Preparing and Showing the Persian Kitten ~ by Diane Castor
The experienced Persian cat breeder, early on, develops an "eye" for quality in their litters. Not every litter produces that one special kitten, but when the experienced breeder sees it, the bells and whistles ring out. It is this kitten that we will be working with in this article.
The winning kitten must not only meet the Persian Standard, have perfect coat color, texture and length, but must also have that sparkling personality that speaks to the Judges, and says, "pick me, I am so beautiful and adorable". It is this combination that makes your kitten stand out to the Judge.
Now that this most special kitten is in our hands, it is our responsibility to keep it in the best health and condition as possible. Many breeders, myself included, will give the best kittens to the best mothers to raise. There is no substitute for the Great Mothers in our catteries. I would rather hand raise a pet than a show kitten. In hand raising, there are too many problems that can occur. While it may sound callous to the uninitiated in the Fancy, the pet kitten is expendable. This is an honest statement, but not many breeders will admit it. While cat breeding should be an enjoyable hobby, the culmination of years of hard work is winning in the show rings. I have never met an experience exhibitor who gushed that they had the best time ever at the show when they went Zip across the board. Winning is fun. Losing is not. It is as simple as that. …
So from the very beginning, we turn our attention to giving this kitten the best of everything. The best Mother, the best food, the best Veterinary care, the best grooming, bathing and love. When I am looking at this wonderful baby that I have selected to present to the Fancy, I am so in love that the baby feels this love. I surround it with loving prayer daily and hold it to my lips and kiss its tiny face, tummy and feet.
In other articles that I have written, I mentioned the fact that I watch my kittens like a hawk. Little kittens can fade and die before one's eyes, so never ever stop watching this special kitten. I am on an alert only second to waiting for kittens to be born.
From three weeks on, I will take the tiny comb and comb the baby. Noting the coat texture and length. Each day as I hold this baby, I allow myself to dream of its winning. I think about a Regional or National win for it. I begin to plan its show career. I will check the previous August Almanac to see where the highest kitten count will be and the number of points required to Regional or National. I consider where I should take my precious baby. I wonder whether or not it will be ready for such and such a show and at what age. Will this kitten be competitive at four months? The last three kittens I've shown were competitive appearing at twelve weeks. The maturity was unbelievable. This is most unusual in a Himalayan/Persian.
But, while I am dreaming and planning, I am watching my kitten. At about the time my baby is going to be weaned onto solid food, I begin its first bath. Only a short one to cleanse the fur and the light Oster dryer at first. I watch to see if this kitten is a sloppy eater and pray it won't be. I watch to see if this kitten likes to eat. This is important, as it is no pleasure to have a picky kitten to show. They seldom carry weight and the hand feeding that we have all done is a real pain. Have done this often, but hate it and much prefer the kitten to show that eats with great gusto. A small coffee filter paper makes an excellent bib for a kitten.
Each kitten one shows will have a different personality. Get to know your kitten's habits and quirks. See how they respond to your grooming their tummies, the backs of their legs and feet. Know everything possible about them. This will hold you in good stead in the show hall. Ones doesn't need any unpleasant surprises there. You will notice that the experienced exhibitor doesn't fuss a great deal with their kittens. The reason being that this kitten has been prepared since birth for this very moment, that all that is necessary is a little touch up here and there.
Kittens need to hear all kinds of sounds in the household. From the doorbell to the garbage disposal. From the TV to the dishwasher. All these sounds will hold them in good stead when that P.A. system goes off on a tangent. For those of you who live alone or have little contact with the opposite sex, be sure to invite a friend of that opposite sex, to come over often to play with your kitten. They need to hear male and female voices. Let the neighborhood children come in and play with this baby. The show kitten will be exposed in the show cage to children coming by and talking to them. Or sometimes screeching at them.
Socialization is important. Sometime it is this one factor that turns a Judge towards your kitten over another who might be a tiny bit better, but sits in the back of the cage and does not look or play with the feather. Your kitten, well trained, of course, will want that feather big time and will lunge for it. The more Mylar, the more feathers, the more shaky toys, the better for your kitten. Fearless Fosdick is the name of your kitten. Your kitten is on a roll and up at all times. If I could teach my kittens to purr on command, I would, but we all know that teaching a kitten anything is an act of God. We can only love and hope that they will behave in a pleasing manner.
I am a strong believer in a schedule. Animals love routine. I am up very early every day. Usually by 5:30 AM. My special baby is in the nursery right in my bedroom. During the night I check the kittens. They and their mother are fed by 6AM. As the kittens reach eight weeks, they are allowed out on the floor to roam in the adolescent nursery. I spend a part of every hour I can playing with them. They are bathed once a week and a notation is made in the bathing book as to what shampoos are being used. At ten weeks, the kittens all come upstairs and are underfoot for that socializing period before the pets leave at twelve weeks. When the pets have gone to their new homes, my special baby is all mine to love and spoil. This is my special time.
