Stuffing of Cat Shows
Published May 2006

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Editor's Note: Currently, no one "stuffing" a show has broken any specific rule—because there is no rule which addresses the issue of "stuffing" shows other than, "Any act or conduct seriously and patently detrimental to the best interest and welfare of the cat or The Cat Fanciers' Association."

Unfortunately, there are people who stretch the moral imperatives and challenge the ethics of any situation - to get what they want. The campaigners who have stuffed shows are not evil. They are not inherently bad people. They have simply lost sight of what is and isn't important. Integrity must be valued higher than any win.

The article, It's Not Whether You Win Or Lose published in our May 2, 2006 issue, garnered more emails and phone calls to the editor than any other single article we have published in our many years as an ezineand that's over 900 articles! We have been contacted by long-time campaigners, judges, breed council chairpersons, newbies and even from retired CFAers.

Overwhelmingly, the emails were in praise of the article. Sadly, what also became quickly apparent was the fact that a staggering number of exhibitors in CFA have been frustrated and discouraged by the stuffing of shows and its impact on the determination of the national winners. These same exhibitors have felt they had no voice to change the unethical practice of stuffing that has gained momentum year-by-year.

Because the reaction to the discussion of inappropriate campaign tactics was so strong, the decision has been made by this ezine to publish a series of articles addressing problems with the current system of showing cats and determination of top cats in CFAand to discuss possible solutions.

So . . . no more pissy-footin' around . . . let's begin by discussing the practice of stuffing a show to manipulate national standings.

What Is Stuffing?

Stuffing is the practice of entering cats in a show for the single purpose of increasing the count. The cats are not entered with any expectation of winning, nor do the owners actually want the cats to win. The cats' sole purpose of being in the show is to increase the count so that the cats who do make the finals will earn more points. The person initiating the stuffing of the show typically has a campaign cat which is expected to be making the finals at the show and will benefit by the inflated count.

While in theory any show can be stuffed, currently, stuffing is done primarily to manipulate the national standings of cats and is not yet practiced at shows with final counts less than those that would be needed for a national win.

A show can be stuffed separately for Kittens or Championship or Premiership . . . or any combination of the three categories. Campaigners stuff the category in which they have a cat in contention.

What Isn't Stuffing?

While many exhibitors understand what stuffing is, whenever there is a discussion on the topic, some people will express fear that they will be accused of stuffing when all they are doing is honestly showing their cats.

Clearly, not all requests for more entries and not everyone showing multiple cats fall under the definition of stuffing to manipulate national standing.

For instance:

  • The small breeder who is not yet confident at evaluating their own kittens and who brings an entire litter of kittens to get the judges' opinions is not stuffing.
  • The experienced breeder bringing a litter of kittens to have their photos done by the show photographer is not stuffing.
  • When a show is close to the magic number that will allow them to award a top 15 and the entry clerk asks for a couple more entries . . . it is not stuffing.
  • When a show needs just a couple more entries to fill and they send a request to a cat list letting people know they are close to filling . . . it is not stuffing.
  • When a small show is desperate for entries and asks for support . . . is not stuffing.
  • In fact, if a show does not have a count high enough to attract national campaigners, it is highly unlikely that it will be the target of stuffing. Stuffing for regional wins is not something that has (yet) become part of regional campaigns.

If a show does not have a high enough count in Kittens, Championship or Premiership to be useful to a cat hoping for a national win, it is not likely to be a target for stuffing UNLESS stuffing will make the count high enough to count towards a national win.

How Does Stuffing Work?

The count for Kittens, Championship or Premiership is determined by the maximum number of cats shown in at least one ring for the show. When someone stuffs a show, the exhibitor(s) typically enter a number of "filler" cats and take them to a single ring.

Since the cats only need to be shown in one ring to "count" as being present in all rings, they are seldom shown in more than the one ringwhy bother?

The stuffer cats are usually shown in the same ring, often with the judge being given a heads-up to expect a lot of stuffers. The heads-up is to avoid the judging questioning any cats on condition or merit, since all stuffers are not necessarily show quality or in show condition. Some judges co-operate with this and some object.

The exception to all the stuffer cats being show in one ring is when unregistered animals are shown under more than one name. In this case the same cat is show in more than a single ring, but under different names so as to count more than once.

Why Do Campaigners Stuff The Shows?

