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Expo Center faces cat-aclysm

Daniel Zaas / Lantern photographer

Snow and ice didn’t prevent more than 200 cats and their owners from attending Saturday’s cat show at the Ohio Expo Center.

The Ohio State Persian Committee hosted a Cat Fanciers’ Association show, drawing 206 cats.

“The reason I show is because I figure this is the only place I can go and play with my cat, talk to my cat and kiss it and nobody thinks I’m nuts,” said Nancy Makita, a Tonkinese breeder from Cleveland.

Tonkinese is one of the 77 breeds of cats recognized by the CFA and was one of the most represented at the OSPC show.

Although the name of the club implies a large Persian influence, this is not the case. The club, founded more than 100 years ago, accepts all breeds that the CFA recognizes.

The OSPC show took place in one large, open room at the Ohio Expo Center. The edges of the room were lined with rings, semi-circles of cages that handlers put their cats in when they were ready to be judged. The judge then removed the cats one at a time to gauge them.

“Every breed has a written standard,” Makita said. “So she’s judging the cat against the standard. The standard is like weight, coat, color, ear placement, eyes, color of the eyes, so on and so forth. Personality really has nothing to do with it as long as they’re not vicious.”

In the center of the room was the benching area, five rows of wire cages, set about three feet from the ground. Each cage contained cats waiting to compete for the title of “best cat.” Beside the cages sat the breeders. Some studied their competition while others socialized or groomed their cats with fine combs and hair dryers.

Cat handlers included both genders and ranged in age from grade school to the elderly. Some handlers had traveled from other states, something that Makita said is common when showing.

“Before I did this I used to travel the world, and I did. I traveled everywhere, but that was before cats, ‘B.C.,'” Makita said. “After the cats I travel Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I think I got to appreciate America more.”

Other breeders and handlers travel farther than Makita, taking 40 weekend trips a year to visit different shows. Beth Cassely came from St. Louis for the OSPC show and often travels even farther.

“Last weekend I was in Alabama, the weekend before that I was in California,” Cassely said. “This coming weekend I’ll either be in Iowa or California again.”

Cassely’s travels paid off when her cat, currently the second best in the country, received high placement from one of the judges in the early rounds.

Linda Bartley, an American Shorthair breeder from Pennsylvania, takes pride in cat shows and said she feels they display hard work paying off.

“You enjoy whenever you’ve bred something, when it gets recognition from the judges and everything,” Bartley said. “It’s very nice when they recognize something that you’ve produced.”

Hard work is something Nannette Schindler is familiar with. Schindler traveled from Crestline, Ohio, for the opportunity to show her Persian.

“It takes me about two-and-a-half to three hours for a show bath,” Schindler said. “Last night it was almost three hours, bathing him, grooming him and blow drying him to get him ready to come today.”

Beside her cat’s cage sat about a dozen bottles of hair products, all for her Persian. Schindler boasted that she owns 14 cats and she grooms them all everyday.

Schindler and the others aimed to impress six judges at the show. Each judge is paid $1.20 for every cat examined, said Teresa Signore, OSPC treasurer. She said it costs the club about $10,000 to put on the show, something it does twice a year, usually in December and February.

“It’s a non-profit club,” Signore said. “We just do enough to cover our expenses. So we charge an entry fee (for cats), and then whatever gate comes in, the spectators, and then our raffle to try to make enough up to put on the show.”

Signore said an average entry fee is $40 to 60.

When she’s not helping to host a show, Signore said she travels every weekend of the year to show her Maine Coons.

“Last year I had the No. 1 cat in the nation, so it’s a lot of work,” Signore said.

Signore was showing a 4-month-old kitten and a 7-month-old kitten and was surprised when the younger of the two received higher placement.

Because judges were constantly inspecting new cats, they were unavailable for comment.

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