Cat shows and how to enter them

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.

The show

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!

The Cat Fancy (The First Cat Show)

It was in 1871, with cat popularity rising, that a Mr Harrison Weir had the great idea of running a cat show, so that people might see how beautiful cats could be. Thousands queued up to see them in the Crystal Palace, the magnificent exhibition centre in south London, later to be tragically destroyed by fire. And, thereafter, people began the selective breeding of cats, many of the famous, including Queen Victoria, owning unusual types.

It was rare in those days to know the names of a cat’s parents and grandparents. But it was soon discovered that, by mating cats of the same colour, or coat patterns, kittens could be produced resembling the torn cat and queen. Careful records were written out, giving details of each cat used for breeding, and before long pedigree certificates were being issued, and it was possible to trace back to a cat’s great-great-grandparents.

As more cat shows were held, visitors came from all over the world to admire the beautiful cats in Britain. Many bought prizewinners which they took back to their homelands. The USA started to hold cat shows and soon cats were just as popular there. Today there are shows in many other parts of the world, but the largest is held in Britain, with over 2,000 cats appearing in the National Cat Club Show at Olympia, west London.

The National Cat Club was established in 1887 with the aim of promoting the breeding of pure-bred cats and the running of cat shows. But in 1898, Lady Marcus Beresford formed a rival organization, The Cat Club, the aims of which were identical. For seven years The Cat Club bravely struggled on. It did not measure up to the task and The National Cat Club again reigned supreme. But there was more competition to come in the form of another newly formed group, this time calling themselves The Cat Fanciers’ Association, until, in 1910 following much squabbling between ‘ailurophiles’ (devotees of the domestic cat), a conference of interested parties was called at which agreement to form The Governing Council of The Cat Fancy was reached.

The first General Meeting of this august body was held at the Inns of Courts Hotel, London, on 11 October, 1910. Seventy years later it is still the powerful Governing Council of The Cat Fancy which provides for the registration of cats and cat pedigrees, classifies cat breeds, approves cat shows, and does all within its power to improve cat breeding and welfare.

The council has a large number of affiliated Cat Clubs, all of which may, when their membership totals one hundred persons, appoint a delegate to the council. They may appoint two delegates if membership reaches 150, but should it fall below the required figure, the club loses its right to representation. However, some historic, specialist clubs, like the Siamese Cat Club are allowed representation irrespective of membership level.

Over the past few years, cats have again enjoyed a rise in popularity. The pundits say it is because they are a ‘convenient’ pet. But I wonder!

True the cat may be an easier animal to keep than a dog – after all, you don’t have to take it for walks! But does anyone really own, or keep a pet cat? The cat decides whether it wishes to live with us. It enjoys an independence of life and spirit that most of us wish we could emulate, and we are enriched by its presence in our home.

He blinks upon the heart And yawns in deep conte ccepting all the comfort That Providence has sent Louder he purrs and lou( In one glad hymn of prai For all the night’s advent For quiet, restful days. Life will go on for ever With all that cat can wisl Warmth and the glad pro Of fish and milk and fish Only – the thought distur He’s noticed once or twii That times are somehow A nimbler race of mice.

Showing Your Cat at Cat Shows

From the amateur competition at the local fete to the grand national occasion, cat shows are very popular events. However, entrants do need to do a good deal of hard work in advance and to make detailed plans. A good way to begin is to enter one of the many local cat shows that are held throughout the country. The atmosphere will be much more relaxed, and you should be able to pick up pointers from judges and other competitors.

Winning top prizes at shows is hard work —both for the owner and the cat. If you are competing for pleasure, rather than business, start by exhibiting at amateur shows.

cat shows

In the United Kingdom the main umbrella organisation which regulates rules and registers breeds is the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The GCCF licenses clubs

affiliated with it to hold shows. These are classified as: exemption; sanction; and championship. Of these three, the championships are the major show events, and they culminate in the

National Cat Show held in London. Championships, unlike sanctions, issue challenge certificates in different classes and attract some of the top breeders and competitors in the country.

Ocal agricultural shows often hold ‘exemption’ shows for cats, where the rules and regulations that are strictly adhered to in the more professional shows are less rigidly applied. You can enter your first competition in such a show and, as you gain confidence, work your way up to championship level.


Cat shows are not just for pedigrees. One of the classes represented in most shows is the household pet class, and you can enter this is if you have a neutered cat of unknown or unregistered parentage. However, you will still have to go through many of the same procedures and preparatory work that you would if entering a registered pedigree.

At major shows, you will have to leave your cat in a cage to be judged (under clinical conditions) by the professional judges.

Before you enter any cat show you must ensure that your cat has had all the appropriate vaccinations and a thorough medical check-up to make sure it is in good health. After that, you can contact the organisation holding the show and ask them to send you a copy of the rules and regulations and an application form. If you are interested in entering a show but do not know where the nearest ones are held, look in cat magazines, and in the events columns of your local newspaper. You can even find details of cat shows on the internet, if you have access. Further information can be collected from regional and national breeders’ clubs. Alternatively, make enquiries at your local veterinary surgery.

The first important cat show was held in London at Crystal Palace in 1871. However, early records reveal that a cat show was held in Winchester during the St Giles Fair in 1598.

In 1976 a new type of cat show was held, the Supreme cat show. Organised by the GCCF, only cats that had won open classes at other championship shows were eligible to enter. This show is now one of the most prestigious in the United Kingdom and is held annually in November at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham

The GCCF recognises about 55 breeds of cat. At a large cat show, more than 2000 cats representing these breeds will be entered for competition