Showing your cat for the first time can seem quite daunting. There is a lot to be considered – which show to enter, how to fill in the entry form, how to groom and prepare your cat, and so on. But when you are about to enter, one of the things you may well be asking yourself is which classes you should enter. There are so many; where does your cat fit into all this? However, it is really not as complicated as it might seem. Here is a brief guide to cat show classes and how you decide which ones to enter.
The following guide is for GCCF shows. If you are entering a cat in a show with another organisation, such as TICA or FIFe, things will be done a little differently...
In every show, you must enter your cat in the appropriate Main Class. You then have the option of entering it in a certain number of 'side' or 'miscellaneous classes'. Usually you can enter the main class and a fixed number of side classes (usually two or three) for the same fee. If you want to enter more side classes, you will have to pay for them separately. Sometimes there is a maximum number of classes which you can enter altogether, so read the show schedule carefully to find out if this is the case.
There is only one Main Class which your cat can enter; you do not have a choice. But you do have to decide which class is the correct one. Basically, classes are split initially by variety – Persian, Semi-Longhair, British, Siamese, Non-Pedigree, and so on. After this, within each variety the classes are divided into Adult or entire cats, Neutered cats, and Kittens under nine months old on the day of the show. So now you should know where to look for your cat's class. This can be a little more complicated if you have an unusual breed, which doesn't fit into the variety you might expect. For instance, Devon and Cornish Rex cats, despite being British in origin, are in the foreign section, while Selkirk Rex, which originated in the USA, are in the British section. So if you have trouble finding your cat's breed, it might be as well to contact someone who knows about the breed, or the Show Manager, to find out where that breed fits in.
After this, each breed, except for some of the rarer ones, is divided up by colour, and sometimes by coat length as well. So you need to decide which colour group is right for your cat. Usually this is fairly obvious, but again, if you are not sure of your cat's official colour, it is better to ask rather than enter your cat in the wrong class.
For the side classes, you have quite a wide choice, and it is entirely up to you which classes you enter. Your cat will not be eligible for all of them – some classes are for cats which have not entered a show before, for instance. Others may be for cats living a certain distance from the show hall, or for cats of a certain age. Sometimes terminology may be used with which you may not be familiar; a 'debutante', for instance, is a cat which has not been entered in a show before; while 'limit' means cat which has won a certain number of classes. You will find definitions of all these terms in the show schedule.
So, after you have ascertained which classes your cat is eligible for, how do you decide which ones to enter? It is completely up to you; there is no right or wrong way of deciding this. Often people decide to have a different judge for each class. This will mean that a variety of people will judge your cat, so that you can see what different judges think of him or her. Or you may know in advance that a certain judge likes your cat, from past experience, or because you have been told that this judge likes cats of your cat's type. It is quite acceptable to choose in this way. You might decide to try to pick classes which may not have too many entries so that the competition is less; for instance, if there is an 'adolescent' class, for cats aged from nine months to fifteen months, there may not be many cats in that age group. I have rarely found that this sort of 'second guessing' works, but you never know...
One thing you should know is that rosettes are rarely presented for side class winners any more. They used to be given in the past, but many clubs, in an effort to save on costs, now only give cards to the side class winners. The schedule will tell you if this is the case for your particular show, but in general, don't expect to win rosettes for your side classes.
There may be extra side classes apart from the usual ones. Sometimes there are charity classes. These often have to be entered as an additional class with a further payment, but you might wish to enter one of these anyway. Sometimes there are classes solely for members of a particular cat club, so if you are a member, you may wish to enter one of these. Finally, if you are entering a non--pedigree cat or a pedigree pet, there may be extra 'fun' classes, such as 'most impressive tail', 'prettiest female', 'longest whiskers' and so on. It is entirely up to you whether you enter these instead of, or in addition to, the more conventional side classes. However, a lot of people find these classes are great fun.
You should now have a better idea which classes to enter your cat in. But if you are still in doubt, or don't understand something, do contact the Show Manager and ask. It is far better to sort all this out in advance, rather than to have to change things on Show Day, which is sometimes possible, but is a lot harder. And then....the best of luck at the show.