Next week is CFA's International Show 2002 in Houston, Texas. The International is CFA's most prestigious cat show event. Although it is CFA's largest cat show and has been professionally promoted for over ten years, it has failed to garner the significant national television coverage that CFA hoped for.
While high profile dog shows such as Westminster are part of stand alone television programming, we don't see cat shows televised in a similar way. Cat shows are not considered as "visually entertaining" to a general audience as a dog show.
I have been involved as a writer, director and producer in Canadian television for many years. I understand what a producer is looking for when developing a program for television. So... perhaps the time has come for the cat fancy to think "outside the box" and consider creating a cat show DESIGNED to be a television-friendly event.
Could we mimic the successful dog show format but tailor it to the needs of cats? Could we invent a cat show with more visual appeal? Could we create an event with more drama?
Include All Recognized Breeds Worldwide
Invite all recognized breeds of all associations to participate. If the desire is to remain CFA specific for the "Main Event", have a Group for the non-CFA breeds and a "Show-Within-A-Show" especially for them. Have volunteer ambassadors for each breed who will personally invite and encourage individual breeders to come and participate in the event.
Create More Cat Groups
Create more DRAMA (which TV producers LOVE), by dividing the breeds into several more cat "groups" for this special show - There are enough different types of cats within both the LH and SH groups to create at least 6 or 7 groups that encompass cats of a similar style. While dog groups are divided according to their traditional roles (Sporting, Hound, Working, Herding, Toy etc.), we could groups cats according to their most outstanding physical characteristic.
How the breeds are divided into additional groups and the names of those groups should be based on "something" in common... but more importantly, the division should create groups with approximately an equal number of breeds per group. The names of the Groups should be catchy and show-biz-y. Group 1, Foreign/Non-foreign, even Longhair/Shorthair are not names the general viewing public can get enthusiastic about. There is a reason that sport teams have names that are easy to remember and that lend themselves to a theme and a logo. There is a reason that musical groups have distinctive names that may or may not have anything to do with reality. The Barenaked Ladies are neither naked nor female :-))))
So don't get sidetracked too much by a cat fancy point of view in deciding on what breeds should be lumped together and why... Remember, if you want TV coverage, then there should be an element of show-biz, baby :-)~
Taking a quick look at recognized cat breeds I could see a possibility of creating 7 groups based on seven arbitrary divisions plus a special catchall group for cats not acceptable in the regular classes:
- The Snub-Nosed Chubbies (8): Seven Persian Divisions plus Exotics
- The Extremities (Distinctive Ears/Tails/Legs)(12): Curls(2), Fold(2), Manx(2), JBT(2), Pixie-Bobs, American Bobtail, Maine Coon, Munchkin
- The Stylists (Unusual Hair Types) (7): Devon, Cornish, Wire, Selkirk, La Perm, Sphynx, Peterbald
- The Patterns (Body Patterns/Pointed/Mitted) (10): Mau, Oci, Bengals, Singapura, Birman, Ragdoll, Ragamuffin, Snowshoe, Tonks, TV
- The Jocks (Gymnastic Athletic Types) (9) : Siamese, Oriental(2), Colorpoints(2), Bali, Javi, Aby, Somali
- The Mid-Rangers (10): RB, BSH, Burm, EBurm, Chartreux, Havana Brown, Korat, NFC, ASH, TA
- The Rare Breeds (10): Anatolian, Chantilly/Tiffany, Nebelung, Savannah, Siberian, Snowshoe, Australian Mist, Asian/Tiffanie, Chaussie, Savannah
- AOV/ Miscellaneous: any individual of a registered breed that is an AOV
To "include" even more breed winners within a group, the Longhair and Shorthair varieties within a breed have been separated . So, for instance, the Longhaired Manx would be judged separately from the Shorthaired Manx - and there would be a breed winner for each.
The Breed Village
Obtain sponsorship to finance the construction of a series of waist high Plexiglas "houses" - one for each breed of cat. Have a map and a different subdivision in the village for each "Group". Have 1-2-3 examples of each breed in their "home" with a description of its characteristics. A mom and a couple of half grown kittens would be ideal breed ambassadors. Have the Breed Village set up for easy spectator access. A Celebrity subdivision could include invited Cats of the Year, Movie Star cats, National Winners, etc.
Have a tour guide for each subdivision. Produce a "Map to the Cats" Souvenir Program.
Assign a Different Judge For Each Breed within a Group
Once we have created the various Groups to be judged, choose a renowned breeder judge for each separate breed (or a few breeds) within each group.
Showcase Each Breed by Judging the Kittens, Championship and Premiership Cats Together
Like at a dog show, let kittens/cats/alters of a breed or division all compete against one another at the same time, in the same ring under their one judge (Highlighting and showcasing the BREED). The cats would be divided by sex into 3 basic sections: Males/Neuters, Females/Spays and then all Grands no matter what their sexual status :-).
The classes within each section would begin with all the males/neuters being judged first within their classes, excluding grands.
Then all the female/spay classes would be judged, excluding grands.
Then the winners of each of the classes, (male/female/alters) would be judged along with all the grands (both GC and GP, all sexes/alters) competing for the top prizes. They would include Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex (to Best of Breed), Best Kitten, Best Champion and Best Open.
