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How to Show Your Cat

Deciding To Enter

One of the hardest parts of showing is deciding whether it's in your cat's best interest to show him/her. Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is my cat healthy?
  • Will my cat allow itself to be touched by strange people?
  • Is my cat easily frightened by loud noises and strange smells?
  • Can I afford the expenses?

The Various Associations

If you consider all options and still want to try it then your next choice is which association you'd like to show in. For your first show, I recommend choosing one that has a show close by. Cat shows are stressful enough your first time without having to worry about how your cat is going to like staying in a hotel. Even if you are showing a particular breed for your first time, you can almost always cross register in different associations. Contact the breeder or the association you would like to show in, and they will be able to tell you what you need to do to get a registration number.

Show Schedules

Cat show schedules can be found in a variety of places, including online on club and association websites, and in a magazine such as Cat Fancy. Sometimes you can find show and contact information in your state's calendar of events. 

Entry Fees

When you find a show you want to attend, call the listed entry clerk and tell them that you are a new exhibitor. They are extremely helpful and are excited to make this an enjoyable experience for you. Ask him/her to send you an entry form and show flyer. Entry fees vary from show to show, but range from $25-$100 or more, depending on the size of the show (number of judges) and on what "amenities" you choose to have. Some of these might include:

  • Double cage- (This gives your cat more room. Most single cages are 21x21x21", getting a double cage gives you a 21x21x45".)
  • Grooming Space- (Basically this gives you table space the size of a double cage to give you a place to groom your cat and set your stuff. This is especially nice if you only have one cat and need the extra space.)
  • End-of-Row Benching- (This is usually limited to the handicapped and ring clerks, however some clubs offer this option to exhibitors for a fee. All this means is that your cage will be at the end of the long benching tables, therefore making it easier to reach your cage in a large crowd.)

What Color Is My Cat?

One of the difficult things for a new exhibitor (especially those of household pets) to fill out on the entry form is the question about your cat's color. Below are a few examples that may help:

  • In show-speak, an orange cat is called a red, while a grey cat is called a blue.
  • "Tabby" is not a color but a coat pattern. There are three common variations on the tabby pattern: The Mackerel Tabby commonly refers to the narrow stripes that run parallel down the sides. The Ticked Tabby has tabby stripes on its face, legs, and tail, with agouti hairs on its body. A Classic Tabby has swirling blotches like a marble cake.
  • Solid: This one pretty much explains itself.
  • Smoke: This is cat looks like it's coat is a solid color, but when you brush the hair back the roots visible above the skin is white, giving the coat a smoke effect.  
  • Calico: Refers to red and black patches on a white or cream background. A "Dilute Calico" has cream, blue, and tan patches- a lightened version of the Calico.
  • Pointed: This color pattern is the type commonly seen in Siamese, Himalayan, and Birman, although these are not the only cats where the pointed coat is seen. This is generally a white to tan colored cat with darker ears, legs, tail, and mask. 

Remember, when in doubt, ask your entry clerk. They may ask for a picture to better determine your cat's color.

Bathing

The idea of cats being "self-cleaning" is a bit misleading. While cats are by nature very fastidious, a routine bathing is necessary for the health and happiness of your cat. If you decide to show your cat this process becomes even more important.

Ideally, you would start bathing your cat when they are a kitten, but regardless if they are young or old if your cat is new to the bathing process, the best thing is to take it slow. Most cats will become accustomed to it eventually, but don't be upset if they don't. Restraints like a suction cup harness make the process even easier, and if you have someone to help you until you are comfortable will make it less stressful for you and your cat.

There are three things that you should always remember when bathing your cat. One is to have everything ready before you begin. You cannot put a bathing rookie into the water and then expect them to wait while you search for towels! Make sure you have everything you will need before you begin. The second is to relax. Cats can sense your apprehension and fear as easily as they hear the can opener in the morning. If they feel that you're nervous or scared, they will do anything to get away to drier ground. The third thing is the most important, and that is to rinse, rinse, and rinse some more! I usually set a timer for about five minutes to make sure that I have gotten everything rinsed out. Remember that whatever shampoo or grooming product you use can cause irritation and upset stomach if it is not completely rinsed out. The only exceptions to this are the products that specifically say they are meant to be left in the coat. Always make sure the labels on these products say that they're safe for use on cats.

