Not even an exclusive event and exhibition such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is safe from the sovereignty of felines destine to take over the world. This year’s combined felines and canines at a weekend event known as Meet the Breeds marks the first time the two species were hosted under the same prestigious banner. The Internet and Westminster spectators alike were abuzz on whether cats deserved a stage at the dog show, others simply confounded by their presence.
In years past, the International Cat Association hosted a simultaneous showcase next door to the American Kennel Club’s New York dog show on opening day. But after a long hiatus from the canine circuit, the felines came back this year as a surprise guest at the show’s meet, announced only one month ago.
In an arena teeming with thousands of biased dog fanatics, the cats pulled a large audience of their own.
The event was relocated from the Javitz Center; this year, New York City’s Pier 94 hosted the majority of canine breed booths and two dog agility courses. And in the middle of Pier 92 was the cat section — nestled between pet insurance and animal behaviorists on one side, and docile Newfoundland and Sheep Dog breeds one the other. Aside from the occasional overly excited pooch attempting to sniff a cat, the felines were nonplussed by all the commotion.
Perhaps more unexpected than cats at the dog show was the presences of cat the agility course. The goal of the feline agility showcase, hosted by International Cat Agility Tournaments, was to demonstrate how easy it is to train a cat to run a course. Unlike dogs, cats have the ability to memorize a course in minutes. Much of the excitement of this cat course is not in their speed of completion, but whether the cats were even motivated to try it and chase a toy through hoops.
Each feline that took more than five quick steps in the right direction was cheered.
Not surprisingly, the more active cat breeds and those with a higher disposition to chase — Sphynx, Bengal, Bobtail — typically ran the course, or at least parts of it, with vigor and enthusiasm. Some of the fancier breeds and prima donna personalities tended to opt out of the competitive chase and sat atop the course’s stairs, basking in audience adoration.
Cats at the Westminster Dog Show is more than a novelty. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the often misunderstood species — demonstrate the cats’ compatibility and intelligence. It’s a chance to showcase the distinct beauty of each breed and well as learn about each one’s personality characteristics. And it might even be part a covert mission to persuade more people cats deserve a place in their lives — as companions, divas, jokesters, athletes and adorable 10-pound overlords.