Is it Necessary for Your Breeder to Show Their Cats?
It’s not always easy showing a cat. Cats are not inherently social animals like dogs are. Going to a foreign place with 100, or more, unknown cats crowded into a large room with unfamiliar people while hearing loud noises and tolerating lots of commotion can be very challenging for any cat to cope with. Competing in cat shows costs quite a bit of money, calls for specialized equipment, involves time away from work and home and many times it requires extensive traveling.
For most cat fanciers exhibiting at shows is a hobby. It is enjoyable, even though it can be very competitive. It is an opportunity to meet with people who have similar interests and many make life-long friends. But for breeders, showing is also a vital tool for critically examining our cats and assessing the results of our breeding program from which we can determine what is correct and what we need to improve.
The breeder’s goal is to produce cats that adhere to the breed standard and are structurally sound and healthy. Presenting our cats to the judges at a show gives us an opportunity to have our cats critiqued with a mostly non-biased eye. Yes, sometimes there can be “politics” or “favoritism” displayed at shows, that’s just human nature and happens in most kinds of competition. But over time, after your cats have been evaluated by many judges at different shows, you should have a good idea of how close your breeding program is coming to your goal.
Breeders can become “cattery blind”, which is a cat fancier’s term meaning that we perceive our cats to be perfect and correct. The cat registry organizations, such as CFA and TICA, have written breed standards that were compiled and approved by the breed group. These standards describe, in detail, what each breed should look like, from literally the tips of their ears to the tip of their tail. But in all honesty, each breeder prefers certain characteristics that they tend to breed towards inadvertently or purposefully. One of the ways to make sure a breeder is not getting too far away from the breed standard is to get out of the cattery and into the show ring.
Good cat show judges are trained to know the standard of each breed they critique as well as what good, healthy structure is. A judge is going to examine a cat in detail to make sure it adheres to the breed standard’s requirements and that it doesn’t have any structural faults. A competitor can ask to speak to the judge when their competition is complete to gain the judge’s insight as to the qualities and shortcomings of their cat. Some judges have favorite breeds or breeds that they have produced or have experience with themselves and their input about those breeds can be particularly constructive.
Another useful element of cat shows is being able to compare your cats with other cats of your breed, in real life, not just through photos. Sometimes seeing the actual differences side by side can help a breeder to become aware of qualities they hadn’t noticed before.
Networking with other breeders at the shows is another benefit. Being able to have discussions about the breed characteristics, cat health and sharing knowledge with the other breeders is invaluable. There is always something more to learn.
For a breeder, showing their cats and kittens is a vital part of preserving the integrity of their chosen breed and of being a responsible breeder. Responsible breeding of pedigreed cats preserves the breed’s distinct characteristics and ensures the continuation of predictable physical and behavioral traits for future generations. Ask your breeder what their experience is with cat shows.