be competitive, or have a major fault which will disqualify them from competition altogether. Responsible breeders will not sell pet-quality cats to someone who intends to show them, and judges won't even look twice at them.
Until you're an experienced exhibitor, a breeder is unlikely to sell you a top-rank show prospect. Get that experience with a good cat first, and you'll be able to get a great one later. A terrific way to get that experience is to show an altered cat. In CFA, an altered purebred is shown in Premiership competition, and is judged by the same standards and rules as an unaltered (Championship) cat. With an alter, you don't have to worry about the cat's sexual behavior (like spraying, calling, or the urge to escape and procreate), and you'll have a better pet in the long term. Many show-quality male kittens are sold as pets to be neutered, as few males are kept intact as studs. If you take this option, most breeders will sell you a competitive male kitten at a quite reasonable price. Premiership is also a learning experience for those interested in breeding. You'll have time to learn about your chosen breed as an "insider"; an exhibitor will talk to a show spectator about a breed's generalities, but will talk to a fellow exhibitor about specifics - grooming techniques, bloodlines, who's breeding what, which judges favor what look, and so forth. The cat fancy works on contacts; you'll meet someone who knows someone who has the perfect kitten for you or who owns a stud male whose pedigree would blend ideally with your female's bloodlines.
Almost all CFA cat shows include Kitten (four to eight months of age), Championship (whole cats eight months or older), and Premiership (altered cats eight months or older) classes. Some include household pet (unregistered non-purebreds four months old or older; altered if over eight months of age) classes. Shows may be held over two days (Saturday and Sunday) or on one day (usually Sunday). A two-day show will feature six or eight judging rings, and almost all one-day shows have four rings. There are two types of rings. Judges in all-breed (AB) rings judge cats of all breeds against each other. Almost all specialty (SP) rings judge the shorthaired breeds and longhaired breeds separately; some specialty rings are presided over by a single judge, and others feature one judge for the shorthairs and another judge for the longhairs. Some specialty rings are breed-specific, like an all-Siamese ring in a show sponsored by a Siamese breed club. All purebred cats entered must be registered in CFA in order to compete. A kitten may be entered without a registration number, but must have a number by the show date or it will not be awarded any points. No entries may be declawed or otherwise surgically altered except for spay/neuter operations and other operations listed in the CFA Show Rules. All entries must test negative for feline leukemia and all other infectious diseases, must be free of fleas and other parasites, and must otherwise be in fine health. The claws of all entries must be clipped before judging starts. All of these requirements (and more) are stated in the CFA Show Rules, so read them carefully before you enter your cat! Even if a show does not require a veterinary inspection before a cat can enter the show hall, you owe it to your cat to keep it in the best of health, especially if it is to be faced with the stress of competition. You want your cat to be perfectly groomed, with no matted or stained fur. You'll have time to touch-up your cat's grooming between rings, but get the major work done beforehand.
Showing can be stressful to a cat, and preparing your cat for the ring will make it easier for both of you. Before you enter a show, ask experienced exhibitors for advice about training a cat to at least tolerate the show procedure. Some cats are born to show and love the attention, others don't mind too much, and some actively hate it. You can help your cat enjoy the proceedings by providing special treats or toys at shows. A special blanket, a favorite pillow, or some other familiar object will help a cat settle down. Many cats become alarmed by the smells of a show hall - unfamiliar surroundings, strange cats, inedible hot dogs. Commercial deodorizers can be purchased from pet supply stores or from the vendors who are present at most cat shows and carry many specialty items for exhibitors. But a home-grown remedy can work equally well. If your cat is accustomed to a particular cologne, for example, rub a little onto your finger and stroke it very lightly across your cat's nose. That will cancel out those other smells and relax the cat, providing you choose a cologne that the cat doesn't hate.
