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Purrrfectly Good Time for Cat Fanciers

Felines: Dental--and mental--health are just a few topics on tap at the Incats show at the Anaheim Convention Center.


Your cat is attacking your new boyfriend. What do you do?

A) Get a new boyfriend.

B) Declaw the cat.

C) Call Carole Wilbourn, cat therapist.

Enlightened cat owners who can afford $45 for a phone consultation--or $95 for a house call if they live near Manhattan--will of course opt to contact Wilbourn, author of "Cats on the Couch."

"Let the cat come to the boyfriend," Wilbourn advises by phone in advance of her trip to Orange County. "The more the boyfriend tries to make friends, the more the cat is provoked."

If you want to know exactly how your cat feels about that boyfriend, though, you might want to get in touch with cat psychic Lydia Hiby of Riverside. She uses extrasensory perception--in person or by phone--to advise pet owners.

Hiby and Wilbourn are among dozens of cat specialists who will speak at the Incats International Cat Show at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend. The show is expected to attract at least 800 cats and more than 30,000 cat fanciers, promising everything from owner-cat look-alike contests to the latest in litter boxes.

Veterinarians Thomas H. Elston of T.H.E. Cat Hospital in Irvine, the largest cat-only hospital in the nation, and Elaine Wexler-Mitchell of the Cat Care Clinic in Orange will be there.

Both doctors will speak on the subject of cat dentistry.

Cat dentistry?

"First thing would be to brush your cat's teeth at home," advises Lori Goodman, manager at the Cat Care Clinic; Goodman owns six cats and says it takes her two minutes each to brush their teeth. "You use a special toothbrush and special toothpaste. They can't have people toothpaste."

Kitty straitjackets, anyone?

"There are all kinds of ways to restrain the cats," Goodman said. "You can wrap them in a towel like a burrito, or you can have a second person hold them. If you start them as kittens, they'll be used to it."

How often? "Every day."

She brushes her cats' teeth every day? "No."

Does she know anyone who does? "No," Goodman concedes. "OK, once a week would be good."

And of course they should come in for a professional dental checkup at least once a year.

Wexler-Mitchell and Elston are two of only 22 feline specialists in the country certified by the Nashville-based American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Board-certification for equine and bovine (that's horse and cow) specialists exists, but not for canines.

"It used to be cats were treated like small dogs," explains Debbie Elston, co-owner and groomer at T.H.E. Cat Hospital (and also slated to speak at the show), who drives a Suburban on which is painted a dozen cats of all kinds. "It's only in the last 15 years that people have really begun to study cat-specific diseases.

"Our hospital is more calming," she continues. "There's carpeting on the floor. There are no barking dogs, no strange smells, nothing to get the cats more freaked out than they already are. The car ride is bad enough."

The patient base for all cat doctors--and psychics and therapists--now includes members of a number of new breeds.


Among them are the Selkirk Rex, the cat in sheep's clothing, which comes in longhair and shorthair models; LaPerm, the teddy bear cat with marcel waves; the Munchkin, which has been called everything from the "Dachshund of the cat world" to "a mutant sausage," and the Sphynx, a hairless, wrinkly cat that has been described as "a cross between a Chihuahua and a grub."

Those and about 35 other breeds will be officially represented at this weekend's show.

Among walk-in competitions open to the public will be the Candid Cat Photo Contest, with Funniest Puss and Glamour Puss divisions, and the Iams Supercat contest for formerly homeless felines, with a half dozen categories including longest whiskers and owner-cat look-alike.

Last year's Supercat winner, Cinnamon Swirl of Irvine, won by dint of the splashy coloration that inspired her name. June Zappen, who entered Cinnamon Swirl, also owns a blue-point Siamese and a sorrel Abyssinian but says that the contest-winning house cat of unknown ancestry, "has just stolen the thunder."

And even though her beginnings could not be more humble, Cinnamon Swirl is among the aristocats who get regular dental care.

So far, that does not include flossing. But is that an idea whose time will come?

"I don't think so," cat groomer Elston says with a chuckle.

Adds psychic Hiby: "I know exactly how cats feel about flossing. . . . There's a point beyond which we can't go."


Cat Show, Contests and More

The Incats International Cat Show takes place Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Anaheim Convention Center, 800 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for seniors. Children 12 and under with an adult are admitted free. Information: (909) 780-4733.

The candid-photo contest takes place both Saturday and Sunday, with entries from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and public voting from 1 to 4 p.m.; the $3 entry fee benefits PAWS San Diego, which helps AIDS victims care for their pets.

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