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the music of my life
cat show FAQ 
6th-Jul-2009 02:24 pm
animals: cats - Evan - clarity
This FAQ is an ongoing labor of love inspired by several LJ friends' questions regarding many of my entries about my adventures at cat shows since December 2007. If you have any questions about cat shows, or if I was not clear in my explanations, don't hesitate to ask.

Please remember to keep all questions and commentary clean, family-friendly, and respectful.

What is a cat show, exactly?

A cat show is rather like every other kind of animal show - owners and breeders bring out their purebred cats to show them off. The cats aren’t led around on leads like dogs, horses and livestock; they’re put in cages in the rings until the judge takes them out to get an idea of how they’re put together (conformation). After the judge is done with a cat, he or she puts the cat back in its cage and sprays disinfectant on the judging table (and their hands) before going on to the next cat. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) divides cats into three classes, which I will explain later in this FAQ: Kitten, Championship, and Premiership.

Where can I find a schedule for cat shows?

If you’re interested in attending a cat show, visit http://www.cfa.org/exhibitors/show-schedule.html. Shows outside Continental North America are in blue.

There are other registry organizations, such as The International Cat Association (TICA), the Traditional Cat Association (TCA), and Great Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). I only compete with my cat in CFA, so if you are looking for a show not sanctioned by the CFA, you might want to do some research online and/or contact the editor of Cat Fancy magazine.

Can I pet the cats at the show?


Some exhibitors will say yes without thinking (beware of those types; their tendency to say yes without thinking indicates irresponsible owner practices). Some will say yes, but only if you’ve washed your hands. Others will just flat-out say no. The ones that say no don’t want to risk their cats picking up ringworm (highly contagious skin fungal infection) or other skin ailments, and in the case of the longhaired cats, they don’t want their cats’ fur to become dirty. All exhibitors will say no if the cat is about to go to a ring to be judged. It’s not a matter of being "mean" or "snobbish," we just want our cats to stay clean throughout the show day and we want our cats to stay healthy. Cats (especially kittens) are like humans in that they can become very sick very easily while showing no signs of illness.

I am one of those exhibitors who says no outright. Again, it's not to be mean, it's to prevent my cat from getting dirty and/or sick.

Even if the exhibitor says "no" to petting the cat(s), they almost always say "yes" if you ask if you can take a picture of their cat(s).

What makes a good show cat?

A good show cat is an animal that fits a standard. Each of the 39 breeds recognized by the CFA has its own standard which calls for certain physical characteristics. For example, the standard for the (modern) Siamese (and its derivative breeds like the Oriental, Balinese, and Javanese) calls for an animal with a long, tall, lean body that is very refined and a wedge-shaped head. The Birman standard calls for a body type that is not cobby like the Persian, but not too long and lean like the Siamese. Persians and Himalayans (colorpointed Persians) have to be short and round in the body and the head (this does not mean they are to be fat). Maine Coons must be long, and tall with excellent boning and good size (they’re the biggest breed recognized by the CFA).

Breed standards also dictate eye and coat color, as well as what markings are permissible within a breed. Colorpoint cats (Siamese, Birman, etc.) are not permitted to be solid-colored and their eyes MUST be blue, no other color. With the exception of Birmans, Showshoes, and Ragdolls, colorpoint cats are disqualified from the ring if they have any white markings on their feet or faces – the three breeds exempted from this rule (Birman, Snowshoe, Ragdoll) have white markings written in their respective standards. Russian Blues, Chartreux, and Korats are only seen with blue (slate-grey) fur and no markings. Abyssinians and their long-haired derivative, the Somali, must have gold or yellow eyes and can only come in Ruddy, Blue, Red, and Fawn colors. Longhaired cats must have long hair, and shorthaired cats must have short hair.

Any cat displaying incorrect conformation, markings and/or eye color is automatically disqualified from competition in its first ring of the day and is marked absent for the rest of the show. As I have never seen a cat get disqualified at any of the shows I’ve been to as a spectator and as an exhibitor, I am not sure what happens to the breeder/owner.

Every cat is an individual. The breed standards are strict enough to prevent breeders/exhibitors from putting an incorrectly-conformed/marked cat in the ring, but they are also loose enough that each breeder and the judges can go with their own interpretation of those standards. Using the two Birmans I live with, GP Catabella DaVinci of Angelkitty and GP Catabella Evanescence of Angelkitty, both of whom were bred by Mary Richards, you will see that both cats are very different. DaVinci has a slightly longer face and a weaker chin than Evan. He is also longer and leaner in the body, as well as taller. Evan is more compact and his Roman nose is more noticeable than DaVinci’s. Still, both cats fit the Birman breed standard.