Once you're set to show, read through the cat show listings in Cat Fancy or Cats magazine. Both magazines keep an updated list of upcoming shows for all associations, not just CFA, so you'll have to sort through the listings for the right shows. CFA also publishes "Cat Fanciers' Almanac", a monthly magazine that lists all CFA-licensed shows. The listings in any of those magazines will tell you the dates and location of the show, the sponsoring cat club (and its registry affiliation), what judges are scheduled to be there, and the entry clerk (EC) for the show. If you see the abbreviation "AB" next to a judge's name, then he or she is going to judge an all-breed ring. A "LH" or "SH" notation indicates a longhaired or shorthaired specialty ring, and "SP" indicates an unspecified specialty ring. "HHP" in the listing means that household pets will also be judged. Write or call the entry clerk for a show flyer and entry form. If you call, do so during reasonable weekday evening hours; most entry clerks are also exhibitors, and thus aren't available on the weekend. Entry clerks stop accepting entries no later than a week prior to the start of the show, and entries may close earlier than the announced closing date if the number of cats reaches a set maximum number. Therefore, you should contact the EC at least a month before the show so you can get the paperwork done in time. The entry form requires the cat's official registered name, registration number and the names of its sire and dam; a separate entry form is required for each cat entered. Be sure to write everything down exactly, because a cat whose name or registration number isn't noted correctly might not keep any points awarded at the show! You also have to know your cat's color class. The lists of color class numbers are found in the back of the CFA show rules -- another good reason to have a copy. The color class number will sometimes, but not always, correspond to the first four digits of the CFA registration number. A "P" is appended for Premiership classes, and a "K" appended for Kitten classes. For example, the prefix for a male Chartreux starts with 0550, and a female's number starts with 0551. If the male Chartreux is a kitten, then its color class is 0550K. A female Chartreux in Premiership is entered in color class 0551P. However, some breeds have many more registration prefixes than they have color classes (the Maine Coon, for example). The entry clerk can clarify anything that you don't understand about the entry form (including the correct color class number).
The show flyer that you'll receive will give you most of the necessary information about the show, including the judges and rings, the professional photographer who will be available at the show (if any), the dates and times of the show, and the name of the official show hotel (if any). The latter may have special room rates for exhibitors. One piece of information on the show flyer is critical - the check-in time. Exhibitors must check in with the show clerk during a certain time period, usually ending a half hour before the judging starts. This gives them time to notify the judges and ring clerks of any absent cats or class changes. Late arrivals might not be allowed to compete. The flyer will, of course, state the entry fee and any other fees. For example, the entry fee per cat for a two-day show might be $45 for your first and second cats, $40 per cat for the third and subsequent cats (don't laugh - some exhibitors may arrive with six or seven cats). Fees charged for certain entries (like household pets or exhibition-only) may be less. Single cages are provided for one-cat entries, and double-cages are provided for two-cat entries. There is an extra fee (usually around $15-20 for a two-day show) if you want to put one cat in a double cage, which is best for larger or restless breeds. You can request a end-of-row location or grooming space for an extra charge, or pay to have your business card or ad included in the show catalog. If there is another exhibitor going to this show that you would like to be near, the entry form allows one "benching" request. These requests are honored as much as possible, and there's no charge. The EC will mail back a confirmation after receiving your entry, which will show your cat's listing as it will appear in the show catalog. If anything is incorrect and the show's closing date has not passed, call the EC to make corrections. Otherwise, you can have the entry corrected when you check in at the show. The confirmation will also include directions to the show hall and will state any changes that have been made in the show's format (last-minute change of judges, for example).
