So you want to show your cat...
(and by the way: what are all those strange show titles about?)
If you hanker for a cat with a show title, you should be aware that you will need to start showing when the cat is still quite young. First, go to some local shows, e.g. run by GCCFV, FCCV or CAV here in Victoria, or the NSWCFA in New South Wales, and experience the atmosphere of a cat show. Make some contacts there, see what the competition is likely to be, and find out how to join.
Some cat fancies will allow you to show once or twice before making up your mind to join, but others will insist you need to be a member to show, especially a pedigreed cat. At a show, the cat needs to be able to sit or lie in a cage for many hours, be handled by strangers, even held in the air, so he or she will need to be used to being touched, stroked, examined, etc. by plenty of people other than the owner. Do not consider entering your cat if he/she is frightened by handling, growls or gets upset. Judges (unpaid in Australia) do not give up their precious weekends to be mauled and pay out for large hospital bills!
Speak to the person who sold you the cat and make sure he/she is comfortable with your cat being shown. It must meet a certain standard and be a good representative of its breed. Remember, this cat will have their breeding prefix and show cats are often far more expensive than pets, so they may refuse to let you do so. Don’t be offended; to be honest, you bought and paid for a pet quality kitten and you may not even have the fully registered pedigree, which of course you will need to possess to be able to show.
If the breeder is happy for their prefix to be represented by your cat, join their organisation if you can, and get to know them well and find out tips on presentation, grooming, claw clipping, etc. Very importantly, make sure your cat is up to date with his/her vaccinations and flea treatment, as each cat is usually vetted-in before a show, and many organisations will require you to bring the vaccination card as proof.
Once you have decided to take the plunge and join a cat fancy for the purposes of showing, be prepared to be hooked for at least several years! If you have a really nice example of the breed, healthy, bright eyed, well groomed and with a laid-back personality, you will do well and bring home those rosettes and even prizes! Don’t expect big cash prizes, though, because it rarely ever happens in the cat world, unless you do exceptionally well at, say, The Royal Melbourne Show.
As your pet will be a desexed one, you will be showing in the Neuter Class. You should find out how to fill in an entry form correctly and get it back to the show organisers in plenty of time and with the correct entry fee. Establish where the show is being held, and make sure you can get yourself and your cat safely there by or just after 7.30 am, which is when ‘vetting in’ is held. Obtain some show curtains and a cushion – often available for sale at most cat shows for around $25-$40 a set, and make sure your curtains are large enough for a suitable cage to hold your cat. The cage is almost always supplied by the show organisers.
Getting a title
It must be added at this point that a cat will only gain titles once it is nine months old, but you are encouraged to show your kitten at a young age so that he or she will get used to being shown, the noises around it, smells of other cats, travelling to the show in your car, etc. If your cat is judged the best in its “class”, e.g. judged the best brown tabby and white Norwegian Forest Cat Neuter in each judging ring, then you will win a breed “Challenge”.
This will count towards your cat’s ongoing title status, so keep it safe. Once you have a set amount of Challenges, you need to find out how to fill in a form to claim an upgrade of status, and it costs a few dollars to process. In the GCCFV (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of Victoria), you need the following challenges to gain the following titles:-
By the time you get a cat with a Gold Ch or Gold PN title, he or she will then be judged against all other breeds in that Group, which in the case of Norwegian Forest Cats is Group 1 – Longhaired and Semi-longhaired. This means that all Gold Champions or Gold Premier Neuters amongst the Persians, Exotics, Birmans, Ragdolls, NFCs, Maine Coons, Turkish Vans and Siberians will now be judged against your cat!
As you can guess, Gold Challenges are hard to come by, and you need an exceptional cat. If you win 10 Gold Challenges, GCCFV will put your cat on their Honours Board, and you are entitled to add (Hons) to your cat’s name, e.g. Gold Champion Borealis Asgard (Hons).
Other cat fancies will award titles differently and you will need to find out what their titles mean, and what you must do to win them.
Most importantly, always remember that this is a hobby and take your successes with humility, and your defeats philosophically. Every one at a show thinks their cat is the most beautiful specimen there, but they can’t all win a prize or show titles would mean nothing. Next show, there will be different judges and they may well judge the cats before them quite differently. Even from ring to ring, one judge might love your cat and another judge appear to ignore it. This is why it is good to have many different judges and shows, as everyone’s interpretation of the standards is individual and different judges look for what they like to see in each breed.
At the end of the day, whether you agree with the judges or not, you get to take home the “best and most beautiful cat there” – your own cat!