At twelve weeks, my special little kitten comes back into my bedroom and stays with me the entire kitten show season. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost so I can keep an eye on it at all times during the day and night. We bond together very strongly at this time. I begin to handle this kitten as a Judge might. I stand it on a table and go over the baby with a fine tooth comb. I begin to trim ears and eyes. I am always looking for perfection to the eye. I check the back alignment, body , head and all the finer points. Be very critical in your evaluation. You can be sure the Judges will be. I can regulate its food and litter box habits. My most favorite kitten I showed, Romeo was perfect in all respects. Used his litter box immediately upon leaving my bed, ate his breakfast, and again used his litter box. Thus this necessity was accomplished for the morning. A kitten that feels right at home in his show cage and uses his litter box neatly is a great joy. Romeo was and still is one of those special cats. What a relief! When we traveled together by air, not a peep or a mess from Romeo. Now altered and being shown in Premiership, he is his usual well behave self. A true gentleman.
From twelve to sixteen weeks, the show kitten continues to be conditioned and prepared for his or her debut. Not all kittens are ready to "come out" at sixteen weeks, but for argument's sake, this special kitten, I have deemed ready to show at four months.
CFA offers for a small fee, each month's National standings on the winning Kittens, Adults and Altered cats. It is current to the end of each month and sent by Email as epoints, to those who subscribe about the first Monday of every month. Keep a record of your Region's entire top winning kittens and their positions. Soon you will want to know where your baby is standing. The information contains your kitten's name, color number; points earned and number of rings completed. After your first show where your kitten Finaled, begin a show diary with wins, points and the Judges who Finaled your kitten. Remember all your rings count toward your score until you reach 40 Rings. From there, you will be able to try and up your ring point average, by attending shows with large kitten count. Or in easy terms, replacement rings.
Let us move on to the actual planning aspect of showing the special kitten and how to go about this preparation.
I want to address a subject that I consider very serious and that is the changing of birth dates to make your kitten more likely to be on the cutting edge of winning. No matter what one may call that one or two day "fudging" or even a month or two, it is lying. This practice is dishonest and unfair. I have spoken to many Judges concerning this practice and I am noticing more and more Judges looking in the "so called four month old GIANT'S" mouths and putting the kitten back in the cage, hanging ribbons and burying it in their books. Just remember that when you note a Judge looking in your kitten's mouth, they may or may not be just checking the bite, but the teeth to see if this is truly a four-month-old. Four-month old Persian kittens do not have their permanent teeth. Sometimes a male kitten will be a whale at four months and this can hurt his chances of winning. You are better off holding him back until almost seven months where he will be more competitive.
There will always be those breeder/exhibitors who will be dishonest. Their motto is "winning at all costs". We know these people and they are held in contempt by the ethical breeder/exhibitor. One should be above such practices. I listen often to the newcomers who see this dishonesty and cry out against it. What I see also, which distresses me, is they look to these less than honest breeders and say to themselves, "if they can do it, so can I." Those of us, and there are many honest breeders, must be the light to follow. We must lead by example. It is just as important that we teach honesty and integrity as genetics and show practices.
When to register your litter and that special kitten. I register my litters at eight weeks, regardless as to quality. That special kitten should have an equally special name. A name that sets it apart from any other kitten in the household or show hall. So do take the time to think about a perfect name for your special kitten. I am currently showing a Seal Point male kitten who is called Playwickey's Flirty Flirty Eyes. Naturally, Flirty for short. So named for his gorgeous vivid blue eyes. After each Final, I thank the Judge and tell them his name. The next time, they will remember Flirty and his name.
Now, sit down with that current Almanac and the August issue from the previous year. This special kitten is now ready to debut at its first show. I would suggest picking a small show close to home to dip your "feet into the water". Remember the old adage, "I'd rather be a big fish in a little pool, that a little fish in a big pool." If your four-month-old kitten does well in the show, move next to a bigger show where the count will be perhaps twice as big. If you do well there, at still four months, you can feel pretty sure that you kitten is highly competitive. Look for your competition in Division. Sooner or later, you will come up against a really fine kitten in Division. This is you real test. Can you take Division or 2nd Best of Division? If you lose all around talk to the owner of your competition and ask where they will be showing and avoid those shows if possible. Often times one makes the mistake of going head to head only to find that both end up losers. If you are in different Regions and looking to Regional and not National, stay away from each other and both kittens will stand a chance to Regional. If it is a National win you covet, there are many shows where the count is very high. Suggest that you each fly to one that is different. Competition is between cats, not people.