You might wonder how a campaigner can earn a national win through stuffing and still feel any pride or satisfaction in the accomplishment? There are many reason campaigners stuff show to manipulate nations standing—and these reasons override their ethics:

  • Ego: For the "regular" national campaigner who achieves national wins every year, they may become so involved in out-doing themselves, of establishing new "records" and bragging rights, that they will win at all costs. Likewise, the new campaigner wants that first win at all costs. Ego plays an even greater role if the campaigner is trying for the #1 slot.
  • Value of the Cat: The worth of a cat is increased with the addition of a national title. Some cats, usually kittens, are "pre-sold" as future national winners for big dollar amounts. They are expected to attain that national win guided to the title by an experienced national campaigner. After the campaign, the cat is then sent to its permanent owner.
  • Kitten Sales: Kittens out of a national winner can be sold for more money and are in greater demand.
  • Cattery Profile: Cattery profile is enhanced once a national win is made.
  • Money Invested: If a person has invested a lot of money in a campaign and see their cat slipping out of contention, they may feel a lot of pressure to do whatever it takes to win in order for all that money not to be wasted.
  • Fear: For some owners, the fear of failure if their cat falls out of the top 25 may lead them to begin stuffing to try to keep their cat in.
  • Habit: Some campaigners continue to stuff shows just because they have been doing it for years and it has always been an accepted part of their campaign strategy.
  • Location: For campaigners in areas of the country with smaller counts, it's seems cheaper to pay for a bunch of entries, than it is to buy a plane ticket, car and hotel . . . and you know who your competition will be.
  • To Stay Ahead Of the Jones: Campaigners stuff because they want to "pass" someone in the rankings.
  • Because Everyone Else Does It: Stuffing is a slippery slope. When a newcomer sees so many experienced exhibitors stuffing and winning because of it, they too will stuff, often without even stopping to consider the ethics involved.

Reverse Stuffing

Reverse stuffing is the practice of entering stuffer cats to increase the count, but with the intent to absentee the cats.

Reverse stuffing is used to attract campaigners to a show with a higher initial count but then having the count drop dramatically due to the stuffers not being present.

The aim of reverse stuffing is to attract the top cats to one show while the person who reverse stuffed goes to a different high count show that "appeared" to be a smaller count and therefore less attractive to the top cats.

The campaigner then has an easier time making finals while their competition makes less gains than expected.

A Twist On Stuffing For A Kitten Win

Because kittens only have a 4 month window for campaigning, a twist on reverse stuffing has been used to guarantee a position in the national standings. How does reverse stuffing work in kittens?

Suppose you are showing a kitten and you are trying to get it to the #1. The kitten currently holding that slot has aged out. However many points they have - that is the target as they cannot gain any more.

In order to earn enough points to catch the #1 kitten, you pay a person with extra kittens to stuff the shows you are going to. It works and you pass the other kitten.

The your kitten ages out.

Now a third kitten enters the race for #1 and is chasing your kitten. Your kitten has aged out so you can't gain any more points. The third kitten decides to try to stuff their shows to get the count higher and approaches a person with a bunch of kittens that are available as stuffers. To protect you kitten's standing, you pay the person with the stuffer kittens to stay home.

Kitten Stuffing

The stuffing of kitten counts has an extra wrinkle because a kitten can be shown without a registration number. Not requiring a registration number allows unscrupulous exhibitors to "manufacture" extra stuffer kittens.

  • Kittens with no distinguishing markings can be entered with one "name identity" on Saturday and a second "name identity" on Sunday. Thus a single kitten counts as two.
  • Kittens which are a bit too young to enter the show can be entered with a false identity and birth date.
  • Even registered kittens who have aged out can be given a new identity with a new birth date that allows them to be shown as a kitten.

Where Do The Campaigners Find The Stuffer Cats ?

Where do the stuffer cats and kittens come from? The answer is anywhere they can be found.

Examples:

  • The campaigner has a large breeding program and is able to provide the cats to stuff and is prepared to pay their entry fees.
  • Friends of the campaigners offer to bring extra cats in the appropriate category. The campaigner pays their entry fees.
  • As the practice of stuffing has increased, some people who have extra cats or kittens at home have stepped forward and let it be known that these cats are "available" for a price. In this case, the campaigner pays for the entry fees, all expenses and often offers a cash "bonus".
  • Two, three or more national campaigners get together and pay the entry fees of cats owned by other people in the show area who are entering a cat or two but could bring more if the campaigners make it worth their while. Payment by campaigners for other people's stuffer cats often includes not only entry fees, hotel fees and meals but an actual stipend for showing the cats in one ring is also expected.
  • The entry clerk provides a list of cats for sale and/or exhibition to the campaigner who then contacts the cats' owners to ask if they will put the cats in one ring to increase the count. Payment of the cat's entry fees and remuneration is often offered as an enticement.
  • Spayed females are entered in championship.

Stuffing threatens the integrity of the national awards.
Stuffing is equivalent to buying the national award.

What Are The Red Flags That A Show Being Stuffed?

Currently, because stuffing is within the rules, campaigners are not hiding the fact that they are stuffing shows. The "insiders" grapevine is well aware of when a show is being stuffed and by whom and for which cat(s) benefit.

