G and I were pondering what it is about the cat fancy that makes people take the same cats to shows, week in, week out, year in and year out. On and on, ad infinitim.
When one thinks back to Harrison Weir (the father of the cat fancy), the original objective of cat showing was to create awareness and education in the public domain about these mysterious animals, and later for the judges to guide breeders in their programs, towards the elusive "perfect" specimen (not that anyone will ever succeed in breeding a perfect cat - whatever that may be).
The problem with showing cats however, is that except for fairly rapid changes through the kitten stages, the development is fairly gradual and therefore it makes little sense to be showing them every week - that is, assuming cat judges are consistent you're certainly not likely to get much of a different message, week on week.
But of course cat judges are not consistent and much of their message consists of trying to tell you diplomatically that the cat is a poor specimen, or perhaps that the cat is a great specimen (this depends on their mood, whether you've been a good and loyal subject lately, whether they want somebody else to do well at the show today to keep them coming back and paying fees & etc.) It seldom actually has much to do with the cat and what the judge has had for breakfast is as likely as anything to sway the decision.
So, for a while at least, you get a kaleidoscope of judge opinions, many the same, plus some outliers from a few upcountry judges who don't know you quite so well and are not particularly interested in hampering your chances unless you've been getting up their noses lately. But then it tends to settle down into the same old rigmarole/ ho hum been-there-seen-that type of report.
There was only one judge who was upfront enough to say to me "I don't know what else to say about him - I've written everything there is to say already - and that judge had only seen him 3 times before. But 3 times is more than enough when it comes to cat judging. At the 2nd time, the judge is still getting to know the cat - by 3 times the judge is saying "ah hello old chap, and how are we today?". And after that, it's just silly.
It makes it even worse when the cat fancy tries to pretend that judges don't know which exhibits are owned or bred by who. The point being here that 99% of the time, the owner of the cat is standing in front of the judge presenting the cat to him/her to be judged. Therefore for the cat fancy's assertion to be correct, I must presume that cat judges have either an exceptionally short term memory recall / short span of attention (or both), or Alzheimers (or all of these). Certainly, I'm leaning towards believing it in certain cases....
So now we get the situation where, in order to encourage people to bring their cats back to the show (and hence support the federations with entry fees), they create multiple titles, like "double supreme champion", "triple supreme champion" etc.) Which means with the current show system provided you are prepared to drive a few thousand extra kilometers per year, these extra awards can be obtained within about a year. Otherwise if you're a stay-at-home type, a couple of years extra showing of the cat. But what's the point if the judge has seen the cat multiple times already? And most of them have, because there are not that many judges in SA. By the time you get in that type of silliness, the judges are bored, you're bored and the cat is getting bored. In fact that cat would far rather be at home, stalking a juicy bird or lying in the garden in a tunnel, or sunning itself on its back.
But no - the same cats get trotted out year on year. And behold! Suddenly, there we have a picture of a cat judge standing next to a proud owner and their cat which is being touted as the best thing since sliced bread, and it's the same cat that has been judged by the same judge countless times. Silly smiles are plastered on their faces. What changed? Well nothing as far as the cat is concerned. However the owner is being patted for being persistent and loyal (for a moment, at least), until it's somebody else's turn.
And the years roll on, show after show, COTY after COTY.
"Same procedure as last year Miss Sophie?"
"Same procedure as every year, James"
I can see it all now in my mind. A Monty Python sketch lampooning the pathetic silliness of the cat fancy. John Cleese enters show hall with his too-short trousers showing a deal of ankle and mismatching sock, clutching a cat protectively under his arm and shielding it from the prying eyes of the other exhibitors who have seen it a million times.
"Same procedure as last year, Mrs Scum?"
"Same procedure as every year, Mr Gabbleblotchit"
"Right!" and he Nazi goose-steps towards the front of the hall, cat under left arm, right arm cocked with the feather from the cat teazer under his nose to indicate the moustache. He turns round at the front, holds the cat high in the air, and on his forehead is affixed an enormous rosette with tails down to his knees. It reads "FAITHFUL EXHIBITOR OF THE YEAR".
"No , no, no!!" The show manager screams "you do that at the end of the season. This is the beginning. You need to get into your cage!"
"Oh all right" Gabbleblotchit sighs reluctantly, curling his 6'5" frame double and contorting his body into a 50cmx50cm show cage. A passing steward obligingly slams the door shut and puts in the steel retaining pin.