A cool cat wearing a different hat

As an old(er) cat who does not mind learning new tricks, KAREN WATKINS stretches herself to do things she might not usually attempt, such as judging a cat show.

Western Province Cat Club (WPCC) chairwoman Adri Swart said they had a record turn-out of exhibitors and visitors on

My task was to judge the 18 domestic cats, and, boy, was it hard work.

Ex-chairman Ian Moore, of Tokai, said that as a judge of domestic exhibits, I was what is called a celebrity judge.

“We don’t often have someone from outside to do judging,” he said.

“I had the cat-astrophic task of choosing only one cat from the domestic short-haired, long-medium haired, and kitten exhibits and also the most laid back cat.

Furrtunately, the other judges and stewards agreed that it is difficult to judge them. With pedigree cats they work to a point system.

The pawsome news is that all of my cats received a first award ribbon and a certificate. At the end of the day, the winners went forward for best domestic on show.

Ian, who has been a WPCC member for 40 years, had sent some guidelines before the show. Among them: “May or may not have a tail.

“No penalty to be applied for kinked or broken tails” and “no penalties should be attached to squint eyes, kinked tails, extra toes or the like”. Fur-real!

A scale of 100 points is divided into 30 each for condition, presentation and temperament with 10 points for eye and coat colour and pattern. Purr-fect? No. All 18 cats and kittens were beautifully groomed, their coats shiny as were their noses and eyes. Some were a little overweight but, hey, who am I to judge?

Some were timid, jittery, anxious, in fact one was so scared that he drew blood – mine, hiss. Others had catitude, stretched necks checking out the activity, possibly searching for friends or family. As for coat pattern, Grand Master Bobby McGee, a brown tabby, had the most pawsome markings with a ridge of spots down his spine with stripes leading from them.

One cat stretched out telling me it was a purrfect day to be lying on his bed in the sun. “Don’t you know cats need 23 hours sleep each day,” he exclaimed.

As for the oriental red marble tabby on the end of the row, he said that as the first-born of this pedigree in South Africa he should not be with domestic cats. The snob.

But it was the sad tails that got to me. The cat with no tail would not say how he lost it, only that his testicles had been cut off after an elastic band was tied around them.

Another male neutered cat said he and his sister were kicked around a field in Retreat like a football.

But at the end of the day, with a silky soft face nudging my neck, serenading purrfect song, the point system ended up in the litter tray as he purr-suaded my paw-sitive decision.

Just as I thought my job was done, Ian sent me back to judge the best decorated cage – only two but also not easy. It was time to admire pedigree felines while donning my day-job hat to take pictures of some 15 breeds, excluding domestics, in cages. Waving wands of feathers, furry stuff and bells to catch the cats’ attention, judges held cats high to examine them.

One of the judges, Hazel King of Diep River, said becoming a judge was a long process and involved a lot of training.

“It starts with stewarding, looking after the cats and judges at the show.

“If the steward shows interest and aptitude, they are invited to an interview which may lead to acceptance on a training course,” she said.

The course includes the sections that are relevant to all breeds of cats: colours, desirable and undesirable features, genetics, and show rules. The trainee judges are expected to know each standard verbatim.

“In each section they write an exam and then do a practical exam and then probation before being allowed to judge. With the standards for various breeds stretching to 150 pages, they have to know what they’re doing.

Onto a more serious topic of when to neuter and spay. Hazel says truckloads of cats and kittens are killed weekly. It is a myth to wait six months before having your feline spayed or neutered and welfare organisations suggest getting it done between 10 and 12 weeks, at the latest four months. Apart from the problem of an overpopulation of strays and feral cats, your pet will live longer and be a much better cat.

Well, now I’m off to have a catnap.

* Western Province Cat Club is hosting the national Cat of the Year show, which will take place at the River Club on Saturday August 12. Call Adri Swart at 082 405 5437 or visit www.wpcatclub.co.za for more information.