At cat shows pedigree exhibits are judged by a ‘standard’, that is, one hundred marks are given to an imaginary cat that would be a perfect example of the variety.
These marks are given for the right shape of head, the ears, body and fur. The standard is agreed and approved by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, under whose auspices all recognized cat shows are held.
Few cats are perfect, but if one comes very close to the ideal and beats all other cats of the same colour in a class at a show, it may be awarded a challenge certificate.
A cat that wins three certificates, under three different judges, could become a Champion.
A cat may become a Grand Champion by winning three champion challenge certificates, at three shows, under different judges, but before entering a Grand Champion Class the exhibit must, of course, be a full Champion.
Neutered cats can be exhibited in neuter classes and become what is known as a Premier by winning at three shows under different judges, and a Grand Premier under the same rules and conditions as those for Grand Champion.
Judges examine every entry to assess the condition; also the head, the shape and colour of the eyes, the ears, body, tail and colour pattern of the fur where this applies.
All pedigree varieties for which an official standard has been approved by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, have an allotted breed number.
Breeders often try to develop cats of a new colouring and/or coat and type, a practice which has, in the past, resulted in large entries at cat shows of exhibits for which no ‘standard’ existed, such cats being registered as 13a: Any other colour (long-hairs); 26: Any other colour (short-hairs); and 32x for new colours of Siamese. Nowadays these new varieties are placed on an experimental register and given a provisional standard. Provisional recognition, and a breed number, may follow as quantity and quality increase, but championship status is only granted when one hundred breed members have been bred to standard. The cats, meanwhile, are entered in what are known as Assessment Classes, being judged not against other exhibits but on individual merit. The number of merit certificates awarded help towards the recognition of the breed.
Types of shows and classes
The following are some of the abbreviations you will find in a cat show schedule: L.H. – Long-haired; S.H. – Short-haired; A.V. – Any Variety; A.C. – Any colour; M. – Male; F. – Female; A.O.C. – Any other colour; A.O.V. – Any other variety; S.P. – Seal-point; B.P. – Blue-point; C.P. – Chocolate-point; L.P. – Lilac-point; T.P. – Tabby-point; R.P. – Red-point; GCCF – Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Numerous cat shows are held throughout the year, ranging from the friendly exemption show, an ideal launching pad for for the novice exhibitor, to the sanction show, usually staged by a breed club or society who have not yet tackled the pinnacle, the organization of a championship show. However, all these events are held under the auspices of the GCCF and run according to their strict rules. Challenge certificates can only be awarded at Championship Shows, the best known of which is the National Cat Club Show, which one might be forgiven for referring to as the Cat Lovers’ ‘Crufts’!
There are often classes, even at Championship Shows, for non-pedigree exhibits. These give youngsters a chance to proudly show off their pets, and family moggies are groomed until they gleam. There is not a ‘standard’ for non-pedigree exhibits. They are judged on beauty of appearance and general condition; also on temperament, so an appealing cat with a tangled coat and spiteful nature would stand little chance of gaining an award.
There are many enthusiastic exhibitors among the non-pedigree fraternity and the holding of such classes for much-loved household moggies does much to foster pet owner education and care.
Cat shows are advertised in the newspaper, Fur and Feather. The GCCF publish a list and, of course, membership of breed and other cat clubs ensures receipt of advance information.
Breeding the show cat
How do you buy, or breed, a potential show winner? You might as well ask: “How long is a piece of string?” However, you will stand the best chance if you visit a recommended breeder and buy a kitten from proven winning stock. At the time of purchase you should receive a certificate of pedigree and you can, for a small fee, transfer registration of ownership into your name with the GCCF.
Many reputable breeders advertise kittens in Fur and Feather. You can locate the cat variety you wish through a breed club or, as previously suggested, by speaking to exhibitors at a show.
If it is your intention to show your kitten, say so; otherwise, you could end up with a charming, healthy kitten, which will make a decorative household pet but falls far below the show standard which you, the novice, cannot be expected to recognize.
A beginning breeder will probably choose to keep queens. Most stud toms have outside accommodation where noise and’ smell will not offend neighbours. Stud cats are generally of good temperament and require affection and care like any other. Indeed they are often kept as an indoor pet out of the mating season, although the risk of spraying persists. However, it is never a good idea to keep a queen and torn together. Familiarity can breed contempt, or the pair can develop a sister and brother relationship and somehow decide that it is wrong for them to mate.
If you see a show advertised and would like to enter your cat, note the address of the show secretary and write for a schedule/entry form, remembering to enclose a stamped addressed envelope.
The schedule will list the classes to be held and you must check in the Definition of Classes those for which your pet is eligible; for instance, a novice class is open to exhibits that have not won a first prize under GCCF Rules, a limit class to those that have not won more than four first prizes and so on. And there are special classes for kittens, adolescents and juniors.
Having sent off your completed entry form and fee you may eventually receive an entry, or tally number. Or you may not receive this until you arrive at the show. Don’t panic if an envelope fails to arrive, or hesitate to contact the secretary if you have any problems. Organizers are used to helping newcomers sort out any troubles, and to giving useful advice.
You, or your representative, must accompany the cat, placed in a suitable container, to the show. And be prepared for puss to be veterinarily examined before admission is granted.
Exhibits must have clean ears and their coats must be free from pests. No queen may be exhibited within two calendar months from the date of kittening. No exhibit that has been de-clawed will be accepted. The vets are within their right to ban any animal they consider unfit. Obviously this is a rule that is in all owners’ interests.
You must take to the show some food for your cat, a drinking and a sanitary tray and, of course, a clean blanket for it to lie on which MUST, like all the other items, be WHITE. None of this equipment must bear any distinguishing marks and blankets must be plain woven. A pretty coloured blanket to tone with pussy’s marking would be of no help at all. Judges are instructed to pass by any cat that is distinguishable in any manner by its equipment.
If you have visited a dog show you will have seen the exhibitors parading their dogs in the ring, much credit being due to the handler. It is debatable indeed whether some dogs would reach such dizzy heights were it not for the skill of the person on the end of the lead.
The cat owner, on the other hand, must rely on the presentation of the exhibit and the grooming it has received, for exhibitors are not allowed near the pen while judging takes place and may even be asked to leave the room. Award slips are later affixed on a board and award cards placed on the winning cats’ pens.
One of the things which cannot fail to impress the layman visiting a cat show, is the high standard of hygiene that is usually apparent. Exhibitors are advised to wipe the bars of the pen with a mild non-toxic disinfectant, and the judge, after handling each and every cat, dips his or her hands in a similar solution.
Cat shows not only offer the opportunity for friendly rivalry but provide a pleasant day out for exhibitors and visitors alike. There are usually stalls where one may purchase cat foods and accessories, as well as little knick-knacks, and there are breed club stands.
Judging and stewarding
How is the judge qualified to decide the best of exhibits which to you appear to have equal merit? Judging usually stems from years of successful cat breeding and the respect and acclaim of the breed clubs. Certainly it is not possible to become a judge overnight, or without years of stewarding, learning to make the task of the judge very much easier.
It is the steward’s job to see that the disinfectant spray on the judge’s trolley is full, that his Judge’s book is written up, before his arrival, with the numbers of the classes and exhibits to be judged, and that when each class is at an end, the judge signs the tear-off slips signifying the winners, which the steward then takes to the secretary’s table. A steward should be knowledge-able, but at times unobtrusive, unfailingly helpful, and extraordinarily efficient. Most of them are!