Here is a list of basic things that you will need:

  • Towels - I especially like the professional drying towels used widely by groomers, but any bath towel will do. Make sure they are large enough to cover the cat, and always have at least two on hand per cat because the first one will get very wet. 
  • Shampoo - My recommendation is to start with a basic shampoo and then to gradually start experimenting as you grow more comfortable with the bathing process. There are hundreds of shampoos out there that are formulated for everything from color enhancement to those that give the coat lift and shine. A good thing to remember here is that just because it's the most expensive, doesn't mean it's the best.
  • Grooming Tools - At the very least you should have a comb to brush out the coat. Never use a regular human hairbrush, because it can damage the coat, especially when it's wet. I love the metal combs that are spaced wider on one end, and closer together at the other.  
  • Sprayer Attachment - If your kitchen sink doesn't have a sprayer, you can find a cheap alternative in any pet store, and recently, grocery stores. I got mine at Wal-Mart for $6.99, and don't know what I'd do without it! You cannot get the job done using a cup under the running faucet!

Make sure that the water is warm, but not hot. An easy way to test this is to put your wrist in the water just like you'd check a baby bottle. If you can't stand to hold your wrist under the tap, it will be too hot for your cat! 

And, finally, take this time to clean out your cat's ears with a damp cotton ball. If you notice a lot of reddishbrown wax, then have your veterinarian check for ear mites. Ear mites are a common problem that's easily treated. And remember, if your cat has ear mites or a contagious illness of any kind, it is a rule in all of the associations that you must not show that cat until the problem clears up and is then checked and ok'd by a veterinarian.

Trimming Your Cat's Claws

Trimming your cat's claws is required by all associations to prevent injury to you or the judges should your cat become aggressive or scared. It's really easy, but requires some practice.

What You Need:

Nail Trimmers, Styptic Powder, Towel

Here's How:
  1. Hold your cat securely in the arm opposite the one you write with. In the beginning, it might be easier to wrap your cat in a large towel to restrict movement, leaving only one paw exposed at a time.
  2. Press gently, but firmly, on the pad to extend the claw. (Some cats are really picky about having their paws touched, so it might be best to practice steps one and two a day or two before the actual trimming so that you know how your cat will react.)
  3. Sit next to a good light source so that when extended you are able to easily distinguish the pink area in the center of the claw. This is called the quick, and it's a blood vessel that, when nicked, causes bleeding and is very painful to the cat.
  4. Holding the clippers parallel to the flat surface of the claw, snip off the tip, being careful not to cut into the quick.
  5. Calmly repeat the previous four steps until you have finished the first paw. Be sure not to forget the dew claw, which is located along the side of the paw.
  6. If your cat seems comfortable, continue until the claws on both front feet are clipped. Usually, trimming the back claws is unnecessary, but since this is your first time it wouldn't hurt to check them. If they seem long, trim them as well.
  7. Have styptic powder, available in pet supply catalogs and pet stores, available in case you do happen to cut the quick. Styptic powder helps to stop the bleeding.
  8. If at any time your cat becomes excited and anxious, stop immediately. You can trim one claw a day if you need too. Make it an enjoyable experience and your cat will come to tolerate it as just another part of "show business".

What To Pack

When you're a seasoned exhibitor, your cats begin to have more luggage than you do! For your first show, however, you shouldn't feel obligated to carry that much stuff around. You want to make sure cat shows are something you will enjoy and want to participate in before you begin to invest a lot of money into it.

Here's The Bare Essentials You Should Bring
  • You
  • Your Cat in a Sturdy Carrier - You are required to bring your cat to the show hall in a carrier.
  • Confirmation Letter - This will be sent out to you when the entry clerk receives your entry fees, usually along with directions to the show hall. You may be asked to provide this when you check in.
  • Rabies Certificate and Proof of FeLV Negativity - You may never have to show these, but it always an good idea to carry them with you. Ask your veterinarian for a health certificate or copy of your cats health records, and keep them updated and with you whenever you travel with your cat. You may want to buy a plastic box or file folder to keep your "cat documents" organized. 
  • Litter Box and Litter Scoop - You'll want to scoop all waste as it appears to avoid your kitty accidentally lying in it and messing up that bath and grooming job. Also, your neighboring exhibitors will appreciate it!
  • Litter - Look on the flyer. Most associations have a rule that the club must provide litter for all exhibitors, but usually it's best to bring your own. Your cat will appreciate any familiarity with home, especially at their first show.
  • Food Dish and Food - Some shows have vendors that give out cat food samples, but you can never be sure what they will have. Cats can get an upset stomach from a sudden change in diet. It's always best to bring some of their food from home.
  • Grooming Supplies - Bring your brushes, combs, cotton balls, etc. You will need them, especially if your kitty likes to step in the litter box.
  • Cage Curtains - These range from simple to extravagant. You can either use a large flat bed sheet held in place by binder clips, or use bath towels. You can also buy fabric and make your own. Most cages are 22"x22"x22" for a single and 22"x22"x44" for a double, but may vary, particularly on the west coast. For a great pattern, click here: http://lincolncatclub.tripod.com/curtains
  • Cage Floor Covering - You can use a carpet remnant cut to fit, a towel, or whatever you think might look nice. If you are unsure, look at how other exhibitors have their cages done. Some curtain patterns like the one I provided a link for above have pieces you can make to cover the cage floor and drape in front to hide the stuff under the table.
  • Comfortable Shoes (For You) - You'll be on your feet a lot!

