The Supreme Cat show is the feline equivalent of Crufts, although you may not have heard of it, as it does not receive the same amount of sponsorship and media coverage as its canine counterpart, but the first Supreme Show was held in 1976. The show is organised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) and is held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in November each year, usually attracting over 1000 pedigree cats in competition as well as around 200 Household Pets and a number of cats on exhibition that are not competing. Schedules for exhibitors are usually available in the preceding July, and there is plenty of information for visitors on the GCCF website. The format of the show is very different to all other shows licensed under GCCF rules, although there are some similarities with shows held under TICA and FIFe rules. At all other GCCF shows, exhibits are judged in their pens, sitting on white blankets with white litter trays and accessories so that they are anonymous. At these shows they are distinguishable only by their pen number (which corresponds to the listing in the show catalogue), often with just the name of the breed to help visitors identify the different varieties. Exhibitors and visitors are not normally allowed round the pens whilst the main Breed Class judging is going on in the morning, but this is all very different at the 'Supreme'. At the Supreme Cat Show, exhibitors are allowed to decorate their cats' pens, as judging is carried out in a separate area of judging rings. It's possible to buy sets of drapes suitable for decorating the pens from many cat shows during the year, although some exhibitors make their own, and the colours are always chosen with great care to complement the colour and markings of the cats. It's permissible to put the name of the cat on the pen, and many exhibitors also add a copy of their cat's pedigree, together with a board displaying many of the rosettes won over the past year - especially those awarded for Best in Show wins or for the top titles that are competed for throughout the year, including Imperial and Grand Champion/Premier classes. It all makes for a very colourful display, and is quite a spectacle to behold as many exhibitors also devise quite elaborate displays in their pens - and there are always awards for the Best Decorated Pen!Exhibitors travel from all over the UK to come to the 'Supreme', many staying in hotels the night before or starting off at some unearthly hour in the morning, and there are sometimes even exhibitors from overseas who are allowed to compete at this one show without having their cats registered with the GCCF. The 'Vetting- in' queue is usually well under way by 7am as it takes exhibitors much longer to set up their decorated pens before the public are admitted at 9am, and then judging starts at 9.30, all much earlier than for a normal show. There is much to interest everyone at the 'Supreme'. Apart from the exhibits in their colourful decorated pens, there are many trade stalls, large and small, selling a whole range of cat-related accessories, food, and even large items like cathouses! Bargains are often to be had at special show trade prices, and arrangements can often be made to have items delivered to a home address or to another cat show where it will be easier to transport them back to the car park. There are also stalls run by cat clubs hoping to attract new members, and many will have a couple of cats in exhibition pens in order to promote their breed, so that visitors can see what they look like. There are always plenty of refreshment outlets in the halls, but you will also see areas of picnic tables set up, with large groups of exhibitors sharing a celebratory lunch! In the area set aside for judging, there are usually 8 rings for judging pedigree exhibits and one for the Household Pet section. Within each ring there are often 3 or 4 judges working at the same time on separate tables, and many of them will talk through their judging decisions for the benefit of exhibitors and visitors who are allowed to stand immediately behind the roped-off areas. Each judge will assess a class at a time, the class number being displayed on the judging table for everyone to see. Each cat will be collected in turn by one of the judge's three stewards, and placed in a plain, undecorated pen in the vicinity of the judge's table, sitting on a sparkling white blanket provided by the exhibitor, and with the pen number placed on the front of the pen for the duration of that class. The judge will make comprehensive notes on each exhibit, and a copy of this sheet will be placed on the decorated pen when the cat is returned there, together with any rosettes they may have won. For many cats, that will then be the end of judging for the day, as the Supreme does not have any 'side' classes, and exhibitors will be delighted just to have won an award at the Supreme! For those that are awarded Best of Breed in each breed colour group, these cats will go forwarded to the next stage of judging held after lunch, with the hope of winning Best of Variety Adult, Kitten and Neuter within each Pedigree Section, or Best of Variety Non-Pedigree/Pedigree Pet in the Household Pet Section. In the Pedigree Section, the Best of Variety winners then go forward to be considered for Supreme Adult, Kitten and Neuter across all the different breeds, and from there to the highest award of all, that of Supreme Exhibit, which takes place at the end of the day, usually in front of a huge audience of onlookers! In the Household Pet Section, the Best Non-Pedigree and best Pedigree Pet compete to become Best Household Pet. There is very little prize money to be won, even for the top winners, but owners, breeders and exhibitors consider that a win at the 'Supreme' is well worth it! At the end of the day, the trimmings of the decorated pens are dismantled far more quickly then they were carefully put up in the morning, and exhibitors will be spotted leaving the hall with cats, bags of show paraphernalia, new purchases, and often wearing the rosette won by their cat! Some will have come by coach if their regional cat club has arranged one, and many will then have very long journeys home, but most will agree that they've had a good day at the 'Supreme', whether they've won or not!