Now in the previous issue of that "August " Almanac, you will note the counts for all the shows for the previous year. Mark with a highlighter, the shows with the largest number of All Breed kittens for the period of your kitten's show career. Then look to see how may All Breed Rings there are. Compare other shows and make a decision based on Judges, locale, All Breed Rings and where your competition is going.
At the first big count show you decide to attend, don't panic when the All Breed Kitten count is very high. Try and watch an entire Long Hair ring being judged. You will soon be able to pick out your competition. Many of the kittens being shown are of poor quality or poorly presented or just not in show condition. Those you can eliminate right way from your thoughts. The kittens to look out for will be those being shown by the experienced breeder/exhibitor. They are your competition. If you are good enough and the Judges tend to like your breed and Division, you will probably win, but there are only ten spots and hairs will be split along the lines of the Judge's preferences. I had one Judge tell me that my Persian tortie point female was just too extreme. While at the same show, that same kitten was Best Kitten. I understood exactly what each Judge was trying to tell me. I certainly respected both Judges' opinions. I was careful not to show under the first Judges again with the same Persian kitten.
To touch briefly on the subject of the extreme kitten versus the moderate kitten. Having shown both, I will now opt always for the moderate look. To me balance is most important. By balance, I do not necessarily mean front end equal back end, but the balance of the over all kitten. The majority of the points are in the head, but a kitten with just a fine head, and a long rangy body for instance, can never be called balanced. Each part of the kitten must fit together. Beautiful head flowing into short body with heavy boning and a lovely colored coat is what I call balance. Each part of the kitten should be in perfect proportion. If your kitten has only a great head, seek out the headhunter Judges, but don't expect to make many wins with out a well balanced kitten.
Your demeanor in the ring while showing is important. Be polite, on time and quiet while the classes are being judged. There is much to be learned by listening and watching the Judges do their job. Each brown or orange ribbon your kitten receives is a pat on your back as well as a good comment from the Judges. Don't ignore these ribbons. You can pick one up on the Judge's table and you should proudly hang it on your cage. At the end of the show, if you so desire, one can return these ribbons to the show committee. If I were Judging, I would be insulted that an exhibitor didn't think the win bestowed on their kittens was worthy enough to take the ribbon with them.
Be positive in your attitude about winning. If you receive that coveted brown or orange ribbon, be prepared to Final. See that your kitten is ready to go to that Final when called. If you are off gabbing away someplace and not at your cage to keep an eye on your kitten, you might find a kitten when its number is called, drenched from spilled water. So be prepared! Carry your kitten proudly to the ring and smile. This is an exciting and happy event. Be generous with your clapping for the other kittens and be genuinely pleased for your fellow exhibitors. No matter how many Best Kittens a breeder/exhibitor has, they are always waiting breathlessly for the next one to happen. This is exciting and heady stuff for all. Be profuse in your thanking the Judge for your kitten's win and ask them to sign your Rosette. Tell them just how much it means to you that your kitten, so and so, has won. Proudly display your Rosette. It may only be the points that count, but Rosette's are pretty decorations on your cage.
To count points, you need to have the Official Count that is given some time on Sunday by the Master Clerk. If an announcement is not made, seek out the Master Clerk and ask to see the count. This is jokingly called the Unofficial Official Count. Once you have this count you can begin to count your points ring by ring. Points for a Regional win are obtained by the position of each Final made by your kitten. If there are 100AB kittens and your kitten made a best Kitten, your number of points for that Ring would be 99. This point count descends in almost 5% increments. Thus 2nd Best Kitten receives 94.05, 3rd Best 89.10. The easiest way to figure these points is to have a Regional Point Chart. These are available from vendors or breed Clubs.
Soon by process of elimination, you will begin to know who likes your kitten and who does not. If there are six Judges, try and have at least five on your side who like you kitten. If you are content with a Regional win and are in say, Region One where there are many shows, you may not have to ever leave your Region to place in their Top kittens. But, if you are ambitious with your kitten and it is winning big time, you may decide to go for a National Kitten win. This entails traveling and learning to double and triple entry. Your decision is then based almost solely on the number of All Breed kittens entered in the show.
Campaigning can and is very tiring on the Exhibitor. We give most of our attention to the care and well being of the kitten we are showing, but if we allow ourselves to become run down, our kitten will not make the next weekend's show. To keep yourself in topnotch condition for this week in and week out grueling pace, get as much sleep as possible, eat properly and wash your hands often! I sound like my mother with this advice. I know I think to myself," another show, I'm getting tired, wish I could stay home." Oh, one can, but Regional and National wins are not gained by staying home. Keep a positive attitude about winning with your kitten and this will help to keep you "up" when beginning to feel "low".
