Cat Show ‘N Tell

Most cat owners have never been to a cat show. In fact, don’t feel badly if you don’t even know cat shows exist. You’re not alone.

However, dog shows are extremely popular and well attended, even by those who don’t happen to have a dog.

Ironically, cats are the most popular pets in America. (According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are 52.9 million dogs and 59.1 million cats.)

“I think people would watch cat shows (on TV) – the problem is that they haven’t been given a chance,” says Larry Adkison, an all-breed cat show judge for 20 years and Siamese cat breeder for an excess of 30 years.

Both cat and dog shows feature purebred pets. Most people who have a dog have a purebred pooch. While the number of purebred cats is likely rising, still that number hovers only around ten percent. “If you want a dog, most people say, ‘let’s go out and get an Irish setter or a pug,” says Kitty Angell, an all-breed judge for 13 years and secretary of the Cat Fanciers’ Association. “If you want a cat, people say, ‘let’s go out and get a cat.”

Many people don’t know much about cats breeds, but they sure know about dog breeds – at least their own. “It’s more likely you can watch a dog show and relate,” says Adkison, a recent guest on Animal Planet Radio, who is from Springfield, Mo. “Sitting on your sofa at home with your springer spaniel, you can really cheer when the springer comes on (TV), or you go to a dog show to see the springers. Most people couldn’t even name more than a few cat breeds.”

“Marketing is now finally turning in our favor,” says Woodlands, Tex.-based Angell, “Cats are being seen more often in movies and on TV, and I’ve noticed an increasing number of them are purebreds – the same is true in ads in magazines.”

Cat shows aren’t as visually engaging as dog shows. “Of course, the cats don’t run around a ring like they do in dog shows,” says Adkison. “I think there’s even more drama (in cat shows) because even if one judge judges one cat poorly, that cat isn’t necessarily out of the running for ‘top cat’.”

Cat shows can be complicated to figure out. “Again, it’s just a matter of education,” says Adkison. “With a basic overview, people would get it.”

Here’s that basic overview, a lesson in Cat Show 101:

Angell, who bred Scottish Folds and Persians for 22 years, says, “Cat shows are strictly beauty contests.” There is no performance or consideration of talent involved. In horse races, talent matters most – the fastest horse wins. In dog shows, dogs must move well, according to what’s described by their breed standard. So, border collies move differently than basset hounds – and judges watch them demonstrate as they run around the ring. But at cat shows cats only have to look beautiful, they don’t have to parade around the ring or play the accordion.

It all starts when the boy cats are judged against boy cats, and girls against the girls within each breed and in each category – Champion, Grand Champion and Open. Then the Best of Color (within breeds, where color counts) is similarly picked with three winners, Best, Second Best and Best Champion. Then, Best of Breed is Chosen with three winners, Best, Second Best and Best Champion within a breed.

Championship Class cats are judged in three categories: Champions, Grand Champions and Open. Coming into a show, Champions have won six winner’s ribbons, Grand Champions have defeated 200 other Champion cats, and Open cats are either rookies or cats yet to win a winner’s ribbon.

“Cat shows are like a three-ring circus, but with even more rings,” adds Angell, “There are typically six or eight rings in cat shows. Each ring is pretty much a show unto itself. The judge in each ring handles every cat entered in competition and then picks his or her favorite cats.”

Cats may compete in one of two other classes, aside from Championship Class: Kittens (four to eight months) and Premiership (cats who are spayed or neutered).

For each ribbon a cat receives, he or she also receives a certain number of points. At the end of a show, cats with the most points will be named Best Champion, Best Kitten and Best Premier.

Okay – maybe understanding cat shows isn’t as easy as catching a mouse. But confused spectators can ask questions. Unlike dog show judges, cat show judges talk with the spectators, sometimes explaining why they’ve made their choices.

For more on cat shows, or to check out when a CFA show may be coming to your area, move your mouse to

Note: This article is copyrighted by Steve Dale and can be used as source material and for reference only. It cannot be reprinted verbatim. Please contact Steve Dale at if you have any questions.


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