The sign a show has been "stuffed: include:

  • The single most obvious sign that a show is being stuffed is a large number of cats who only go to one ring.
  • The show that has a significantly larger count than shows in the same area on the weekend before or the weekend following the show is often a sign of stuffing.
  • Receiving calls from campaigners requesting that you enter kittens/cats is clearly an attempt to stuff.
  • Groups of cats entered by campaigner(s) or at the request of a campaigner(s) who are noncompetitive in quality or in poor show condition is a sign of stuffing.

If the leadership of CFA is in any doubt as to the scope of stuffing, an examination of the 2005-2006 US show reports to determine the number of cats present but shown in only one ring would present a clear picture of the impact stuffing had on the national placements.

Why Stuffing Has Flourished

The forest or the trees . . . If one looks at the big picture, the forest, obviously stuffing is bad for CFA. It it disheartening to the honest campaigner. It tarnishes the legitimacy of all national wins. It places a question mark before CFA's integrity as an organization.

Stuffing has flourished because people were willing to do anything to fulfill there own agendas . . . They see only their single tree, not the forest . . .

  • Stuffing has flourished because it worked to achieve the intended goal. Cats' owners used stuffing to manipulate their cat's national standing and obtain their national win.
  • Stuffing has flourished because it provides increased income for the show club in the form of entry monies it wouldn't receive otherwise. The integrity of the system is "for sale".
  • Stuffing is not against the rules.

But Doesn't Stuffing Help Every Cat That Finals?

When a person wants to rationalize that stuffing is acceptable, the argument used is that all the cats that final at a show gain points from the stuffers. That's true. But stuffing is done to gain a numerical advantage over the competition. The campaigners who stuff a show are the campaigners who are confident they are going to final over their competition. No person is stuffing a show at which their closest competition is going to be present and who the judging slate favors.

Of course, there is also the situation where the campaigner avoids the competition almost entirely by stuffing a local show they know the top cats will not be attending. An example would be if the campaigner lives in a part of the country far from the majority of the competition. The campaigner can stuff a local show that normally wouldn't have a high enough count to attract national campaigners. The local campaigner stuffs the show high enough to be a national count knowing most of their competition will not elect to fly to the show when there are similar count shows within drive distance for them.

The Effects of Stuffing

As stuffing progressed from an occasional practice that the people involved in were somewhat ashamed of, to just a way many campaigners have of "doing business", the exhibitors in the fancy who recognized the huge negative effect that stuffing was having on the system were at a loss of how to stop it.

In disgust, some exhibitors just stopped showing. Some left the fancy entirely. Many saw the national winners as losing much of the prestige they once held, because the accomplishment was so tarnished by the questionable tactics.

End of season show brags by the winners were met with fewer congratulations because people saw the wins as tainted. And not only did this apathy affect the winners whose had stuffed, but also the exhibitors who ran clean campaigns. Even the honest campaigners who were successful questioned whether they would want to be involved in another campaign where they would be forced to watch unsavory practices rewarded.

Why Stuffing Must Stop

Stuffing to manipulate national standing is playing an increasingly significant role in the determination of national winners—across the board.

At one time stuffing was "underground" but as it has increased in frequency and participants, stuffing has fast gained a status of acceptance through tolerance.

If corrupt, unsportsmanlike and unethical tactics is rewarded, people begin to believe that to compete successfully, they too must engage in similar behavior.

One high profile campaigner, the owner of many national winners including a Best Cat, says she is prepared to stop showing completely if something isn't done. A highly successful and intelligent newcomer who was exposed to the dirty tactics has also decided that her enthusiasm for the cat fancy, which was huge, has definitely dimmed. As a successful woman in the corporate arena, she doesn't want to be associated with the questionable practices being rewarded in the cat show arena.

So, one by one, people are turned off by what they see happening . . . and they leave CFA. And this is at a time when CFA is already shrinking.

Stuffing must be stopped . . . but how?

A possible answer is discussed in the article:

Stuffing - Let's Stop It!

Editor's Note: As stuffing has escalated, so too have the ranks of cat fanciers who have been disheartened at what they have see as unethical behavior in the show ring. Now is the time for all people who CARE about the future of CFA and the INTEGRITY of our cat show results to band together to stop stuffing to manipulate national standing. Exhibitors, cat clubs, entry clerks, master clerks and judges have to be able to feel comfortable reporting to CFA circumstances that seem suggestive of stuffing.

Currently, no one "stuffing" a show has broken any rules—because there are no rules specifically addressing the issue of "stuffing" shows. Assuming, of course, that one discounts the rule, "Any act or conduct seriously and patently detrimental to the best interest and welfare of the cat or The Cat Fanciers' Association."

Unfortunately, there are some people who stretch the moral imperatives and challenge the ethics of any situation—to get what they want.

THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW!

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