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Instructions for First -Time Exhibitors

Finding a Show

Attend a Cat Show:

One way to decide if you want to enter your cat in a show is to attend one to see what happens and to learn about showing a cat. This gives you the opportunity to meet with the exhibitors, watch how cats are judged, how and when they get to the judging rings, and to watch how the exhibitors groom their cats during the show. Cat show flyers are handed out at shows, and you may notice them on top of exhibitors' cages in their benching area. Benching is a term that describes the cages which owners are assigned to house their cats during the entire show.

When you attend a show and pay the visitor entry fee, you can ask for a particular breeder's benching area at the show, or if the show has benching by breeds. Talk to the exhibitors or the show manager to find out when the next show will be taking place and if you can have a flyer for an upcoming show. The exhibitor may give you their flyer because the information is also available online at the various cat association web sites.

Check the Cat Association Web Site:

The Web Sites have show schedules you can check to determine when and where shows will be held. Most have links within the schedules to the show flyer, which also have links to online entry forms for Household Pets and Pedigreed Cats. You will also need to e-mail the entry clerk at the address listed on the flyer or on the web site schedule to be sure your entries are received.

The Houston Cat Club, incorporated in 1949, is affiliated the Cat Fanciers Association:

Is your Household Pet Cat or Kitten eligible for entering for competition at a cat show?

Kittens must be 4 months of age to compete. If your cat will be eight months old on or before the first day of the show, then it is considered an adult, and must be spayed or neutered. All cats and kittens should be current on their shots, and you should bring a copy of their rabies certificates.

It is almost impossible to determine how your cat or kitten will react to the environment of a show hall and being carried to and from rings past other cats they have never seen before – until you get there. Practice with getting your cat familiar with being confined in a carrier – take it for short drives or go to Pets Mart or your Vet. If your pet is aggressive towards strangers or becomes uncontrollable after being confined you may not have a good experience and it may need more training before it is ready to tackle a cat show.

Household Pets do not have written standards, and the judges will be looking for clean, well groomed coats, clean ears, clear eyes and good personalities.

Pedigreed Cats have written standards against which your cat will be evaluated against that description and against the other cats within your cat's breed, age, and sex-including spays and neuters. The breeder from whom you obtained your pedigreed cat should have provided you with the registration information needed for showing your cat.

Entering your Cat or Kitten

You should enter your cat about two weeks before the show. The entry forms will ask you for information about the cat(s) you will be entering, so the entry clerk will know into which category your cat(s) should be placed in the judges' book and the show catalogue – age, color, coat length – and to reserve a space for you in the benching area. The entry forms ask for information about you and your e-mail address so that you can be contacted if necessary; online entries will generate an auto response. You can download the entry form from the web site or go online and enter using the links on the web site or when directed to the show flyer.

The show flyer will indicate the fees for entries, extra caging space, and most have reduced fees for entering multiple cats for the same owner. Some accept Pay Pal, or you can mail your entry fees to the entry clerk designated for that show. Once you have entered your cat, you are obligated to pay the fee whether or not you bring your cat to the show. Each half show cage will allow one adult or two kittens. If you are entering one cat, you might want to order an extra half cage. This will give your cat more room for its bed, food, water and litter box.

If you are having trouble filling out an entry form, the Entry Clerk can help you. If you are showing a Household Pet for the first time, you may want to send the entry clerk a description, or even a photograph, of your cat so that it will be classified correctly. The entry clerk will need to know the color, pattern, and whether the cat is longhair or shorthair. In general, if your cat has long fur on its tail, then it will be classified as a longhair.

Your check for the entry fees should be made payable to the cat club, not to the entry clerk. After the Entry Clerk has processed your entry you will receive a confirmation by mail, unless you have entered online – in which case you will receive an auto response if you have entered successfully. If you have not received a confirmation at least one week before the show, you should contact the Entry Clerk to make sure that your entry was received. When mailing your fee to the entry clerk, you should print a copy of the auto response feedback you will receive when you enter online. This will insure that the entry clerk matches your check to your cat's entry.

If you wish to have your cage near someone else's at the show, put that person's name in the "benching request" space on the entry form the show management cannot guarantee that all benching requests can be honored, but they will make every effort to arrange the floor plan to satisfy as many requests as possible.

Preparing for the Show

Before bringing your cat to the show, you must make certain that it is clean and healthy. The cat should be free of internal and external parasites, all shots should be up to date, and the cat should test negative for the Feline Leukemia Virus.

Every cat should have a bath before the show. People who show longhair cats often bathe them one or two days before the show. People with shorthair cats bathe them several days before the show to give the coat time to regain its shine and resilience. After the bath, you should concentrate on cleaning the inside of the ears, using cotton swabs. Cleanliness is particularly important for household pets - the judges can spot a dirty ear right away.