While we like to think that all the stress and strain is on the Exhibitor as we pamper and care for our show kittens, there are problems we face with their health and well being. Keeping our show kitten in tiptop shape is just one of the many hurdles we face in showing a kitten for a Regional or National Win. Cleanliness, health wise is a must. Each Monday after a show, I bathe my kitten. I make up a shampoo with lime sulphur which I use on the face, head, ears tail and paws. It just would not do to have a spot of fungus pop out on the face. Many breeders will keep their kittens on Fulvicin the entire show season. I prefer not to do this. After the basic lime sulphur shampoo, I will use Rotenone shampoo diluted 8-1. Finishing with Pantene Pro V. Many breeders use warm oil treatments on their kitten coats to condition. Don't forget those nice clean coffee filters to keep your kitten's ruff spotless.
Since kittens are susceptible to Upper Respiratory infection, I keep a close eye on my kitten for any signs of sneezing or eye discharge. Baytril is my personal drug of choice for URI in adults, but I do not like to use it on kittens. Instead I would use Clavomox because often the eyes are swollen and inflamed and Clavomox is very good in this situation. Consult your own Veterinarian if you suspect other than the usual "kitten cold".
Diarrhea often time comes from change of water, food, stress and intestinal bugs. Consult your Veterinarian. I usually travel with home remedies for diarrhea.
I also up the food intake to three times a day for the raw meat mixture. A little dab of baby chicken on top is an enticing treat. I give Nutrical before bedtime along with the dollop of whipped cream that all my kittens love. Then off to bed in a cage close by.
Time to touch on just how to travel by Air to a show. The first time I ventured by Airplane to a show, I was very apprehensive about how I was going to squeeze all the "junk" I normally shoveled into my car. I usually had, my cage curtains on a hanger in a zipped bag, my red Paisley "preppie" fitted bag stuffed with cat paraphernalia, my hotel duffel bag, my suitcase and travel case, not to mention Metro dryer and two litter boxes filled with litter. Oh, and don't forget the cooler and grooming table plus bungie cords. The list was seemingly endless! How in the world was I going to cut all this back to one for the cat and one for me? Thank goodness for Robbins Luggage store. There I found a multi compartment suitcase with handle and wheels, plus a matching satchel that hooked onto the suitcase. Viola! I was in business! That would take care of my clothes and the cat's grooming supplies. Now I needed a cosmetic/medicine bag and I was ready to fly to a show. This I also found at Robbins Luggage. So before I lost my nerve, off went my entry blank with double cage and grooming space checked. Next a call to the travel agent for a reservation for my kitten and myself. Remember the rule of only one pet per cabin. Some Airlines allow more and some not at all. Many exhibitors carry on sneak bags with their cats, all well and good until you are caught! I prefer paying the extra $50 each way than to be kicked off the plane and miss the show. So if possible, make reservations far enough in advance so this does not happen. If you can't get a ticket for your kitten, then…the inevitable must happen.
I kept reminding myself to take one step at a time. I've always been a methodical woman. Organization, my middle name. Now…would I be able to put all the skills I had honed over the years to work for me?
I began by opening my in room show bag. Hum, I wonder what I really need and what I can discard. Sassy tent. A definite yes. Disposable litter box and a package of litter in a Zip Loc bag. Yes, I'd need litter for Friday night in the room, if I need more, I could bring it home from the show. Pack several extra Zip Loc bags, I noted on a tablet. Water dish and a Zip Loc bag with dry food, a couple of plastic coated plates and a spoon. Several cans of wet food (here I insert a note. If you think you will be traveling with your kitten on over night stays, teach the kitten from the beginning to eat a certain brand of wet food with out bowel complications) several jars of baby meat, medium garbage bags to line waste basket and disposal of litter and box and a small, but powerful hand dryer. Coffee filters, and hose attachment with wrench and a pair of pliers to remove shower nozzle and re attach hose and nozzle. Add three small plastic containers for detergent, shampoo, and conditioner. I would add the mousse to my own bag. This is about the bare minimum one can get away with. My cage curtains are of islet and pack very nicely and compactly. I have a piece of plastic that fits over the bottom cage. So easy for wipe ups.
