Over 140 cats flooded the Sweden Clarkson Community Center on Saturday, October 20th for the Hallmark Cat Club Cat Show registered with The Cat Fanciers Association. Dog shows have their AKC Kennel Club’s Dog Show which airs every year to millions of viewers. In their quiet way, cats have shows of their own.
Cat Fanciers cat shows are held all across the United States, and Brockport falls into its Region 4: The Great Lakes Region. Fellow Cat Fanciers near and far bring their furry champions and hopefuls in to compete. The show room is rimmed with vendors, and the center of the gymnasium-sized, hardwood space is filled to capacity with double-sided rows of cat shelters, some so elaborate they more closely resemble Pharaonic shrines.
Some contestants are cat breeders who traveled from across the United States and Canada to participate. Canadian cat breeder of 18 years, Christine, brought a Turkish Angora named “White Dawn,” (known as Allie around the house) bred by her daughter. Other guests include families or individuals particularly interested in certain breeds of cats, and still others are there to show their non-pedigree household pet. Regardless of their background, they are cat lovers and proud of it.
If you envision humorous scenes of people attempting to convince their feline friends to walk a runway, do tricks, even stay on command, this is not a part of the process. Each cat receives a number, by breed, and is identified by specific breed or as a household pet.
Cats are called by category and number to one of ten “rings,” consisting of a bank of cages behind a table containing a light and scratching post. For each judging, a group of cats are brought into each ring and placed in these cages. The judge then carries each cat one by one to examine the animal’s characteristics, coat, reflexes and so on before returning each cat to its cage. After all the animals have been examined, they are scored and proceed to another round of judging. Later, each judge will call back his or her best cats for a final award.
While some feisty felines are a bit vocal, many of these posh pets take it all in stride, lounging with half-closed eyes in their kennels and playfully stretching to dig into the judge’s scratch post, even taking a swipe at their feather wands. From slender Siamese to household pets,, the cats seemed to thoroughly enjoy showing off their pedigree…and not just in Brockport.
“The Cat Fanciers Association is an international organization headquartered in Alliance, Ohio,” said Josef Lentner, Hallmark Cat Club President. Lentner, who has been the president of the forty-year-old Hallmark Cat Club for about 20 years, said his club—which spans from Canandaigua to Leicester to Rochester and Penfield—typically has around 14 members.
“We are associated with the CFA which registers cats across the country, sets rules and regulations and develops different feline breeds and their standards,” said Lentner. “Our founder also started the Monroe Cat Fanciers and the Genesee Cat Fanciers.” The biggest challenges the Hallmark Cat Club faces today are its aging members and the rising expense of its shows.
“The average show hall rents for up to $4,000 per weekend,” said Lentner. ”We rent our cages and rungs from our parent club, the Genesee Cat Fanciers, which owns them and pay for space for the cats; judges’ fees, travel and lodging costs, ring clerks’ and stewards’ fees and more. It’s a labor of love as much as anything.”
Judges are professionally trained via a rigorous program which goes well beyond hair length and color, eye color and body composition to include even the tilt of the ear or muzzle. Cats are judged as kittens (4-8 months), Championship (older than 8 months unaltered) and Premiership (older than 8 months altered). Non-pedigree cats are judged as Household pets. “Some breed standards are just a few paragraphs long while others go on for pages,” explained Lentner who finds these shows enjoyable.
“There is a camaraderie with other attendees who have similar interests,” he said. “I have friends in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Maine and around the globe as far away as China and Russia. You also build relationships with other breeders sometimes. If you are looking for a pedigree cat, it is best to go to shows to find pedigree breeders. This allows you to avoid the backyard breeder who may know nothing about a breed other than what sells.”
Lentner has “taken a fancy” to Maine Coons. “The Maine Coon is the American Cat, the barn cat of New England,” he said. “Maine Coons are believed to have descended from Norwegian Forest cats from Norse ships, Persian and Angora cats on Spanish ships and British Shorthair cats on British ships. We have registered it and fixed its traits so that it can be judged. My Maine Coon cat can be traced back twenty generations.”
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