Above all else, even above good conformation, a good show cat must have a good temperament. Judges don’t like to handle cats that hiss, growl, bite, or scratch. They like cats that are laid-back, calm, playful, and relatively happy in a strange environment (because, let’s face it, the show hall isn’t exactly their favorite person’s lap or their favorite bed). Evan’s attitude went sour after going two months without a show. DaVinci wasn’t put in the ring for over a year, but he acted as though he’d never been away from it when I brought him back in July 2008. Some cats love it, some cats hate it. Every cat is different.

What are the three classes you keep mentioning?

The CFA divides cats by class as well as by breed. These classes are Kitten Class, Championship Class, and Premiership Class. There is also a Household Pet Class for cats of mixed breeding, but I don’t talk about it very much because I don’t know very much about it.

Kitten Class is open to purebred kittens age 4-8 months. The only points available to exhibitors showing kittens are in the regional and national award rankings. You cannot show a kitten and expect it to grand, as only cats shown in Championship and Premiership are able to grand.

Championship and Premiership Classes are very similar in that both are open to cats aged 8 months and older, and to achieve the title of Champion (CH) or Premier (PR), all cats entering in their first show in either class (newcomers are known as Opens [OPN]) have to win six (6) winners ribbons (see below for explanation about the different ribbons). However, the two classes become very different.

Cats shown in Championship are not spayed or neutered, as they have potential careers as breeding cats when their show careers are over. Also, because Championship Class is, by far, the most competitive of the CFA’s three classes, any cats being shown toward a Grand Champion (GC) title must accumulate 200 grand points.

Premiership is not as competitive as Championship, as there are fewer cats in Premiership than there are in Championship. Because of this, anyone showing a cat to their Grand Premier (GP) title only has to accumulate 75 grand points.

Household Pet Class (HHP) is open to mixed breed pet cats of all ages. As far as I know, it is not competitive, there are no points awarded, and none of the cats actually make finals, so these cats are not eligible for a grand title or a regional award. Also, only two shows that I’ve been to as an exhibitor have ever had HHP judging.

What are the different color ribbons for in the breed judging?
(Props to Kara for asking this question when I took her to her first cat show.)

I’m taking this directly from the CFA’s FAQ page, as I do not feel I could word this accurately without confusing anyone.

Once a kitten turns 8 months of age, it is considered to be an adult and begins its adult show career in the OPEN class in either the Championship or Premiership Classes. A judge will handle and evaluate all of the OPEN cats in a color grouping, first the males and then the females. He will award a First Place(Blue) ribbon in the Open class to one male and one female (also Second Place(Red) and Third Place(Yellow) ribbons depending upon the number of Open cats of that color). First place in the OPEN class is usually accompanied by a Winners Ribbon(Red/White/Blue).

Once a cat has collected six Winners Ribbons, it becomes a CHAMPION. If in the Premiership Class, it will become a PREMIER.

After the judge has handled the OPEN cats, he judges the CHAMPIONS in that particular color group, and awards first, second and third ribbons to the best three males and the best three females. He then moves on to the GRAND CHAMPIONS and repeats the process.

When all the cats in a color group have been appraised, the judge awards Best of Color Class(Black) and Second Best of Color Class(White).

Once the judge has evaluated all of the cats in a breed or color division within a breed, he will award the BEST OF BREED OR DIVISION(Brown) and SECOND BEST OF BREED OR DIVISION(Orange).

The judge will also choose the BEST CHAMPION OF BREED OR DIVISION(Purple) from all of the Champions competing in that breed or division. The cat receiving the Best Champion ribbon will receive one point toward its Grand Championship title for each Champion it defeated in that breed. Cats with the title of Premier in the Premiership Class also are awarded this ribbon and the recipient will receive one point toward its Grand Premiership title for each Premier it defeated in that breed.

Upon completion of judging all of the cats in a class (i.e. Kittens, Championship or Premiership), the judge will hold a FINAL during which they will present rosettes to their choice for the Top Ten Cats or Kittens. Remember, tho, that each ring is basically an individual show so a cat that is chosen Best in Show by the judge in Ring 1, may not always be given the same award by the judge in Ring 2.

Household Pets are judged in one group without regard to sex, age, coat length or color. There is no written standard for Household Pets and they are judged for their uniqueness. Each Household Pet reflecting good health and vitality receives a MERIT AWARD(Red/White).

What are regional and national titles?

Regional and National titles are awarded to the Top 25 cats in each of the three classes (Kitten, Championship, Premiership). The CFA is divided up into eight (8) regions:
  • Region 1 – North Atlantic (oldest region in the CFA)
  • Region 2 – Northwest
  • Region 3 – Gulf Shore
  • Region 4 – Great Lakes (my region)
  • Region 5 – Southwest
  • Region 6 – Midwest
  • Region 7 – Southern
  • Region 8 – Japan
Other nations fall into the International Division unless they have their own association for those dedicated to the cat fancy (such as Great Britain, which has the GCCF). To see what countries are in the International Division, visit http://www.cfainternational.org/division.html.

