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How are cats judged at cat shows?

Whisker Fabulous Saintly City Cat Show Winner

My human and I have always wondered what goes into Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) cat shows. I see advertisements for them all the time and am always curious about what goes into the making of a show cat.

My mum is the public relations manager of a large animal shelter here in Minnesota and rarely gets to see purebred cats.  That’s why she attended the Saintly City Cat Show at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. to check it all out. It was “eye-opening and loads of fun. The cats were so fluffy and gorgeous.” Talking to the show’s manager, breeders and attendees, she learned they share the Whisker Fabulous passion to give cats a higher standing and value in the world. Felines are to be fancy!

Whisker Fabulous Saintly City Cat Show Winner
Saintly City Cat Show Winner

Saintly City Cat Club and Cat Fancier’s Association

The Saintly City Cat Club began in Saint Paul, Minn. in 1974 and has its yearly cat show during the city’s annual Winter Carnival, which brings thousands of people to the area to celebrate all things winter. The event is a major attraction, but also a time where Minnesota breeders compete to win prizes and awards for having the most beautiful cat in their breed group. The event is one of the premier cat shows in Minnesota.

The Minnesota cat club’s show is part of the Cat Fanciers Association’s (CFA) international network of cat shows. The ultimate goal of participants is to show your cat at the CFA’s international show, which is equivalent to the Westminster Dog Show.

How cats are judged

The Saintly City Cat Club competition is a local cat show. Winners receive ribbons as prizes, but most importantly points. Cats need points to get to the next level, which are the regional shows. For Minnesota entrants, the winners compete in the regional competition in Kansas City this summer. Awardees at that level then go on to the international contest. There are ten regional shows across the globe, including in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The winners of each breed in the international show garner the title of  grand champion.

Whisker Fabulous The Prize Winning Ribbons
The Prize Winning Ribbons

What makes a show cat

If you have never been to a cat show, it’s something every cat lover should check out. The felines are all perfectly coiffed and their owners know all the tricks to get the fluff in the right spots to get the points needed to win. Beautiful teeth and perfectly pawdicured paws are part of the drill. You should have seen the Maine Coon cats! They’re already big kitties but when they’re fluffed up they are really big powder puffs.

As for the judges in these shows, Linda Mae Baker, Saintly City Cat Club’s show manager says it’s pretty simple. “We check for bone structure, ears, the overall look… they need to fit what the perfect standard is for that breed. When it comes to Persians, for example, everything about them needs to be round. Their eyes, head… and their tail needs to be taller and lankier yet fluffy.”

Whisker Fabulous Gorgeous Kitties
Gorgeous Kitties

Even kittens have their own category. “Kittens are judged based on experience and behavior. They get points for representing the age group well,” said Baker.

Cat show judges

The judges come from all walks of life and are everything from office professionals to blue collar workers. At the Minnesota show, the judges were brought in from all over the country.

Baker says it’s a huge commitment to be a judge. “You have to have been a breeder for several years and have raised multiple grand champions. After you get to that level, you have to start learning the traits of other breeds. There is constant testing to ensure your cat knowledge is always up to date.”

Whisker Fabulous Saintly City Cat Show Winner
Burmese Saintly City Cat Show Winner

Not just for the pedigreed

Did you know these cat shows are not just for pedigreed felines? Any kitty can enter. Most shows have a special household cat category. The CFA added the category years ago to reach a wider audience because more people adopt cats than buy them.  And it’s pretty obvious, that household kitties are just as gorgeous as their purebred counterparts.

Household Cats

Household cats do have different guidelines when it comes to judging. They’re not judged as closely on their physical appearance, but instead given points for uniqueness, pleasing appearance, unusual markings, and sweet dispositions. Household cat contestants must not be declawed, but should be spayed or neutered.

All felines are to be fancy and embraced

I know some of you may be thinking, how can you write about pedigreed cats when there are still many homeless ones in the United States? I’m a supporter of adoption, but I also believe you shouldn’t judge people for making choices they think are right for them. If a purebred British Shorthair or Sphinx cat is what floats your boat, go get one! It’s no secret many of these breeds are almost never found in rescues or animal shelters, so buying from a reputable breeder is really your only option.

I think it’s really cool the CFA also mandates some of the proceeds of cat shows support their local animal welfare organizations. Here in Minnesota, the Saintly City Cat Club donates money to several local shelters and rescues.

In the end, we’re all cat advocates, or “catvocates” as I like to call them. All cat owners, no matter where they get their feline friends, should support each other. Only by working together, can we make the world a more fabulous place for kitties.

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