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If you share your home with cats, have you ever thought about exhibiting one of your feline friends at a cat show? Unlike the world of dog showing, you are allowed to show cats (and older kittens) that have been neutered. You may even show pedigree cats described by their breeders as 'pet quality', that do not quite meet the very high standards set for that particular breed, as well as showing cats with no pedigree at all! It can be a very enjoyable hobby and a way of making new like-minded friends, although you are not going to make your fortune by showing, even if you have got a top pedigree exhibit.
Why not visit a few cat shows to see what they're like, as well as to talk to exhibitors and breeders who will always be happy to tell you about their breeds, and answer any questions you may have about showing? Most shows in the UK are licensed and run by clubs that are part of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), the feline equivalent of the Kennel Club, and you'll find a lot of information on their website, including a list of shows. Details of shows are advertised on the website about three months before the show, and the closing date is generally about a month beforehand. There is a show held somewhere most weekends, usually on a Saturday but occasionally on a Sunday, with some open to all breeds whereas others are restricted to a particular breed or group of breeds. If you are showing a pedigree cat at a show licensed by the GCCF, it will need to be registered with GCCF if it is pedigree, although this is not yet the case with 'Household Pets'. The feline equivalent of Crufts is called the Supreme Cat Show, and is held at the National Exhibition Centre at Birmingham every November - well worth a day out to see lots of different breeds as well as doing plenty of shopping at all the pet-related stalls.
However, there are also other smaller shows run by clubs affiliated to The International Cat Association (TICA) and the international association Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), known in the UK as Felis Britannica (FB), and you will find details of their show rules on their websites. The GCCF will only allow you to show a cat registered with them at any one show in a 13-day period, and if you decide you would also like to exhibit at TICA or FB show, you will need to notify GCCF each time.
Whichever organisation you choose to show with, think carefully about whether your cat or kitten is likely to cope well with being handled by several different judges throughout the day, as well as being happy to sit in a show pen. Most cats take to it very well, and love all the extra attention, but it's often advisable to try and choose their first show at a venue not too far from home. It's also a good idea to give it a go whilst they are still kittens if possible to get them used to being shown - kittens can be shown from the age of 14 weeks. If you are exhibiting at a GCCF show, you will have to buy some plain white blankets, a white litter tray, and white food and water bowls, so that there is nothing to distinguish your cat from its competitors, and the judge will just have a pen number for your cat rather than its name, although all the details will be printed in the show catalogue. You can buy your show equipment at most shows, so maybe you could get somebody to help you if you visit one before actually entering your cat.
It's a good idea to join a couple of cat clubs to help you get started. There should be a GCCF club covering your geographical area, which will be able to put you in touch with like-minded folk locally, and then it's also worth joining a specialist club that covers your chosen breed. You'll find a long list to choose from on the GCCF website, and most charge around £5 for single membership or £8 for two people living at the same address. You will then be able to enter any shows run by your clubs at a slightly reduced members' rate, and maybe enter special classes or qualify for members-only awards too.
It goes without saying that your cat or kitten must be in tiptop condition, well groomed and prepared, with clean eyes, nose and ears. It's always worth trimming the tip of your cat's claws before going to a show - you'll be able to buy special clippers at most pet suppliers. At GCCF shows (as well as some of the others), your cat will have to be cleared as being fit and healthy on the day by the show vet before you are allowed into the show hall (known as 'vetting in'), as well as being an appropriate size for the age of that breed. You should not show a cat that has got any fur missing as that could indicate a health issue, rather than simply being the result of him or her having had a small falling-out with one of their housemates! There are also various defects that could disqualify your cat, such as a kink in the tail or other faults specific to your chosen breed, but if you are not sure, ring the Secretary of your breed club who should be able to help. Your cat or kitten's vaccination boosters must also be up to date, as you will certainly have to produce them at a GCCF show.
If you are showing a 'show quality' pedigree cat at a GCCF-run show, there is a 'Standard of Points' for every recognised breed, and cats are assessed under a variety of criteria including overall body shape (known as 'type'), eye shape and colour, coat quality and colour, and tail length. They will then be assessed against other cats or kittens in the same class, and placed in order, and then considered for Best of Breed, and may even be considered for Best in Show ultimately. However, if you have a pedigree cat that the breeder has told you is not really show quality, you could still enter it in the Household Pet section of most shows, where you will find classes for 'Pedigree Pets'. Your cat will then be judged in the same way as a Non-pedigree cat, for condition, temperament and presentation, and there are often classes for the best-groomed exhibit, or the one with the most appealing expression, and again, there will be a Best in Show award.
At GCCF shows you will not be able to stay in the main hall whilst the breed classes are being judged, to allow the judges space to move around the hall, although this is not the case with TICA or FB shows. But there will usually be a café you can retreat to, and you will probably get chatting to other exhibitors! Whichever route you choose to show your cat, you will have a good day out with like-minded people, and whether you win or lose, you know that you are definitely bringing the best cat home at the end of the day!
Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) http://www.gccfcats.org/index.html The International Cat Association (TICA) http://www.tica-uk.org.uk/ Felis Britannica (FB) http://www.felisbritannica.co.uk/index.htm
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