Must Be Showtime!

by John Sweden

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Springtime means lots of things, like blooms, more daylight, T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, a cleansing from dark and gloomy winter …. Well, maybe not so much in Southern California, but spring does mean that the Cat Fancy Association (CFA) is nearing the end of its competitive show season, and the cats are out to grab those last few points and maybe a regional or even a national award!

On March 24th, at the Palm Springs Leisure Center, you can see up to 225 kittens, championship, premiership and household pets, competing for regional and national points before the season ends on April 30th.

Last year, we walked through the transformation process of turning a leisure center into a cat show hall and then returning it back to a leisure center. Lots of people worked hard in a very short amount of time for both the setup and takedown.

But what about the cat side of the story? You see them in their benching cages down the aisles in the show hall, and you see them in the judging rings being examined and shown off. You also see them up close when they’re returning to their benching cages, and you admire the grooming and presentation of the cat. Ever wonder just how the cat came to look like that? Well, if you ask the owners, they’ll tell you about the time and effort and planning, the right products, the right temperature, the right equipment … and the list goes on for each cat.

Ever ask the cat what he went through to get there?

Let’s go back a few days before the show and see the experience through the eyes of a cat. Just what do they go through to get ready for an all-day and sometimes all-weekend show? It’s the end of the season, so most competitors are on a weekly or every other week show schedule—it’s all about getting home and settled from last week only to get up and get going for this weekend. Since we have a Saturday show, we begin the adventure earlier in the week ….

A big stretch, a 15-second yawn, then a roll on the back with all four paws pushed all the way out … ahhhh, life is good. That long plane ride home from the East Coast took forever! Could hardly wait for the mobile kitty box in the car on the way home. A drink of water and a can of food … hey, wake me up when we get home, please! Wonder what we’re doing next weekend?

It’s Wednesday and so far, so good … wait—uh, oh!—the guest room is all laid out with suitcase, show cage, clothes to mess up, brushes, combs, and wet wipes. Wait, let me go drag a few catnip chews, the ball with the bell in it, the wand with feathers, and that little fly-on-a-wire. Perfect, drop them right here in the suitcase and, hey, I can fit right here in this pouch! Now, this is the way to travel. Wonder if they will find me?

Thursday already and just eating and napping so far. All is good in Kittyland! Let’s check out the kitchen area for some human leftovers … Oh no! Towels on the counter, shampoo bottle, conditioner, and the green hoodie. CAT BATH!!! Oh, and you know how we love water don’t you? Just keep it on the warm side, okay? Takes two of you, doesn’t it? Little ol’ me versus two of you. One to hold on to me, and the other to shoot me with the water wand, soap me up (no eyes or ears, please) and try and rinse, rinse, rinse, and when you think you have rinsed enough, rinse again. Ah, come on—let me shake just once before you wrap that towel around me. How would YOU like a full body nugie? Remember the paws, please—I hate the water between my paw pads. Oh cool, the heater vent is on, and the hot-air-towel tent is feeling good right now … ahhhh, not so bad after all. At least I don’t have to be blown dry like those long-haired cousins. Way too loud and noisy! It’s good to be a wash-and-wear short hair! One of these times, I’m just going to go roll in the potty box, just to show them.

Back to the guest room for some investigating. Let’s see, one suitcase, no carry-on bags, my party shelter for the show hall, and my travel bag … hmm, this is going to be a road trip! No airport noise, no shuttle, no lines, no ear popping. I will miss the uniformed ones that think I am sooooo precious, though, and the ones that are “allergic” to cats! How is that even possible? Road trips are good. Full-time access to the litter box, food, water, and good music, and I just love the view from the front dashboard! This will be a good weekend. Now for a nice nap. Might as well just crawl in the bag for a snooze.

Hey! What’s going on? Still dark, all zipped up in the bag, going outside … oh, the road trip is starting. Nice warm car, bag now unzipped, all stretched out, and off we go. Sure, I wish the road were a lot straighter—these curves get me a bit woozy and not feeling all that great…Oh boy, hope I can make it to the box in time! Whew, all better on the freeway now. Sun beaming in the front window, and time for another nap. Wonder how long this trip will be?

Oh man, all zipped up again and stopped. We’re here! Hey, Palm Springs in March is pretty nice. Not too hot and certainly not jacket weather. Sure is noisy in this show hall. Hey, all my buds are here, too. Boo-Boo (everybody has a Boo-Boo), Tinker, Eddie, Stella, Red, even Snooky is here! All my rowdy friends are here today, and it must be getting close to starting time, too. I can hear that announcer calling out numbers. It must be SHOWTIME!

So with this one-day show, I have to go to six different places with six different judges taking me out of the cage, setting me on a table, grabbing my head, looking at my profile, holding me up in the air all stretched out and turning me around, making me stand up on my hind legs like they want to dance or something. Oh, and finally you break out the toy and want me to play. Got it! Wait, don’t put me back yet, I just got the toy! Hey, wait a minute, now they closed the cage door and took back the toy! They move on to the next cage and do the same thing. Oh, finally, they come back and put some color-coded tags on the front of my cage, and then my people can come and take me back to my benching area. I must have done okay because they are smiling and happy. Wow, only five more times of that left to go. This is going to go on all day isn’t it? Oh, and if I do real good in each ring, then they will invite me back to that same ring, along with nine others, where they’ll rank us from tenth place to best. This is always a good time to watch those that brought us here, as they sit out there with book and pen in hand, keeping track of which of us got what place, and then everybody claps and cheers for the “best cat.” Then they pick us up and carry us up to the judge and say, “Thank you for the award.”

On the way back to the benching area, we get greeted by spectators who want to reach out and touch. They follow us back and hang out asking questions about my Dad and Mom, my ancestors, can they play with me, how much did I cost, are any more like me available, will I bite if they stick their hand in my face …. Just give me some food and my hammock. I need my beauty rest—this is a hard life, you know.

Wow! What a long day. I went to all six rings twice. Took lots of photos with kids and even some senior citizens. My people are real happy, too. I get to take home six rosettes, a couple of new toys, looks like a new scratching post from one of the vendors, and the best part of this adventure is … wait for it … the season is over, and I am not sure what they mean by being retired from the show hall, but I think I will probably get real used to that. Wake me when we get home!

Hey, thanks for hanging around and reading my story. Hope you can come out and see all my feline and human friends on March 24th at the Palm Springs Leisure Center. There will be lots of cats, six rings of judging, and vendors with everything cat-related: scratching posts, cat furniture, bling, clothing, beds and pads, treats, and more. You can even look for me…. The Retired Guy!

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