So you want to become a cat breeder… now what?
by Carissa Altschul
Disclaimer: Any medical advice given in this article should be referenced with your vet before beginning treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect any official policy or position of the Cat Fanciers' Association or the Persian Breed Council.
Showing Your Cat
Most of the best breeders in the world believe that if you want to breed, you should show, because this is validation you are breeding cats to the standard. Many new breeders are just not interested in showing, but keep in mind that showing breeders are more than likely going to be just uninterested in selling to you unless you will commit to the exhibition of your cats.
When you purchase your first cat, it is ideal to do so from a breeder who lives near to you so they can help with the grooming, as well as be present at the shows to help with last minute grooming and explaining the show process. If that is not possible for you, the next best thing is to start asking local breeders if they are willing to help you get started in showing. Some will not have the time or inclination, but you are likely to come across some that are willing to step up to help mentor you. CFA does have a “Mentor Program” that you can apply to be assigned a mentor by CFA, but not all breeders who are willing to help are part of the mentor program (for whatever reason) and sometimes the mentor program can take months to pair you up with a mentor. If you have chosen to work with a “minority” breed, you will probably have a hard time finding a local mentor, at which point you will want to start looking on the internet and writing to people who work that breed, regardless of how far away they live. The internet is a glorious tool – be sure to use it to the fullest extent!
Hopefully, you have attended a few cat shows as a spectator before actually buying a cat, so the process of the cat show will not be completely foreign to you. There are certain supplies you will need prior to the show – such as cage curtains (if you are going to use to the show provided cage) or a show shelter (such as SturdiProducts). You will also need grooming combs, brushes, and powders, plus food, bowls, and water from your home. You will need a sturdy carrier to transport your cat, and probably a cart to move all your stuff in and out of the show hall in. (Shaving kit bags work great to hold the grooming “stuff.”) Don’t forget a litter box and litter for your cat to have in their benching cage. Here is a full list of what we bring to shows with us:
1) Grooming cart (carpet, on wheels). This serves 2 purposes - one, I can haul in carriers, plus stuff on top of the cart, and two, I have a place to groom in the show halls (spares the expense of a grooming space). It has 4 bungee cords that I use to hold the top and bottom together.
2) Cage Curtains/Pop - UP cage. If I’m showing a rowdy shorthair, I’ll bring out of the Sturdi cages because the shorthairs just tear up the curtains. Otherwise, I just bring curtains. I have a small suitcase I have all the cage curtains and accessories in.
3) Litterpans - usually these are in the carriers with the cats (I use LARGE carries), but sometimes I need a few extra. I will usually have a bag of litter I keep in the car in case I don't like the show hall litter.
4) Grooming Bag - this is a LARGE duffle bag with 2 large side pockets and 2 smaller pockets as well as the large main storage. In it I have a smaller "shaving kit bag" that I keep most of the main grooming, plus all sorts of smaller bags for sorting. I'll list all the items outside of the kit first:
- no-rinse shampoo
- dry shampoo powder
- lint roller
- small wisk dust pan
- small medicine bag for cats containing basic antibiotics as well as anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea meds.
- roll of paper towels
- water bottles
- bottled water
- small bungees to attach water bottles to cages
- small and large binder clips for cage curtains
- "Please Do Not Touch", "Kittens For Sale", and “Cacao Cattery” cage signs
- large metal toothed brush (it doesn't fit in the kit bag)
- roll of small trash bags
- toys, on sticks, balls, catnip.. ect..
- a cleaner for the litter pans (liquid)
- ozium (it’s an odor neutralizing spray in case one of my cats makes a very big stink)
- small cotton pads for eyes (make up pads)
- cat food
- a couple of small bowls
- Summer's Eve powder (it's really good for a stinky male)
- Summer's eve spray (same ... good for stinky male)
- back up hand sanitizer
- human first aid kit
- assorted human dining ware (spoons, knives (not sharp ones, butter type knives) and forks.) You really never know when you might need one of these.
