How to Tell if Your Cat is Show Quality

Tell if Your Cat is Show Quality
Tell if Your Cat is Show Quality (Image: Photo by B. Iris Tanner)

While they don’t get the level of publicity that the Westminster Dog Show does, cat shows take place almost every weekend throughout the United States. Your kitty doesn’t have to have a pedigree a mile long to be eligible. Here’s how to tell if your fabulous feline has what it takes to be a show cat.

Things You'll Need

  • Cat
  • Table
  • Feather or small "teaser"-type toy
  • Registration papers

If it takes the entire Russian Army to get your cat out of the carrier and onto the vet’s exam table, you don’t want to even think about showing her. The same applies to cats that disappear under the couch when guests arrive and don’t emerge until long after the aliens have departed. Cats that are fearful or aggressive when away from their home turf will not only be very unhappy at a show, they might even get upset enough to hurt someone. But if your cat is easy to handle and not shy of strangers, you may have a potential show cat.

Think about what happens when you have visitors. Does the cat approach them tentatively and check them out? If so, it bodes well. What happens if a friend tries to pat the cat? If he accepts this, even better. Has he ever jumped up on the sofa beside one of your friends or into someone’s lap? Has he ever greeted anyone at the door? If you can answer yes to these last questions, you definitely have a contender.

Consider a few other things. It's normal for a cat to be startled by a loud or high-pitched noise. Does your cat recover quickly, or does she seem frightened or otherwise stressed? Obviously, you want the former. Are you able to trim your cat's claws without major difficulty? If you have to do them a paw at a time, that's acceptable. If you need two or three people to hold the cat down, you probably should nip her show career in the bud. How does your cat respond to grooming? Does it enjoy being brushed or combed? Have you ever given it a bath? Do you think you could do this without major injury? It is expected that any cat brought to a show will be clean, but if you are showing a mixed-breed, short-haired cat, you may be able to get by with a dry or waterless shampoo. Long-haired cats, especially purebreds, will need a full bath in the sink or the services of a professional groomer.

If you're still considering showing your cat, then try this. Put your feather or teaser toy on the dining room table. Then lift the cat up onto the table and gently stretch it out, one hand just behind its front legs and the other just in front of its back legs. Does the cat allow this or does it resist? What you want is for the cat to accept being stretched, as this is how the judge will probably hold it. Now, put the cat down on the table and try to get his attention with the toy. Is it interested? Does it reach out a paw and interact with the toy? Does it actually play? If so, your cat has the potential to do well at shows. Now we need to determine what competitive class it can be shown in.

You may think that your cat is a Russian Blue or a Maine Coon, but if it came from a shelter, the odds are that it is a "lookalike" rather than a genuine example of either breed. Even if you are lucky enough to find an authentic purebred cat in a shelter (purebreds make up a mere 5% of the shelter cats in the U.S.), you will not be able to show it as one without its registration number. Perhaps you have a Siamese or a Persian from a shelter, but without some documentation, you will have to show the cat in the household pet class. Skip ahead to section 3.

If you do have your cat's papers or can obtain them from the breeder, it may be eligible to compete with others of its breed. To determine this, you'll need to do a bit of research. If possible, contact the breeder and let him know that you are interested in showing the cat. He is your best source of information as to whether the cat meets the standard for its breed. It may have some characteristic that disqualifies it from competition, such as a tail kink or incorrect eye color. It may also not be up to the breeder's own standard of quality, and he may not want you to show the cat. You certainly want to find that out before you invest any more time in this endeavor. If the breeder has no objections and thinks the cat may have show potential, full speed ahead. Hopefully, he will be willing to mentor you and explain how to groom the cat for showing.

If you have papers but cannot get in touch with the breeder, look over the registration slip, which will show the cat's name, registration number and the names of its parents. Is there a title such as CH (Champion), GC (Grand Champion), or RW (Regional Winner) in front of one or both parents' names? If so, it is a good sign, but many superb show cats have untitled parents, so don't give up if you don't see titles. Take some good pictures of your cat and scan the registration slip. Then, go to one of the popular breeder referral sites, such as, and see if you can find someone who works with your breed. Send out a few emails to see if you can find someone who might be willing to look at the pictures and registration and help you determine how to proceed. The odds are that someone will be happy to take you under their wing.If you are lucky enough to have a cat show in your area, it may be easier to simply go to the show and scout for a breeder there. If you have the pictures and registration slip with you, many people will be willing to look at them and advise you.

If you don't have a way to demonstrate that your cat is a documented purebred, you can show it in the household pet class. It won't be expected to conform to any particular breed specifications, just to enjoy the experience and show itself off as the unique individual it is.

There is an organization dedicated to promoting the showing of mixed-breed cats that will be delighted to help you learn how to do this. Just go to the web site of the Happy Household Pet Club, Everything you need to know about showing a mixed-breed cat is there!

You should also consult the websites of the major cat registries to find out when there may be a cat show in your area. While purebreds should be exhibited at shows sponsored by their registering body, mixed-breed cats can be shown in any association, so you have a world of opportunities to choose from. Good luck!

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