Competition fierce, slightly smelly at all-breed cat show

[caption id="attachment_18458" align="alignleft" width="300"] Don Curlione[/caption]Note: See City Paper's full gallery of Cat Show pictures here.The Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium this weekend played host to the Hidden Peak All Breed Cat Fanciers Association Cat Show, and as a crazy cat lady myself, I was excited to join My People for some full on feline fantasy.Visitors were greeted by a collection of rescued kitties up for adoption and a pleasant light cat smell. A bargain $8 admission charge let us into the main exhibition hall where row upon row of cats, clustered by breed, lounged in comfort, some curling up in their litter boxes, others comfortably snoozing in hammocks jimmied up to the ceiling of their soft-sided palaces as they waited for their turn in one of ten all-breed judging rings. Each "ring" was a large cubicle-like space lined with cages around a central table where cats were held and handled by the ring's official judge before being returned to their private abodes to await the next round.For the novice cat show attendee, judging seems arbitrary and confusing, especially when each cat seems to win first place before moving on to the next ring and winning first place again. I pulled up a front row seat for Maine Coon kitten judging, and got the skinny from the owner of a large fluffy white and orange kitten named Wildfire who would go on to win second place in this group. Cats are divided into kittens and cats—8 months is the dividing line—and then into breeds and finally into coat color: monocolor against monocolor, pointed against pointed, tabby against tabby, and so on.[caption id="attachment_18459" align="alignleft" width="300"] Prince Snowball after his mildly successful trip through the agility course.[/caption]Lots of cats were thus competing mostly against themselves or just one or two other cats; the all-breed finals were where competition would really get fierce. Cats are judged against breed standards that vary, and wandering through the rows of cats it became clear that part of showing cats is being a diehard fan of a particular breed, willing to defend it at all costs. It also means unusual levels of cat grooming, including regular baths and even, in the case of one remarkably patient kitty, plucking of fur to keep color lines in tidy order.Most of us don't have show-quality cats, partly because they can cost anywhere from $800 to $3,000, with no guarantee of a National Grand Champion win, but mostly because we get our cats from the cat down the block that had kittens, the cat that showed up on our doorstep and never left, or from an animal shelter; I got my two cats from a shelter in New Orleans after I got dumped and needed something new to pet. That doesn't mean, however, that cat shows are out of reach for the rest of us. This show had household pet division, so next year, get Fluffy spruced up and competition ready.If you fear your cat doesn't have the ability to keep claws in long enough to be poked and prodded by judges without darting away, consider the newest event on the cat show block: Feline Agility Competition. How fast can your cat race through tubes and jump through hoops and climb stairs, led by nothing but a feather on a stick? I met Prince Snowball as he was loaded into his stroller following a less-than-stellar time through the maze, his first try out of three. His owner bemoaned the small size of the cages in the pens that meant her sweet rescue kitty would not be competitive, even in the household pet division. But agility? He'll get it, she insisted, he just needs to practice.The next competition is in White Marsh on September 28-29, 2013. Be there, cat or not, and take in the full sights and smells of more cats than you can sneeze at. For a full listing of cat shows in our region, check out

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