The first thing that happens at the show is vetting-in. The vet will give each cat a thorough health check, and if for some reason, such as runny eyes, fleas, or sore gums, the cat fails the examination, you will have to take it home and forfeit your entry fee. You may have to show your vaccination certificate to the vet, so have it ready.
Putting your cat in its pen
After vetting-in, you take your cat to its pen – a metal cage displaying the same number as that on the cat’s tally. Although the show organizers will have checked that the cages are clean, it is best to play safe by wiping down the bars with some non-toxic disinfectant. Arrange the blanket, litter tray, and filled water bowl in the pen. In Britain, these are the only items allowed in with the cat.
1. Check that the tally is securely tied around your cat’s neck.
2. Give the cat its final grooming.
3. Check the corners of its eyes and clean them, if necessary.
4. If you have fed the cat in the pen, remove the bowl and change the liter in the tray.
5. Place the cat blanket under the bench with the name tag hidden.
Before the judging, the steward will arrange the judge’s mobile table, checking that it has a filled disinfectant spray bottle and paper towels. He or she will also check that all the cats are in the right pens.
When judging commences, the steward will take the first cat out of its pen, place it on the table, and allow the judge to make his or her assessment. Before the next cat appears, the table is disinfected.
For each of the pedigree breeds there is a standard of points against which the cat will be assessed (see How a show cat is judged). In the case of a household pet, where there is no scale of points, the cat will be judged on condition, grooming, colouring, attractive features, and temperament when handled.
After examining each cat, the judge will write his or her comments in a judging book. A judging slip is then placed on the award board. If a slip is marked with “CC”, the cat has been awarded a challenge certificate. When all the entries have been assessed, each judge will nominate a best cat, neuter, and kitten from the exhibits he or she has judged. Then awards such as “Best Cat”, “Best Neuter”, “Best Kitten”, and “Best in Show” are decided.
A winning cat has an award card placed on its cage. Prizes may be small amounts of money or rosettes.
At the national cat Club Show in Great Britain, the judge moves from pen to pen, using a mobile table to examine each entrant. The results are then displayed on an award board. At an American show, each cat is taken, when its number is called, to the ring of the judge concerned and it is examined and assessed in public.
At a British cat show, a steward bolds the entrant as the judge assesses it. The steward will then record the marks awarded.
While the British show organizers remain sticklers for caution, in North American shows vetting-in has generally been discontinued. Now, the exhibitor is trusted to bring only healthy cats. This is mainly because show organizers have found that the owners of pedigree breeds think far too much of their cats to enter an obviously sick individual. In any case, the veterinarian cannot detect infectious diseases in their early stages. Vaccination is the best safeguard against the spread of infection, although it remains true that wherever there is a high concentration of cats, the transmission of infectious diseases is made easier.
If a sick cat is brought, the show manager may tell the owner to leave the show and take the animal to a vet, together with all other entries from the same home. Such cats may be put back into the show if the owner can produce a certificate of fitness signed by a vet.
The judges do not visit the cats in their pens, and owners are permitted to furnish and decorate them. Some enthusiasts take the interior design of their cat’s show-quarters so the ultimate extreme. It is possible to buy custom-made sets of pen linings in gold lame, lace, satin, velvet, and even ostrich feathers, at prices of up to £150 or more.
To protect cats against damage or even fatal injury by jealous competitors, some owners use security cages with built-in ventilation fans and air-filters.
When you arrive at the show the first thing to do is to check in at the table, which is usually set just by the show hall door. You will receive an envelope with your cat’s cage/catalogue number in it and a catalogue. Sometimes these are free, but sometimes there is a charge of $2 to $4 per catalogue. On a board you will find a benching chart – a plan showing the layout of the rows of benches with the owners’ names inscribed on their positions. It is quite a good idea, particularly if you have lots of cat luggage and more than one cat, to move everything to your allotted space on a lightweight wheeled trolley.
The show is usually laid out so that all the Shorthairs are in one section and all the Longhairs are in another. Chairs are provided for exhibitors.
Now all you have to do is wait for the judging to start. By referring to the judging schedule, you will be able to calculate roughly when you will be called. Each judge has his or her own ring. With its own cages (often about ten), a table with a formica (or other washable) riser on it, to raise the standing cat up to a more convenient level, and a supply of paper towels, disinfectant, and show ribbons. Each judge also has a “Judge’s Book”, which lists the breed, sex, birth date, colour class, colour, and status. (Open, Champion, Grand) of the cat.
At the side of the judge’s table sits the clerk, often accompanied by a assistant or trainee clerk. It is their job to mark the catalogues, which judges may not see until the show is over, take the appropriate numbers for each cat, and put them on the top of a ring cage in a slot provided, so that they stand up and are visible. The cats are benched so that male alternates with female, or that a space of at least one empty cage separates adjacent males. Ring stewards wipe and disinfect cages between cats as the classes progress.
There is usually a microphone on each judge’s table, which the clerk uses to call the cats to the ring. You must listen for your number; if you do not arrive after a third and final call, the number will be taken down and your cat marked “absent”. When called you carry your cat to the ring, and place it in the cage above which its number is displayed. The judge is not supposed to know whose cat is whose, and owners should not speak to him. If you have something to convey, speak to the clerk or hand him a written note.
The cat is take from its cage by the judge and placed on the riser on the table for evaluation. The animal will be picked up, turned around, and set down again. The judge often wields a feather in order to get the cat to show off its eye colour, profile, etc. US judges do not open the cat’s jaws in order to check bite (tooth alignment), and in some associations it is prohibited. Some judges call for the owner to take the cat out of the cage, place it on the table, and put it back, in order to avoid being bitten. Some, but not all, judges disqualify a cat (from that ring only) if they are bitten.