This is just the beginning! Cage curtains are fun because you can add to them all the time and get really creative. Some exhibitors go all out during the holidays with their curtains, and some clubs will have contests for the "best dressed".

My Favorite Supply Catalogs:

  • Jeffers: Call 1-800-JEFFERS for a free catalog, or visit them online at http://www.jefferspet.com
  • Drs. Foster and Smith: Call 1-800-826-7206 for a free catalog, or visit them online at http://drsfosterandsmith.com
  • KV Vet Supply: Call 1-800-423-8211 for a free catalog, or vist them online at http://www.kvvet.com
  • UPCO: Call 1-800-254-UPCO for a free catalog, or visit them online at http://www.upco.com
  • Revival: Call 1-800-786-4751 for a free catalog, or visit them online at http://www.revivalanimal.com/

    Of course, there are others out there. These are just a handful of the companies that are available, and most are generally equal in price and selection. My advice is to check your local pet and discount stores first. Sometimes you can get the stuff you need there and save yourself shipping and handling costs.

    Checking In

    Once you get to the show hall, you need to locate the check-in table. It is almost always positioned inside the front door. The people seated at this table are club members, and they will be able to help you answer any questions you may have. Don't be afraid to ask! Among them is usually the entry clerk and show manager, though this is not always the case. Tell them your name, and they will hand you a catalog. This is a book that lists all the cats entered in the show. Each class has their own section in the catalog. Look for your cat's name and memorize the entry number, as this number is used throughout the show to designate the cage in which to place your cat for the judging rings. It is also the number that will be called over the sound system when you are needed for judging, or if you final. Look for any errors! If you find errors, you need to tell them right away so that the information can be relayed to the master clerk.

    Someone at the check-in table will also give you an indication of where you are benched, meaning the area where your cat will stay when it is not being judged. Rows are indicated by numbers or letters, and most of the time your row will be written on the front of the catalog, along with your name and your cat's name and/or entry number.

    Make sure you arrive at the show hall within the advertised check-in times. If you don't, you will be marked absent. If this happens, you may still be able to check in. Talk to the entry clerk or show manager when you arrive. It's always a good idea to arrive within 15 minutes after check-in starts, especially if this is your first show. This gives you time to set up and get "settled in" before the first ring.

    The Pre-Judging Routine

    Go to your cage and get set up. Put up your curtains, food, bed, etc., and place your cat inside. If you didn't bring litter you will have to find where the club has it stored.

    You may wish to stay with your cat for awhile until it gets accustomed to the show hall, but afterward you might want to look around a little. Set out your catalog and a pen you will need them later on.

    Use the time before judging starts to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Make sure you know where all the judging rings are, and introduce yourself to your neighbors. Don't be shy about being a "newbie", the person benched beside you might be your next best friend. Most exhibitors are very friendly and eager to help. We all remember what our first show was like.

    Before judging starts, someone will announce any changes to the catalogs, emergency information, schedule changes, etc. The catalog changes usually have to do with championship and premiership titles, but this will depend on the association. There is a sheet in the catalog called the Absentee/Transfer sheet. Even if you're a household pet exhibitor, it's a good idea to mark these down anyway. One of the household pet competitors might be absent, and you'll need that information for keeping track of best in show, etc.

    Become familiar with the show schedule and remember what ring your cat will have next. Listen for that ring's announcements. If it is not the association's policy to announce rings, make sure you pay attention. Ask a friendly exhibitor if you are unsure of when you should take your cat to the judging ring.

    The Show Routine

    When your number is called, get your cat out of its cage, do any quick touch-up grooming and carry the cat to the ring. Move quietly into the ring and place your cat in its judging cage. This will be marked by your cat's entry number. You can pet your cat very briefly to calm it, but don't be disruptive or get in the judge's way. You may also wish to sit where your cat can see you, but don't call out to your cat.

