Children At The Cat Show
by LEE HARPER

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If a child comes to the cat show, they probably already love cats.

When I see kids at a cat show, I see it as an opportunity to encourage the next generation of cat breeders. I want to help the child enjoy their visit to the show, and to create in their mind a favorable impression of cat breeders.

I never had children of my own (human ones, anyway), but as a teenager, I was the best babysitter in town. The kids loved me and their parents competed for my services because the kids behaved for me :-).

So, I take the same skills and techniques I used as a babysitter and I apply them to my interactions with the kids at the cat show.

Be A Teacher

Most children are curious and full of questions.

Be prepared to answer their questions in a friendly manner and with a smile and details appropriate to the child's age.

Be patient.

Can I Pet Your Cat?

No matter how curious the child may be or how much they may be interested in learning more about your cat, the number one thing they want is to touch your kitty.

Some breeders are happy to have their cat petted, and some breeders do not permit it. Some cats are not comfortable with children. It is very discouraging for a child to be refused to be able to touch your perfectly groomed show cat. But there is a simple way to change that disappointment into delight.

Let the child interact with the cat without touching it.

While I may not want my freshly groomed Persian petted, I do always have a teaser available. I will demonstrate for the child how the cat likes to play with the teaser — then I ask if they would like to try. The answer is always a resounding yes.

I hand the teaser to the child. I have a short, child-sized teaser handy that I know my cat adores. Once the cat reacts to the teaser in the child's hand, the child's disappointment at not being able to pet the cat disappears. The child is delighted at the cat playing with them and now has a story to tell their friends back home.

Rewarding Good Behavior

My cats have won more rosettes over the years than I will ever display. When I am at a show and my cat is winning so that there are rosettes hanging from my cage, I give away a rosette to any child who asks if they can pet my cat (as opposed to just rushing up with sticky fingers and grabbing hold of my kitty).

I tell them that because they were so polite, I am going to give them a reward. I want the child to understand why they are getting the rosette.

Without fail, the child lights up and I often watch them not only clutch the gifted rosette, but often "hang" it from the neck of their shirt — proudly strutting the show hall with their fancy ribbon.

Be warned — if a family has two kids, you better have two rosettes to give away. :-).

Giving away rosettes to children can be infectious. More than once another exhibitor has noticed me doing it and thought it was a great idea — and started to do it too. Spread the fun!

My Cat At Home Looks Just Like Your Cat

You will get a lot of spectators saying that they have a pet kitty at home who looks just like your national winner. Yes, it's highly annoying. :-) If an adult makes the comment, I take it as an opportunity to politely educate them about breed characteristics.

If a child makes the comment, I ask them their cat's name, how old it is, where they got it from. I usually finish our little conversation off with saying the kitty sounds wonderful and what a lucky kitty it is to have such a nice person as an owner.

Grand Cakes

Grand Parties are a tradition unique to the cat fancy. Imagine the impression you leave with a spectator's child if one of the things they remember about their first cat show is getting a piece of free cake!

Always discreetly ask the parent if you can offer the child a slice of cake — and if you get permission, give the child a sliver of pastry saying, "This is a piece of cake from my cat. He whispered to me that he wanted you to have the best piece because he can tell you like cats."

Noisy or Misbehaving Children

Okay, the truth is, you will occasionally run into a child whose behavior is less than endearing. The kid is running up and down the aisle, maybe with a playmate. They are laughing and giggling and scaring half the cats in the benching area. What do you do?

What you don't do is turn into the Wicked Witch of the West and snarl at the kids to behave. Instead, call them over to you in a pleasant way. Explain to them that many of the kitties are just babies and are attending their first show. It is a bit scary for them seeing all the other strange cats and people. And some of the cats have never seen children before. Explain to the children that they are frightening the cats and ask if perhaps they could not run and not yell.

Most kids will look sheepish and maybe a bit frightened. Remember to explain, not reprimand. You want the child to behave appropriately, but not leave the show hall thinking cat breeders hate kids.

In Conclusion

Every exhibitor is representing the cat fancy as a whole in the show hall. Children are very impressionable. What impression of the Cat Fancy and Breeders have you left in a child's mind who has just visited the cat show?

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