There are more than just fancy cats at the annual Wichita Cat Fancy show.
Sure, exotic breeds such as the hairless Sphynx, tiny Singapura and gigantic Maine Coon will get most of the oohs and ahhs.
But household cats get their due, too. Organizer Mary Beth Wegerle says the judging of that category is one of her favorite parts of the event.
“They’ll ask each owner, ‘Where did you get your cat?’ By the end of the show, you know each person’s story, whether they got it at a rescue (shelter),” Wegerle said. “Everybody’s rooting for a different person.”
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The show takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Cotillion. It’s put on by a club called Wichita Cat Fancy, which is affiliated with the Cat Fanciers’ Association, with Skaer Veterinary Clinic as a sponsor.
Wegerle said the show has been staged for at least 45 years, which is when she first showed a cat there as a 7-year-old.
“It’s a Wichita tradition,” she said. “Wichita loves their cats, they love their cat shows.”
About 85 felines representing 30 different breeds are expected to be at the show. They’ll be pampered with bottled water, baby food and hair dryers before being brought individually to each of a half dozen judges. Most of the judges, who are sanctioned by the CFA, fly in from around the country. They evaluate the cats throughout the weekend.
Additionally, there will be cats up for adoption from two rescue groups, vendors selling cat food, toys, litter boxes and apparel, and an information booth for people dealing with feral cats.
Jeff Janzen is the one local judge. He’s a Caldwell resident and Wichita pharmacist who has been judging cats for 15 years and has owned them longer.
Janzen said he got his first feline about 25 years ago, inheriting it when his brother decided it wasn’t the perfect pet to take to college.
“I took the cat to have shots, and the vet said it’s a perfect cat, I should show the cat,” he said. “That’s how I got started. At one time, I had quite a few cats. Too many to count.”
Today, he’s pared his stable down to a Norwegian Forest Cat named Bo (short for Beaujolais) who “looks like a Maine Coon but not as big,” and an American Short Hair named Troy who won a national ribbon last year.
Janzen said he’s already judged cats in Portland, Ore., and Florida this year. Most shows pay his expenses and a small stipend. “You’re not going to get rich doing it. It isn’t like dog shows. They make a lot more money.”
Janzen said he judges every pure breed against a hundred-point standard based on their features.
“It’s just subjective,” he said. “It’s our opinion of how that cat meets the standard. If every judge thought the same thing, you’d only need one judge.”
The shows serve an important purpose beyond gratifying the egos of cat owners and, perhaps, the animals themselves.
“It gets the breed out there in front of people,” Janzen said. “Everybody knows what a Siamese is. But if you talk about an Egyptian Mau or a Singapura, a lot of people don’t know what they are. If they come in and fall in love with them, it only promotes the breed.”
As for judging household cats, he said, “It’s more of a beauty contest than judging to a standard. To be honest, if I see a small child bringing a cat up, I’m more apt to use their cat in the final because it’s a little kid.”
Wegerle, secretary of the local cat club, said the group only hopes to make enough money from the show to stage another one next year.
She plans to enter her cat, Possum, in the household category. She rescued it as a feral kitten and loves her “classic tabby” with green eyes.
“I’ve always loved cats,” Wegerle said. “I don’t know why. I think because they’re so independent, but they’re so loving. They return that love to you.”
If you go
Wichita Cat Fancy Show
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg
Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12 and seniors (55-plus), $10 for a two-day family pass