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The Cat’s Meow

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

August 29 -- A strange hush pervaded the Civic Auditorium this weekend, as a crowd of hundreds kept their voices lowered as they wandered the aisles in the darkened, cavernous hall.

Polite applause and cries of delight broke the spell from time to time, as did an occasional Siamese wail and the broadcast warning “Cat out!” that sent onlookers hurrying to close the doors. “Cat found!” was greeted by a massive sigh and subdued laughter.

It was the 42nd annual Cat Show at the Civic, where purebreds and even house cats got to strut their stuff and earn points to compete in the Cat Fancier’s Association’s national show at Madison Square Garden.

Jennifer Carvajal, 7, and her new friend Mango Twirl (Photos by Ann K. Williams)

There’s more to a cat show than just prizes, though. Breeders converge from Southern California, Arizona and Nevada to sell their stock -- in this case, darling kittens.

“This is the place to come get a cat,” said Sue Carvajal, who’d brought her 7-year-old
daughter Jennifer to find a playmate for their four-year old cat, soon to be alone when the last of their 20-year-olds dies.

Jennifer held up Mango Twirl, a Selkirk Rex, who looked like Garfield on a bad hair day and is known in the trade as “the cat in sheep’s clothing.”

Another stand-out exotic was the Donskoy, a hairless cat like the Sphinx who won last year’s national competition.

Earl Naab with his Donskoy

Just one of 12 Donskoy’s in the United States, this breed was discovered in Rostov-on-Don in Russia in 1987 and, after much skepticism among cat breeders, was finally accepted as a new, rare hairless breed.

The Naab’s Donskoy is very affectionate – maybe because he’s so sensitive to changes in temperature – and “will sleep 24/7” if he has someone to cuddle up with, said owner Lyvonne Naab.

But it’s not all purebreds that win at the show.

Cats in Need has one of the most popular booths. A no-kill, rescue operation, it saves as many as 500 cats a year, spays and neuters them, give them their vaccines and health care, and adopts them at pet stores and shows around the region, explained Kathleen King, who’s volunteered for eight years.

And ordinary house cats get to compete as well.

“Ninety per cent (of the breeders) started in household pets,” explained Temmie Silver, a vendor and former breeder who’s been a fixture at cat shows around the nation for 21 years.

“You kind of got taken in, you got mesmerized,” she said of the popular category.

Bob Salisbury judging household pets

Judge Bob Salisbury is one of eight who evaluates the household pets. Unlike the purebreds, household pets have “no written standards,” said Salibury. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...whichever one strikes the judge’s fancy.”

He looks for cats with “sweet” temperaments. “Growling or hissing and snapping at the judge is not a good thing to do,” Salisbury said.

Angel Paws wins first place in household pets

Cats aren’t the only commodities at the show. Vendors of cat toys, ceramic cat mugs, cat t-shirts, scratching posts, even cat wine – “French Cat Chardonnay” – line the walls.

Temmie Silver and her eleven-year-old daughter Samantha show their wares

Silver and her family started following the shows in 1986, traveling across the county in a converted van and trailer.

“Back in the old days, we partied like crazy,” she said, as she showed a photo of a huge cake she handed out to the crowd on her daughter’s birthday.

She’s noticing smaller crowds now, and thinks the higher ticket prices have something to do with that.

Back when she started in the ‘80’s, there were “so many people in the aisles you couldn’t get the cats to the show,” Silver said. “Everybody was throwing their money about, hundreds and hundreds of dollars on anything with a cat on it.”

Still, with 300 cats to judge and hundreds of happy, curious spectators, it looks like the Cat Fancier’s Association’s annual show in Santa Monica isn’t in any danger of folding soon.

For show schedules and information on cat judging, visit the Cat Fancier’s Association website. http://www.cfainc.org/

Readers Fine Jewelers Advertisement


“Ninety per cent (of the breeders) started in household pets.” Temmie Silver


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... whichever one strikes the judge’s fancy.” Bob Salibury


“This is the place to come get a cat.” said Sue Carvajal


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