The Spectator’s Guide To Cat Show Etiquette


If you’re a cat lover and have never attended a cat show, you are missing out on an extraordinary experience. Cat shows are sanctioned by registries such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association and The International Cat Association, and usually are sponsored by local cat clubs. If you wish to attend a cat show as a spectator, you are certain to find one nearby.

When you step into that exhibit hall, keep in mind you have entered a different world and are expected to follow the unwritten Rules of Cat Show Etiquette. These “rules” are extremely important — and abiding by them will make your day at the cat show an enjoyable and unforgettable occasion.

The Touching/Handling Rule

As fluffy and/or shiny these beautiful show cats look, the number one rule for everyone is “DO NOT TOUCH!” Almost every show cage will have a sign saying as much, but spectators often ignore it or get carried away when they see a gorgeous feline. It’s only natural to want to pet or hold such a stunning creature. But bacteria and viruses can easily spread from cat to cat (via your hands), which is why most exhibitors frown on their cats being handled. If you watch a competition ring, you’ll notice the judges disinfect their hands and the show table between each cat they touch. If a kind exhibitor invites you to pet their prized puss, they will ask you to first wash your hands, which is a small price to pay for such a great honor.

The Right-of-Way Rule

The show hall is often crowded and difficult to move around in. At most shows, the public can walk through the benching area (where the cages are set up for cats to rest when they aren’t in the show ring). If you are talking to an exhibitor about their cat (or perhaps they have kittens for sale), don’t be surprised if they suddenly get up and quickly take off with their cat. They only have a few minutes to get to the judging area. And, when a cat’s number gets called, common courtesy says you give the right-of-way to exhibitors carrying kitty to or from the show ring.

The Loose Cat Rule

A frightening announcement you may hear during a show is when someone yells out, “Loose cat!” This means someone’s feline has gotten away, and all the doors to the hall will swing shut. Stand still and out of the way while the show people deal with the situation. Don’t try to be a hero and chase the cat — it only scares kitty more. If you spot the cat, however, it’s OK to signal the location to the search team and/or owner.

The Judging Ring Rule

While going to a cat show is fun for you, it’s quite serious for most exhibitors. They spend months and years preparing for their feline’s moment in the spotlight. When you are near a judging ring, it’s essential not to talk loudly or do anything that might distract the judge or the cat being judged. Many judges explain to the spectators what they are looking for as they judge each breed, so it can be fascinating to stand by quietly and listen.