May 15th 2008 9:16 am
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For the .05 people who may be reading this diary, and the 3.5 people who have the slightest interest in my show career (such as it is), I will eventually get around to describing the most recent show in more detail, but for the nonce, will just describe the most important details, to be filled in when I edit this entry later.
We expected this to be a big show, since it was the first show at the beginning of the show season. But, for whatever reason (the inconvenient location of the show hall was not much of a help), it ended up being a very small show. For Chibi and me, this translated into 20 Kittens and 11 Premiers, 10 of which were longhairs. For me, this was great, because it meant that I got to be in EVERY FINAL--eight rings, eight ribbons. For Chibi, the competition was fiercer, but she did surprisingly well, making 4 out of 8 finals.
The judging, as usual, was erratic. For example, one judge gave me tenth place out of 11 cats (how dare she!), while I got Second Best Cat in Premiership four times, seventh once, and eighth once. And, ta da!!! I got Best Cat in Premiership in one ring. This doesn't mean I was the best Premier at the show, just in that ring. But each time I got Second Best Cat in Premiership, I got Second Best of breed, losing to Mack the Truck, and then Second Best Cat in Premiership, also losing to Mack the Truck. As usual, the Maine Coons were out in full force, and there was quite a bit of competition.
As for Chibi, she got Second Best of Breed in four rings, but only made the finals in three out of those four rings. In her last ring, she won Best of Breed, and Second Best Kitten, losing out to a Persian super-kitten that no one could have beaten. She managed to beat out kittens from some very good breeders, too. Aside from her sturdy build, long torso, well-defined muzzle, and great ears, she is tremendously charismatic and friendly, unusual for our family, and for female cats in general. That got her a lot of points, I'm sure.
As for me, I continued to act either totally stoned in the judging ring, or, if tired, hissed at the judge or at the cats around me. Fortunately, my hissing didn't keep me from getting two of my Second Bests, so as long as I don't get more hostile, I should continue to do well.
Well, it was a small show, and you can get LOTS of ribbons when there's not so much competition. We liked that!!! There's another small show next Saturday--it will be Chibi's last appearance in the Kitten Class ring.
Meowmy said that after I got my Grand Premiership, she would retire me, but now she's started saying something about putting me in more shows this season, and trying to make me one of the 25 Regional Winners. The odds are not TOO bad--last year, 38 cats in the Premiership Class became Grand Premiers, and 25 of them went on to become Regional Winners. Well, we shall see. And we are also interested to see if Chibi's personality and looks can get her very far in the Championship Class. More to follow.
May 3rd 2008 10:34 am
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Next weekend, a show in Yokohama. Exactly a year ago, that was the same show in which I made my debut, in the Kitten Class. One judge opined that I showed promise, and said she looked forward to see how I would develop in the future. Well, here I am!
Last year, it was hot and my Breeder Daddy took Meowmy and me in his car. It was the first show for both of us. We didn't realize that it was special that I got quite a few ribbons. More than stupid Chibi got in the last show, har har. But last year it was hot, and I bet it will be hot this year, too. The heat makes us Maine Coons a bit tetchy. I bet I'll hiss at some judges again. And that brat Chibi is coming along, too, which isn't going to put me in a good mood.
I didn't get any ribbons in the last show, but that can't continue forever. Last time I thought my brother Mercutio was going to show up, but he didn't. May is the official beginning of the cat show year for the CFA (don't ask why), so there should be a lot of new cats there. Maybe that cute little Norwegian Forest Cat will show up...sigh. This time Breeder Daddy is going to come again, and show a black and white kitten that Meowmy wants (how dare she!), but is controlling her impulse to buy. He's not competing in my class, so I'm not worried, but will probably beat the pants off old Chibi. Serves her right for thinking that she's such hot stuff for getting two ribbons in the last show. Frankly speaking, last time there wasn't that much competition.
Right now Meowmy is "working." This consists of Meowmy spreading out papers on her desk so that none of us can sleep next to the computer the way we like. Occasionally she writes something in the manuscript she's working on, then gets bored and checks out Catster. She's getting lots of Catster friends (or, I should say, WE are getting lots of Catster friends), and is very happy. Right now, everybody's here in the study--Leila's sleeping on the printer, Chibi's asleep on top of Meowmy's backpack (Meowmy washed it a zillion times after I pooped on it--I still haven't told her why I did that--heh heh), Spot is asleep on another desk, and I'm lying in the tray with the computer paper. It's a tight squeeze, but it makes me feel safe.
It would seem like a scene of perfect domestic bliss, but we're mostly hanging around because Meowmy's been serving us some really yucky food recently (she says it's "healthy"), and so we're just waiting around to see if we can pressure her to feed us what we want. We figure we'll give her a week to straighten out, and if she doesn't, we're calling PETA. Chibi is looking into the legal aspects of this. She's thinking of going to Harvard Law School after (or before) she goes to Harvard Medical School. Apparently, it's unusual for a cat to have degrees from both institutions. Meowmy is not too happy about the idea of paying for Chibi's tuition. Chibi may have to work part-time. Probably McDonald's is out--she's too short to reach the counter. Also, she read "Fast Food Nation" and got grossed out by the fast-food industry. Not that any of us are against eating meat. MEAT!!! Bring on the MEAT!!!
April 27th 2008 3:49 am
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First of all, just thought I'd let you know that we have taken the plunge and joined CatsterPlus, which will feed our Catster addiction even more--not an entirely healthy thing, perhaps. Now when Meowmy's sleeping, we can turn on the computer and decorate our photos with snazzy frames and write lame captions for them.
Well, the show was a bust as far as I'm concerned. That conceited brat Chibi has already posted in the Forum section about how she won two ribbons and I didn't get A SINGLE ONE, and I prefer not to talk about HER. I myself was only in one cat show when I was a kitten, and I've forgotten how many ribbons I got, but it was more than two. So there.
Actually, it took tremendous effort to get to the show at all. Meowmy fell into bed at 2 am and forced herself to get up at 5 am to shampoo us all. It's really better not to shampoo on the day of the show, at least in the case of my fur, which is a bit on the dry side--I look better after a day or so when the natural oils have come back. But Meowmy was busy all week, and shampooing a 15 pound Maine Coon is not something you do when you're all tuckered out--unless you have no choice, like a few hours before the show.