Ok, now for the "kit" bag:
- small "flea" comb (for under the eyes, chin)
- med 6 inch comb #1 (fine/med teeth)
- med 6 inch comb #2 (med/course teeth)
- 10 inch comb fine/course teeth)
- "slicker brush"
- various spray bottles with water, water with a bit of downy, bay rum, a spare for water...
- allergy eye drops
- moisturizing eye drops
- trip-antibiotic eye drops
- various powders - a couple of different "white" grooming powder, baby powder, corn starch, boric acid powder, and mennen talc (it's slightly pink for dilute cats)
- various make up brushes for applying afore-mentioned powders
- nail clippers
- round-ended scissors
- q tips
- business cards - mine and others
- some combination locks for the security cage if I ever feel uncomfortable with the gate in a show hall
- several pens, of which at least hopefully ONE works
- hand sanitizer (probably a couple of these, I lose them a lot)
- rescue remedy or some similar sort of "calming" homeopathic
If I am staying overnight, I will also take with me overnight cages and an overnight bag. The overnight cages are large (48x30) fold down soft-sided crates. I have a board that I bring that fits between them so I can stack them 2 high. The overnight bag contains:
- A small metro dryer
- A small pistol style travel dryer
- Shampoos/conditioners enough for clean up or touch up bath
- Hose/sprayer attachment
- Rubber wrenches for attaching the hose
- More bowls for food and/or water
- Incontinence pads to be put on the bottom of the crates
- Dry “kibble” food (I change this out every show).
To be honest, our show “kit” is more thorough that most. A basic show kit probably doesn’t need even a fourth of what we bring. We tend to over prepare because you never know what you are going to need at a show. When I fly to a show, I take substantially less and hope if I need anything else, I can find it either at a vendor at the show or I’m able to get to a store. Key items I bring when I fly:
- Show curtains
- Metal combs (2 sizes)
- Pin brush
- Water “mist” spray bottle
- Litter & litter pan
- Food bowl & food
- Water bottle w/ stand or water bowl
- Pop up overnight cage
- Small metro dry & small amounts of shampoo/conditioner in case I need to do an “emergency” bath.
- Incontinence pads to be put on the bottom of the crates
Once you are ready for the show, the next thing is to actually enter & attend a show. Most, if not all shows, can now be entered with online entry forms. This consists of going to a specific link and filling out data on a web form. To fill out the entry form, you will need your cats green slip for information including registration number, date of birth, parents, and breeder. (If you have a kitten that is not yet registered, you can enter it in a show with no registration number, but any awards won without a registration number do not “count.”) You will have to fill out some information about yourself, including your home address and contact information. If you have any problems filling out the form, or questions, you can contact the entry clerk (who will have their contact information on the online show flyer), your mentor, and/or your breeder.
Depending on what part of the country you live in, you will probably also want to mark “double cage” if you are only showing one cat. With the exception of some west coast show, all shows in the US use benching cages that are 48 inches wide. These cages have two openings and a metal wire divider that can be used to divide the cage in half. Each entry is allowed ½ of the 48 inch cage. That is really not enough room, so everyone with a single entry generally pays to have the whole cage (called a “double cage”.) Some people also get a “grooming space” which is a 48 inch section of table without the cage. If you have a grooming cart or small table, you can skip this expense. There are a few rare show halls that do not allow grooming carts due to very narrow aisles. Also, some shows limit the number of groom spaces due to small show size. These are both rare circumstances and generally well noted on the show flyer.
Hopefully, you will have a mentor who is attending the same show and you can put their name as your “benching request” on the entry form. A benching request is just that – a request – but most clubs will honor them as much as possible. To be benched next to someone means your cages were be next to or near each other. This has several advantages. First, you have company to talk to, as one of the best parts of showing your cat is visiting with your friends and talking with other “cat” people. Second, you have someone who can guide you through the whole process and perhaps do some last minute grooming right at hand. Also, it’s nice to have someone who can watch your benching area (and you watch theirs) when you are in a ring. Some show halls have a large amount of spectators who come through and it’s always nice to know someone is keeping an eye on your cat(s) and possessions. Any valuables you bring into the show hall, such as your purse, wallet, cell phone, or camera should be out of sight whenever you are not around (and probably even when you to be safe.) Cage curtains with a “drape” that covers under the cage provides a handy place to put items out of sight. You can also tuck them away inside a carrier for added security. Some people will place the items in the cage with the cage, though they are still in sight if you choose to do that.