What do you get for your entry fee? All show sponsors provide the cages and kitty litter, and most include a folding chair or two and a show catalog. Other shows will charge for the chairs and the catalog. It's wise to take along extra litter, in case the show sponsors run out or your cat hates the stuff provided. Cat food is sometimes provided, and clean water is always available, but you should bring your own cat food and water (to avoid possible stomach upsets) plus a small litter tray, unbreakable food and water dishes, grooming equipment, cat toys, small first-aid kit (for both humans and cats!), a cat bed or blanket, lots of pens, and a spray bottle of disinfectant. If you have business cards or other cards printed with your name and phone number, bring them along as well. Many breeders will tote along photo albums of their cats to show to prospective customers, and those specializing in lesser-known breeds pack breed information sheets, breed club pamphlets, or photocopies of magazine articles. One final piece of show equipment is the cage curtain, which is required by CFA's show rules. Each benching cage must be equipped with some sort of curtain that covers the top and three sides (leaving only the front open) and some sort of cover to go underneath the cage (which has no bottom). This curtain is to prevent strange cats from constantly seeing each other and acts as a sound muffler; this will keep the cats calmer and prevent unpleasant territorial actions like spraying. Some exhibitors take the practical approach and pin up a couple towels to cover the cage, but most put their decorating skills to work and add lace drapes or ruffles to a custom-fitted curtain. Persian exhibitors in particular tend to go all out with pastel shades, delicate brass beds, or white wicker sleeping baskets. Try to choose colors which harmonize with your cat. A twin-sized flat sheet covers three sides of a double cage, and a bath-sized towel is large enough to cover the top or bottom of the same cage. The show flyer will list the measurements of the available cages, so you can plan accordingly.
The spray bottle of disinfectant isn't required, but is essential. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation of a cat-safe, skin-safe disinfectant. You'll note that most cages feature a sign saying "Please do not touch." Illnesses can spread quickly in a confined area, and allowing people to touch one cat after another is risking the cats' health. Note that each judge sprays down his hands and the judging table with disinfectant before and after examining each cat, and every cage in a show ring is cleaned with disinfectant before and after a cat inhabits it. If a fellow exhibitor gives you permission to touch her cat, disinfect your hands before and afterwards, and don't allow any stranger to touch your cat unless he or she does likewise. Also, disinfect your hands if you touch anything you can't account for, like drinking fountains or even change from the hot dog stand. Don't forget to disinfect your cat carrier and grooming equipment both before and after the show, too. This sounds paranoid, but for your cat's sake, do it.
The show catalogue that you receive or purchase when you check in lists important information about each cat entered in the show - name, age, color class, show number, CFA registration number, breeder, owner, CFA region of residence, sire and dam, and title (Open, Champion/Premier, or Grand Champion/Grand Premier). There will also be space to enter the cat's results in each ring, so work out a quick shorthand code (the spaces aren't that large) like BOB and 2BOC for best of breed and second best of color. This is why you need all the pens. You'll probably misplace two, use a third as an improvised cat toy, and lend a couple more to other exhibitors. Here's an example of a catalogue listing:
Class 0551P Blue Chartreux Spay Bellereve's Fleurette of Colombe 0/11 223 __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ 0551-604268 born: 3/21/90 OPN Sire: GRC Blaukatzen's Descartes of Bellereve Dam: CH Frenchcon's Entree of Bellereve Br: B. & L. Brackett Ow: Perri Mongan (2)
Translated, this is entry number 223, named Bellereve's Fleurette of Colombe. She is a 11-month old spayed Chartreux female entered in Class 0551P. Her registration number is 0551-604268, her date of birth is March 21, 1990, and she is an open who has not yet achieved a title. The owner of this cat lives in CFA's region 2, which encompasses the northwestern United States and Canada. Some breeds have a color class for each color accepted for competition, while others lump together a group of colors (or even all accepted colors) into a single color class.
The term "color class" really has two definitions. The official definition is all cats of a given color (or group of colors) who are the same sex. Black Persian females are one color class for entry purposes, for example, and black Persian males are another color class. But in breed judging, all black Persians are judged against each other for best of color. Consequently, many exhibitors will call the group of black Persians a color class, as they're all the same color, even though the group is technically composed of two color classes. This sounds a bit confusing. Just refer to those cats as "black Persians" and people will know what you mean.
