Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The cat show

I’m sorry I did not post sooner about the cat show, but I had to get over my disappointment first. Let’s just say that cat shows could be a lot of fun, if you win.

As expected, the atmosphere in the room, a typical hotel convention room, was very artificial. Thank goodness it was a rainy weekend. I arrived to find the cage the breeder had brought for me (hot pink) decorated with lace, beanie babies, and pictures of cats with fairy wings. Not to my taste at all, but whatever, it was nice of her to go to the effort.

You know how perfect I feel my Pearl is, but then the very nice lady next to me unveiled her kitten: a most stunning female tabby, “silver” (read white) with “chocolate” (read brown) stripes. She was so gorgeous and relaxed and endearing. How did my Pearl have any chance against this beauty?

As far as the competition goes, here is the deal. This being "D#von Heav#n" the one cat show chosen this year as a gathering point for owners of D#von R#xs, there are 40 D#von R#x cats entered. This is highly unusual. Normally there would be only a couple D#vons at a show. I gather that Maine Coon Cats are typically the most popular breed at shows. At this show there were 41 Maine Coon Cats, 40 D#vons, and the next largest breed represented was 10 Oriental Shorthairs.

Within each breed there are categories for adults by gender and color and categories for kittens by gender and color. There are two divisions for adults: premiership (first time out) and championship (those who have already won at other shows). Rex and Pearl were kittens, with Rex being in the male tabby group and Pearl being in the female tabby group. Of the 40 D#vons, 22 were kittens. Of the 22 kittens, 2 were male tabbies and 13 were female tabbies. The 13 female tabbies made up the toughest competition at the show. Each category gets a first, second, and a third place. Rex, in his group of two, consistently placed second to a spunky, nearly bald, very light haired little guy name Pilgrim. In her group of 13, the judges did not seem impressed by Pearl. Nor did they seem impressed by stunning miss silver and chocolate, our neighbor. It is true, color means almost nothing. It is all shape and proportion.

Eight times I heard my cat’s numbers called. Eight times I took them into one of the eight rings. Eight times they lost. I have to say, however, that at least when comparing male tabby D#vons or female tabby D#vons, the judges were pretty consistent. Out of the 13 in Pearl’s group, the first-, second-, and third-place winners were usually the same three cats. Rex was always second out of two. Even out of 13 (the largest group there, I think) it was pretty clear who the contenders were and whom the judges were interested in. They all just looked like cats to me, but I was impressed that the judges all saw something else, something they pretty consistently all agreed upon.

If a cat won at this level of gender, breed, and color, then they could go on to other levels that compare all D#vons (breed only) and then move on to between-breed comparisons. I, of course, have no first-hand knowledge of this, but I think that it might get just a bit more random when the judges are comparing between breeds, with each judge having their own favorites (all very suspect and controversial, of course, generating lots of gossip, intrigue, and speculation). That would make it a good, very enticing system, where if you make it out of the initial stages (likely if there are few representatives of your breed and color) the results are not so predictable or set in stone, but the stakes are also higher. At that point, the judges are comparing apples and oranges, and determining whether an apple is a more perfect example of an apple than an orange that is the most perfect example of an orange and so on. In that situation, your chance of getting that much-desired recognition is more by chance. There is more suspense. And the recognition means more as it is at a higher level.

Alas, recognition for me and mine did not come. I do think both cats excelled in the anti-social category, however. As soon as Rex and Pearl got in the room with hundreds of other cats, they started hissing and growling. They couldn't even tolerate each other, despite having slept together on my lap in the car on the way to the show. I kept one on my lap or in the carrier and the other in the cage throughout the show. Very ironic as originally I had only intended to bring Pearl and was slightly worried how she would feel being separated from Rex. When the breeder encouraged me to bring both, I never imagined that them getting along would be a problem. None of us was happy about that.

Neither cat is used to being in a cage. Not that they seemed to mind so much, but compared to the other "show cats" (as opposed to pets) they were not at all relaxed. Every judge got hissed and growled at by my two darlings. The first judge called Rex "spoiled." Pearl was the center of attention, not because of her good looks, but because of her acrobatics trying to get out of her cage. She would try determinately to back out, doing handstands and flips in the process. It was a bit of a show stealer as the spectators oohhed and ahhed and the judges seemed annoyed.

Other people I met ranged from locals to a woman from Seattle (owner of beautiful silver and chocolate, a C-section delivery BTW) to two women from Alaska. Interesting people and I wonder how they all got into cats. I think the reasons are varied. There is certainly no money in it. Many of the people seemed very nurturing or elderly or overweight or handicapped. Some seem controlling. I don't know what is cause and what is effect, but I do think raising cats would be a nice hobby for someone who was not very mobile. My favorite part of the show was just sitting with one of the cats on my lap.

One of the things that I think you could do at cat shows is live your fantasy through your cats. You find that perfect cat that suits your Ideal (or the judge's Ideal) and then you get accolades for that cat. You can breed them and groom them and choose them to your liking and then you can get the recognition. It could be very addicting. It seemed there were a lot of people living vicariously through their cats. People who obviously didn't take very good care of themselves, lavished care and affection on their show animals.

Finally, I am convinced that there are show cats and there are pets. My two are great pets. They are affectionate, smart, amusing, and good with people and children. They have not been trained to be good with other cats and they are not good in cages, hence not such great show cats. Nor, apparently, are they perfect representations of their breed's physical characteristics. It's just as well. While I could see how much fun and how rewarding it would be to show a winning cat, I can think of lots of other ways to get enjoyment from your pets. Okay, okay, I’m a sore loser!

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