When I first decided to enter the space of breeding Maine Coons, I was told that I needed to attend and participate in local cat shows or else no one would take me seriously. Without resistance, I jumped on the cat show train. I entered Omega, my solid white kitten in his very first cat show. The first time you do anything, you're not really able to absorb any details. It's all just a very big picture. It isn't until doing the same thing several times that you start to notice the nuisances.
This entry into my blog is a personal one, and is strictly my opinion about cat shows. That's why I titled it "MY TRUTH" about cat shows. I'm certain that many others have a different opinion and that's quite alright. I write my personal thoughts sometimes so that other people who CAN relate know that they're not alone. A conflicting opinion from the "norm" causes a shit storm sometimes, which I'm ok with. My opinion is most likely not the "norm". I'll share my experience so far.
The People at Local Cat Shows
You'd think that a community of people this small would be warm and welcoming to newcomers. It seems like they'd offer support and leadership. It's totally not like that. As I sat at my bench with Omega trying to figure out what was going on, a complete stranger (fellow Maine Coon Exhibitor) approached me. I thought she was to introduce herself and wish me luck. Instead, she remarked that I had "big balls" by bringing a solid white cat to the show. I had no idea what she was even referring to but I did understand the tonality coming from her. She definitely set the standard for me as to what to expect going forward.
I've now been an exhibitor at four local cat shows. You start to see the same people, the same cats, and get treated the same way. It's a small community and just like high school kids, they have their own cliques. It seems that newcomers get shunned, and even discouraged from succeeding in the shows.
Grooming for a Cat Show
Let me give you an example of my most recent experience at the TICA Ancient City Cat Show in St Augustine Florida. To get Tiffany ready for the local cat show, I gave her 2 baths, blew her dry and brushed her for at least an hour. She has VERY long hair and Maine Coons have a oily coat to start. It's challenging to get the oils out of their coats and ready for the 'show".
In the first ring, the judge made a comment to me that my grooming on Tiffany was sub-par. She even went as far as to say if I would've spent more time on the grooming that she would've won the ring. She suggested that I speak with a peer - another Maine Coon Exhibitor who is good at grooming. This particular lady she referred me to was from North Carolina, and I'm certain that she recognizes me from past shows.
When I asked her for some tips on proper grooming for the Coonies, she acted like I was trying to rip her tongue out of her throat. It was crazy. She told me to "pack" the cat with baby powder and then brush her out. I thought "pack her with baby powder?? That doesn't seem natural". For the rest of the day, I could see her and her group of friends talking under their breath and giving me weird looks.
To sum this section up, the people at the local cat shows just suck. They're not warm or friendly. They don't make new people feel welcome. For me this is a giant reason not to ever want to go back again. I have a big mouth and a bit of a fiery personality, so it takes everything for me to just smile at them and carry on with my life.
For the reason of THE PEOPLE: I've chosen not to show my cats anymore.
The Politics at Cat Shows
Are cat shows political?? Seriously? What kind of disadvantage do Exhibitors have who don't get caught up in the politics of things?
I've been told by a regular, long time Exhibitor the following statements:
- "Judges and other breeders don't like cats with Russian bloodlines"
- "Sponsors get preferential treatment in the rings"
- "It's hard to win as a newbie. You need to establish yourself first with the judges and the other breeders".
- "The Judges prefer black Classic tabbies" (This may be a fact - read my blog post about this)
- "The judges don't like designer colors like silvers and smokes"
So aside from all of the drama, my question is this: If I exhibit a cat that meets the Breed Standard, and is a beautiful example of the Maine Coon breed, then why does it matter how long I've been a breeder? Why does it matter what country the cat's bloodline is from? or what color his coat is? If there is a beautiful cat in front of you, then give the cat recognition.
For the reason of THE POLITICS: I've chosen not to show my cats anymore.
