Natchez was purrrfect at cat show Saturday

Published 12:24 am Sunday, October 23, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Robby Whyte judges an oriental long hair cat during the Mississippi Cat Fanciers Allbreed Championship and Household Pet Cat Show Saturday morning at the Natchez Community Center.

NATCHEZ — A different breed of beauty contest did not judge competitors on their poise in slinky evening gowns or swimsuits, but instead on fur coats and round muzzles at the first-of-its-kind cat show in Natchez.

Miss-Lou residents prowled the Mississippi Cat Fanciers Allbreed Championship and Household Pet Cat Show Saturday to take a look at rare breeds, meet cat owners and pet a few fluffy, or hairless, felines themselves.

“We’ve had a great turnout,” said Jo Parris, show manager. Parris, a new Natchez resident, has been showing cats for more than 40 years. “All the exhibitors have been great, and the spectators are interested in the breeds. They aren’t just looking — they are really interested.”

Natchez resident and cat show veteran Florence Hargis brought her Selkirk Rex Dewberry for her first cat show. Hargis said she saw plenty of familiar faces.

“I am happy to see a lot of Natchez people come through,” Hargis said. “I think more spectators have come through here than at cat shows in bigger cities.”

Teresa Eames of Ferriday said she was curious to see the show.

“We like cats,” Eames said of her family. “The (cat owners) have been friendly, and they even let us pet and hold the cats. And there are so many different kinds.”

Eames, the owner of a 28-pound Maine coon mix, said her favorite cats at the show were the magnificent Himalayans.

Jessica and Jeremy Wyles of Vidalia brought their toddler, Bryten, to the cat show. Bryten was able to practice pointing and saying, “cat” quite a bit.

“We thought she would like this,” Jessica said. “Her babysitter has a cat, and she loves it, so we thought she would enjoy this.”

Cats were mostly relaxed as they were handled and judged. One judge said they stay so calm because they are used to the cat show circuit, and were probably handled since birth.

According to The International Cat Association, each pedigreed breed has a standard. Cats are awarded points for head standards, judging shape, ears, eyes, muzzle, profile and more; body standards, judging torso, legs, feet and tail; and coat standards, judging length, texture, pattern and color.

TICA welcomes household pet exhibitors, which are held to their own unique standard, judged primarily on condition, beauty and show presence.

Cave Springs, Ga., residents Priscilla South and her 7-year-old daughter Amber both showed their cappuccino-colored Bengal cats Snowcream and Polar. Amber competed in the junior exhibitor division.

South said Snowcream is up for a worldwide TICA championship award. Snowcream’s dad was a grand champion.

South said she has only been showing cats for a year, but the pastime is keeping the family active and on the road — to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

“We enjoy meeting new people, and seeing cats from all over the world,” South said.

Next, the Souths will attend upcoming shows in Atlanta, Knoxville, Tenn., Raleigh, N.C., and St. Augustine, Fla.

South said there is a surprisingly large network of resources for rare breed owners online. She said she started a Facebook group page for Bengal newbies and mentors.

When it comes to spectators, South said she is glad to answer questions, especially from children.

“It’s usually their first time at a cat show,” South said. “They are the next generation of exhibitors, and future judges.

“I try to educate people on the breed, how to handle cats, scoring, stuff like that.”

South said she is actually a dog person, but she fell in love with the Bengal breed.

“Bengals are like dogs,” South said. “They can fetch, walk on a harness and leash, get in the water and greet strangers. I like that I can hand my cats over to anyone.”

In fact, South said she used to show dogs and horses too, but a car accident that shattered the bones in her leg put an end to that.

“Showing cats has been like an extension of physical therapy,” South said.

The Natchez-Adams County Humane Society sold concessions, and board member Susan Mingee said all funds raised will be used for humane society operations.

“We’ve seen a lot of people from Natchez come through today,” Mingee said. “Everyone is fascinated — it’s so unusual. We would like to have it again next year.”

Show organizers said it will be a day or two before the winner is announced, since literally hundreds of scores from five judging rings are tallied with a specific computer software.