I'll tell you a secret (good thing Meowmy doesn't read this diary! Shh!). Most Americans would have a sink large enough to wash a cat in, but our apartment doesn't, so Meowmy and I, er, bathe together, if you get my drift. Sorta helps us bond, ya know? Anyway, she degreases me with Pet Goop, then uses a degreasing shampoo (we Maine Coons have rather oily coats, although the Intact boys are greasier). Then it's a herbal shampoo, then a shampoo to enhance my white areas (I have the whitest white of ANY cat in the ring), a creme rinse (or is that cream rinse?), and finally a texturizing shampoo. I know, it sounds like animal abuse, but if you check Internet articles on Maine Coon grooming, such as
you'll find that Meowmy's method is not TOO obsessive. Persians, I hear, get it even worse. For the record, and we are NOT being paid to say this, we find House of An-Ju products to work well--we swear by their texturizing spray. Meowmy, who is rather simple-minded, likes the different colors of all the shampoos, and to her, they smell good. In fact, she's thought of trying them on her own hair. To me, though, nothing smells as good as the odor of my own saliva on my fur. Why can't shampoo manufacturers figure this out is and come up with a saliva-fragrance cat shampoo?
I do NOT like baths, but I've resigned myself to the fact that Meowmy weighs at least 10 times as much as I do, and that it does no good to resist. So I just let her do her thing, which culminates in using a high-power hair dryer set on the lowest setting possible. Meowmy has heard that most cats resist human hair dryers, but we three put up with it--reluctantly, to be sure. For me, the point is to fluff me up so I look as big as possible, paying special attention to my neck ruff and my tail. Maine Coons often have coarse fur, but our family has a very silky overcoat which, apparently, is considered a plus in the judging ring. Thus, our fur doesn't mat very easily. Also, we have rather short fur for Maine Coons (if we were moggies, we'd be domestic medium hairs--well, Leila and Chibi would; I have longer fur). Anyway, Meowmy takes the dryer and tries to direct the hot air in the direction opposite to that in which the fur grows, in order to make me fluffier. She uses texturizer spray on my ruff and tail. She must be doing a fairly good job, because she's been praised several times by judges (and I haven't heard judges praise any other cat for their grooming, at least not in the Maine Coon ring). But Meowmy's mostly self-taught, and always eager for pointers from more knowledgeable exhibitors and from professional groomers.
Since I'm bigger and my fur's longer and denser, I take longer to bathe and blow-dry than Leila and Chibi. This time, Meowmy was really rushed, and managed to get all three of us done in three hours. Chibi was last, and screamed through the whole thing, but once she was clean and her tail all fluffed up, she was running around purring and acting really happy to be so, er, purr-ty. I could almost hear her singing "I feel pretty, Oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright! And I pity any girl who isn't me tonight, da da da. " (This is a total non-sequitur, but I believe that the ORIGINAL lyrics were "I feel pretty and witty and gay," but somehow "gay" got changed to "bright" since the movie was made. Hmm.) Anyway, she's a girl, so she liked getting all duded up. I do, too, actually, first because a good shampoo takes out lots of dead hair that I don't have to garp up later as hairballs, and heck, I like to look good next to all those other Grand Premiers.
If it's just one of us, Meowmy can go by train, but three cats and all our show curtains and stuff would be impossible for one person to carry on by public transportation, so we went by taxi. This time, I had my own carrier, and the girls were together in another, which worked out fine because I didn't have to be within inches of dorky Chibi, and Leila and Chibi like each other a lot, so Chibi was able to keep Leila from being too nervous. We don't mind taxis; I caught a couple of zzz's during the trip, and none of us meowed (or chirped), which the driver thought very clever of us.
But the show hall was something else. It was packed, since it was a big show, and to make matters worse, it was a humid day and even rained in the afternoon. All the cats seemed on edge; someone told Meowmy that cats get that way when the air pressure drops. So there was a lot of hissing and snapping at judges during the judging rings. Yes, I confess, I hissed at least twice--once even at Meowmy! The Avatar of Evil wasn't on duty that day, but there's another judge who I know isn't one of my bigger fans (mind you, she's one of the judges who gave CHIBI a ribbon--she must be losing it), and although I didn't hiss at her, I glared at her so evilly (which is hard with my heart-melting amber eyes) that the judge had to call Meowmy to come get me from my cage and put me on the judging table. Said judge MAY have been mixing me up with Lee Trevino; even though we're different colors (dark red as opposed to cream), some judges have mixed us up before, actually, which is to my mind sort of like a dog show judge getting a pug mixed up with a Lab.
Speaking of Lee Trevino, he wasn't there, which surprised me. But his owner came, and said that his behavior at the last show was so over the top that she was afraid he'd be banned from the ring permanently, and decided to give him a rest. She also said something about someone having kittens (I couldn't hear too well from my benching cage)--I don't think it was HER kittens, as she's not a cat--maybe her cat's kittens, or her breeder's kittens? Anyway, I still haven't figured out why people keep putting their cats in the ring every show even after the cat has become a Grand. I understand that some people are aiming toward Regional Awards, which are given on the basis of points accumulated during the year, but other people just seem to be doing it for the frisson you get when the judge is giving out those coveted ribbons, and for the comradery. Nothing wrong with that, but it IS a very expensive hobby. Some breeders, I think, sponsor owners to show their cat all year long, first in hopes of getting a Regional Winner that they can list on their Website, and second, as a kind of weekly advertisement for their product. There's still a lot about the cat show world that we don't understand.
Anyway, I didn't get a single ribbon, which didn't bother me too much because I was just too pooped by the whole show thing to really care. But Meowmy is curious as to why other cats who have gotten their Grands before me started getting good ribbons in the very next show, and I got nothing. When you're still just a Premier, you're competing against other Premiers for those coveted purple Best Premier ribbons, which earn you points toward getting your Grand Premiership. Once you're a Grand Premier, you want to get the brown Best of Breed Ribbon, or the orange Second Best of Breed ribbon. This more or less guarantees that you'll be called back for the Finals, which are usually Allbreed, but sometimes divided into Longhair and Shorthair. In the Finals, the ten best cats are given nifty rosettes, in ascending (descending?) order, from tenth place to first place...the moment when there are only two ribbons and two cats left is always exciting, even if you're not one of the competitors. In this show, I was one of only four Grand Premiers, so you think that SOMEONE would have given me at least Second Best of Breed. I got one in the last show, after all. And I was looking particularly spiffy yesterday, too (I've put on a bit more weight, and look a bit more Maine Coon-ish). But there was a truly GORGEOUS silver tabby that appears now and then, only at the big shows, who took most of the ribbons, and two brown and white tabbies, one of whom always gets high marks. One judge did peer into my cage for a long time, obviously torn between giving me or another cat the Second Best of Breed ribbon, even though I'd hissed at her previously, but no go. Well, one of Meowmy's exhibitor friends (Mack the Truck's Meowmy) said that when a judge is torn between giving a ribbon to two cats, they often choose the older one, for whatever reason. Since I was the youngest cat there, that could have been one of the reasons I didn't get anything.
