Interested in cat shows but don't know where to begin? Start here:
  What goes on at the cat show?
  How do the cats compete?
  What are some of the breeds of cats that I'll see?
  Are all of the cats in the show purebred?
  Can I pet the cats and kittens at the show?
  Should I drop off my kids?
  Can I buy a kitten at the cat show?
  Can I show my cat?
  What's the best time to go to the show?
  How does the judging work?
  Are there any special programs to help young people learn about cat care and showing?
  What are the "Best of the Best" awards?
  Who are the cat show's sponsors?
  Will there be food for people at the show?
  Are there other cat shows nearby?
Q: What goes on at the cat show?
A:

The central activity of the cat show is the competition that goes on throughout the weekend. At a typical show there will be between 100 and 200 cats of various ages and types. Experienced judges evaluate each of the competing cats and award points and rosettes to the winners. Each day of the show, there are four to six separate competitions, one in each judging ring. Each competing cat is assigned a number, which is posted on the cage while the cat is in a judging ring.

If you're interested in keeping track of the competition or looking up the details of each cat, you can buy a show catalog at the door. The catalog will also help you learn the terms that describe cat markings and colors.

"Henry, look at that cute long-haired Siamese cat with the gray ear tips."
"Well, Judy, I see from the show catalog that it's a blue lynx point Balinese spay champion."
"Gosh, Henry, I'm sure glad we bought that show catalog."

There are other feline-related activities around the show hall, too. There are a variety of vendors, silent auctions, raffles, and cat rescue organizations with pictures of cats you can adopt.

Do you have a pet cat? The show hall is a great place to buy cat toys, check out the latest in cat food and litter, and find cat-oriented gifts. Are you interested in learning more about cats? Dozens of exhibitors throughout the show hall are eager to help you learn. In addition, the ACFA brochure, The Cat Show, explains more about shows.

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Q: How do the cats compete?
A: 

Contrary to what your imagination might conjure up, there are no head-to-head competitions at a cat show. There are no races, no talent competitions, and no cat fights. Each cat is independently evaluated by each judge, and the judge's scores determine the ranking. Thus the cats don't have to expend any special effort to compete; they like it that way. (Other FAQs below discuss the competition classes and the mechanics of judging.)

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Q: What are some of the breeds of cats that I'll see?
A: 

The breeds you'll see vary from one show to the next, depending on which exhibitors have registered for the show, but you can count on seeing a mixture of long-haired breeds, such as Persians (one of the oldest recognized pedigreed breeds, with long hair and a short nose) and short-haired breeds, such as Siamese. (Remember "We are Siamese if you please; we are Siamese if you don't please" from the Disney movie "Lady and the Tramp"? The Siamese you'll meet at the show are much nicer!)

The American Cat Fanciers Association recognizes nearly 50 different breeds. You can find a list, along with descriptions and photos of some of the breeds, on the ACFA web site.

If you'd like to learn more about any of the cats in the show, ask the exhibitors; they love to talk about their cats.

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Q: Are all of the cats in the show purebred?
A: 

The competition is divided into four groups, of which three are for purebreds. These three are the kitten, cat, and alter (cats that have been neutered or spayed) classes. The fourth class is household pets, and the entries in that class don't have to be purebred. In fact, many of the cats entered in the household pet competition have unknown origins because they were found or adopted from pet rescue organizations. Others competing as household pets do have pedigrees but are unable to compete as purebreds because they don't meet the breed standards.

Competition in the other three classes emphasizes conformance to a breed standard, but since there are no breed standards for household pets, each one may have its own unique look. Each judge can evaluate household pets by whatever criteria he or she wants, but winning household pets are typically healthy, well-groomed, friendly, and playful.

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Q: Can I pet the cats and kittens at the show?
A: 

Those cats and kittens are sooooo cute that you want to reach right into their cages and pet them ... but don't! Many animals, even show cats, are frightened of strangers and may growl or bite if an unfamiliar hand comes at them.

Ask the owners if you may pet their cat. Many will say its okay and will even take the cat out of the cage and hold it while you're petting it. But please don't be offended if the owner turns you down. You may think your hands are clean, but diseases are easily passed from one cat to another on the hands of well-meaning admirers. And if you've just finished changing the oil in your car and want to pet that gorgeous long-haired cat on its way to a show ring ... don't even think about it.