When you arrive at the show hall, the first thing you do is go to “check in.” This is usually a table set up near an entrance (though perhaps not the entrance you come in) that will have a lot of catalogs set up and generally one or two people sitting there. Often there is a line. If you haven’t yet paid for your entries, you will do so at this time. If you are paying by check, it helps speed things along if you have pre-written the check with the correct amount (the entry clerk will have sent you a confirmation with your amount due once you enter the show.) After you check in, you will be given a show catalog. You will also either be directed to a “benching chart” which has the general set up of the show hall with names written in on the spaces where the benching cages are, or given a row number to go to where your space is. When you check in, they will ask if you have any changes. Generally these changes are if a cat you entered will not present at the show, or if a correction needs to be made to your entry or entries (such as title, color, gender, date of birth, or competition class.) If you have a change and you forget to tell the person at check in, you can still make the change later during the show.
The first thing to do at your benching area is to set up your cage curtains. It is important to be mindful of the aisle space and the area around you as you set up so that you don’t block the aisle or crowd your neighbors. If you arrive early to the show hall (at the beginning of “check in” time listed on the show flyer, it is always easier to set up as there are less people. Once you have set up your cage curtains, place the litter pan and any other items in the cage for your cat, then put your cat in the benching cage. It’s important to give your cat time to adjust to being in the benching cage before you do any grooming (unless, of course, they have messed themselves in the carrier – that will require immediately grooming attention.) I usually use this time to familiarize myself with competition (listed in the catalog) and also with the number(s) assigned to my entry(ies). Most exhibitors will write their cat’s number on their hand or wrist so they can remember what number is associated with their cat for that show. That number is how your cat will be called to the ring.
It’s a good idea to also take a look around the show hall and locate where the rings are. For some show halls, this doesn’t take much time, but in some areas, the benching and rings are in different rooms, so it’s important to figure out where you have to go to get your cat to a ring. Bathrooms, vendors, raffle, master clerk, and concession stand are also good to find before the show starts.
At the beginning of the show, a member of the show committee with introduce the judges, then call out the absentees/transfers (with information given at check-in.) Most people will mark these in their catalog as they are called out. Each catalog will have a sheet for absentees and transfers, usually located in the back of the catalog. After these announcements, the clerks in each ring will begin calling up cats to their rings. A judging schedule, usually located on the back of the catalog, lists the order each ring will call up cats. This is often subject to change due to conflicts causes by some judges moving along at a faster or slower rate than others, so don’t only go by that. Listen for the numbers as they progress until your cat’s number is called. If you have a cat that requires grooming, you should probably start grooming when the group of numbers is called before your cat’s number. While clerks often do give 2nd and 3rd calls for numbers to a ring, it’s a better idea to be in the ring after the first call.
In the ring, you will see that there are wooden blocks on top of the cages with numbers. Find your cat’s number and put your cat in that cage. Before you enter the ring, it’s always a good idea to pause to make sure you will not be in the way of the judge as you are putting your cat in the ring. Enter the ring quietly and get your cat into the cage with as little of commotion as possible. Some exhibitors use this time to fuss and play with their cat, but that is behavior that is generally frowned upon. After shutting the door to the judging cage, quickly exit the ring. At this point, you have to wait for the judge to get to your cat. Usually there are seats available in front of the ring, or you can stand to the side or behind the seating if all the seats are taken. Exhibitors are not supposed to talk to the judge in the ring, though sometimes judges will instigate conversations for a variety of reasons. Any conversations while watching judging should be kept quiet enough to not interfere with the judging process.
