Scenes From a Cat Show

Oriental, Japanese bobtail and Tonkinese are all cat breeds. “I remember walking around at my first cat show with my mouth hanging open,” says Anne Mathis of Fowlerville, MI. “I had no idea all these cat breeds even existed.”

She not only purchased one of these alien breeds for herself, she began to breed and show two of them, the Oriental and Japanese bobtail.

The Oriental was originally created as a cross between the American shorthair and the Siamese. They are cats with a long sleek, elegant look. They’re outgoing cats, but with less to say than typical Siamese.

“When I first saw them, I’ll be honest, I thought, ‘how ugly is that?’ she recalls. “Then, I got to know one, and oh how sweet. I didn’t know cats could even have this kind of loving personality.”

Some compare the Oriental elegance and grace to greyhound dogs. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Mathis also has a greyhound, Italian greyhound, and a whippet, as well as a mixed breed dog. That’s not to mention a single fluffy Maine Coon cat. She says, “There are some people who don’t mind all that grooming, I’m not one of them. But they are gentle giants, bigger than my Italian greyhound.”

Similarly, Mathis wasn’t at first attracted to Japanese bobtails, after all, they don’t have a tail and that looks odd, at least for a cat. “It’s a natural mutation of these cats, originally discovered on the streets of Japan,” she says. “People will look at them and they’re disgusted because no matter what I tell them, they believe I cut off my cats’ tails. The truth I tell them over and over, ‘they’re born that way! I fell in love with this hardy breed. They insist on becoming a part of the family, following their people around the house.”

Mathis is showing Ferrara, a 7-month old Oriental at the Cat Fanciers’ Association International Cat Show, November 21 through 23 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX. Often called the Westminster of cat shows, about 1,000 cats representing 40 kinds of pure bred cats will participate.

Competitors and their cats will travel from all over America, and several countries including Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Mexico and Japan to partake in the show.

At least Dale and Magali Wehlrey of Houston don’t have to use up much frequent flyer mileage to get to the show with their cats, called Tonkinese. “We showed the beautiful Russian blue cats for three years,” says Dale. “But they were a tad too stand-offish for our taste, so we tried Tonkinese.” This breed was developed from both Burmese (Golden-eyed cats that originated in Burma, now Myanmar) and Siamese. They’re fun-loving, athletic, short-hair, muscular cats who also like laps.

Unlike dog shows, it’s common to present spay or neutered cats in cat shows. The altered cats are shown in the Premiership class. Interestingly, they never bred their cats prior to being neutered. Their cats are pets, and all are shown in premiership.

Pam DelaBar, vice president of the Cat Fanciers’ Association, the largest registry of pure bred cats, says “The CFA doesn’t merely talk about spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership; we endorse them.”

“We just like showing cats, it’s a hobby ” albeit an expensive hobby – for us,” says Dale Wehlrey. The Wehlrey’s are showing a pair of Tokinese cats at the International Show, 2-year old Fire Karker (pronounced Firecracker), and Hubble is who 1 ½-years olds. “We love to watch people react at these kinds of cats they’ve never before seen.”

One thing that is the same as in dog shows, each breed is judged according to the breed standard. DelaBar, who is from San Antonio, TX is also an all-breed judge. She adds, “In theory, there’s never been a perfect cat. Well that’s except the cat sitting on your lap at home, of course ” whether it’s a pure bred cat or not. But one advantage of getting a pure bred, is pretty much the same as it is in dogs ” you know what you’re about to get.”

For Pamela Loud of Atlanta, GA the Maine Coon cat is just the right breed. At the International, she’s going to show a 6-month old kitten, Nigella Bites. The kitten is named after a book authored by an English cookbook author (Nigella Lawson). “I don’t know why, but this cat reminded me of this woman,” Loud says.

Another class cats can compete in is the Kitten Class. However, Loud doesn’t expect her kitty to do really well, since the International will be only her second show, and she’s going up against experienced kittens who are as old seven or eight months. “Of course, we want to do well, but this is the International, it’s the World Series of cat shows,” she says. “I always look forward to hearing the judges talk about all the assorted breeds, I’m still learning.”

The show is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. until the presentation of Best in Show, which is after 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $8, $6 for seniors and children under 12-years. The show benefits the WINN Feline Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to support feline health studies. Another poriton of the proceeds will also benefit the Houston SPCA, the Houston Humane Society, the Citizens for Animal Protection and the Homeless Pet Placement League.

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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