On a serious note, you have to be cautious at cat shows. At every show, there seems to be at least one incident where a visitor does something which could harm a cat, accidently or intentionally. Some visitors ignore the signs and reach in to pet cats, or don't restrain their children from doing so. Some might even open the cage door to touch the cat, and leave the cage open. If just one cat in the hall has a cold or infection, one person could easily spread it throughout the hall. Even worse are the visitors who come to a cat show with the intention of injuring a cat. Yes, it happens, and the owners can't always stop it in time. Some will drop pills or sharp objects into a cage, and others leave less to chance. Some exhibitors guard against this sort of incident by bringing their own specially-built cages with glass fronts and locking doors to protect their cats. If you can't do that, form an alliance with the other exhibitors in your immediate area. When you leave the immediate area, have them keep an eye on your cat, and watch over their cats in turn.
When you arrive at the show hall, go to the check-in table first. There, you will receive your catalog and your benching assignment. Long tables are set up in rows around the show hall, with cages for the cats; this is called the benching area. The show committee puts together a benching chart, showing the place to which each exhibitor is assigned. If you included a benching request when you entered, the committee should have put you next to the person you designated. Sometimes benching requests can't be accomodated, but that's not too common. If a chart is not provided, you will have to figure out where you're supposed to be. You'll be told which row you're in; each cage and grooming space is labeled with the assignee's last name, so you can walk down the row and look for your name. Looking for your spot can be an adventure. When you find it, set up your cage curtains and other accessories. Barrels or huge bags of litter are usually placed somewhere inside the hall; ask for the location when you check it. Settle your cat into its new temporary home, have a seat, and open the show catalog.
Memorize your cat's show number. If necessary, write it on the back of your hand! The show clerk will call out numbers over a public address system, so always keep an ear out for yours. At most shows, numbers will be called out more than once, but don't delay too long in taking your cat to the ring. If you wait too long, your cat may be marked as absent from that ring. If you hear a range of numbers that's just below yours, take your cat out for any last-minute grooming. Chunks of litter box debris tend to give a judge the wrong impression about a cat. When you get to the ring, put your cat in the cage that has its number on it, and grab a chair.
Each ring has a judge, a ring clerk who keeps track of the judge's scoring, and a steward who runs around disinfecting the 10 to 14 ring cages that are lined up on tables behind the judge's table. Each cage will display a numbered card, indicating which cat is in which cage. The judge (we'll call her Ms. Smith) will examine all cats of a given breed (I'll use Birmans as an example) and rate them against each other. The breed judging is explained more thoroughly in another article, but in brief, cats of a given breed are first judged within sex and title, then within a color class, and finally as a breed. If two of the Birmans were both seal-point female opens, they would be judged against each other for first and second place. If there are two seal-point opens, one male and one female, they are judged separately and each will receive first place (barring any disqualifying faults or lack of merit). If there are two seal-point females, one an open and the other a champion, they are judged separately and each is eligible for a first place ribbon. If there are two female opens, one seal-point and the other chocolate-point, they are judged separately and each is eligible for a first-place ribbon. When the judge has examined all the Birmans she may pace in front of the cages, giving the breed entrants one last look. Finally, she'll grab award markers from the table and hang them on the winners' cages. This particular group of cats includes one Grand Champion seal-point male, one open seal-point female, two open blue-point males, one open blue-point female, and one Champion blue-point female. She can award first (blue), second (red), and third (yellow) place ribbons to the males and females in each category (open, champion, and grand champion), plus best of color (black) and second best of color (white) to the best seal-points and to the best blue-points. Opens who win first-place ribbons get Winners (red, white, and blue) ribbons; six Winners are required for a cat to become a Champion. Ms. Smith will also award the Best (brown) and Second Best (orange) of Breed/Division and Best Champion. In Championship breed judging, the Best of Breed/Division is awarded one point for every cat it defeated in that ring. The Second Best of Breed/Division is awarded 90% of the points given to the Best of Breed. Best Champion is worth one grand point for each Champion defeated in that ring. There is a difference between points and grand points which is explained elsewhere. Our hypothetical judge really liked the Champion blue-point female, and rewards her with the Best Of Color, Best Of Breed/Division, and Best Champion (purple) ribbons, and jots down her show number, 94. She indicates that the Birmans' owners can come pick them up, and starts judging the next set of cats.
