September 20, 2014

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Hundreds primp their pets for weekend cat show

Hundreds of area contestants have been preparing their pets all week long for a beauty contest of the feline variety.

The North Coast Cat Fanciers Allbreed Cat Show, which takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday at Gargus Banquet Center, 1969 North Ridge Road, Lorain, has attracted the entry of 225 purebred cats and will house more than 1,000 spectators.

Judging takes place in eight rings for different categories over the course of both days, culminating with the coveted “Best In Show” award Sunday.

According to Evelyn Szabo, event coordinator and Lorain resident, the contest is different from a dog show because cats do not run or perform tasks. In fact, their feet never touch the ground.

“We set up cages that cats are housed in from the time it enters the show hall,” Szabo said. “Cats go from the owner’s arms to a cage and finally to the judges.”

Food is catered for spectators and participants, who also have the opportunity to receive prizes and free samples. However, it’s not all fun and games. Preparing for a big debut on the judging table is no easy task, just ask Silvio.

His owner, Charlene Rankin of Wellington, began entering her American shorthairs and silver classic tabbies in 1994 and has since seen Silvio become Grand Champion. She said she hopes he’ll do just as well this year and has invested some extra time into prepping him for the contest.

“My cats get bathed every two weeks on a normal basis, but for the show. Silvio got a bath on Saturday and another Thursday night just to make sure he’s in tip top shape,” Rankin said, “He also got his nails clipped, ears cleaned and teeth brushed. Silvio’s a nut about it, he’s really easy going and enjoys the show ring.”

For the average cat owner, such preparation might seem intimidating, given the general feline distaste for being dunked into water. However, Rankin and the rest of the contestants know that good hygiene is an important first step. The second step? Good genes.

The score that each cat receives is based upon the makeup of the cat and how well it conforms to the standard written for a particular breed. Some criteria include head type, body type, coat length, eye set, ear set and bone structure.

Judging takes place on different levels that depend upon the age of the cats and whether or not they are spayed or neutered. As a requirement, the first level is for kittens 4 to 8 months old. They eventually will move on as adults into the second “championship” level for breeding stock or into “premiership” for spays and neuters. However, the cats aren’t the only ones who need to prepare; it takes a lot of work to host such an event.

Szabo used to show her own American shorthairs, but gave up being in the contest and began organizing it. She and her husband now work together each year to construct every detail of this enormous event, right down to the snacks.

Right after each show, the planning starts for next year.

Aside from the hundreds of small details like chairs, cages, food, ribbons and sponsors, the judges of the contest are one of the most important facets. Popular judges, who come from all over the country, need to be scheduled far in advance. In fact, judges for the 2010 show have been booked for three years now, Szabo said.

Still, she keeps coming back for more every year. Her efforts, she said, are for a number of reasons.

“All proceeds from the show are divided up between local rescue organizations and also fund a research project at Cornell Feline University,” Szabo said. “One of the organizations that receives money is Oasis, which is strictly dogs, but we know they need help, too.”

Another reason that Szabo enjoys helping out so much is her love for cats.

“There are 41 breeds of cats that people don’t know about and I love being able to see how the breeds have changed over the years,” Szabo said.

“Owners take so much pride in watching the judge put their cats through the paces. It’s just like their child is performing, and they’re just so proud.”

Contact Jill Mahon at 329-7155 or metro@chroniclet.com.