Did you attend the recent International Cat Show in Portland? Neither did I. Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of feel if you have seen one cat show, you have seen them all.
Years ago, my husband, Burt, and I wandered into a Portland hotel for breakfast and passed a sign in the lobby about a cat show going on in the ballroom. Not one to miss such an exciting event, I insisted we check it out. (He rolled his eyes, but that was his normal reaction to most of his wife’s oddball ideas.)
My observations on this subject might get me in trouble with people who are passionate about exhibiting their cats. For the record, I love cats and have been owned by many, but cat-showing was never on my bucket list.
The minute you walk into a cat show, your nose knows what’s going on. Your nostrils are bombarded by odors of feline food, litter-box leavings, heavily-perfumed people (basically women), and industrial-strength disinfectant. Not to mention, if you will excuse such grossness, the unmistakable smell of what male cats do when upset with their world — they spray!
On rows and rows of tables stood rows and rows of gaily-decorated cat cages, including award ribbons, some of which went to ninth place — giving the distinct impression that every contestant winds up with a ribbon. All of the cages had little cat faces peering out , unless the inhabitants were asleep, in which case you could view them snoring away in either an overstuffed cat bed or else curled up in a litter box.
Owners, while keeping an eye on their animals, were chatting in chairs by the cages — an eavesdropper’s paradise. “Would you believe,” gushed one woman in rhinestone-studded glasses as she brushed the flowing coat of a snow-white Persian, “it took me more than three hours to bathe Charles and get him dry!”
The small group of awed listeners seemed impressively impressed. So was I, at the thought of spending three hours locked in a bathroom with Charles. Somehow I’ve always considered cat-bathing to be one of the major martial arts.
Around the perimeter of the ballroom, judges were pulling cats out of cages, eye-balling them face to face, then holding them, stretched out, high in the air for what appeared to be inspection of their belly buttons. After these gymnastics, the cat was placed on a metal platform that received a spritz of disinfectant spray before each judging. Most of the cats seemed bored, as if they’d been through all of this before, but some of them let it be known they hated the whole scene. We watched as several clawed at the bars of their cages trying to escape. Every few minutes, the distinct yowl of a ticked-off cat hit the air. We saw a lady judge doctoring her hand, undoubtedly the result of some altercation with teeth or claws.
In another area, a male judge started pulling a large, snarling, hissing Himalayan out of a cage, then wisely changed his mind and chose a more docile animal to judge.
A cat called a “Sphinx” was by far the most fascinating feline we saw at the show. The owner told us a Sphinx cat is born bald and stays hairless. To us, it looked as if someone had gone bonkers with an electric shaver. The cat’s face resembled E.T., and its body felt like a hot water bottle.
Although many of the animals at the show were special breeds, (Siamese, Persians, Himalayans, Burmese, Abyssinians), there were plenty that resembled common ordinary house cats. At the time, we had an indoor rescue cat at home that could have won a ribbon if there was a “cat-agory” for obesity.
A friend stopped by to visit today. She is aware I am presently without a pet of any kind, and she knows this has to be until I can walk again and regain my independence. The house doesn’t feel normal the way it is without the chaos of a critter, but we all know life is unpredictable.
If a fur ball does end up here, you will be the first to know. Waldo, the vacuuming robot, is still keeping me entertained, but he is worthless when it comes to cuddling.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book (with all proceeds going to Rotary International) is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]