(or, instructions for taking a cat to its first show)First of all, relax. It's a show, and it's fun. You have a pretty cat, and you want people to see and admire it, and the Household Pet class is a celebration of the variety and beauty of cats that have made their ways into our homes and hearts.LAYING THE GROUNDWORKBefore you get into the nitty-gritty of what to do at the show, let's lay some groundwork on how to get your cat to the point where it will not freak out at the show.If you go to a cat show, you'll see that the judging is conducted on a table with a vertical scratching post on one side. The cat is placed on the table, and the judge handles it. If it plays with toys that the judge waves, so much the better. If it bites the judge or flattens itself in horror, so much the worse. (Most judges know and love cats and are gentle and capable, and the cats can sense that. They will not terrify a cat deliberately.)So, how to get your cat to the point where it isn't the one flattening itself in terror? 'Show' it beforehand. Take a vertical scratching post (a sisal-covered post on a platform), put at on a table that's just above waist height (kitchen countertop height is good). Put some toys there. Now go to your cat and say “We are having a show!”. Be matter-of-fact about it. Carry the cat to the table with scratching post, set it on the table, and pick up a toy (one of those wands with sparkly things at the end, or else a pheasant feather does well). Wave the toy in front of the cat. (Keep one hand on the cat.) Don't let the cat jump down. Pick up the cat and look at it. Hold it in your two hands and look at it head on (do it for a brief second) and talk quietly to it. Stroke it. Now lift the cat and set it down. If you have a small cage or carry-case that you can put the cat into before and after its table session, so much the better.This action should last no more than ten minutes – six is better – but you should do it daily. The tables at the show halls are wiped down with disinfectant, and I should know what they use, but don't. Spray a very little on your countertop. Have people handle your cat. If you have visitors, ask them to handle your cat. The point of this is to get it used to the motions of being judged, so that it's first time on an honest-to-goodness judging table in a ring is very much like other experiences it has had.The next thing you should do, as much as you can, is put your cat in a carrier (www.petedge.com has some that are mesh and look like over-the-shoulder satchels) and take it with you to noisy places like Wal-marts or bus stations (for goodness' sake, though, keep the cat with you at all times and don't put it down). Train or bus stations are the best because they have constant announcements, (think of show halls). Petcos or Petsmarts are good because the cat can smell other animals. Be reassuring to your cat, but don't make a big deal of it. Treat it as business as usual.Do this as much as you can, and have the mock shows as much as you can.ENTERING THE SHOW – CAGES AND CURTAINS AND PADS (oh, my!)When you are filling out a CFA entry form, usually online, you will see that it has a part near the bottom right where you are asked if you want a double cage. Cages at shows are barred items that measure 22” high by 22” wide by 44” long. These are 'double' cages, and if you have only one cat and want to occupy one, you usually have to pay another $20 in addition to the entry fee. If you do not, then you get half that cage (22” x 22” x 22”) by swinging the built-in partition out and dividing the cage into two parts. BEFORE THE SHOW: GROOMINGBefore the show, clip your cat's toenails front and back. Your cat cannot be shown at a CFA show if it is declawed. . I don't know about the other organizations. Your cat should be bathed before a show. It isn't a big deal to bathe a cat (as I have learned) but the first time you may wish to take your cat to a professional groomer, especially if it has lived its life happily bathing itself up to this moment. If you have a longhair, they will deal with it. If you have a shorthair, tell them you need to have the coat conditioned, and ask if you can bring some Pantene Pro-V conditioner. Shorthairs should be bathed no less than three days before the show (they have 'bad hair days' afterward); longhairs should be bathed shortly before the show, say about two days.WHAT TO BRING TO THE SHOW (in no particular order)Bring a dish for water Bring a bottle of the water that your cat is used to drinking.Bring some of its food, and maybe a jar of meat baby food as a treat.If you have purchased a single cage, you need: - a 22” x 22” piece of cardboard of plywood (cover it with terrycloth or fabric) to set up against the partition so that your cat doesn't have to look at another strange cat. - a nice towel big enough to cover the sides and back of the cage. This helps with warmth and will help the at feel secure. I would suggest putting the towel you plan to use in places where you cat likes to sleep so that it gets familiar smells on it. - A pad for the bottom is a good touch. If your cat has a small sleeping pad, good. Otherwise do with this pad what I suggest for the towel.A soft brush (think baby brush)Some cotton pads (to clean the eyes – use water that you brought)A small litter box (you can usually buy one at the show). Litter is provided free.A hand towel (keep reading)A wide-toothed comb. Human quality is fine, but make sure the ends of the teeth aren't sharp. If they are, then file them with an emery board so that they won't irritate the skinSomething