Premiership and Kitten breed judging is the same as in Championship judging, with a few exceptions. In Premiership breed judging, the purple Best Champion ribbon is not awarded and there is no Best Premier ribbon. Otherwise, breed judging is identical except that points are not awarded for any breed ribbons. Kittens, of course, do not receive the purple Best Champion ribbon.
When the judge distributes the ribbons, the clerk enters the placements into the judge's copy of the show catalog, which is identical to the catalog that exhibitors get. However, the judge is not permitted to see a show catalog until she has completed all of her judging duties and has turned in all of her paperwork. The judge writes down her placements on special judges' sheets provided by the entry clerk. From those sheets, the judge knows what breed, color class, color, sex, and age a cat is, and what title it holds (for Championship and Premiership entries). The judge is not supposed to know who bred the cat, who owns the cat, or what the cat's name is. A judge is supposed to be impartial and should evaluate each cat solely on its merit, not on its reputation or its breeder's reputation.
Frankly, judging doesn't always work that way, but it's supposed to. Once you start showing, you'll get an earful of complaints about unfair judges and favoritism, and you'll just have to learn how to sort out what may be accurate as opposed to what isn't. Most of those sort of comments are just sour grapes.
There are two physical types of ribbons used during breed judging. "Flats" are plastic or metal ribbons owned (or borrowed) by the cat club. The flats are hung to indicate First/Second/Third Place and Best of Color/Second Best of Color wins. "Silks" are fabric ribbons which are hung for Winners, Best of Breed/Second Best of Breed, and Best Champion awards. Most shows will also provide silks that correspond to the flats, in case you want to display a First or Best of Color on your benching cage. Experienced exhibitors will usually take only the silks that the judge hangs on their cat's cage, or no ribbons at all. The clubs appreciate this, as the silks cost them money and sometimes they run out.
While number 94 sits in her cage and methodically shreds the cage curtain, her owner settles down for a long wait, as will you. Remember to pack a book, some needlepoint, paperwork from the office, or anything else that will quietly stave off boredom. Do not put on headphones to listen to music, because you can't hear your cat's number being announced for the next ring!
Getting a Best of Breed is pretty nice, but the awards that exhibitors covet are the rosettes awarded in a finals ring. Each judge chooses the ten cats he thinks were the best he has seen at that show and calls them back to his ring to present them with rosettes. These placements are worth a lot of points, and it's an anxious moment when the announcer reads off the numbers for a final! Championship and Premiership finals include both the judge's top ten overall and the top four (or two) Champion/Premiers. The overall placements are worth points towards regional and national placements, and the Champion/Premier rosettes are worth grand points towards the Grand Champion/Grand Premier title. Kitten finals are limited to the top ten, also worth points towards regional and national placements. In Premiership and Kitten rings, finals may be limited to a top five (plus the Premier rosettes for Premiership) when the number of eligible felines is below 35.
