There are lots of misconceptions people have about cats. Two of those will be dispelled at the 2006 Cat Fanciers’ Association-Iams Cat Championship, October 14 and 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Of course, like all cat shows, there’s the confirmation competition. Simply put, that’s a beauty contest featuring pedigreed cats. More than 300 primped and preened contenders will represent 41 breeds.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association is the largest registry of pure bred cats, and this show marks their 100th anniversary.
Not all cat shows name one single winner as the Best in Show (as they do in dog shows), but at this prestigious event, that’s exactly what will happen. Still, the cats aren’t really competing against each other. Instead, the judges are comparing how each individual stacks up to a written breed standard.
Last year’s top cat was a relative novice, one-year old Grand Champion Marmese Cobalt, a blue-point Siamese from Virginia. A Scottish Fold placed second and an American Wirehair was third.
Some of the cat breeds are recognizable, such as the Siamese or Persians. Other felines will prompt a “what’s that?” response. Uncommon breeds include the Devon Rex (a comical elfin appearance with a single coat of hair); Egyptian Mau (an active cat with a spotted coat), or Turkish Van (these cats are mostly all-white with colored markings on the head and tail, and they often like to swim).
While they’re clearly being judged for their good looks, personality also plays a role. Pedigreed cats are absolutely bred for character traits. Certainly, each breed has a distinct personality. The Tonkinese (an off shoot of the Siamese) is likely to express a point of view to the judge loud and clear. And it would only be like a Sphynx (the hairless cat, made famous by Mr. Bigglesworth in the Austin Powers movies) to manage to climb on a judge’s shoulder pretending to be a parrot.
While they’re at it, many contestants will blast the first big misconception about cats – that they can’t be trained.
Carol Osborne has been around the world of cats for a very long time. “You can enhance your bond further by training your cat, and that’s true whether you have a pedigreed cat or a domestic short hair found on the street or adopted from a shelter,” she says.
Osborne is among those who are endorsing a new sport, feline agility. Agility for dogs has been around for a very long time, and is often featured on Animal Planet. Usually, it’s the border collies and Australian shepherds who excel ” but the goal is for any dog of any size to navigate an obstacle course following direction from the handler. The dogs literally jump through hoops, zig-zag through weave polls, jump hurdles and run through tunnels. Now cats are trained to do the same thing.
Feline agility was first tried out at last year’s Cat Fanciers’ Association-Iams Cat Championship. “The crowd loved it,” says Osborne, who is from Floyd, Va. “But then, let’s face it, they are, after all, cats.” A Japanese Bobtail, not so appropriately named Jumping Jack Flush, decided to flop down, stretch and lick himself in front of the crowd ” just because. The handler became so exasperated, she also flopped down and stretched in front of the crowd.
Osborne adds, “Aside from being fun for the crowd, agility is really good exercise. And so many of our cats are under exercised and overweight. Also, when you train a cat you learn to pay attention to the cat; and the cat pays attention to you. The relationship really does get stronger.”
Hollywood trainer Karen Thomas agrees. She’ll be accompanying the Iams performing cats, a quartet of performing kitties from Tinseltown. “I’m certain any cat can learn; I mean anything you can teach a husband to do, you can teach a cat,” she says and laughs. “Or at the very least teach your cat to allow you to brush teeth ” that’s important for the cat’s health.”
In the finale of the act, a cat dazzles and astounds the crowd walking a high wire. Gasps are heard. “Well, it’s impressive,” laughs Thomas, who adds, “I’ve never heard anyone gasp, and it’s not that astounding, the high wire is only three feet over a table. Not that high. But still pretty good, I’d say.”
A second major misconception people have about cats is that they are so aloof, they refuse to live with another cat. And most certainly, if you dare introduce a canine, they’ll only fight like cats and dogs.
“Not true,” states Dr. Bernadine Cruz of Laguna Hills, Calif. who will present a talk on living in multi-cat and multi-pet households. “Having more than one cat is easy,” she says. “In fact, the average number of cats is 3.2 per home so obviously they can live together. What’s difficult is feeding time if you’re trying to feed a separate diet for each. And I’m not a fan of leaving out the food 24/7 either.”
Cruz, who is also the author of “The Secret Sex Life of Dogs and Cats,” (Angel City Press, Santa Monica, Calif. 2005; $16.95) suggests that if the scenario she’s describing sounds familiar, check out a multi-cat diet.
As for cats and dogs living together, she adds, “Of course, they do. It’s definitely a case of feline fiction to think that dogs and cats just never get along.”
Learn more about the cat show at www.cfa-iams-cat-championship.org.
Cruz will play a game with the crowd called Feline Fact or Fiction. Here are three questions she’ll ask:
1. Cats purr at the same frequency as:
a) an electric toothbrush
b) a diesel engine
c) a chainsaw
2. What percent of a cat’s life is spent grooming?
a) 10 per cent
b) 30 per cent
c) 65 per cent
3. When was the first cat show in the U.S.?
Answers: 1, B; 2, B 3. A