by Chey Scott
OK, so it's like a dog show, but for cat people.
Next month, from February 19-21, Spokane is hosting the Evergreen Cat Fancier's weekend-long On Safari show, an event that highlights the popular Bengal cat breed but also features every other type of cat under the sun.
The Western Washington-based cat fanciers club typically hosts its cat shows on that side of the state, but they picked Spokane for On Safari since there hasn't been an event like this here in at least 15 years, says show manager Elaine Weitz.
Pedigreed, pure-bred show cats will be coming to Spokane from across the U.S. and around the world to show off their stunning features. Weitz expects as many as 225 cats could enter the competition, some from as far away as Europe, Australia and South America.
"It's a very prestigious show as one of the larger shows," she explains. "If a cat wins big, they get many more points to affect their standings as far as titles earned for the year."
On Safari is open to all breeds of cats. Judging in cat shows like this one follow the breed standards of the 63 "championship" cat breeds recognized by The International Cat Association, TICA for short, which is like the AKC for cats. The show's special featured breed, however, is the Bengal, an increasingly popular, somewhat newer cat breed (first recognized in 1986) that's known for its lively, amiable personality and stunning coat pattern that mimics the rosette spots of wild cats — leopards, jaguars and ocelots.
On Friday, visitors can see a parade of all Bengal cats entered into the show, and fun awards are given in categories like "biggest eyes," "cutest expression" and "best spots," Weitz says.
Judging of all cats in various categories (adults/kittens, long/short coat, altered/unaltered) will occur through the weekend. Like dog shows, each cat is judged based on its breed conformation, or how closely its physical traits match the official breed standards as governed by TICA. Judges pick their top three cats in each breed, and then considering all the top cats they've seen, will award best in show and second and third place overall.
Spectators (i.e. all cat lovers in the region) can visit with owners and breeders of the show cats, who are on display in what's called the benching area anytime they're not participating in show events, Weitz explains. If you've ever wanted to see a stunning Maine Coon or a slinky little furless Sphinx in person, this show is a can't-miss.
Perhaps the most interesting element of the event is that the general public can enter their household cat into a special category of judging. If you have an incredibly stunning and sociable cat at home, start thinking now about whether or not you might want to enter the show.
Weitz cautions that not all house cats are good candidates for an event like this. A good baseline is how the cat reacts to a vet visit. If they are curious, happy and outgoing when heading in for a checkup, and loud noises or the presence of other animals don't bother him/her, that's a good indication the cat might do OK at a cat show. She says owners also need to make sure their cat is freshly groomed (probably by a professional) and arrive at the show with clean ears, trimmed claws and a clean, un-matted coat. Cats must also be healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations.
"The household pets are important to us and they compete for the same titles that the pedigreed cats compete for, just in a different class," Weitz says. "When you have a nice cat and they're friendly and they love to be petted and admired, it's really kind of fun."
Non-pedigreed cats can enter one of two categories, kittens between 4-8 months, or adults age 8 months or older. All details about the household cat category can be found on the On Safari website.
In addition to the lineup of competitive events, the show hall is also host to lots of cat-related vendors and exhibitors. Animal rescue organizations and local shelters are also planned to be on site, either with adoptable cats or information about their mission. Weitz says the Evergreen Cat Fanciers have long partnered with cat rescue groups across the region to offer financial support and promote the importance of adoption.
Admission to On Safari is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (61+) and for kids ages 6-14. A family of four can enter for $20. Show hours are Feb. 19-21, Friday from 1:30-9 pm, Saturday from 10 am-5 pm and Sunday from 9 am-4 pm.