When the judge gets to your cat, they might use a teaser toy for to get your cat’s attention and to get their first impression of your cat’s over all expression, condition, and presentation. They will then take your cat out of the judging cage and carry it to the judging table. Many judges use this brief time between the cage and table to access the weight and body of the cat. While on the table, the judge will access type, color, and other aspects of the standard against your cat. Some judges do this very quickly; others will spend more time. This can vary from show to show depending on the number of entries and the format of the show. If your cat is frightened or timid, many judges will take extra time with your cat to make sure it has a positive experience. If you notice some aspect of the judging process seems to upset your cat, it’s a good idea to repeat that part of the process at home so you can get your cat used to it before the next show.
After the judge has finished judging your cat, they will place it back in the judging cage. If your cat has competition, they will judge the competition, then hang ribbons according to how they believe the cats rank. Unless your cat is in a very large competitive class, it is like to be awarded at least some ribbons. Not all ribbons have points associated with them. The most coveted ribbon in class judging is the brown ribbon, which is best of color / division. There is also an orange ribbon, which is 2nd best of breed / division. These ribbons will both convey points if won against competition. The last ribbon that can convey points is the purple ribbon, which is awarded to the best champion (or premier in the neuter/spay class.) The blue, red, yellow, black, and white ribbons do not convey points; they are for ranking purposes only.
When the clerk has dismissed your cat’s class (either by putting the cats number down on the wooden block or by verbally dismissing the class), you can retrieve your cat and take it back to benching. Any ribbons on the cat’s cage that are silk you can take with you if you wish. Ribbons that are laminated or plastic are permanent ribbons and not to be removed from the ring. If there are permanent ribbons on your cat’s cage and you the ribbons, there are usually silk versions of the ribbons on the clerks table for you to take. Sometimes a judge might want to speak to the owners when they remove their cats from the ring; remember whatever information a judge might want to impart is almost always meant to help the exhibitor. Also remember that a judge is completely in charge of their ring and it is against show rules to question the choices of the judge in their ring. If you feel a judge has acted or said something inappropriate, you cannot address that in the ring. Instead, you must first contact the show manager and follow the show rules from that point.
After a judge has finished judging all the cats in a category (such as kittens), they will conduct a final. In the final, the clerk will announce that the ring is having a final, and they will call certain numbers to come up to the final. If your number is called, proceed to the ring the same way you went for judging. After the final, the process is a little different. Rather than taking your cat and exiting the ring quickly, you pick up your cat, rosette/ribbon, and you thank the judge for the award.
This process is repeated for all the rings in the show. At the end of the day (or weekend), people will begin packing up and leaving, It’s extremely important to do this quietly if rings are still judging cats. Also, make sure you do not leave before advertised show hours, as this is against the rules (unless you are only showing a kitten.) It’s very important to make sure all rings you have competed in have actually done their finals before you leave. There have been many, many times that exhibitors leave early because they assume their cat will not make a final (or because they forgot they had a final to wait for) and the judge calls for their cat and they are gone. It’s never a fun fact to find out your cat missed a final because you left the show too early. If you are not sure, it’s better to wait to be sure before you leave. Sometimes, if you wait, your cat might make it into a final because someone else has left early and the judge will choose a new cat to complete their final – and that new cat might be yours!
If your cat does make finals at the show, your mentor or other exhibitors can help you calculate the points you have won by that award. The points are determined by a percentage of the cats competing at that show. If you aren’t sure, CFA scores the shows each week and you can check the points with CFA. There is a subscription service for what is called “regional/national points” – these are points used the rank all cats for end of season award – and also a free service to track “grand” points (known as “Herman”) which can be accessed at hol.cfa.org. Above all, remember when showing your cat that you are showing because you love cats. Sometimes, competition can cloud our judgment and we tend to get frustrated or upset depending on the wins or losses in the ring. Every show is different. Judges do not always have the same opinion. You might have different competition and the results may not always be the same from one show to the next. As long as you remember that you are there to have fun, to learn, and to socialize with your friends, you will find shows rewarding even if your cat isn’t making all the finals or lots of points. Make new friends, help new exhibitors, and educate spectators about the beauty of pedigreed cat competition rather than just focusing on winning or beating the competition. By doing this, you will find you are less likely to get burned out by shows and more likely to enjoy the whole experience.