The Risks at Cat Shows
Cats are very sensitive to new environments. Now imagine an environment where there are over 100 cats that could potentially be shedding a contagious virus. Your cat, who is healthy and happy, now has to enter a cage where the cat BEFORE him could have had something contagious. EEEEK. Yes, they spray the cages and the show platform with some type of antibacterial solution. But just the THOUGHT of my cats being exposed to any type of risk that they could bring home to the other cats is sketchy.
I've been at a local cat show where a kitten suddenly had a seizure inside of the show ring. The cat was disqualified and removed from the premises. Why did they bring that kitten to the show? Is winning a title REALLY that important? I clearly remember thinking on that day that this just wasn't worth it.
At the most recent cat show, they made an announcement about a cat that caught a life-threatening virus at a cat show. This freaked me out. And also helped me make the final decision about NOT wanting my cats exposed to anything like that.
For the reason of THE RISKS: I've chosen not to show my cats anymore.
The Rewards of Cat Shows
Each time I'm sitting at my bench at a cat show, I feel like I'm in one of those episodes of TV where the parents make their kids enter beauty contests. The parents are mean and rude to each other and they get really upset if their kid doesn't win. LOL Doesn't sound like the ideal scenario does it?
I've been to 4 cat shows and never had a cat win. It's totally non-emotional for me. I really don't get mad or upset about it. I do see some people getting really upset about their cat not winning. They look so childish while they're pouting and making critical comments about the cat that did win. Yall, I have no time for this. I don't get into this kind of drama. I'm success driven, not drama driven.
My intent for entering cat shows was to put the work in to earn a Championship title for my breeding cats. It's alot of work with grooming, traveling, entering the shows, managing the cats during travel, etc. In the end, though, do I REALLY need to earn a Championship title for my breeding cats? If I learn and am disciplined enough to select breed standard Maine Coon cats for my breeding program, what is the reward of having a Champion? This is the most interesting part about this to me indeed.
What Are Your Thoughts On Cat Shows?
If you're looking to buy a Maine Coon kitten or a potential buyer, what are your thoughts on this? Is it important to you that the parents of your new kitten are Champions? Do you even ask the breeder about the Pedigree history? Do you put more value on a kitten if the parents are Champions? or Grand Champions? Do you know the difference between a Champion and a Grand Champion?
Until I can determine that the rewards of a cat show outweigh the risks, I've chosen not to show my cats anymore.
My Truth and Conclusion about the Cat Show
Showing cats is just one small element of being a breeder of any Pedigree animal. While it's not required, it is highly encouraged by other breeders. The truth of the matter is, however, I'm not sure why. I've attended about 10 local cat shows as a spectator and another 4 as an Exhibitor. I honestly can't find a good justifiable reason to deal with all of the bullshit that comes along with it.
Cats aren't super excited about being removed from their home - their safe space - in the first place. Then putting them in a carrier and driving them across town, or sometimes even 1 or 2 states away, isn't the most fun for them either. Arriving at the event center to spend 8 hours there, with 6-10 strangers handling the cat throughout the day - tossing them in and out of a cage PROBABLY isn't their idea of a good time. Then having to load up and drive home....
Let's face it, local cat shows are for the people there. It's a political beauty pageant for the OWNERS of the cats. Yes, the term "CHAMPION" does take alot of time, money and commitment. I really had a goal to get CHAMPION titles for all of my breeders. So I do commend any owner of a cat who has earned the title of Champion and even more so, Grand Champion! I respect that they've taken the risks and suffered through the drama to make it there.
Health, Temperament, and Type
For me, though, I think I'll choose to keep my cats comfortable and safe in the comfort of their own home. I won't force them to be shoved in and out of the show cages for an entire weekend. Nor will I take the breeding of my Maine Coons ANY LESS seriously than I do now. I put 100% effort, care and diligence into every decision I make as the Guardian of the Sassy koonz Cattery.
My goals as a Maine Coon breeder (in this order) are:
These have been my goals since the beginning and will continue to be my goals for every Sassy Baby. Nowhere on there has one of my goals been "CHAMPION".
I hope this doesn't disappoint any Sassy Koonz fans. <3 We love you all just the same.