Oh, well, Show Biz is like that. And sportsmanship is the name of the game, and it's not considered very nice to criticize the judges, even behind their backs. (Sometime I'll write about the judges; I think they have a very hard job.) Anyway, Meowmy says she'll continue putting me in shows to see if Ido any better in the future, but obviously, if I'm never going to win any more ribbons, what's the point? Leila goes to shows every once in a while, but she's only gotten one very minor award (worth 10 points) in her entire career, and she's likely never to get another. As much as I hate to admit it, Chibi is probably going to get some more ribbons as long as she stays in the Kitten class; once she becomes a Champion, unless she gets a lot bigger than she is now, her show business career is over, too.
So, what to do? Meowmy got a sort of dressing down from a top breeder yesterday, who told Meowmy everything she knows already. Such as: you can't get to the top with cats from a middling-level breeder; females are almost guaranteed not to succeed in the Championship class (they fare better in the Premiership class); and that if Meowmy is really serious about showing, she has to get one of those smelly old Intact tomcats. That's where the real competition lies in the cat show world. But while not every single Intact male sprays, it's a pretty safe bet that one will, and that means keeping them in a cage covered with absorbent pet sheets, or just giving up the idea of controlling the pee odor and letting Mr. Tom do his thing all over the house. The breeder also gave Meowmy a lecture on why we are not as competitive as other cats (my muzzle, Leila's small size and straight profile)--all of which Meowmy knows perfectly well NOW, but didn't when she acquired us--or at least when she bought Leila and me; when she bought Chibi, she was aware that Chibi had a better muzzle and ear setting than we do, and also that Chibi was an affectionate and outgoing girl, which makes her a better pet, but also is a plus in the judging ring.
The funny thing is that breeders can be sort of choosy about who they sell to, so even though this breeder thought she was doing Meowmy a favor by "educating" her about Maine Coons, there's no guarantee that she'd sell Meomy one of her cats. Still, Meowmy has made a good impression on the breeders at shows because she works so hard in exhibiting us--obviously, breeders like potential owners who will show their cats and thus advertise their catteries. But Meowmy's original breeder (our Breeder Daddy) is a kind of renegade--a perfectly respectable breeder, but not much into the cat show world. And the cat show world, Meowmy has discovered to her dismay, can be, well, rather catty. It's full of cliques and mysterious feuds and alliances, not all of which she's able to pick up on, partly because she is not Japanese, and some of this cliquish behavior has a uniquely Japanese flavor. The same kind of thing goes on in the American cat show world, too, apparently, so it's not just a Japanese thing. But while Meowmy has lived in Japan for years and years, she's always been involved in the academic world, which tends to be populated by individualistic, rather antisocial people who themselves fall outside of Japanese societal norms, so there's still some behavior that she's not quite attuned to.
Well, this entry is sort of a rant. Meowmy enjoys this hobby of showing (more than I do, obviously), but she's going to have to do some serious thinking about how she can continue it as an ENJOYABLE hobby. She's competitive enough to want to win SOMETIMES, and while she'd love to have the Number One cat in Japan, she was just as satisfied when I made Grand Premier, or (as much as I hate to admit it) when Chibi got her ribbons. Meowmy has a rather perverse side to her character. Heck, if she wanted to, she could buy a really spectacular cat from a top breeder and probably go on to be a National Winner. But she sort of enjoys winning minor awards with cats who are "underdogs," as it were.
Anyway, that was this week's cat show. The only other slightly interesting thing that happened was that Chibi and I got our pictures taken by semi-professional photographers, which will be showing up on our pages soon. Chibi is cute--I GUESS--but she is a sort of weird-looking cat; her photos capture her perfectly. But as handsome a fellow as I really am, I am one of those cats who really don't take good pictures--my fur's always mussed up, or my ears are splayed, or my eyes reflect the light. It doesn't help that all three of us are rather nervous cats, and keep trying to run away during photo sessions. Actually, I've learned the art of sitting still; you can put me in a chair and I'll keep the pose. But I'll still be reacting to the noises and odors of the show hall--my pupils are dilated and my ears are back, and I don't look like a happy Catster. The photography team kept on waving wand toys at me and making noises with paper bags and things to try to elicit an expression of curiosity or interest on my face, but I foiled them. Sit still, yes; look like I'm enjoying the process, no.
Our next show is on the weekend of May 10. It's a big show, and Breeder Daddy may be there. It's probably going to be hot again, and I have to be with Chibi for two whole days.
Oh, I just remembered. That cute little Norwegian Forest Cat that was at the last show wasn't there this time. Drat. Really should have gotten her e-mail address when I had the chance.
April 25th 2008 8:40 am
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Well, tomorrow's the big day. Meowmy bullied some of her cat club friends (including the head honcho) to help her get us all in and out of our rings on schedule. Leila and Chibi don't need much special pre-ring grooming (I need to be fluffed up a lot so I can look really sexy and wow all those lady judges), so Meowmy will let Strangers take care of the grrls while she'll take care of me. In any event, I'm the only one who's likely to win anything, and even that is iffy, as it's going to be a rilly big shew--er, really big show, with 140 cats. Leila has filled out and gotten heavier, and her forehead and muzzle have become somewhat more pronounced, so she has more of a curve to her profile now, but her Roman nose, and her size, are undoubtedly going to keep her from getting any ribbons. As a friend of Meowmy's once said, "It's a waste to put your cat in a show when you know it's not going to win anything for you, only add one more cat to the headcount for the winner!" Well, that's true enough, but we're competing for the fun of it, not just to win. Of course, given our druthers, we would like to win sometimes. As for that brat Chibi, she has a snowball's chance in Hell of winning anything; in the Maine Coon division alone, she'll be up against at least one kitten from the Number One Maine Coon Cattery in Japan, three kittens from the Number Two Maine Coon Cattery in Japan, and that super-kitten Dryden.