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Q: Should I drop off my kids?
A:  That depends on the age and maturity of your kids. There is very little active entertainment at a cat show, and young children can easily become restless and bored. The show is for the display and competition of cats, and anyone running or making loud noises can spook some cats.  Well-behaved children are welcome, but adults with unruly children will be asked to remove those children from the show hall. 
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Q: Can I buy a kitten at the cat show?
A:  Yes! The cat show is an excellent place to meet reputable breeders, see the kittens they have for sale, and buy one. If you're interested but there are no kittens of the breed you prefer, you can get business cards from breeders who will let you know when kittens become available.
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Q: Can I show my cat?
A:  Yes! ACFA has prepared a brochure to help you get started. Whether you have purebred cats or household pets, showing cats can be an enjoyable hobby. And if your cat doesn't bite the judge, he or she will probably earn some winner's ribbons at the show!
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Q: What's the best time to go to the show?
A: 

If you're interested in buying a kitten, start early on the first day, so you can have plenty of time to check kitten availability and make up your mind.

If you're interested in seeing a wide variety of cats, go any time, but try to avoid late Sunday afternoon. By the end of the second day, many of the cats are tired and will have retreated to the corners of their cages for long catnaps.

If you want to see the winners in the judging rings, any time from mid-morning to late afternoon will have you at the show hall while a final is going on.

Some shows include a "Best of the Best" presentation. If you want to see the top cat in each class at a show that includes these special awards, plan to be present at the end of the Sunday show when these awards are presented.

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Q: How does the judging work?
A: 

Throughout the day, each judge will evaluate every cat in the competition. Owners bring their cats from the benching cages to the cages in the competition rings when their numbers are posted. The judge takes each cat out of its judging cage, puts it on a small raised table, and examines it, then gives awards that include best of breed and best of each color within the breed.

After judging an entire class, the judge gives the ring clerk the numbers of the top competitors in that class, the clerk posts the numbers over the judging cages, and you'll hear the announcer say something like, "Kitten finals have been posted in ring three. Please check your numbers." That's the signal for the exhibitors to see if their entries made it into the final. Those who have cats in the final move them once again from the benching cages to the judging cages.

Each day of four-ring show, rings one through three are generally "allbreed" rings, including both long- and short-haired cats, and there will be ten finalists in each class. The fourth ring in this show is a "specialty" ring, and the classes are subdivided into long- and short-haired subclasses, with five finalists in each subclass. (That's as far as the subdivision goes. Unlike dog shows which have, for example, a subclass for "working dogs", there's no subclass for "working cats". I wonder why.)

The judge presents the finalists from the lowest to the highest (10th up through first for allbreed rings, 5th through first for specialty rings), commenting on the characteristics of each cat that earned it a place in the final. The points each cat earns for finaling contribute toward winning regional and international awards.

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Q: Are there any special programs to help young people learn about cat care and showing?
A: 

The Junior ACFA program does just that! Junior ACFA is a group for children and youth up to age 18 who love cats, want to learn more about cats, and want to participate in the sport of showing cats. Junior ACFA members have many opportunities to develop positive character traits such as kindness, fairness, caring, citizenship, trustworthiness, responsibility, and respect; as well as leadership and communications skills while learning about and participating in showmanship, cat grooming, feline health care, and sportsmanship. Click here for a brochure in PDF format that explains Junior ACFA's Showmanship Program.

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Q: What are the "Best of the Best" awards?
A:  Some cat shows include "Best of the Best" awards. The sponsoring club decides in advance which categories will be awarded. After the last final has finished on Sunday, the master clerk totals up each competitor's points for the entire weekend to determine the highest-scoring animal in each of the categories to be awarded. Each of those cats receives a special "Best of the Best" award at a ceremony in ring one. It's as close as we come to the dog fancy's "Best in Show" award.
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Q: Who are the cat show's sponsors?
A:  Each show is presented by a cat club affiliated with the American Cat Fanciers Association. If you're reading this online, you're already on the ACFA North Central Region web site, but if you're reading a printed copy of this information, you can find more information online at http://www.acfanorthcentralregion.org.
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Q: Will there be food for people at the show?
A:  Most cat shows include food vendors in the show hall, so you don't have to leave the hall to get a bite for lunch.
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Q: Are there other cat shows nearby?
A: 

This web site includes the dates and locations for upcoming shows in the ACFA's North Central Region. For a complete list of upcoming ACFA-sponsored cat shows, visit the ACFA web site.

In addition to cat shows sponsored by ACFA, you may find shows sponsored by other organizations near you.

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