The day before the show, all the cat's claws should be clipped, front and back. It is only necessary to clip the tips, so that they are not sharp. Do not trim into the pink area – this supplies the blood to that area and you can harm your cat by cutting too close to the base of the nail. If you are not familiar with trimming your cats claws, you should ask your veterinarian or their vet technician to demonstrate how to safely trim those claws. Try this procedure yourself after they demonstrate this to you while you are there.

Here is a general list of items you should bring with you to the show

  • Rabies Certificate

  • Cat food, dishes and water

  • Cat Bed and or towel to lie on in the benching cage..

  • Cat toys.

  • Cage curtains and coverings for top and bottom of cage – see dimensions below.

  • Clothespins or binder clips for securing the cage curtains.

  • Brushes and combs for grooming.

  • Chamois cloth (for shorthair cats).

  • Nail clippers.

  • If desired: Cornstarch or baby Powder (for longhair cats) & texturizer spray for all coats; if you have conversed with breeders about grooming while attending another show, follow their advice.

  • Cotton swabs and ear cleaner.

  • Paper towels or kleenex

Show Cage Information

The benching cages provided by the cat clubs are made of wire at the top and all sides, but with an open bottom set on wooden platforms. There is a door on both sides of the front of the cage. All cats or kittens entered in the show must be kept in these cages during the show. Show rules do not permit cats or kittens to be kept in carrier cages in the show hall. Show rules also specify that no more than two kittens or one cat may be kept in a single-size benching cage.

A single-size cage is 22" (w) x 22" (d) x 25" (h). You should bring a litter box small enough to fit in this space and still allow room for your cat. If your cat will feel cramped living in a space this small for two days, then you should get a double cage when you send in your entry form. A double cage measures approximately 50" wide.

You are required to bring a covering for the top and sides of your benching cage. The covering must be adequate to prevent your cat from seeing or coming in contact with the cats in adjacent cages. Generally, you will want to have a covering for the bottom of the cage, to make it more comfortable, and the covering may hang over the platform in front to provide a covered area for your supplies. Cage coverings can be elaborate, but may also be as simple as a two large flat bed sheets, attached to the cage by clips.

There are also show cages that can be purchased at the shows, animal specialty stores, or online that have zippered doors. They come in various styles and colors – and prices – and have tops, sides, fronts and bottoms that you can clean and disinfect after each show. This is convenient and insures that the surfaces your cat touches in your benching area are clean. Typically if you enter a single cat and are using the larger show cage you will be required to pay for an extra half cage space.

At the Show

Most shows are two-day shows, Saturday and Sunday, some with different judges each day. You should get to the show hall early on Saturday to give yourself time to check in, find your benching area and set up your cage before the judging begins. The flyer or the confirmation will list the check-in time. As you enter the show hall, you will find a table where you will be checking in. Give your name to the show officials, and they will give you any paperwork required for entering the show hall and provide you with a catalog with your cat's entry number. Bring your confirmation letter with you to the show, in case there are any questions or problems. If you have checked in on Saturday, you usually don't need to check in again on Sunday. Confirm this when you first check in!

There is usually a "benching chart" provided at the Entry Clerk's desk. This is the floor plan that will show you the "address", where your cage should be set up. If there is a problem with your cage or location, do not change cages or move your cage without approval from the show manager.

If you arrive late - that is, after the posted hours for checking in - you must still check in. In this case, once you are finished at the Entry Clerk's desk, you should go to every ring clerk and tell them that your cat is now present in the show hall, and give them your entry number listed in the catalogue.

All cats must remain in the show hall during posted show hours, so you should not plan to leave early under any circumstances - unless you first obtain permission from the Show Manager. Cats are not permitted to remain in the show hall overnight. Since there may not be a guard at the show hall overnight, it is wise to take any valuables you have in the show hall with you when you leave for the night.

Your neighbors in your benching area can be a tremendous help to you, should you have any questions during the show - don't be shy about asking! Most regular exhibitors are usually more than happy to help new exhibitors with show protocol, grooming tips, and showing your cat(s).

Make note of your cat's show entry number, and walk around the show hall after you have gotten your cat ready to bring to the rings and see where the various rings are located. Keep track of the numbers being called so you can know in advance when your cat will be needed and do those last minute touch ups. Try to bring your cat to the judging ring promptly after the "first call" so as to not hold up the rest of the judging. Your cat's entry number will be placed in a holder on top of the cage so you will know which cage to put your cat. After judging the number placard is turned down, signaling that you may retrieve your cat from the judging ring and return to your benching area to await the next judging ring. Praise your cat and tell them how beautiful they are then give them a little treat when you get back to your benching area.

Good luck at the show, and hopefully you will be called back to the ring for the "Finals". If your cat is used in the final, you must return to the ring and place your cat in the cage that is holding your cat's number. Then sit down in the audience and applaud the presenting of the rosettes. If you get one, be sure to thank the judge for including your cat in their final.

Relax and enjoy yourself! Visit with the other exhibitors, and go shopping at the vendor booths inbetween rings.