When Ms. Smith has seen all the Championship cats except one (whom she bred, and who is thus ineligible for her ring), she has the announcer call back twelve numbers to the ring, including number 94. After one last look at her top ten cats, she settles on her choices and begins. First, she takes out the cat she has selected as the 2nd Best Shorthair Champion, a silver tabby American Shorthair male, and displays him to the audience. She'll talk about what makes this cat so particularly excellent, showing the clear black-on-silver markings, the sturdy body, and the sweet expression. She then replaces this cat in his cage and continues on in reverse order of placement. Her second best cat is our friend the Birman, to whom she also awards Best Longhair Champion and Best Allbreed Champion. All the cats who win points in this ring are accumulating them towards regional or national awards. Since the Birman is a Champion, she is awarded points from the Best Allbreed Champion award towards gaining her Grand Champion title. The points she picked up from the 2nd-best rosette do not count towards the GRC title, but will count towards national and regional awards. Finally, Ms. Smith pulls out what she considers the best cat that she has seen, a Singapura female GRC. She can select up to fourteen cats for her finals, including her top ten overall, her two best longhair Champions, and her two best shorthair Champions. Those Champions do not have to be among her top ten overall cats, but they can be. In our example, the Birman Champion placed 2nd Best overall, and a Somali Champion placed 8th Best overall. That Somali is awarded rosettes for the overall placement, Best Shorthair Champion, and 2nd Best Allbreed Champion.
Since this is a Championship all-breed ring and there are 121 cats in championship competition, the first-place cat is awarded 120 points - one point for every cat defeated. The second-place cat wins 95% of that, or 114 points, on down to the tenth-place cat and his 10%, or 66 points. The Best Allbreed Champion title is good for one point for every Champion defeated in that ring, and the Best Longhair Champion gets one point for every longhair Champion defeated. However, the cat only receives the points from whichever of its awards is worth more points. The Somali in this example will get the points from either the 2nd Best Allbreed Champion award or the Best Shorthair Champion award, whichever gives him more points. If this were a Longhair or Shorthair ring, a maximum of twelve rosettes would be awarded - the top ten overall plus Best Champion and 2nd Best Champion.
Premiership finals are identical to Championship finals, except that the rosettes say Best Premier instead of Best Champion or Best Cat in Premiership instead of Best Cat. Kitten finals are limited to a top ten, as kittens do not compete towards Grand Champion/Premier titles.
The terms and scoring used in the cat shows are a bit confusing, to say the least. A cat in Championship competition is not necessarily a Champion, and "grand points" are not equal to "points". The article mentioned earlier attempts to explain the terminology and the scoring procedures for both breed awards and finals.
Judging in the Household Pet (HHP) classes is quite different than in the purebred classes. Since there is obviously no breed standard to work with, judges rate these cats on personality, general health, and distinctive appearance. A happy and well-cared-for cat is a winning cat. CFA does not register HHPs, nor does it score them for any regional or national placements or for titles. In CFA HHP rings, entries who are obviously healthy and well-groomed are given Merit (red and white) ribbons. Household Pets have their finals rings, too. How a cat places in a HHP final is influenced primarily by personality and looks. A judge who had a favorite non-pedigreed cat is likely to award his Best Household Pet to a cat who somehow resembles his pet. This competition is pretty unpredictable, and the human competitors are much more relaxed than those in the purebred competitions. There are no national placements at stake, no cattery reputations to hold up, no effect on future kitten prices or stud fees - it's just fun. HHP rings also provide some insight into a judge. Watch a ring and see how the judge handles these cats. A judge who handles HHPs indifferently is one who probably needs a break from the cat fancy. A judge who obviously has a splendid time playing with these beloved pets is one still remembers that cat shows are about cats, not fabric rosettes.
It's the end of the day, thank goodness, and both you and the cat are looking forward to leaving. If it's the first day of a two-day show, you can leave things like cage decorations and brochures by or in your assigned cage, but take along food, water, and litter (if you're going to a motel rather than home), anything valuable, and of course, the cat. If you're staying in a motel, leave a small supply of kitty litter and food in the room so you don't have to lug it back and forth. When the show ends, pack up everything and head home. It's best to save the cat for last, but make darn sure that you don't leave the cage door open and unwatched for even a moment. That goes for the entire show, but especially during tear-down, when doors to the outside are open. If your cat does escape at any time, yell "cat out!" If you hear someone else yell that, stand still until the cat's been found, unless it's your cat, in which case, happy hunting.