Kittens (4-6 months)
Male Kittens (6-8 months)
Male Opens (whole cats)
Male Opens (neuters)
the Male and Female classes are judged individually, the winners
of each regular class and the Grands enter the "Ring"
and the following awards are given:
Kittens (4-6 months)
|Grands (GC and GP combined)|
Assign a Completely Different Judge from the Breed Judges To Choose First Through Fourth in Group
After all the Breed Winners were chosen, they would then compete for Best in Group. Select a completely different judge to choose the best of group (1-4th place) from the breed winners of each group.
Sequester the Best In Show Judge
Like Westminster, the Best In Show Judge will be not be allowed into the showhall until Best In Show. He/She will have no idea what cats he/she will be choosing from for Best In Show.
Once Best In Show is chosen, the opposite sex (to Best in Show) Group Winners are brought in to choose Best of Opposite Sex. Then if the Best In Show Winner is not a kitten, the Kitten Group Winners compete for Best Kitten In Show.
Drama, Drama, Drama....
You could also choose a Best Champion in Show and a Best Open in Show.
Winner Take All
Each cat will be judged once - no multiple rings.
And here is a final twist... How about mimicking the style of judging of a dog show? Instead of cats in judging cages, why not have a long narrow ring with a series of small grooming tables - one for each cat. The owner/handler of each cat would enter the ring, place their cat on the table and proceed to "show" the cat to its best advantage. Teasers, toys, squeakers would be allowed and encouraged.
The judge would go down the line, handling the cats in the same way a dog judge does.
Imagine the entertainment value if an owner was allowed to "show" their cat! They could play with it on the table, stretch it, fluff it, "present" it to the judge and the audience... There would be a real showmanship element added to the entire event.
Include Special Classes
- Have a Stud Cat Class and Queen Class: a sire/dam and 2 or more offspring by/out of the same male/female. Judging to be based on the quality and consistency of the offspring. Note: No NW titled/campaigning cats may compete in this class.
- Have a Veterans Class for cats over the age of seven years.
- Have HHP.
Give BIG prizes and Rosettes for these special classes. Give them prestige!
- Have a Novice Class for Adults who have never campaigned a cat to an RW or NW. Cat shown must be owned by them and carry no title higher than grand.
- Junior Showmanship Have a Junior Showmanship class.
Westminster has an outstanding website in conjunction with their show, giving show photos and results almost as they happen. This pulls in a huge online audience as the average pet owner follows their favorite breed. This media cat show should do the same.
Have on-site computer terminals with a "Choose your breed" interactive feature. A series of questions would result in suggested breeds to suit the person's lifestyle and needs.
Include a complete list of vendors and the ability to order online.
Have a Color Commentator and an Announcer
Part of the entry form for each cat would include a request for 1-2 paragraphs of personal information about the cat - highlights, cute story, challenges. These comments would be read out to a TV audience while the cat was being judged, not audible to the breed judge.
Appeal to the grass roots exhibitor by highlighting that kind of exhibitor. Don't just focus on the campaigner.
During Group Judging, as each Best of Breed is handled by the judge, informative comments about that particular breed would be announced over a PA system.
Have lots of prizes, rosettes, trophies and cash for placements within the Breed Classes. This places the value and emphasis on the breed.
Do not take the prize budget and make a big cash prize for Best in Show. Instead SPREAD the wealth... so that more fanciers will feel a sense of appreciation for participating in this special event. Give a huge, sponsored, perpetual trophy for Best In Show on which their winner's name is engraved... creating a historical legacy. Keep this trophy on display at CFA offices and wherever the CFA booth travels to a show take the trophy along as an attention getter :-).
- Choose knowledgeable, breeder judges for the event.
- Guard against political wrangling. The worst thing would be for there to be pressure for the winner to be the current hot campaign cat. Judges should be asked to be even more vigilant than usual against any political influence in their choices.
- No judges, officers or employees of CFA would be permitted to have an entry in the show.
- Personally invite both big and small profile breeders within each breed to participate.
Best Case Scenario
Want to REALLY appeal to a television audience? Pray that a completely unknown exhibitor arrives with a spectacular cat that takes Best In Show. That would be a story that no television producer could resist :-)))
Now... take a few minutes to think about the possibilities... would there be problems with a new style of show? Sure.
Anything insurmountable? Nope.
We have plenty of talented and hardworking people in CFA who could pull such a concept together. Heck, we have plenty of cat people with dog showing backgrounds who could lead the way. I am not suggesting that all cat shows change, just that if what we truly want is media attention, we need to structure the show to appeal to the needs of a television event.
Let's think outside the box... and take a tip from our canine friends... Bow WOW!!!
Now... take this "different cat show" concept and throw it out for discussion amongst all your cat showing friends. Spread the word. Introduce the possibility for discussion on your favorite cat list. Will something like this ever happen? Perhaps not... but what a show it would be if it could become a reality! You could count on my entry :-))))!
Attracting a Television Program Producer
Ideally, a proposal would be put together outlining the new format and a pitch would be made to an independent TV producer and/or a specific TV program/network.
Alternately, a budget could be established to hire independent videographers, equipment and an experienced TV producer/director/cat person to get footage that could be edited into a demo tape to pitch the project.
Most Community Access Cable Television Stations have suitable personnel and equipment available.