It's past midnight, and none of us have been shampooed yet. Oops...Meowmy just got back from work and looks pretty beat. I think she'll probably do what she always does--go to sleep for a few hours and get up while it's still dark to shampoo us. But--THREE cats? Leila and Chibi will take around an hour each; I take around an hour and a half. Packing for the show takes half an hour...and then Meowmy has to take her own shower and get dressed--not that one actually "dresses" for a cat show, except those dumb "tuxedo cats." Oh, dear, with lame puns like that, I think it's time to go to bed. Oyasumi nasai.
April 21st 2008 4:47 pm
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My new show is this coming weekend, and since it's the last show of the season, and also since the entry fee is less expensive than usual, all three of us--Harvey, Leila, and Chibi--are going to compete. Meowmy's not sure she's going to be able to handle this, because all three of us are competing in different rings, and while the whole show is just in one hall, racing up and down to see if your cat's number has gone up in the ring yet or not is difficult enough with one cat, not to mention three. She's hoping that someone might help her out when necessary in getting us to our cages in the judging ring on time and then getting us out when the judging's over.
This time, my brother Mercutio might be there (yeah, yeah, don't blame me for the dumb name)--competing against me!!! My half-nephew Harry is Intact so competes in the Championship class, but Mercutio has had his Intacts removed, like me, so he's going to be a Premier. I used to compete against his roommate, Huckster (who, despite the name, was a girl), but she zoomed past me, getting her Grand Premiership long before I did. Mercutio is going to start out as an open, so for this first show at least, he won't be serious competition for me, but in the future, even though he'll be a Premier and I'll be a Grand Premier, we'll still be judged together because we're the same sex and color. He's my littermate, a red tabby and white like me, and we look very much alike, with shortish fur (mine's shaggier, though), and long, lean bodies. He also has ears that splay out, a minus in the judging ring. He's mostly white, with red on his back , whereas I'm almost all red, except for my frill and booties. I'm furrier than he is, and have a ruff, which he doesn't have, but his tail is really fluffy, fluffier than mine. When Meowmy had to choose between us, she wanted me because she wanted a really red cat, but also wanted a really affectionate cat, and couldn't figure out which of us was more affectionate (both of us were pretty shy, actually). Our Breeder Daddy told Meowmy that Mercutio had a better build (bigger and with a better bone structure), but Meowmy, who wanted me as a pet and not a show cat, chose me.
In the old days, before Meowmy adopted me, I used to sleep in our kitty bed with Mercutio; we were like Siamese twins. Those were the good old days, when I could watch the cars going along the highway that I could see outside the window of Breeder Daddy's apartment. Vrroom, vrroom. I havn't missed Mercutio much since, but it will be kinda nice to see him again--it's just too bad that we have to be competitors. Oh, well, c'est la vie. All I can say is that I want to get that stupid brown "Best of Breed" ribbon JUST ONCE, in JUST ONE ring! That will make Meowmy happy, and make me feel pretty cool, too.
April 16th 2008 11:06 am
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On rereading my last diary entry, it occurred to me that I may have given the impression that all cats hate cat shows. If that were the case, our humans would all be guilty of animal abuse. Quite the opposite is true. The majority of cats in shows are either totally unfazed by the whole thing, or actually seem to eat up the attention (savvy exhibitors encourage this association of cat shows with pleasure by giving their cats tasty treats during the show, but I'm a stoic, and refuse to eat or drink anything until the show's over). They say that pedigreed cats are bred to be easy-going enough to deal with the stress of shows, and while this is not true of every pedigreed cat (a lot of those Siamese and other high-strung breeds can get a bit out of control), breeders and other exhibitors will usually stop showing a cat if it's unable to adapt to the stresses of the show ring. My sister Leila is like that; when placed on the judging table, she just falls over and lies very still, as if to say, "If you're going to kill me, do it now and get it over with!" This always appeals to the maternal instincts of the judges (who are mostly women)--they cuddle her and whisper comforting things in her ear, but she remains petrified through the whole process, with dilated pupils and tail wrapped closely around her body. That's one reason Meowmy stopped showing Leila after the first few shows--it was obvious that she was NOT going to get used to Show Biz, and Meowmy thought it was too cruel to subject Leila to something that Leila obviously considered a form of torture.
But the majority of the cats handle the whole thing with aplomb. When they're back in their own cages, waiting to be called to the judging ring, they take naps in their personal beds or hammocks, play with their Humans, snack, try to escape (more out of boredom, curiosity, or an excess of animal energy than out of desperation or fear), stick their paws out to try to touch passers by, converse with anyone who will listen, use the toilet...And in the holding pens during judging, you see every kind of behavior imaginable. When I first started going to shows, I was nervous, so I'd sit ramrod stiff with my tail wrapped around me and my pupils dilated. Now I'm more relaxed and often lie down and chill out. Some cats face the back of the cage. Some sit up, some lie down; some even lie on their backs, inviting a tummy rub. Some fall fast asleep. Some play with the ribbons the judge puts on their cage, causing them to fall off. Sometimes there's a doo doo incident. Some cats (stupid Chibi is one of them) are very vocal, and spend the entire time they're in the judging ring giving their personal opinion of the goings on in a loud voice. Some cats groom themselves, even those areas which, well, one usually wouldn't want to be seen licking in public. Leila did that once--in one ring, her cage was right next to a male Maine Coon who took quite a shine to her (this is in the Champion ring, where the cats are still Intact), and began to howl his desire to her. Leila had not shown any signs of being in heat before this ring, but upon hearing his love calls, and smelling his pheromones, she suddenly turned around and began furiously to lick herself under her tail, something she does when in heat. The air was thick with the aura of thwarted kitty desire...And all this in front of an audience of twenty or so humans, who thought the whole thing quite amusing!
In fact, one reason people like cat shows is that we cats, well, act like cats, and there's a lot of laughter from the audience, who are mostly people for whom cats are not only their raison d'etre, but also probably more important than any humans in their lives. Cat shows are about competition, and are full of drama and tears at times, but they are also simply fun--for the humans, and for the majority of the cats who don't mind being shown.
