Cat show boils down to feline beauty contest

Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 12:28 a.m.
As Liz Wodrich did some last-minute grooming of her cat to prepare for judging, she combed his hair, used Q-Tips to clean his ears and applied texturing spay to his coat. But Lumpy didn't seem to mind.
In fact Lumpy, a gray and white Scottish fold, looked like he was used to the pampering. And so did the rest of the nearly 200 cats who were judged, petted and admired at the annual North Central Florida Cat Club's cat show, held Saturday at the Alachua County Fairgrounds and continuing today.
"When you put them in that show cage, they have to be looking their absolute best," said Wodrich, who traveled from Jacksonville with her husband and her 13-year-old son for the show.
It's 8-month-old Lumpy's third cat show, so "he's just trying to get his paws underneath him," she said.
Wodrich said she goes to at least one show a month, and this time she brought Lumpy and two other cats, Princess Lizzie and Baby Bill Puddlebaum, both of which competed as household pets, the category for felines not registered with sanctioning body Cat Fanciers' Association as purebred.
As opposed to a dog show, Wodrich said, a cat show "is not this cutthroat competitive thing, it's just for fun."
Also unlike a dog show, eight different judges study each of the felines before handing out awards.
When their numbers are called, owners rush to the "ring," a judging table surrounded by about a dozen cages where owners place their cats according to its number.
Some judges use teasers to draw cats' attention in different directions so they can examine features such as muscle tone, eye color, ear size and coat texture.
The top cats then are recalled to the ring for the finals where they are ranked from 10th to best. Besides household pet, the other categories include kitten, champion and premier; champion category is for unaltered cats, while premier is for cats that have been spayed or neutered.
"Ultimately, it's a beauty contest," said cat owner Kerry Ury of West Pam Beach. "If judge A doesn't like your cat, judge B might."
Rhett Bockman, a judge for the past eight years, said he judges cats according to how they conform to the standard for its breed.
Saturday, Bockman deemed Safety Harbor resident Joni Freedman's cat, Bubba, as the best in its premier class.
The award was nothing new for Bubba, a blonde and red American shorthair with white undercoat, who's competed at more than 50 shows, Freedman said.
American shorthairs are known as working-class cats: powerful in build with a square muzzle and a round head. And 2-year-old Bubba fits that bill: a laid back, affectionate feline who "reacts well to people and just loves to show," Freedman said. No meowing or scratching.
For Freedman, the 25 to 30 cat shows she attends annually represent a chance to get together with other cat lovers.
"I enjoy the competition and I enjoy the camaraderie, but I also like the recognition of cats' value to society," she said.
"On a personal level, I've suffered many battles with cancer and my cats have been very comforting," Freedman said. "They've taken care of me."

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