A few final words about courtesy... Be civil, or better yet, be friendly to the other exhibitors. When you're a novice, you need all the advice and assistance you can get, and when you're a veteran, there will be others to whom you can pass on what you've learned. Be willing to share ideas with your fellow exhibitors. Keep an eye on the other cats benched nearby if their owners are elsewhere. Be polite to the spectators, even if you're asked the same questions over and over again. Trust me - you will be. If you have a Manx, Japanese Bobtail, or Scottish Fold, many spectators will ask you what kind of surgery was required to get that look. If your cat is of a breed developed from domestic shorthairs - the Chartreux, American Shorthair, British Shorthair, or Maine Coon - you will get a LOT of spectators saying that they have a cat who looks just like that, so Smokey or Ginger must be that breed. Yes, it's highly annoying, but think of it an an opportunity to politely educate them about breed characteristics. Some one who owns a cat that has a few spots may still walk away convinced that he owns an Egyptian Mau, but hey, you tried. Be willing to direct spectators around the hall. If you visited a show before entering your cat in a later show, you may remember how difficult it was to find a particular breed or breeder. If you're talking with a spectator and your cat's number is called, be polite about breaking away to go to the ring. If you're talking to a fellow exhibitor, don't worry, she'll understand why you had to run off so suddenly!
Persians are by far the most populous breed, both by registration numbers and by show entries. The word "Persian" is often skipped in conversation, taken as a given. If someone talks about a nice bunch of reds or a stunning black, he's most likely talking about Persians. But if you're talking to an Abyssinian breeder who mentions reds, she means red Abyssinians. Never say "Rexes" to someone who breeds Cornish Rex or Devon Rex; the plural of Rex is the same as the singular. That goes for Manx and Chartreux, too.
Grand Parties are a tradition in some parts of the country. An exhibitor may bring in a cake and champagne to celebrate when a cat achieves a Grand Champion or Grand Premier title. By the way, "to grand" is a verb in the cat fancy. Champagne may be limited to just the exhibitor's friends, but "grand cake" is usually up for grabs. California state law prohibits this sort of thing as a health-code violation, but only the southern Californians pay any attention to the law. The prohibition is against bringing in food from outside, meaning that if you want to eat without leaving the show hall, you're at the mercy of the concession booth if there is one. Sometimes the food is quite good, sometimes it's passable, and the rest of the time it's pretty mediocre. The judges announce their rings' lunch breaks (which may or may not be simultaneous), and you ought to be able to leave the hall to get some lunch without missing any rings. Or you can find some grand cake and survive on the sugar rush.
If your cat wins any rosettes, hang them on your benching cage. If you can't see the cat after a while, it's doing pretty darn well. A slightly obnoxious thing to do is to attach all those rosettes to the cat's carrier when you're marching out of the show hall to go home. But what the heck, do it.
Vendors are set up at almost any cat show. They carry all sorts of useful and decorative items, from sweatshirts, cat beds, and cat-shaped jewelry to shampoos, grooming tools, and medications. You can get better prices on grooming and health supplies if you buy through a mail-order veterinary supply company, but only if you're buying multiple items. For a single bottle of shampoo, the vendor's price is less than the mail-order price combined with the shipping/handling fee. And vendors sometimes carry items you can't find in a catalog.
There are several professional photographers who travel the show circuit. The Cat Fanciers' Almanac includes an updated list of which photographer is going to be at what show. Photo sessions are done right in the show hall. Each photographer brings along samples of his or her work, so you can decide whether or not you want to schedule a session for your cat.
Speaking of the Almanac... subscribe. You'll need it. CFA also compiles an annual Yearbook, which is mostly cattery ads. It also has breed articles, miscellaneous articles about breeding or breeders, a section on the National Winners and national breed/color winners, a list (with photos) of every cat that granded that year, and other bits and pieces. Buy it. You'll page through it over and over again.
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