for yourself to drink and eat. Pepcid or Mylanta if you are determined to eat show hall food.AT THE SHOWOnce at the show you will check in with your cat (which must be in a carrier), and will be given a catalog. This will have all the various cats in the show listed by Kitten, Championship, Premiership and Household Pet. They are listed alphabetically by breed starting with longhairs and then alphabetically by name, so that Caricature's Frida Kahlo, a sable Burmese, came after Burmystic's Kiki, also a Sable Burmese. Household pets are considered a 'breed' and they are listed alphabetically by name. You will see a number beside the name. That is the number assigned to your cat. No one will laugh at you if you write it on your wrist so that you don't forget it. It will also say what row you are 'benched' (seated) at. You stroll down the row and look at the empty cages. Usually your name will be on a card in the cage.You will also get a schedule that shows what classes will be judged in each ring. You can sort of figure out which will come first, but not always. HHP = Household PetsWhat to do next? Get your cage set up and arranged and then put your cat into it and let it settle in. Put the litter box in there. (At shows, it's pretty much taken for granted that you tend to your cat(s) first before you eat, drink, use the bathroom or whatever.) Look around and notice your neighbors. They'll probably be busy grooming or fussing.So… You're all set up. I'd suggest strolling around the hall to see where each ring is. Notice where the bathrooms are (very important).WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CAT SOMEHOW GETS LOOSE IN THE SHOW HALLSo, you go to get your cat out of the cage and it wriggles free and goes tearing off. This happens all the time and people are prepared for it. You shout ”CAT LOOSE! and point in the direction it took off in. Others will stand up and start pointing, and you are expected to go quickly after the cat. People will close any doors and everyone will be looking for the cat and will tell you where it is. Your job is to go quietly, retrieve it, speaking soothingly to it, and take it back to the cage. Don't treat it as a big deal and no one will be traumatized.THE SHOW UNDERWAYSo, you're sitting there with your cat and you hear an announcement: Ring Three will be holding a brief grooming call for household pets.You get up, take your small hand towel (you did remember to bring it, didn't you?) and stroll to the ring that is having the Household Pet Class. Plop the towel down on the chair that is the closest to front and center that you can get, then go back to your benching area and get your cat out. Check under its tail for fecal matter and wipe it off carefully with one of your cotton pads (wouldn't hurt to practice this, either). Look for gunky eyes and brush off any dust. A once over with a chamois or soft brush or comb is a good idea. When you hear the announcement of your cat's number or else the entire Household Pet class, take your cat out of the cage – it works best if you lift it in the cage and bring it out back first - then go to the ring with your cat. (See below)Cats, as we know, are stealth predators, and they like to be able to hide. While they are very effective predators, they are also the prey of other predators such as owls, hawks, fishers, coyotes, dogs. You get the picture. These predators come at cats from above, so be aware that cats like to have finite spaces above them. Watch a cat moving in the outdoors and you'll see that it tends to stay in cover. Show halls are often cavernous and open, and if you can remember to keep your cat focusing on you and not the wide open spaces, it will keep the cat happier; it trusts you. For that reason, I suggest having the towel or curtains that can be hung over the cage (for warmth as well, as I said above). And I suggest that you carry your cat against you as you go to the ring.Your cat's number will be on a card above an open cage, the card being pink if it's a female and blue if a male. Put your cat in there and close the door. Cats also don't see really well (for detail). They can see motion, but they focus at about six feet. This is why you want to sit front and center – so that your cat can see you when it is on the table. Do not chirp to it or wave a toy around when it's on the table. If you do, warts will spring out on your lips and your fingers will turn bright green. The judge will certainly direct a glare at you that will blister your retina, and your fellow exhibitors may also stab or throttle you. Enjoy the judging. The judge may ask you something about your cat as it is being judged, or else when the rosettes are awarded, so be prepared. Judging is based on the individual judge's perception of the beauty and uniqueness of your cat. It's nice to hear the admiring comments and see that others admit that your cat is an utter darling. (Hang the rosettes on the outside of the cage)I've tried to be humorous with these instructions, but I've also tried to be factual. Showing is fun, and I've made friends and had a good time. I've marched happily away from show halls with ribbons everywhere, and I've trudged out of there with nothing. It's a sport, and sometimes you don't win.The point is that your cat and you have time together, and you get to share its beauty and uniqueness with others. I do think 'pet' cats (whether pedigree or not) pick up on the fact that this is something you want to do, and they go along with it because they love you.Have fun!
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