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Winning by a Whisker

Looks will count at cat 'beauty contest' in Ventura.

March 02, 2000|By BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There seems to be no Plan B when it comes to cats. People usually either love or hate those little carnivores with fish breath.

Members of the former group will assemble this weekend in an attempt to put the "wow" into "meow" as they show off their furry babies during a cat show at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

"All sorts of people go to cat shows," said George Eigenhauser, event publicist and Maine coon cat owner. "It's very family oriented, and pets are definitely family members. It's also multi-generational--grandma may've been raising cats, and now she brings her grandchildren. They say you own a dog, but a cat owns you. They'll tell you what time feeding time is every morning."

The show is sponsored by the Cat Fanciers Assn. and will be a tribute to the Maine coon breed. Proceeds will help cat-related causes such as the Ventura-based Friends of Cats in Need and the Robert H. Winn Feline Foundation.

In addition to all the pedigreed puddytats, there will be a special household pet competition. Seven of the association's top judges are being flown in for this event to decide what constitutes feline purrfection.

"This will be an all breeds show with probably over 200 cats, with maybe 20 or 30 Maine coon cats," said Eigenhauser. "Basically, it's going to be a beauty contest. Cats are judged by the standards of their breed on a 100-point scale, and the top 10 are chosen."

Judging is done according to a written standard for each breed, basically a blueprint that depicts the ideal specimen, including temperament as well as physical appearance. The rating process will be repeated until all the entered cats have been judged and "best of breed" and "best of show" honors have been awarded.

In addition to all these pedigreed participants and their owners, a substantial vendor area will offer all sorts of cat-related novelties, including cat shirts, personalized food and water bowls, and cat jewelry. And there's no need to go home alone--a number of pedigreed cats and kittens will be for sale.

The acknowledged stars of this show, the Maine coons, will be joined by more than 30 other breeds, including such varieties as Havana brown, Egyptian Mao, Tonkinese, Somali, Abyssinian, Balinese and even a few examples of the most popular breed, Persians.

The Maine coon is America's only native breed. There are records of them dating from long before the Civil War. Their owners began holding Maine coon cat shows, and it was not until 1895 that the first all-breed show was held. A Maine coon won the best of show at the event, held at Madison Square Garden.

Generally regarded as a native of New England, this cat is the official state cat of--not surprisingly--Maine. While early stories of the origin of the Maine coon suggested a dream date between a raccoon and a domestic cat, this is obviously not true, even though the tabby version does have a ringed tail.

*

Another story traces the cat's origins to Marie Antoinette. While plotting her escape from France, she sent six Turkish Angoras to the New World along with some of her belongings. The cats made it to Wiscassett, Maine, and the queen, due to poor prioritizing, made it to the history books.

Due to the breed's strong resemblance to the Norwegian forest cat, a much earlier Viking connection is probably a more plausible explanation for the origin of the Maine coon.

But back to your own little bundle of joy.

Cats are the No. 1 pet in America, surpassing dogs. To many people, they're way cooler than kids. A cat may never grow up to be president, but at least they're not always hitting you up for money, wearing your clothes, drinking your last beer or borrowing your car.

Cats don't interrupt your viewing habits. They don't care about video games, Teletubbies or Batman's secret identity. They may take in the occasional bird special on PBS, but more often than not, cats wouldn't even watch "The Lion King" with catnip commercials.

That's because cats are self-entertaining. They chase or kill everything smaller than them that walks, talks, creeps, crawls, slithers or flies and hasn't been dead more than 10 minutes. They could care less about those who deliver the paper and the mail, but they put the bite on rodents.

In other words, they march to their own drummers. That's why there will never be a catsled.

DETAILS

Cat Fanciers Assn. Benefit Cat show at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura, Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. COST: $6. CALL: (800) 400-CATS.

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