For the last four years, Carol Smith, a Boston-area cat breeder and small-business owner, has been showing her cat, Kelsey Belle, competitively. Smith breeds Egyptian Maus cats, but unpedigreed Kelsey Belle is a former shelter cat.
However, Kelsey Belle is a cat show natural. “She rolls over on the judging table, spread-eagled, purring and licking the judges. She’s well-regarded for her presence and easy handling,” says Smith. “She really enjoys it, especially the traveling and ‘spa treatments’ before the shows.”
In cat show lingo, mixed-breed felines like Smith’s pet are referred to as a household pets (HHP). Does your own pet have what it takes to be in show business? Longtime HHP judge William Lee weighs in on what it takes to be best in show.
Any HHP over four months of age is eligible to be entered in contests sponsored by the International Cat Association or the Cat Fancier’s Association. These are two of the biggest registries of pedigreed cats worldwide. “All you have to do is register and pay the entry fee,” says Lee. Entry fees vary depending on the show but are generally under $100. Pedigreed cats are also eligible to be shown in the HHP category.
Pedigreed Versus Non-breed Standards
To compete well, pedigreed cats have very specific standards they must meet (length of tail, distance between eyes, ear set, etc.). HHPs are judged by more arbitrary measures. “The rules for judging household cats are a smorgasbord,” says Lee. “We call the standards for HHPs ‘pseudo-standards’ because they’re so generic.”
HHP Judging Criteria
Lee explains that judges of household cats score their contestants based on the following:
- Beauty (20 percent of score): Beauty points are assigned according to the taste of the individual judge. Many judges look for pleasing colors and patterns, grace, and balance. “I look for something a little unusual — a rare pattern or color. But as they say, it’s in the eye of the beholder,” says Lee.
- Personality (30 percent of score): A good show cat is alert, friendly and easy to handle. Of course, judges make an allowance for some nervousness, but the cats that immediately buy into it are the best. They are the ones that seem to be thinking, “Oh, here’s a new person to enjoy me.” They have to enjoy showing off.
- Condition (50 percent of score): Judges are very attuned to healthy looks. Cats should be groomed as much as is practical for an HHP, and they should have clean ears and no debris in their eyes. Emaciation or overweight can detract from the score, although that’s subjective too.
Is Your Cat a Show Cat?
Chances are, cat show officials will tell you yes. The HHP category was created, in part, to involve the public in cat shows, to bring people out in larger numbers and to pique their interest in pedigreed cats. Lee estimates that 80 percent of exhibitors of purebred cats began as exhibitors of HHPs.
When deciding whether to show your feline friend, Lee recommends asking yourself, Is my cat the most beautiful animal that ever existed? “If you convey that to your cat, it thinks, ‘My owner adores the way I look.’ And it will display that for the judges, in turn.”
Kelsey Belle, whose owner spent two years searching for just the right cat to join her household, is proof of that. With the ever-admiring Smith at her side, the cat was the highest-scoring HHP in New England in 2008.