Perhaps one of the biggest hams on the Show Biz circuit right now is my half brother Harry. Actually, although that's what I called him in my last entry, now that I think of it, his FATHER was my half brother, which makes him what--my half nephew?--even though he's older than I am. (Since the Maine Coon world is pretty small, breeders tend to sell cats to one another, or use one another's cats for stud service, so if you look at the various competitors' pedigrees, you'll find a lot of cats who are related to each other, if only distantly. ) Anyway, NOTHING bothers Harry, and his happiest moments are when he's on the judging table, showing his stuff as he goes after whatever toy the judge is using that day (yes, he does Mylar wand toys). When not in the ring, you'll find him stretched out in his cage, often belly up, dead to the world, or eating, eating, eating. Harry is a Grand Champion and one of the top cats in Japan, but he's rather unusual in that he's an example of a fairly short-haired version of the Maine Coon breed (although he has the requisite bushy tail)--the cats in my family don't tend to be as furry as some of the cats from other lines. But Harry is BIG. No one can figure out how he got to be so big. He's not fat--in fact, I don't think he weighs that much more than I do, and certainly not as much as some of the other Maine Coons. But he's built like me, with a swimmer's body--muscular, without an ounce of fat. Just BIG. Compared to the other Maine Coons next to him, he looks as if he's been enhanced by computer graphics or something. In fact, once he and Leila were put side by side in the judging ring, and that was pretty funny--not only were the biggest and the smallest Maine Coons side by side, but they were relatives!
Harry's a handsome red tabby and white like me, with amber eyes and a sweet, traditional Maine Coon face. He usually gets Best of Breed or Second Best of Breed in the judging ring, and then gets called back for the final. At the end of a show, he has so many ribbons covering his cage that you can barely see inside. A laid-back personality, a gorgeous body--if there were a Hollywood for cats, he'd be on his way. But alas, the cat show world is more like the Olympics--cats peak early, and there's always the next generation nipping at their heels (so to speak), so a show cat's career in the ring lasts only a few seasons at the longest. Afterwards, the best specimens usually go on to be stud cats; breeders like breeding these cats, not only because they have good genes, but because their progeny can be sold for bigger bucks than cats whose fathers are just Champions, or non-titled. On the other hand, Nature has a way of playing tricks with genetics; just as miracle cats like Harry can be born of not so spectacular parents (Harry's mother didn't even have a title), not all super champs like Harry produce children who are as exceptional as they are.
After a career as a stud cat, which may last until the cat is five or so (I'm not really clear on this; hey, I'm not Intact, it's a bit out of my ken), the cat is then neutered and either kept on as an honored pet, or given away or sold. In fact, this is one of the best-kept secrets regarding buying pedigreed cats--it's possible to get a retired show cat/stud cat for a reduced price, or even free, although the breeder usually is pretty fussy about who they allow to adopt their cats. And these cats, due to the fact that they've shown their mettle in the show ring, are almost guaranteed to be easy-going, affectionate pets.
But a cat's show career is not necessarily over even then. Stud cats can compete as Premiers (like me!) after being neutered, and after the age of seven, can compete in the Veteran Class. Yes, indeed, seven is considered a venerable age in the show biz world (not because show cats die early, just because a show cat hits its peak when young, just like Olympic athletes). In fact, my great-great-grandfather, who, as I mentioned, was the top Maine Coon in Japan several years ago, sometimes still shows up in the Veteran ring, and he's a real favorite with the audience. He's such a handsome guy--and it was really weird to see him there, in the flesh, and not just as a name on my pedigree.
Although I've just described what happens at the end of a show cat's career, I realize that I haven't yet described how a career starts. Well, it goes like this (at least in the CFA--the Cat Fanciers' Association--where I'm registered). Many cats start their Show Biz careers as kittens, partly to get them used to the whole thing while young, and partly because breeders, in particular, are eager to show off their new hopefuls as soon as possible. As I wrote in my previous entry, the Kitten Class judging rings are one of the most popular rings in cat shows, since kittens are cute (except my dopey sister Chibi), and everyone is sizing up everyone else's cat or cats. Then, after the cat reaches eight months, they go on to compete in the Championship or Premiership class, depending on whether they are Intact or not. Serious exhibitors and breeders mostly show in the Championship class, and this is where competition is keenest. But what's interesting is the fact that it is NOT necessarily difficult to become a Champion or a Premier. In your first show, you enter the Championship or Premiership class as an "Open." If you are the only cat in your breed of your color and sex, you automatically get first place. If you're even a slightly unusual color, as I am, this is practically an automatic thing. And even for more common colors, since there aren't so many cats competing in the open class in each show (except at the beginning of the show season, which for some inexplicable reason starts in May), you stand a good chance of not having to compete with anyone for the first-place ribbon. You need six first-place ribbons to become a Champion or a Premier, and since most cat shows consist of eight rings in two days, or six rings in one day, you can usually become a Champion or Premier in one show. This is to say that, if you're thinking of buying a pedigreed cat, you shouldn't be TOO impressed to see that its parents are Champions, as almost any pedigreed cat can become Champion, as long as it's put in a show. What IS important is that the breeder shows his or her cats; that's one of the marks of a reputable breeder.
Of course, to compete in a cat show as a Champion or a Premier, you have to have a pedigree, and you have to be registered with that cat association (usually meaning that you come from a line of cats registered with the same association). Breeders often divide their cats into "Pet Quality" and "Show Quality" (also sometimes "Breed Quality"), but even a "Pet Quality" cat can compete, in theory at least, and some do quite well. I myself am an example of that.
Becoming a Champion or Premier, therefore, is not as difficult as it sounds to the ear of the uninitiated. But it becomes increasingly difficult after that. The next level to aim for is Grand Champion or Grand Premier; for the former, you need 200 points, for the latter, 75. These points can be accumulated throughout your entire career, so you can take your time in acquiring them, although most cats do it in the first few years of their lives. (Since Maine Coons reach full maturity at three or so, some cats actually look better--bigger and furrier--at this age than they do right out of kittenhood.) As I explained in my previous entry, you gain points according to the number of Champions/Premiers you beat in each ring, although the counting process can get pretty complicated. If you are lucky enough to be called back for the final ring (in which the ten best cats get ribbons), you may win points against Grand Champions or Grand Premiers, but you can't add these points to those you just earned in the same ring by beating other Champions or Premiers--you only get to keep the award that gave you the most points. (If you're lost at this point regarding scoring, check out the CFA site's explanation about it, and you'll get even more confused. Not a small number of exhibitors, even after many, many shows, still don't understand the minutiae of scoring. Specially-trained clerks keep track of this, and at the end of the show collate the data and send it to CFA Headquarters in New Jersey, where Grand points can be accessed over the Internet at a site called Herman OnLine, by punching in your cat's registration number.)
