If you’re at a loss this Saturday, and fancy seeing some magnificent cats then you must visit the Supreme Cat Show.
To qualify for the show, a cat must win at a GCCF Championship show: Entire cats must have won a challenge certificate, kittens must have won an open class and neuters must have won a premier certificate.
Just as it says on the can: the best of cats will be on show … the pick of cats … hence the “Supreme”.
The show is run by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy which is the largest cat registry in the UK. It is the largest cat show in the country and differs from the usual GCCF shows. For example, there are special titles unique to the Supreme, and pens can be decorated. (if you go to any other GCCF show, pens are undecorated – cat bedding, cat food/water dishes, litter tray are white so that there is nothing to distinguish one pen from the other).
It’s somewhat mind-boggling to be surrounded by all these superb cats, but it’s a good learning experience. You soon develop an eye for what a top show cat should look like, and why they set the standards.
First you pause at each cat pen, studying each cat carefully, nonchalantly trying to eavesdrop on the breeders who are discussing their cats. Then you realise that you’ve spent 10 mins on just one cat when there are 150 more cats to be seen (which means you’ll be there until midnight long after the cats have gone home). So then you move into museum-zapping mode, and start rushing round in a frenzy trying to see as many cats as possible. But if you do this, you start suffering from supercat-overkill, and after awhile when faced with specimen after specimen of perfection, the cats strangely start looking … normal.
The best compromise is to treat the Supreme like the Louvre, and do a bit of both. Make your way to the Mona Lisa and one or two other select treasures, study them carefully, then having sated your eye, move onto other exhibits. So … find one or two breeds that catch your fancy and devote some time to them. Once you’ve had enough, then move onto the other breeds.
For me, my favourite breeds are of course, the Maine Coon and the Bengal.
Last year’s Best of Variety Semi-Longhair Neuter, Supreme Neuter and Supreme Exhibit was Imperial Grand Premier Dairymaine Chestaton who just happened to be, you’ve guessed … a Maine Coon. A red-tabby boy with a magnificent mane and a wonderful disposition.
But I enjoy looking at the other breeds as well, and I must confess to a strange fascination for the Sphynx. You may have seen one already – it’s the cat without fur and ears like a bat, it looks like something which you would find in a horror movie with mummies and women named Cleopatra. Some people say it’s the ugliest cat in the world. I think it’s so ugly it’s beautiful. Some say it’s a travesty of what a cat should be, and yes, but it’s here to stay and it’s so extreme it’s worth a look. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to pet a male Sphynx once – it felt like a warm peach. As he was hairless, his family jewels were bared for all to see, but he comported himself with such dignity I didn’t dare giggle.
As with every cat show, you will hear the Bengals long before you see them. I don’t know what it is about Bengals. Maybe it’s the wild cat gene, or maybe they hate being penned. Anyway, to say they express themselves vocally is an understatement – it’s like feeding time at the zoo. And once one starts, the others follow. I’ve seen some amazing Bengals. Like little leopards with perfect rosettes and spotting. And I still remember the first time I saw a snow-marbled Bengal. His coat had a sheen like I’ve never seen before – it was like a 3-D illusion – there were layers upon layers of colour that led your eye deeper into the pattern. As you know, the better the coat, the more a Bengal costs. I remember asking the owner how much and his evasive “too much” which hinted at a second mortgage. Hmm … something else to put on my “When I win the National Lottery” list.
Needless to say, in the company of the finest cats, you must be prepared to rub shoulders with cat breeders and other Cat Obsessives (myself excepted of course!).
If you know some of the breeders at the show, then you’re truly fortunate because they will be able to explain some of the more arcane points of cat showing. You may even be privy to the secret rules that govern cat breeding, which as a novice breeder I’m still trying to work out. In fact, I sometimes think it’s easier to become a third degree mason than a reputable cat breeder. Not that I’m one of the former.
I have to confess I’m not familiar with the judging system of a GCCF show. As far as I can work out, the cats are penned all day, and the judges go round with trolleys to take out and examine the cats. Results are based on points given by the judge – you can ask the judge for their opinion of the cat after the show, but otherwise, it’s all very anonymous.
However, what distinguishes the Supreme from other GCCF cat shows is that some of the judging is done before an audience. At present, the only cat shows that do this as a matter-of-course are TICA-run cat shows. And that’s why I prefer TICA shows generally – the judges talk about the cats as they examine them, they explain to the audience what makes the cat special, and if it has any obvious faults. It’s what makes a TICA show such a valuable learning experience and visitors feel more involved.
What more can I add to entice you? Well, the Supreme is the one-stop-shop for cat goodies. Most of the major cat trade suppliers will be there. You will not be able to resist buying the latest cat toy, or stocking up on 3-for-2 bags of cat litter. I remember last year my long-suffering hubby having to borrow the trolley from R&L cat products so that he could lug 9 bags of cat litter to the car. I’d like to say I saved so much on discounted cat litter it paid for the petrol, but alas, no.
And it’s not just stuff for cats, but stuff for humans … T-shirts, scarves, paintings, jewellery – all cat-themed. And the thing is, after awhile, all that over-the-top cat merchandise and people dressed in cat-branded gear start looking normal. It reminds me of the time I went to a world sci-fic convention in Glasgow – I walked past some people dressed as Klingons and Vulcans and didn’t even blink. Context, they call it: so it is in the safety of the Supreme … cat lovers can come out of the closet and express their true inner selves.
It’s a great place to find Christmas presents for cat lovers. (In case anyone wealthy is reading this and would like to make this cat breeder’s cats very happy, please could I have one of the 4-tier cat posts from Cat Palace.nl? The model with the ficus leaves.)
What else? Oh yes, mustn’t forget:
The Supreme Cat Show
Halls 3a and 4
Birmingham NEC (National Exhibition Centre)
Tickets £10 for adults