Make a note to carry on board the following for the kitten, baby food, demitasse spoon, small bag of dry food, small dish for water, Kleenex, a couple of q-tips, a few folded paper towels in a Zip Loc bag, a couple of packs of wet dry handy wipes and a fresh wet dry pad. Add to this bag, emergency supplies for yourself in case you arrive and your luggage does not. Clean underwear, clean blouse, tooth brush, tooth paste, limited make up, deodorant, baby powder, hair spray, comb and brush and a couple of nutro bars in case there is no restaurant in the motel and nothing close by where you could walk for a bite to eat. The airplanes don't serve food in economy class!
Now I'll open that "preppy" paisley bag and see what absolutely has to come with me. Baby power. No already have some, Nutrical, yes indeed. That's the treat for being in the ring. Pin brush, face comb, body comb, "Mr. Flea", a must, thinning shears and non pointed sharp scissors. Face wipes, allergy eye drops, antibiotic eye drops, unreconstituted amoxcillin and syringe to measure water, Lawry's Salt, only if I have room. I keep a jar of 500mg amoxicillin capsules, Tylenol PM and Alleve with me in my purse for emergencies. Fine white powder, yes. Hand sanitizer, a must. Water and food dishes, no, already have them on the list. Small hand towel and wash cloth. Six-foot extension cord. Definitely a night light and replacement bulb. I've been in so many motels over the years, that when I wake up at night, I usually have no idea where the bathroom is located. Many a time, the night-light has saved me bumping into a wall. As I set these items on a table, I must now decided how to pack them. Again I turn to the large Zip Loc bags. Don't know how we ever managed without them. Make sure your scissors are in the bag that contains nothing that could spill and damage them. They are important tools of the trade. Pack the items that are liquid in one bag and the other items in another bag. My show curtains are plain white eyelet and fold to a small packet. They go on the top of the cat bag. Arranged in order of placement. I tuck clips into a small side pocket to reinforce the cage top. This about does it for the kitten. The new show bag has many compartments. I put in clips to reinforce a double cage.
Take clothing with you that packs easily and doesn't muss. I find that one pair of well cut slacks, two clean blouses and clean underwear are all I need along with night wear. I usually wear a blazer when traveling by Air and that blazer should coordinate with what you will be wearing on Saturday and Sunday. We all know that the kitten's equipment is more important than ours is!
If possible, ask a friend to drive you to the airport. Today, with security very tight, I suggest getting to the airport an hour and a half before the flight is scheduled to leave. If it is possible to get prior information concerning the schedule of your flight, try and do so. Air travel lately has been terrible and the waiting in the terminals several hours long. I understand from those who are in the "know", that the earlier a flight is in the day, the more likely it will be on time. While I prefer to fly out on a late Friday afternoon flight, I know I am taking a big chance that we will be delayed by several hours.
What I have done in the past concerning transportation from the Airport and the show motel depends on where I am going. If I have a friend in that city who is with the show committee, I may ask them if they would be kind enough to meet me or if that is not possible, I telephone ahead to the Motel and ask them if they have limousine service from the airport to the motel. I have found that many Motels have this service. Often there are shuttles which will drop you off at you motel. It may take a little longer, but the fares are very reasonable. If this is not possible, I try and ascertain the distance from the airport to the Motel. If it is not too long, I will take a taxi to the Motel. If it is some distance, I will do one of two things. One, have a car and driver meet me and take me to the motel or two, rent a car and drive myself. If I were in Chicago, I would probably have a taxi, as getting around an unknown major city can be very problematic. Usually getting to the show hall is no problem as there will be other exhibitors staying at the motel and they are always willing to "tote" you and your kitten with them. I have found people to be most helpful and kind to strangers who are visiting from out of town. Phoning a member of the Show Committee can result in having a Club member pick you up for the show.
Flying to shows can be very pleasurable as I find it very interesting meeting new people and especially those folks who breed the same breed as mine. Being on the Internet allows one to be introduced to many breeders in advance and getting to meet them is great fun. Even if you are traveling with a "hot kitten" that is winning big time, I've found that there is no resentment if your kitten is winning fair and square. Often times, I've found a resident cheering section of those who have lost to my kitten. This is most rewarding and satisfying. So enjoy yourself, make new friends and remember to be profuse in your thanks and be a gracious winner.
I think the hardest part of campaigning is when it is over. There is a tremendous let down as well as the wonderful high of having achieved your goal with your kitten. I often think that the time between four and eight months will never end, and then before you know it, the kitten's career is over.
During this time of intensive campaigning, one learns so much. What to do and what not to do. I have written this article to act as a guideline to those experienced or not experienced Persian Cat breeders who might be a little too timid to "go for the roses". There is a first time for everything. Just step out on faith, add a few humble prayers and let your dreams take you all the way to that coveted Regional or National win with your precious Persian kitten.