Obviously, the more cats in the ring, the faster you'll become a Grand, IF you're a quality cat. If you're only a middling cat like me, it's sort of iffy as to whether you do better in a bigger show with more with more cats to compete against, which means you get a chance to get more points IF you beat the other cats, or a smaller show where you have a better chance of beating the other cats, but get fewer points when you do. At the beginning of the show season in May, there are lots of new Champions and Premiers to compete against; at the end of the season, from January to April, which is when I competed, most of the cats have already become Grands, which is one reason I took so long to get my Grand Premiership, as I was sometimes competing against only a single cat in a show. (And if you're the ONLY Champion/Premier in a show, you come out first each time, but don't get a single point, since you didn't beat any other cats, which strikes me as rather existential.)
So, once a cat has become a Grand Champion or a Grand Premier, what happens after that? Many exhibitors retire their cats at that point, either because they're satisfied with having reached their goal, or because they don't want to spend any more money (showing cats is an expensive hobby, by the way; more of that later), or because the cat is starting to go sort of loopy from being shown so much (my half-nephew Harry has been to something like a hundred shows in his two-year life, but he's totally unaffected; in contrast, Lee Trevino, the guy who always tries to rip out the judge's throat, may be showing signs of cat show burnout). But other exhibitors, especially breeders, will go on to the next level, if their cat is good enough and they, and the cat, have enough stamina (and money). The next level would be Regional, National, and International; unfortunately, since I'm only a middling cat, there's no hope of me going into those exalted realms, and since I'm the first cat my Human has shown, she still doesn't quite understand everything about this area of Show Biz. It seems that you can get awards in the Allbreed category as one of the top twenty-five Kittens, Champions, or Premiers (obviously, the last two are all Grands), or place as one of the top examples of your breed or color. These awards are based on points you get in the course of one show season, from May to April of the following year, which is why you still see so many Grand Champions and Grand Premiers slogging it out long after they became Grands. My Human is very vague about the details of scoring in these categories, although she has dreams of one day having a cat who can go on to compete in these classes (don't worry, I'm not bothered by the fact that I'm not likely to go on to become anything bigger than a Grand Premier; I just want to stay home and sleep and beg mercury-tainted tinned tuna from my Human).
To become a Regional/National/International Winner, you have to go to practically EVERY cat show during the show year. In Japan, the shows are mostly in Tokyo, with a few in the Osaka region. That's fine for people living in Tokyo, but a lot of exhibitors live elsewhere in Japan, which means that, every weekend, they have to get on a plane or the Bullet train with their cat or cats and suitcase full of cat show gear and slog their way to Tokyo. This takes a tremendous amount of sheer physical strength (Harry's human, a woman, carries Harry and two other cats, plus their cat show paraphernalia, all the way from the other side of Japan every week, riding the Bullet Train). Needless to say, such exhibitors, and their cats, then have to spend a night at a hotel, which means that, for an out-of-towner, just one two-day cat show in Tokyo can cost around $600. Multiply that by the number of cat shows per year (well, they're not every week, but more than every other week), and...well, you do the math. For someone living in Tokyo, it's a bit better, but still not a cheap hobby. Each cat show costs, on the average, $150 per cat, although Maine Coons usually use a double cage, which is $30 more. At first, our Human took us to the show venues in taxis, which made the whole thing doubly expensive, but now she's economizing by taking us on trains.
And how many points per show do you get for all this expense and effort? Well, since I was competing at the end of the season, and since I am not a cat who wows every single judge who sees me, it took me a bit longer than is usual to get my Grand Premiership. In my best show, I got 19 points (that was because of a lovely out-of-town judge who fell in love with me and not only gave me Best Premier over a whole slew of other cats, but even put me in the Allbreed Final--the only time that's ever happened!). In my worst show, I only got three points. Well, my Meowmy thinks of shows as a kind of education in cat studies, and show fees as tuition; and since she doesn't have any other hobbies, and hasn't taken a vacation in who knows how many years (nor does she own a car, a television, or a microwave, not to mention a house), she feels she should be able to spend her money on something fun. Even so, it's a pinch, and she's looking forward to being able to cut down on the number of shows now that we've achieved our goal of Grand Premiership.
April 13th 2008 7:27 am
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So I got my Grand Premiership. That's why my new main photo shows me wearing that dorky plastic crown that my Human bought at Claire's. No, it's not glued to my head. I tried to shake it off before she could get a photo, but she was faster than I was. And yeah, the bib. It's white elastic lace with gold lame, and I feel like Liberace wearing it. I have to wear it because otherwise I spend the entire show licking myself and ruining my grooming job (unless I'm asleep)--you would too, if you were a cat, with all those judges pawing you and the odor of a hundred other cats in the room. Nothing like the smell of your own saliva on your fur. In the last picture on my page you can see telltale saliva marks on my ruff. Heh heh. I licked myself when I was in the holding cage in the judging ring where my Human couldn't stop me.
It was hot and humid the day of the cat show, and we Maine Coons do NOT like hot and humid. As usual, I had a two-hour grooming session before the show (shampoo and blow dry), which I do not particularly go for, but it sure got rid of a lot of extra fur that now I won't have to garp up as hairballs, and even I know how spiffy I look with my fur all clean and bright and my ruff and tail texturized for maximum fluffiness.
It was a small show--only five Maine Coons, including my old pals Mack the Truck and Lee Trevino (don't ask ME where breeders get these silly names). My half brother Harry was there, as was the breeder who owns my great-grandfather; he (the cat, not the breeder) was the Best Maine Coon Cat in Japan several years ago. (This may sound like I'm bragging, but my great-grandfather had scores of children, who went on to have scores of children, who then went on to have scores of children...there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of cats related to him in some way.) Basically it was the same crowd as always--same cats, same judges, same exhibitors, same old, same old...but even so, it was the first cat show in a month, and it was good to see them all again. There was a new female Maine Coon there this time, and I hissed at her when we were next to each other in the judging ring, just on principle. I didn't used to hiss at cat shows, but Lee Trevino does it all the time (when he's not trying to rip out the judge's throat), and I've started to imitate him, because he's pretty cool.
