In response to the coronavirus pandemic, cat showing has gone virtual, opening up the cat fancy world to any kitty who wants to compete – pedigreed or playful.
Cats compete via photographs submitted online and by judges safely socially distanced, ranking each class via their computers. The just-for-fun shows are open to cats worldwide, regardless of whether they are pedigreed or registered with TICA.
“We all love showing pictures of our kitties, right?” says Liz Brown, a longtime Maine Coon breeder based out of Chicago. Liz says the virtual shows have attracted many owners who had never shown their cats before as well as owners who had cats that were too cranky or shy to be considered a good show cat prospect.
One of Liz’s cats, “Witchcraft Flash Fire of Chemicoons,” call name “Fire,” won the “Best of the Best Golden Oldies” contest for the Southwest Regional Show.
Fire, a 13-year-old Maine Coon, who has been retired from the show ring for years, was a TICA international winner in her day. Though like most cats, experienced show cats or not, Fire would prefer skipping the obligatory show bath.
The virtual cat show idea was sparked as a way to raise money for TICA’s regional cat clubs that typically depend on their annual series of cat shows to raise funds.
Virtual show fees are typically about $10 per cat for ‘regular’ show rings and often less for ‘fun’ rings like costume classes, ‘Golden Oldies’ (elderly cats), “Wee-Ones’ (kittens younger than four months) and ‘Rainbow Bridge” cats (beloved cats who have passed on).
Each region sets its specific classes and dates with ten regional shows total plus an international finale slated for June. Cats may be entered in any region.
Judges present the winners for each class in a recorded presentation posted on each region’s Facebook show page.
“And my very best is, of course, a tortie. A crazy tortie, with her feet on the picture. She is posing, very brilliant eyes, very expressive. She is a good example of a household pet with a beautiful, healthy body. A very playful lady, she is really really awesome. Today this beautiful tortie is my very best!” gushes TICA judge Jorge’ Garnica in his record top ten winners for the South Central Household Pet class.
What nobody expected was just how popular the virtual cat shows would turn out to be, according to Roeann Fulkerson, Marketing Director for TICA. Since launching the Virtual Cat Show website on April 10, they have had more than 2,200 unique users sign up from 58 different countries and almost 12,000 page views.
Liz, who serves as TICA’s Great Lakes Regional Director, has also seen a great response. The Great Lakes Region already had 700 entries with several more days before closing. Pre-virtual shows, her region’s cat shows typically averaged around 125 entries.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought we would get that many entries. My judges are kind of freaking out,” Liz says. “I keep telling them, at least they don’t have to be handling a bunch of heavy Maine Coons.”
But longtime TICA judge Toni Jones says judging cats online isn’t as easy as you would think.
“You find yourself wanting to touch the screen and feel the cat’s coat,” Toni says. Although she did admit to doing her judging “in my pajamas with no make-up.” An unexpected perk to online cat show judging.
But it’s more than just the bragging rights for the cat community. In the stressful times of the coronavirus pandemic, the virtual cat shows have been a welcome relief and distraction. Plus, a way for the cat community to do what all cat lovers love to do – show off our cats.
Jonna Inman, a nurse practitioner who lives in rural western Kansas, says she had been seeing a lot of patients with stress-related illnesses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. A cat-showing enthusiast herself, Jonna knew that the stress must be affecting the cat lovers.
“I realized that people that were in the cat fancy were going to struggle as well because I was missing my cat fancy and friends,” Jonna says.
Jonna, who typically shows Havanas and Singapuras, took the virtual cat show opportunity to enter an abandoned cat her family adopted in the household pet category.
Though her pedigreed cats have been placing well, it has been “Fast Eddie,” a gorgeous blue-eyed, cream lynx point domestic shorthair with a Siamese look that ended up bringing home a “Best All-Breed” blue ribbon in the Southwest regional show household pet division.
Fast Eddie now has bragging rights as a “blue ribbon winner” in their household, Jonna says, laughing. The whole experience has been a lot of fun and a positive experience for cat lovers, Jonna said.
“We all love cats, and that’s why we’re here,” she says.