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Garden of the Cats

Improving Your Cat’s Show Personality

Mentally preparing your cat for a show


A cat that is personable at home may be different at a show. You should understand that a cat is most comfortable in her own environment, but a show hall comes with strangers, other cats, noise, and movement. You can prepare your cat for a show by introducing her to all the aspects of the show hall she can expect to encounter ahead of time. The following are options to use to do that.

Start by taking your cat out of the house–out of her comfort zone. Bring her to friends’ houses, pet stores, the park, etc. Get her used to different places. Let her interact in those places. Chances are, the only place a cat goes when it leaves her home is to the vet. If this is the case, she could suffer anxiety when she leaves her home, thinking that she’s going to the vet. Taking her to other places that don’t involve stress will help her adjust to leaving her home. When she goes out, make it an enjoyable experience.

Introduce your cat to strangers. Encourage her to be handled by different people, especially if the only person other than her family who handles her is a veterinarian. Get people to play with her, offer her treats, and just cuddle her. This will help her adjust to judges picking her up and handling her.

Expose your cat to activity. Cats are resilient creatures. They may be quiet and aloof to you, but they aren’t fragile. Introduce your cat to low levels of activity first, then slowly increase it to adjust her to what she might expect at a show. In a show, there will be long periods of downtime for her to rest, but in between, she will be moved from place to place and handled by judges.

Mimic the show experience. In a show, your cat will be kept in a show shelter, then moved to a judging cage, where she will await her judging. Get a show shelter ahead of time to let her get used to it. Get a small dog crate as well to imitate a judging cage. Put your cat in the crate, take her out and handle her on a table in a way similar to what a judge would do. Return her to the crate and repeat. Make this a habit where it becomes second nature to her.

Reward your cat. Give nutritious treats to your cat when you mimic the show experience to associate a good thing with this process. In a real show, give her the same treat when she returns to her shelter after judging. Save these treats just for her training and the show.

Play with your cat. Use toys judiciously while preparing your cat for a show, especially in the mimicking phase. A judge often uses toys to engage a cat, so this will help her feel comfortable with a judge. A toy helps a cat enjoy the experience, so give her that enjoyment during her practice at home.

Anxiety-calming techniques. If you anticipate that your cat will have some anxiety at a show, there are natural calming products on the market to help reduce the stress she might feel. These products use natural essences that appeal to a cat’s senses. Feliway is another product that emits calming pheromones into the air. Lavender is often successful, as well as vanilla. Some exhibitors put these essences on the pads of their cat’s feet, so the aromas waft up to their cat’s nose. Other products come in sprays that can be spritzed inside the show shelter. A caution when using these items: A cat’s nose is several times more sensitive than our own, so she will be able to smell what you might not be able to. Do not overdo an anxiety-calming scent.

Love and kindness. Despite all of the above options, the best thing to help calm your cat is keeping calm yourself. Showing can be stressful for the exhibitor as well, especially for a novice, but it shouldn’t be. Showing is a communal experience that is fun and entertaining. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t get caught up on how many finals (placements) you get. Your cat will sense your anxiety and feed off it, so be calm yourself. Talk sweetly to her and handle her the way she likes. If she likes her chin scratched, do that on the way up to the ring. Use toys to tease her while you walk her to the judging cages. Reward her when she comes back. Make it an enjoyable time with her pet parent.

Tone of voice. Studies have shown that cats respond well to high-pitched voices, so when you want to calm your cat, speak in a higher octive, like baby talk. It might sound silly, and if you’re embarrassed to speak in such a manner to your cat in front of others, do so quietly enough that others don’t hear you.

When all else fails. If nothing you do can help adjust your cat to the show circuit, you must do what’s right for your cat. Retire her from showing. You gave it a shot and it wasn’t for her. After all, it’s about having fun. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth it. We’ve all had to retire cats when it wasn’t going well for them, but at least we tried. And we had good times while we were showing.

No matter what class you are showing in (adult championship, alter, household pet, etc.), a cat’s personality has a major impact on its chances of finaling (placing). It should be said that not every cat actually enjoys showing. In fact, there are few cats with such stage presence that their enjoyment shows on a judging table. Many are simply ambivalent about it, while others are timid. Some are outright frightened; in which case, their fear is displayed in undesirable behavior to a judge. This definitely has an impact on whether they will final (place), regardless of how beautiful they are.

There are few veteran exhibitors who have shown only cats with remarkable stage presence. Many of them have tried to show cats that were not accepting of the stage. They ultimately had to retire excellent cats from showing because it was not in the cat’s best interest. However, that wasn’t before certain efforts were tried to help the cat adjust to showing. This page will give you safe options to help your cat keep calm during a show.


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