After a pandemic-driven hiatus last year, scores of cats and their masters – well, at least owners – will be descending next weekend on the Mesa Convention Center for Arizona’s largest cat show.
Presented by the Phoenix Cat Fanciers, the show runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 11 and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 12 at Mesa Convention Center Building C, 263 N. Center St. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 seniors/military, $8 children 3-12. People can find a $1-off coupon at phxfeline.com.
In addition, All About Animals Rescue will offer cats for adoption and dozens of vendors selling cat-related products also will be on hand.
The show is a popular gathering for professional exhibitors, vendors and cat-loving spectators – and for good reason.
There are dozens of breeds from tiny cats to Maine Coons that can weigh in at over 25 pounds.
A cat show is composed of a number of separate, concurrently running, individual shows held in the various judging rings throughout the hall. Each ring is presided over by a different judge who has spent years training for the role, one they often repeat at shows around the country and the world.
Every cat is judged according to a written standard for its breed (with the exception of the Household Pet Class, for which there is no written standard). The standard is part blueprint because it describes the ideal specimen for the breed and part constitution because it can be revised by the members of the breed council.
“A breed standard is precise enough to allow judges to evaluate cats accurately, and flexible enough to leave room for differences in interpretation between judges of keen eye and good intention,” according to the national Cat Fanciers Association.
A spectator guide is available to help visitors understand the different breeds’ distinctive characteristics.
There were scores of categories and sub-classes such as Blue Point Female Birman, Balinese-Javanese and seven varieties of Persian cats.
For the most part, though, members largely own purebred felines.
And some have raised dozens of litters of cats since the 1990s.
Visitors also will be able to peruse yearbooks of prior years’ national and world champion cats.
“One of the requirements of getting into the judging program is your commitment and knowledge of a minimum of one breed,” one judge explained.
She said most breeds “are unique because of their specific things attributed” to standards set by a council of breeders “who work to define and improve their breeds.”
“For example, the American Curl has ears that curl toward the back of their head,” she said. “The degree and amount of curl is defined as to what is desirable in that. Other attributes for the American Curl are the profile and the length of body.”
Some competitions are more fun than serious: For example, there are Best Christmas Costume entrants that, like their more regal counterparts, will be gently lifted from their individual cage and placed on a small lab table, where a judge will hold it, pet it and eyeball it carefully.
Some contestants aren’t all that thrilled to be wearing elf caps, red coats with bells and even Nutcracker tutus.
A judge will take each cat through a small set of paces that includes waving a wand in front of them to see if they’d get playful. Sometimes, most are in the mood to bat the wand.
Judges say the biggest change they have seen is in efforts by breeders to create cats of different colors. Because a council writes the standards for any breed, the breeders “want to see those colors in the championship ring.”
The Cat Fanciers Association takes the work of judges seriously, producing annual yearbooks that are an inch thick or bigger that are filled with portraits of cats that won a championship medal.
Achieving that status usually involves attending a number of shows – often around the country – and accumulating points that entitle their cats to an increasingly higher status in each subsequent competition.
Racks of medals in different colors and designs will be on display throughout the Mesa Convention Center.
“I think people enjoy working toward a goal and in the Cat Fancy, that goal is to produce and show exceptional cats that meet or exceed the standards,” one judge said. ”I also think people enjoy the spending time with their friends and producing quality examples of their breeds.”
There are only three Cat Fanciers Association affiliates in Arizona, all based in the Valley.
Besides showing off their cats, competing for medals and sometimes working to create new breeds, members also give back to the community by providing support to a broad array of animal rescue organizations.