    Each cat is handled by each judge at least once. The judge will take your cat out of the judging cage and examine it. The things the judge looks for are signs of good health, condition, disposition, playfulness, quality of grooming, etc. He/she will look in your cats ears and eyes. Be sure that they are spotless! Then the judge will choose the top five to ten cats (depending on the number of cats there and nature of scoring) that will make up a finals ring.

    The judge will either send all of the cats back and bring back the finalists, or he/she will keep the finalists as they find them and send the others back. You know you need to go get your cat if they turn down the card with your cats number on it. Calmly and quietly get your cat and exit the ring. Do not sit in the audience with your cat.

    If your cat makes a final- congratulations! The routine is basically the same as judging, except that you will not be able to retrieve your cat until the judge is finished handing out the rosettes. When the ring is finished, you may gather your cat and any rosettes, and you may also thank the judge for placing your cat. This is okay, because this is the last time that the judge will examine your cat at this show. If you would like, you may ask the judge to sign your rosette. 

    Things To Remember:

  • Cats sleep a lot at the shows. Some do nothing but sleep. This is just fine, but make sure you wake your cat a little before the ring, especially if they're cranky when they first wake up. (You know how you feel before your first cup of coffee!) Also, don't worry if your cat doesn't eat or use the litter box at the show hall. They will be sure to make up for lost time at home!
  • You may notice that some exhibitors will bring their cats up to a ring right away, while others will wait until the last minute. Most of the exhibitors have a good reason for this- their cats get nervous in the judging cages and are less stressed if they are taken up at the last minute. Be careful if you try this, though. You do not want to hold up a ring or have your cat marked absent. In general, being prompt is best, but adjustment may be necessary, depending on your cat.
  • Never punish your cat for behaving badly in a ring or for not placing as high as you would like. You need to make the show fun for your cat, and punishing it will only make it hate showing.
  • Every once in a while, you will find yourself being called up to two rings at once. Just go up to the rings in the order they were called, most of the time all of the other exhibitors in your class are in the same boat. Also, ring clerks are usually aware of conflicts and try to avoid them, but it sometimes happens, especially late in the day and on Sundays.
  • If you don't make any finals, don't worry. Few people final at their first show, for a variety of reasons. It takes a while to groom your cat to bring out the best in it, and the both of you need time to adjust and learn the ropes. Also, sometimes you find out that your cat just isn't "show material". Don't feel discouraged. You gave it a shot and that's what counts. If you feel like you could afford to care for another cat, talk to breeders, or visit shelters where there are always plenty of cats that need a good home. Not only that, but there's other ways to get involved in the cat fancy, such as joining a club or learning to become a ring clerk.
  • Very young kittens in the household pet class (about 4-8 months) rarely final in associations like CFA, where they are presented along with the adults. This is because the judges know the status of the kitten and usually like to give the adults the upper hand. However, if your little one finals and does well, then this can be a good sign of your kitten's future potential. 
  • Another thing to remember is that a cat that gets best in one ring might not even place in the next. Every ring has a different judge, and it's up to that judges' interpretation of the breed standard, or with household pets, preference for certain colors and personality quirks. 
  • Sometimes a cat will escape its cage or owner and get loose in the hall. If you hear someone yell "Cat out!", the most helpful thing you can do is to close any doors close to you. Do not try to pick up the cat yourself unless it is in immediate danger. If you see it, alert the owner. This cat is probably scared and it's best to let it's Mom or Dad pick it up if possible.
  • Any exhibitor carrying a cat has the right of way. This means you, too!
  • Don't touch another person's cat without permission. There are two main reasons why exhibitors will not let spectators and other exhibitors touch or hold their cat. First of all, germs and other nasty stuff can spread like wildfire in a show hall. If there is a sick cat in the hall on Saturday morning, by Sunday afternoon just about all of the cats can catch it. So even though it's tempting to let people touch, it's in your cats best interest to say no- or ask them to use a little hand sanitizing lotion first. Second, a spectator has absolutely no clue how much blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get that cat to look its absolute best. Even those of us with household pets can spend hours and hours bathing, drying, and combing our cats to perfection.
  • Have fun! Don't take it too seriously, even the best cat has an off day. Your cat deserves your love and affection whether it places in every ring or doesn't place all day.

    Good Luck and Happy Showing!

  • ~Amber Kempkes

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