Have You Ever Wished To Attend A Cat Show Competition?

For a long time, I’ve wished I could attend a cat show competition, but so far, haven’t had the experience. Therefore, today, I’m doing the next best thing. Here’s a post written by HollyAnne Dustin, who regularly enters her fur babies to compete in cat shows.

She will tell us in interesting detail about the experience. If you have questions for her, remember to ask them in the comments at the end of this post. You can learn more about HollyAnne by visiting her website, lifeandcats.com. Now enjoy her story about the cat show life.

The Cat Show Life

Written for Fran Kelso by HollyAnne Dustin of lifeandcats.com

April 14, 2023

A cat show is fun for visitors and exhibitors alike. Imagine a room full of 100+ cats representing many of the breeds that the Cat Fanciers’ Association or The International Cat Association recognize. You’ll see Maine Coons, Siamese, Ocicats, Persians, Bengals, Ragamuffins, Burmillas, Devon Rex, my personal favorite- Norwegian Forest Cats, and more. Their exhibitors will be getting them ready for their judgings. Lots of brushing and combing, powders,and sprays. 

It’s exciting. Especially at the beginning of the weekend, when you are full of high hopes for the finals and points coming your cats’ way. You greet friends you haven’t seen since the last time you were at a show together. Admire the other cats in your class. Who might be taking those finals from our cat?

If you’re a spectator, you’ll be able to take pictures and videos of the beautiful felines, but most people don’t want visitors to pet their cats. It’s a lot of work getting these cats ready for their big moments in the ring. Some people will, though. My Treeno LOVES to greet the spectators. His motto is friendly and fun. He’s sure everyone is there just to see him. Look for the Pet Me Cat flags or signs for cats you can pet.

Treeno, a striped cat, in cat show cage
Treeno, looking friendly and fun, ready to greet the public in his show enclosure

There are generally four classes of cats in a show:

  • Kittens: pedigreed cats 4 to 8 months old
  • Cats: pedigreed cats over 8 months and not spayed or neutered
  • Alters/Premiership: pedigreed cats over 8 months that are spayed or neutered
  • Household Pet/Companion Cats: Cats and kittens over 4 months old, must be spayed or neutered after 8 months old, and can not be declawed. Any cat can enter this class. You’ll see rescue cats, mixed breeds like Betsy, my “Himi-Coon”, pedigreed cats with faults, and breeds, colors, or patterns that aren’t accepted in the pedigreed classes in the association.
  • You may also see provisional or miscellaneous classes for breeds that aren’t fully recognized yet or veterans class for pedigreed cats over 7 but not all shows include these classes.

Each class will be evaluated by each of the 4-6 judges per day. You can think of each ring as its own little show.

The pedigreed cats are compared to the written standard for their breed. There are points in the standard for each attribute of the cat. The point value each cat receives when compared to their breed standard determines which cat in the breed/color/division is the highest ranked. The cats earn points toward their grand title. Then the top 10-15 cats are called up for the final. This time you’ll see a mixture of breeds. The cats are still compared to their own standard. But now they are also ranked against others at their same level. So Champions against Champions and Grand Premiers against Grand Premiers and so on until the moment when the judge holds up the first place cat and announces today this is my best cat in show. 

What about Companion Cats? Have you thought about showing your cat with the perfect tabby pattern or delightful personality? This is the class for you. I’ve been showing companion cats for 5 seasons now. The judging is different because there isn’t the same level of written standard for our household pets. The only standard for the HHP class is they must be clean, healthy, and amiable to be handled. They don’t have to love being there; they just have to tolerate it and not bite the judge. 

Treeno, tiger cat, receiving best cat award
Surprise! Winner’s ribbon for Treeno, CFA All Breed Judge Melanie Morgan awards Treeno the best cat in her HHP ring, Star City Cat Club show, Roanoke, VA

The top ten in the HHP final are selected totally on judges preference. It might be the cat that reminds them of their childhood cat or a favorite color or just something appealing about a specific cat in the class. Sometimes it’s a crazy cute kitten that acts silly. Sometimes it’s a senior citizen cat that still acts as if he were a kitten. Sometimes it is a cat that sucks up to the judge the most. But it’s still a thrill when the judge raises your cat and says “Best in Class.”

Do your cats like it? Probably the most common question I get asked. Spectators are always impressed by how chill the cats are in their benching spaces. They’re sure their cat would never do it. Or they want to show a cat but aren’t sure how to do it.

The show hall is not a natural environment for cats. Being around that many other unfamiliar cats, unusual smells, noise, handling by strangers in front of a crowd, having people looking at you all day can make any cat nervous. But most of the cats you’ll meet at a show have literally been bred into the lifestyle. They have been socialized as show cats since they were babies. Most kittens see it as a fun new game. They’re comfortable with the challenges of the show hall. 

Show judge stroking black cat, Plush
CFA All Breed Judge Sharon Ray plays with my black cat, Plush, in a ring in a Pennsylvania show

Of course there are some who are more uneasy than others. You’ll see some that hiss or growl. Others want to walk off the judging stand. Some breeds are more high strung than others, but any cat can have a blow up. 

You do see the most difficult behavior in household pets. They typically start showing older and haven’t been socialized from birth the way the pedigreed cats have. Some have difficult pasts to overcome. But if you have a solid trusting relationship with your cat, you can fix that. Or at least try.

Get your cat used to noise. Crank up your TV and radio so they aren’t afraid of the PA announcements or all the people talking.  Run the vacuum and your hair dryer. Shake out trash bags. Bang some furniture. 

Go to a cat show or watch some show judging videos on Youtube. Get Kitty used to the kind of handling the judges do. Get a small dog cage and practice taking him out of the cage backwards. Lift him high in the air. Stretch him out if he’s an athletic breed. Fluff him if he’s Persian-style. Check his ears and claws. Handle his face. Teach him to play with a variety of wand toys and climb the scratch post.

Treeno sharpening claws on show post
CFA All Breed Judge Teresa Sweeny looks on as Treeno demonstrrates that even a super senior cat can do all the things a show cat should do

Get him used to traveling. Carrier train him. Then take your baby to a pet store and other pet-friendly stores where people can handle him. The more people that handle him the better. Men, women, children, people with glasses, people wearing hats or masks etc.You will see all types of people at a cat show and they will all want to see your cat. 

Little kids were not a part of my life, so my cats were a little disturbed by all the toddlers and small kids that wanted to pet them. Luckily, Treeno decided he likes kids and is happy to play with them. My job is to know when he’s had enough and close his curtain. That’s when I go shopping in the vendor hall or grab a cup of coffee at the concession. Or go watch my favorite breeds get judged in another ring.

Ultimately, whether you are showing your best furry friend in the household pet class or the newest litter you’ve bred, it is about trust and the relationship you have with your show cat. They have to know that you wouldn’t ask them to do anything where they won’t be safe. Then they are free to play the game knowing full well that you’ll be there to pick them up with their favorite treats in hand when their judging is over.

Cat shows can be a fun activity you do with your cat. How serious you want to be about it depends on you and your cat. You can just go to the local show every year for fun. Or you can campaign for top titles and travel all over the country every weekend like I did this year. I encourage everyone to check out the nearest cat show even if you only go as a spectator.


Thank you so much, Holly Anne, (known to many of us as Emelia Evans) for contributing this glimpse of the cat show life. If you have questions or comments for Holly Anne, please ask in the comments below, or visit her website, http://lifeandcats.com. Come back on Wednesday to read a post about the history of cat shows.

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