Award winning felines converge on Congress Center

The Prague Post

More than 400 exotic, pampered pets will vie for the title of ‘Best in Show’

“If you want the best seat in the house, move the cat.” That well-worn sentiment will take on a new meaning this weekend at the Congress Center, which is hosting the 30th and 31st International Exhibition of Cats. Nearly 450 felines from around Europe are expected to be on display.

The show is being organized by Felis Club and ZO CSCH Praha 8, two local arms of Ceský svaz chovatelc, a member of the Fédération Internationale Feline, or FIFe. This international organization oversees breed standards, cat registrations, shows and judges.

For exhibitors and visitors alike, the two-day show should have plenty to offer. “Owners want to show their cats, both to the public and to breeders,” says Lena Venclíková, one of the volunteers for the organizing committee. “Everyone thinks their cat is the most beautiful, and this is their chance to compare their cat with others of the same breed.”

There is a competition element as well. Cats chosen as Best in Breed will go on to compete for the crown of Best in Show. The judging is divided into four categories: Persian and Exotic; Semilonghair; Shorthair; and Siamese and Oriental. The number of breeds in each category varies from two in the Persian and Exotic to 23 in the Shorthair. A panel of eight international judges will choose the winners.

FIFe recognizes 40 breeds of cats, and among those expected at the show are Maine Coons, Abyssinians, tailless and hairless cats. Venclíková breeds Burmillas, a type of silver shorthair cat, and will be showing two of her kittens Saturday and another previous award-winning Burmilla Sunday.

Unfortunately, the judging is done in a separate room, so the public can’t watch. Exhibitors bring their cats to the judges, who check to see if they meet the standards set by FIFe. Cats are then brought back to the “staging area,” where their owners anxiously await the results.

Venclíková is often asked how long it takes to prepare her cats for a show. “I think it is easy,” she says. “I wake them up, and that’s it. But longhair cats can take five to six hours to get ready, so it’s not easy to prepare many cats for a show.”

Cats can be shown from the age of 3 months, though typically they’re a year or two old. There’s even a “veteran’s” category in the show for aging beauty queens over 7.

“It depends on the breed,” Venclíková explains. “Some cats develop earlier and some later. They need to have lost their kitten characteristics. Siamese, for example, tend to get darker and fatter as they get older.”

Visitors will be treated to a wide variety of sizes, colors and types of cats. They’ll be lined up in their cages, with their owners usually nearby to talk about them.

Cat owners will also have the opportunity to stock up on food, toys and other goodies for their favorite feline. Those who may be looking to open their home to a four-legged friend can meet some as well. OS podbrdsko cat refuge will be on hand with homeless cats available for adoption. The organization maintains a Web site (www.kocky-online.cz, in Czech only) for prospective owners to browse for a new pet, with photos and descriptions of the cats, as well as a list of their likes and dislikes provided by their temporary caregivers.

“Podbrdsko is a volunteer member’s association,” explains Frantiská Kernová, an English and German teacher and foster cat mom. “Right now, we have 35 cats awaiting adoption.”

Kernová herself currently has six cats at home, the newest two from a woman who recently died and left behind 12 cats. Kernová has been fostering for one year, during which she’s had 42 different cats.

“Most of us are doing it for fun,” she says. “It’s a good feeling, and it’s better for the cats.”

Podbrdsko will have a small stand at the show with some available cats, as well as cat toys and other feline-related craft items made by volunteers to raise money for the organization. At its stand last year, 12 cats found new homes.

Whether your interest in cats is serious or casual, this year’s show offers some unique viewing opportunities.

“Most important is to see how beautiful and different cats can be,” Venclíková stresses. “Sometimes it’s your only opportunity to see such breeds.”