Bring Your Own Cage

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As we get into the swing of the new show season and exhibitors look for that special kitten or cat to campaign, this is an ideal for cat clubs to consider the possibilities for change. With many clubs searching for ways to improve their bottom line by reducing expenses and yet still attracting more entries, perhaps this is the year for your cat club to consider putting on a "Bring Your Own Cage" show...

The Benched Show: A Dog Fancy Historical Perspective

What is "Bring Your Own Cage" show, you may ask? It is exactly what it says; the exhibitor brings their own benching cage.

To get a perspective on the concept, we need to look at the history and development of dog shows. Dog shows are a much older phenomenon than cat shows. A long time ago, most dog shows were "benched".

Bench shows require all of the dogs entered to stay on assigned benches for the entire time of the show unless they are exhibiting or exercising or being groomed.

The same breeds were all benched together, making it easier for fellow exhibitors, breeders and spectators to view and discuss the attributes and qualities of the dogs of the breed in which they were most interested.

Eventually, benching fell out of fashion and as of 2007, there are only 6 benched shows left in all of the United States, including the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Unbenched dog shows are now the norm. The dogs that are entered in the show arrive with their own "holding" crates that their owners/handlers set up in an allotted area, on a first come/first served, typically unorganized manner. The dogs need to be present only for the judging of their class.  As soon as that is done they may leave the show.

The Cat Fancy

Most cat shows are a "version" of a benched show. While the show is not benched according to breed, each entry is assigned a specific space on the "benching tables" and the show-giving club supplies an assigned wire cage for each entry. Double spaces and grooming spaces are available at an additional charge.

The cat club must absorb the cost for renting the tables and benching cages as part of the expense of putting on a show. Some clubs own their own cages - and pay the storage and transportation fees involved in storing the cages in between shows.

Most cat clubs have their members set-up all the tables and cages before the show and then tear them down afterwards, often a time consuming and physically demanding exercise.

Unlike dog shows, cats are required to remain in the show hall for the entire advertised hours of the show, except for kittens that can leave once no longer required for judging. This rule is for the benefit of spectators who would be disappointed to pay to attend a cat show only to find half the cats had already left.

The Rise of the Use of Security Cages

Although the cat club supplies wire benching cages as part of the cat's entry cost, in the 1980s, some exhibitors began to bring their own home-built cages instead. These cages were often called "security cages", because many of the cages came with a lock to prevent theft of the cat or tampering by the public.

By the 1990's, individual security cages became commercially available. A cat exhibitor could now choose between purchasing cage designs of wood, plexiglas or fabric depending on personal preference.

As more and more exhibitors started bringing their own benching cages, clubs were needing to supply fewer wire benching cages. With over 50% of exhibitors at most shows now bringing their own benching cage, some clubs began to wonder if they could offer a  "Bring Your Own Cage" show, and save themselves the expense of renting and setting up benching cages.

Advantages of a Bring Your Own Cage Show from the Club's POV

From a show giving club's perspective, a "Bring Your Own Cage" format provides several advantages:

  • Money Savings: The club saves money on renting cages.
  • Attractive Entry Fees: The club can offer a reduced entry fee that covers a portion of money saved on renting, thus attracting more entries.
  • Less Time & Effort: It saves time on setup and tear down.
  • Easier Show To Organize: It is one less thing that a club has to add into the logistics of putting on the show.
  • Exhibitor Convenience: Often, most exhibitors arriving with their own security cage have to take down the wire cage in their space.
At the typical American cat show in 2007,
about 50% of exhibitors already bring their own cages...

The Advantage of Personal Security Cages

There are several factors that make an owner-brought cage an attractive alternative to the cat exhibitor.

  • Cleanliness: The exhibitor knows the cage they bring is clean, as opposed to the wire, club-supplied cage that may or may not have been adequately cleaned since the last cat show, or even just cleaned of the dust from being in storage. By having and using your own benching shelter your cat(s) will not be exposed to any caging that has previously been used by any other cat.
  • Safety: As the wire cages aged, often a sharp edge or loose wire could pose a safety hazard.
  • Security: Security and safety are two other reasons.
  • Personal Preference: The exhibitor can bring the type of cage that best suits their particular cat or breed. A Sphynx may be much more comfortable in a glass enclosed cage that prevents drafts. A Persian might be happier in a fabric tent than having its hair caught on a wire cage.
  • Money Savings: Most "Bring Your Own Cage" shows offer a reduced entry fee.

How Does A "Bring Your Own Cage Show" Work?

A BRING YOUR OWN CAGE SHOW is just that! The exhibitor supplies the cage or show shelter their cat will be benched in for the duration of the show.

Tables are provided by the club for the exhibitors to set up on. The space to be allotted to each entry is usually 24" x 24" - actually larger than the standard half wire cage (22" x 22").

the cat club usually has an option available for exhibitors who arrive without their own security cage: either a wire cage for rent or a security cage that can be purchased.

The Judging Ring

The judging rings will still have the standard wire cages most exhibitors are used to seeing in the show halls. Disinfection between cats will be the same as in an average cat shows.

"Bring Your Own Cage" Cat Shows Are Already A Reality

Several TICA clubs have already embraced the "Bring Your Own Cage" format:

  • The Coatimondi Cat Club in Arizona holds three "Bring Your Own Cage" shows a year. The entry fee entitles the exhibitor to a 36" space. They also sell 30" square pop-up tents for $20 to exhibitors.
  • The Compadres Cat Club in Texas puts on a "Bring Your Own Cage" show. They provide a 30" space/entry and also sell pop-up tents for $20.
  • The NauTICAts, based in Maine, puts on a "Bring Your Own Cage" show. The entry fee allows for one space per entry. If you choose to enter one cat but want to bring a double show shelter, you simply purchase another half space. NauTICAts offers for sale a Portable Pet House for exhibitors who don't have their own benching cage, sized 19"l x17"w x22"h and priced at only $20.
  • A club in Montreal, Canada has also put on a "Bring Your Own Cage" show successfully.

In Conclusion

Perhaps the time has come for your cat club to consider a "Bring Your Own Cage" show?

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