According to the CFA, when calculating regional and national points, “[a]t the completion of the show season, a cat/kitten will be credited with the points from its highest 100 individual rings (40 for kittens). … If a cat is exhibited in shows totaling 100 rings or less (40 rings for kittens) total credited points will be the sum of total points earned.”

In other words, there is no set minimum for the number of points a cat must have to earn a regional or national title. However, a cat must be entered in several shows and perform well at each show in order to make finals and therefore get the points it needs for the regional and/or national win. The difference between the two, however, is that to earn a regional title, a cat must be shown in as many shows in one particular region. National winners travel to many different regions (though they might still earn their title if they stay in their home region) and accumulate more points than cats being shown toward a regional win.

What are finals?

When a judge has finished the breed (i.e., Maine Coon, Siamese, Birman) judging in any of the three classes (i.e., all kittens in Kitten class, all champions in Championship, and all premiers in Premiership), he or she will announce their final for that particular class. There are ribbons awarded to the Top 10 individuals in a judge’s finals, though if 75 or more cats are entered in a particular class, there might be 15 ribbons awarded. However, if you’re going for a regional/national title with your cat and he gets 11th best in his final, you won’t get any points.

When was your first cat show?

I went to my first cat show as a spectator on December 02, 1995, when I was eight years old. Mom took me up to the show with the expressed purpose of looking for a male blue point Siamese kitten that I could call my own. I found my kitty and named him Parker. He and I were together for eleven years before his death on January 25, 2007.

My first cat show as an exhibitor was December 01, 2007. Ironically, it was at the very show where I met Parker (Ohio State Persian Club). Mom and I brought out her seal point Birman kitten, GP Catabella Evanescence of Angelkitty, for his career debut, and he did rather well. After Evan achieved his Grand Premier title, we retired him in June 2008 and brought my blue point Birman neuter, GP Catabella DaVinci of Angelkitty, out of retirement in July. I stopped showing in December 2008 after I decided that DaVinci greatly preferred his life as a pet. At present, I am not certain if I will ever get back into showing, as I have other commitments and projects that require my time and attention.

What is a typical show day like?

A typical show day starts very, very early (wake up around 5:30am). A one-day, six-ring show usually begins with check-in (for exhibitors and judges) between 7:30am-8:30am, and judging will start around 9am. The two-day shows, whether they’re running six rings or eight, start about an hour later. All shows run until 5pm or a little later.

The day itself is largely boring, mostly because of waiting for a call to a ring. It’s best to just let the cat sleep during the downtime. It helps to have a book to read or something else to do like a crossword. Some exhibitors even bring PlayStation Portable (PSP) or Nintendo DS handheld gaming systems with them to help pass the time and ease boredom. I always took my sketchbook, notebook, and/or something to read in the showhall so that I could listen for a judge’s call to the ring.

Are the cats declawed? What do you think of declawing?

No. The CFA prohibits exhibitors from declawing their cats. Breeders also ask that potential buyers refrain from declawing the cats and kittens offered for sale to pet homes.

I see declawing as an inhumane practice that should be stopped. When you cut off a cat’s claws, not only are you removing the claw itself, you’re also removing part of his toes. It’s like cutting off the ends of your fingers just to get rid of your fingernails. Also, a cat without its claws has no way of defending itself should it encounter a dog, a wild animal, or another cat if it gets outside.

Do breeders/exhibitors let their cats go outside?

The vast majority of breeders/exhibitors do not let their cats outside and ask that potential buyers keep their cats/kittens indoors. Indoor cats have significantly longer lifespans than their outdoor counterparts. They are healthier, because they are not exposed to the elements or disease. I lost many feline friends when I was younger because my dad’s parents let their cats outside. One was hit by a backhoe, three or four were hit by cars, and one was killed by a dog. The others succumbed to illness. Only two died of old age. The cats that I have had in my lifetime, beginning with my mom’s Traditional Siamese neuter, have all lived to age 10 or older, and they have all been kept inside.

What is your favorite breed?
(Props to harnessphoto for asking; it may not seem relevant, but it is.)

As much as I love my Birmans, my favorite breed is the Siamese. I've had Siamese in my life since I was born. My first Siamese was my mom's seal point Traditional Siamese, Tweetle. When I was eight, I got my own Siamese, a blue point Classic Siamese named Parker, with whom I shared eleven beautiful years. They're beautiful, friendly, devoted, vocal, and I love them so very, very much.

I haven't had a Siamese since Parker passed away in January 2007, but I'll change that eventually. For now, I'll settle for my mom's Siamese-in-Birman's-clothing, Evan.
7th-Jul-2009 12:35 am (UTC)

7th-Jul-2009 03:33 am (UTC)
Even then, it would be really difficult to keep a cat safe, because of rural predators, farm equipment, etc.

My favorite breed is actually the Siamese. It's the breed I've grown up with, and eventually, I'll get another one, just not right now.
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