The scoring at CFA shows is only slightly less complicated than quantum mechanics, and our Human is pretty clueless about the whole thing. As we understand it, you need to get those purple ribbons called "Best Premier" to win points for your Grand Premiership. At this show, there were six rings. I got Best Premier in three, Second Best Premier in two, and nothing in the ring judged by "The Avatar of Evil" (more on that later). According to the arcane rules of CFA scoring, you get one point for every Premier you beat. Since there were four Premiers at this show, a Best Premier ribbon got you three points. The Second Best Premier gets 90% of the points earned by the Best Premier, which is rounded up to the higher figure, so in this show, a Second Best Premier ribbon was also worth three points. Therefore, it didn't matter whether you were Best or Second Best, point-wise. Sorta existential, if you ask me. I lost the Best Premier twice to a cute little Norwegian Forest cat female, and once to the Maine Coon chick who I hissed at. By the end of the show, I'd got fifteen points (we think, but won't know for sure until it's posted on Herman OnLine), and since I only needed six, my Grand Premiership seems like a sure thing. (And no, you can't use your extra points to buy things at Amazon.com.)
I got my six points by the second ring, and everybody clapped and congratulated Meowmy. They knew how hard we had to work to get this far (even my breeder kept telling Meowmy that I was only "Pet Quality" and couldn't make Grand Premier. Hmph. That'll show 'em). Meowmy cried a little. I even got "Second Best of Breed" in one ring, the first time THAT'S ever happened (maybe it was a mistake). That made Meowmy cry, too. (I think she's undergoing hormonal imbalances or something; she cries a lot. Maybe she's In Heat???)
So much for the boring stuff. Scoring is so complicated that you have to go to clerking school to learn it properly. Anyway, after the second ring I stopped being Mr. Nice Guy, because there was no more need to impress the judges with my sparkling personality. They always wave a wand toy or a feather at you to see if you're alert and chirpy and cute; also, Meowmy thinks, to get a better look at your expression and facial features. In the first ring, the judge waved a feather at me; a feather, yeah, I can do feathers. I sniffed it and then got up on my hind legs to sniff it some more when she lifted it higher. She smiled at this, and I knew I had the Best Premier ribbon in the bag (Humans are so easy to please). But by the third ring, I was sick of the whole toy thing. Frankly, I don't do toys, especially those Mylar wand toys the judges like to shake at you. Read my lips: I DON'T DO MYLAR WAND TOYS. I wish the judges would figure that out. Usually I just turn my head and ignore them, but this time I took every opportunity I could to hiss. And a few times I also imitated Leila's favorite technique of passive resistance: when the judge goes to get you out of your holding cage, you just collapse into a pile of mush, and they have to sort of pull you out as if you were Silly Putty. My other favorite technique is holding all four legs stiffly outward in an x-shape when the judge tries to take me out of the cage. If I do this skillfully enough, I can make the cage start to fall off the table, and that's when the judge calls out, "Owner!", and Meowmy has to come and get me out and place me on the judging table herself.
Anyway, the best ring was the one judged by the woman Meowmy refers to as "The Avatar of Evil." For some reason, she's had it in for me since I started being "campaigned," and always fails to give me anything at all, or, if she's forced to admit me to the finals (in the case that there are ten or fewer longhaired cats), will invariably give me tenth place. She doesn't like me; fine, I don't like her, either. So when she went to open the holding cage door, I finally let her have it, and spit in her face. That was a fun ring! Lee Trevino not only hissed numerous times and ALMOST managed to rip out her jugular, but he also bit the stupid wand toy in two. And Mack the Truck garped up a hairball the size of a small rodent in the middle of being judged. Way to go, guys!
Let's see, what were the comments made about me by the judges this time?Fresh tomatoes included, "Immaculate grooming job" (thanks, Meowmy!), "A wonderful Maine Coon coat, silky yet shaggy," "A fine example of classic blotched tabby markings," "Rare to find a red tabby with a color this deep," "A long, long, classic Maine Coon body," "Nicely set ears, fine profile and jawline," "Wonderfully long tail," "A low-key, laid-back Maine Coon personality" (that was before I started my hissing routine). Rotten tomatoes: "Needs to fill out a bit more," "Ears have a tendency to spread out too much," "Fur around the neck a bit too cottony," "Would like to see a slightly more pronounced muzzle, but that might come with time," "Tail makes up for lack of fullness with its unusual length" (well, I guess that last one isn't a rotten tomato so much as a left-pawed compliment).
As for the muzzle, I suspect that if my Human had left me Intact longer, I would have had enough testosterone to get a real he-man muzzle, but no, Meowmy had to go and take away the family jewels (when I was having oral surgery, no less; she didn't tell me that I was going to come out of the operating room missing more than a few millimeters of gum) before I had fully matured. She could at least have left me Intact until I made Grand Champion, and then done the little snip and tuck so I could go on to a new career in the Premiership ring. I'm a bit sensitive about my muzzle, actually. If you look hard enough, you can tell I'm a boy, but I've actually had other exhibitors come up and say, "Oh, what a lovely red tabby female you have there!" Hmph. I do NOT look like a girl, even when I'm wearing that stupid lace bib.
And the ears...I'm sensitive about them, too. When my Meowmy picked me out, the breeder made a point of saying that my wide-spreading ears were going to be a flaw in the judging ring. If you look at my candid shots, taken when I'm relaxed, you'll see what I mean. But fortunately, when I'm in the judging ring, I'm very alert to everything that's going on around me, and my ears are always swivelled forward to catch all the noises. So, I've managed to fool a lot of judges into thinking that I actually have nicely set ears.
The ears I got from Daddy, who was (and still is, although he's now retired from Stud Service), a HUGE, hairy, ultra-macho brown tabby Maine Coon. I also got my long, long torso from him (or if not from him, from my paternal grandfather, Captain Marvel, from whom I also inherited my red fur). The slightly inadequate muzzle resembles that of my mother. It looks pretty on her, but I would have preferred my father's he-man jawline. Sigh.
