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Veteran cat show judge sorts the best from the rest

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If you’re a die-hard feline fancier, you’ve most likely been to a cat show. Between the elaborately decorated cages and the perfectly groomed Persians and Siamese, you may have left the scene wanting one of these gorgeous creatures—or a dose of Benadryl, wondering how these juried competitions work.

Cat shows, like cats themselves, are a bit of a mystery to most people. I caught up with cat show judge Rene Knapp (and not just any cat show; she’s approved for all breeds for The International Cat Association), to find out what it’s really like to step into the ring and pick the best.

Personally, I’m rooting for the underdog.

 

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

 

Davi: What goes on at a typical cat show?

Rene Knapp: The main event is the competition. Rows of cages house the feline participants waiting to be judged in several rings. The judges evaluate each of the competing cats and award applicable points. There are vendors, raffles and cheering and applause for the winners. Certainly, a unique, fun experience where you can see beautiful breeds and learn more about cats in general.

 

Are all the cats in the show purebred?

No. Entries in the Household Pets competition don’t have to be purebred. In fact, many of these cats have unknown origins because they were found or adopted. Others do have pedigrees but are unable to compete as purebreds because they don’t meet the breed standards, and some have only three legs.

 

How does the cat judging work?

Judges at cat shows compare cats with their breed standard. Of course, these standards and point values are different for every breed. Throughout the day, each judge will evaluate every cat in the competition. Owners bring their cats to the competition rings where a judge examines it, and then gives awards.

 

Can you explain the show classes?

Cats compete in one of five categories. Kitten includes pedigreed kittens between the ages of four and eight months. Championship includes unaltered pedigreed cats older than eight months. Premiership includes altered pedigreed cats older than eight months. Veteran class includes pedigreed cats older than seven years. The Household Pet class features non-pedigreed cats older than four months.

 

What does a cat show judge look for when evaluating the competitors?

Judges compare cats to their breed standard. These standards specify how an ideal cat of a breed would look and act. And judges look for overall balance and proportion in a cat’s features, and a calm, happy personality.

 

Please explain all those ribbons awarded at the show.

Cats who claw their way to the top of the
show receive certain ribbons in colors corresponding to the titles won. There are many titles, from best of color to best in breed to best cat or kitten in show.

 

What perks do blue-ribbon cats get?

I don’t think the cat really cares. It’s mostly about bragging rights and the pride an owner feels when his feline wins top prize.

 

As it turns out, cat lovers have been parading their feline friends, showing off at shows, long before Grumpy the Cat hit Instagram. But it’s not just about the competition itself; it’s about the community. Times and tastes may change, but rest assured, if there are cats around, there will always be cat people—and cat shows.

The Ancient City Cat Club holds its fourth annual Celebrating the Pirate Cats of St. Augustine, featuring more than 125 kittens and cats, plus a raffle and cats and kittens for adoption; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23 and 24, at Solomon Calhoun Community Center, 1300 Duval St., St. Augustine, 829-0381, ticamembers.org, $6 adults, $3 seniors, free for kids younger than six.

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