It takes a special kind of person — and cat — to show at the Wichita Cat Fancy cat show.
This popular show returns to The Cotillion this weekend.
At the show, more than 104 fancy cats will be picked up, stretched out and judged by trained professionals — all in a quest to be catapulted (no pun intended) to national stardom.
The Wichita Cat Fancy show doesn’t stand in isolation — it’s part of a nationwide cat-show circuit by the Cat Fanciers Association, which gives awards to the top-scoring cats annually.
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Every weekend, professional cat breeders travel to a different cat show in the United States to show off their cat — which then racks up points based on how well they are judged at those shows.
Wichita is one of three cat shows scheduled for this weekend in the United States alone, according to the association.
There’s little difference between cat shows and similar events like dog shows and horse shows, said Brian Pearson, one of the association judges who will be in Wichita this weekend.
“It’s a sense of competition — you create what you think is a perfect specimen and you want to go out and compete against other perfect specimens to see who will achieve the highest rankings for the year,” Pearson said.
Though there’s a competitive aspect to the show for some, for many it’s just a fun time to celebrate felines.
As per usual, there will be a special category where household cats can compete for a local bragging rights.
And if you’re looking to adopt a cat, three different local rescue groups — PALS, Joy Animal Rescue and LAPP — will be at the show with adoptable cats.
The show is open to anyone who loves cats — and fun activities will be scheduled throughout, including a “cat costume contest.” Certain cats will be labeled “Pet Me Cats,” which signals the cat’s willingness to be stroked by show attendees.
The Wichita Cat Fancy Show is scheduled from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at The Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 3-12 and seniors 55+, or $10 for a family pass. One paid admission grants access to both days of the show.
We asked Pearson, the Cat Fanciers Association judge, some questions about life on the cat-show circuit — responses below have been lightly edited for length.
Where does a win at Wichita rank in the national cat-show circuit?
“Wichita is part of a geographic region called the Gulf Shore, an 11-state region, and it always puts on a show once a year that attracts people from all over the United States to come in and exhibit.
“The bigger number of entries you get, the more competitors of prestige want to come and compete. If it’s a lower number of entries, we’ll still have quality cats, but they will be cats that are competing for a regional win, to be in the top 25 of the Gulf Shore, rather than to be in the top 25 nationally. Instead of Miss Universe, they’re becoming Miss Kansas.”
Who are some of the top-ranked cats scheduled to compete in Wichita this weekend?
The cats are judged in different categories — there’s the championship category, for cats that aren’t spayed or neutered, and there’s the altered category, for cats that are.
Rocket, a Colorpoint Shorthair from the Kansas City area, will be competing in the altered category. He’s in the top 25 nationally.
Goofy, a European Burmese from Louisiana, will be competing in the championship category. He’s currently ranked No. 19 in the nation.
Also be on the lookout for a Devon Rex in the show currently ranked No. 14 in the nation and a Ragdoll who is currently No. 29 in the country.
Is there a “season” for cat shows, and if so where does Wichita fall?
“Our season begins the first weekend in May and then it ends the last weekend in April,” meaning the Wichita Cat Fancy Show is near the end of the annual season.
“That is the drama season. In the last three, four months, everyone is pushing toward that finish line. Some cats are still loving it and having fun and others are starting to crack. There are some new contenders that are coming out strong.
“It’s always a soap opera.”
What does it take for your cat to compete for a national title?
“It’s always an endurance race — how long will your specimen tolerate traveling weekend after weekend before it gets tired, crabby, cranky, before it gets tired of total strangers picking it up and turning it around?
“It requires a specific personality of cat ... that can tolerate all of that travel, that stress, that handling and still have fun and enjoy it. That’s why the Backstreet Boys break up, because it’s too much. After so many years they can’t take it. The same thing is true with a cat at one of these shows — after so many years, they let the owner know I’m not having fun.
“When your specimen starts telling you I’m not having fun, you think, ‘Gosh, the parade could be over for me soon.’ And that happens to a lot of cats who start out the year strong. After 36 weekends, a cat says I’m done and the owner is thinking, ‘We’re so close!’ but it’s just not meant to be, because the cat can’t take it any longer.”
Pearson estimates if a breeder is trying to win a national championship, they’ll spend between $7,000 and $15,000 traveling to shows in that quest.
What happens if your cat does win it all?
“What do you get out of a national win? You get the bragging rights, the notification you are one of the national winners for that year, and hopefully it will improve your kitten sales. (You hope) people will want to buy kittens that are out of Goofy, because Goofy was a national-winning European Burmese, but it doesn’t always generate $7,000 to $15,000 to pay back all of the money that you put into it.”