Back to cat shows...The real action shows goes on, not in the Premiership ring where I compete, but in the Kitten and Championship rings. The Kitten class is for cats up to eight months; after that, they are considered adults, and are judged in the Championship or the Premiership rings, depending on whether they are Intact or not. The Kitten rings are popular because kittens are cute and everyone likes them (except me), and also because everybody wants to size up the new generation of would-be champs. The Championship ring is where the breeders and really serious exhibitors compete; it has the largest number of cats being shown, and the competition can get fierce. The Premiership ring is mostly made up of pets (since breeders don't have much use for cats that can't, um, BREED). So there's usually not much of a crowd watching the Premiership competition, mostly just our owners and sometimes our breeders. Saying your favorite event in a cat show is the Premiership rings is sort of like saying your favorite event in the Winter Olympics is curling.
The rest of the time, I spent back in my own personal cage in alongside all the other cats. I have a neat cage curtain in a leopard pattern that sets off my color and makes me look like the wild animal I really am. I have food and water dishes, a black satin bed, and a kitty Port-a-John (also a chic black). This time, my cage was next to that of a cat being shown by the lady who owns The Most Famous Maine Coon Cattery in Japan. She called me a big boy and was very nice to Meowmy. Since I was prevented from grooming myself by that stupid bib, I spent most of my time asleep, or meditating on the Zen koan called "Nansen Kills the Kitten." I still haven't figured that one out yet. Personally, I think he SHOULD have killed the kitten, especially if it looked like my bratty little sister Chibi (I hiss at HER every day), but I don't think that's the right answer.
The hall is always filled with the sounds and smells of all the other cats--male and female, Intact and Not Intact. There's always somebody sending up a lonesome love call. And sometimes the odor of somebody's doo-doo comes wafting over...I myself always hold it until I get home. The owners of the Intact boys have to line the inside of their cages with absorbant paper because those Toms like to SPRAY. Personally, I think that's a bit childish. It can get pretty aromatic when there are a lot of Intact males in the hall all reacting to the odor of the other Intact males and Intact females. I kinda like the smell of those females myself, especially the ones In Heat. But the CFA is a class act, and there's no chance for romance. In fact, there's a rule that says, " Stud service in the show room is absolutely prohibited. Any owner whose entry participates in such action is subject to disciplinary action under Article XV, Section 4 of the CFA Constitution." Har har har. A lot of those cage curtains can be closed for complete privacy...And who knows what goes on in the hotel rooms of out-of-town exhibitors at night after the show? Hee hee. Intact or not, I have an idea of what it's all about. I may be clueless, but I'm not THAT clueless. I kinda liked that little Norwegian Forest Cat I was competing against. Shoulda gotten her e-mail address...
Sometimes Meowmy roamed around and schmoozed with the other exhibitors. She got to touch the Sphynx kitten (which has to wear a t-shirt most of the time to keep it warm and to keep its skin perfect), and she said it felt exactly like a warm, fuzzy peach. I hope this doesn't mean she's going to adopt a Sphynx. No bald cats in MY house, no way.
And, as always happens, halfway through the show a cat escaped. People started shouting, "Cat on the loose!", and then shut all the doors until the errant feline could be secured. Musta been one of those high-strung breeds.
The big surprise of the day, though, was when my breeder Daddy showed up. He never comes to our shows, and I wonder how he knew I was going to become a Grand Premier that day. He brought little cakes for Meowmy--it's traditional to give cakes to the Human when their cat becomes a Grand (the cat gets nothing, mind you). My breeder Daddy is a bit of a card--right in the middle of the judging ring he started waving at me and shouting, "Harvey! Do you remember me?" I could have died from embarrassment...! Actually, I do kind of remember him, because he's the only person in my life so far who smokes, and I remember the smell of tobacco. So I didn't hiss at him. He and Meowmy drank coffee afterwards. I think he's probably still Intact, but I don't think that's why he's nice to Meowmy. I think they're just buddies. All they do is talk about cats, cats, cats. Even I was starting to find their conversation boring.
When Meomy and I got home (after an hour and a half trip on three different rail lines), we did the usual after-show celebration pig out on junk food thing: we cats got to eat our fill of El Cheapo guess-how-mercury-tainted-this-tuna-is cat food, and Meowmy ate a Domino's pizza with jalapenos, black olives, and onions. Then we all trooped into the bedroom and slept: me in my cat bed, Spot on his pillow next to Meomy's head, Leila under the bed, and Chibi at Meowmy's feet. Boy, I was tired. Today, I spent the whole day grooming myself. Gonna wash those judges right outta my hair, la la la...aaaah, bliss.
Actually, I don't really mind shows THAT much. It gets me out of the house, gets Chibi out of my face for a few hours, and I get Meowmy's undivided attention for an entire day. And she's continually brushing and combing me. Heavenly! After each ring, she says, "You did good, Harvey!", and at the end of the show she kisses me (I could sorta do without the kissing part) and says, "Thank you, sweetie." That's whether I got any points or not.
Meowmy says there's another show in two weeks that we've already signed up for, so I have to go AGAIN. And with Chibi this time. Ugh. Will this madness NEVER END???
(1) Names in the above have been changed to protect the innocent, with the exception of "The Avatar of Evil.")
(2) "Nansen Kills the Kitten"--" 'Nansen Kills a Kitten' tells of the priest Nansen who decides a dispute between two temples about ownership of a kitten by killing it. Later his chief disciple, Choshu, returns and when he is told what happened, he removes his muddy shoes and puts them on his head. Nansen says, 'If only you had been here, the kitten could have been saved.' " (From Donald Richie's 1959 review of Yukio Mishima's "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion," which can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/10/25/specials/mishima-templ e.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
April 9th 2008 10:55 am
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Meomy says I've been cranky these past few days, and she's right. Maybe it's spring, maybe it's boredom, but it might just be because I suspect there's another Cat Show imminent on the horizon. I'm just getting those cat show vibes from Meowmy. Yeah, I know, I'm trying to get the title of "Grand Premier" and I only need six more points out of 75, so it's sort of exciting--for Meowmy. For me, whoopee-do. "Grand Premier" sounds like something they call guys in a fraternal order where people wear fezzes and have secret handshakes. "Premier" is the title you get when you're neutered or spayed; if you're "Intact," as the CFA (Cat Fanciers' Association) so prissily puts it, you get to be a Champion, which sounds a lot better to my ears. My little sister Leila is a Champion because she got her title it before getting spayed; it eats me up that she's a Champion when I'm just a Premier. But I'll get my revenge because it's a lot easier to become a Grand Premier than a Grand Champion. Nyah nyah to YOU, Leila.
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