How We Got Hooked on Showing Cats


Years ago, my introduction to the world of pedigreed cats came from two very knowledgeable, very experienced breeders: Carolyn Vella and John McGonagle. Carolyn and John have been breeding and showing Japanese Bobtails for 14 years, and have bred 14 Grand Champions. They run an ACFA Cattery of Distinction, have been judging cats for seven years, and are licensed ACFA Specialty Judges. They are also award-winning authors; their books include Breeding Pedigreed Cats.

Q: Why did you decide to start breeding and showing pedigreed cats?

A. When you fall in love with a particular breed, you want to help protect, promote, and propagate that breed. This is what breeders do. Before you go into breeding cats, you should learn as much about it as you can. After that, go to the home and cattery of a breeder to actually see what you will be doing. We were very fortunate in being able to help deliver kittens with both a Persian breeder and a Burmese breeder while we were learning, but before we began breeding Japanese Bobtails.

Q: How did you pick your breed?

A. We were already exhibiting Household Pet cats when the Japanese Bobtail chose us. We watched the way they acted in the show hall and became addicted! They are little clowns but sweet as can be. Since our jobs are rather sedentary, we were interested in a cat with a high activity level. We certainly did get one! Japanese Bobtails are active, kittenish, and very affectionate.

Once we chose a breed, we learned all we could about the breed from books and spoke to breeders during the shows where we exhibited. We then created a resume of our cat showing experience to help persuade a breeder to trust us with one of their precious Japanese Bobtail kittens to start a breeding program.

Q: What do you have to do to get a cat (and yourself) ready for a show?

A. Sometimes I think it’s easier to get a cat ready for a show than it is for us to get ready. The cat must have its nails clipped and it must be clean. If the cat is used to being bathed, then this works very well. If the cat is not used to this, then use a foam cleaner or a dry shampoo or just brush the cat very well. Don’t forget to clean the ears and eyes of the cat. Then you just pack your cage curtains (towels can be used), any grooming supplies you might need, some cat food, a litter box, and a favorite toy. Don’t forget the cat treats!

For people, dress in a comfortable, casual manner. You will be brushing your cat and carrying it up to the rings and back. Be prepared to answer questions from those visiting the cat show. Wake up early (this is the hard part), get to the show, settle your cat and yourself, and enjoy the show.

Q: Do you think the cats like being in a cat show?

A. Yes, I do. When you have a multiple-cat household, the kitty you are showing has special time with you. I think they really enjoy this. If you do have a cat who does not like the show, then don’t show the cat. We are involved in the cat fancy and with exhibiting our cats because we love our cats. If your bring a cat to a show and the cat doesn’t like it but you continue bringing it back, then you are letting your ego get in the way of your love of cats.

Q: What do you love about showing cats?

A. The friendships I have made in the cat fancy are what keeps me coming back to cat shows. In addition, I also learn something new at every show where I exhibit.

Q: What do you not love about showing cats?

A. Every now and then, you will find someone who feels that winning in the show ring is more important than the love of cats. The people who have spent many years in the fancy have realized that while winning is wonderful, the cat itself is more important. These are the people who are important in the fancy. These are the people who will be your friends, help you out if you need it, and teach you what they know. You can see they love their cats by the way they hold them, touch them, speak to them and spend time with them. When the show is over, we go home-where the love between cats and their owners and the care between cats and their owners never stops. This, in the long run, is what every cat fancier appreciates.

Q: Any advice for first-time exhibitors?

A. First, let the entry clerk know you are a first-timer and ask to be benched with someone who is experienced. This will help you to know what is going on and what you should be doing. Relax and enjoy yourself. This is a hobby, not a life-and-death situation. If you get a final, congratulate the others who also made a final. Get to meet other people. We have our love of cats to bind us together. You can ask for advice if you need it. The cat fancy is a warm, beautiful family if you let it be so.

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