Last Saturday, I went to a cat show. Yes, a cat show. I’m still piecing it all together. I feel like I spent my weekend at a rave surrounded by people in soft sweaters navigating through feathers and little gold bells, like my brain is still coming down from all of the ecstasy and molly I ate. But I was sober. Stone cold sober. I have no excuse other than I was under the influence of heavy dopamine surges typical of an all-night cat video bender. So. Many. Cats. I was there for three hours. I planned on staying less than one.
The Saintly City Cat Show in St. Paul, MN is held annually, and it brings hundreds of cat people in varying levels of cat-personhood ranging from cat video enthusiasts to the seasoned breeder and presenter. Some come from as far away as central Illinois—an eight-hour drive. In January. One woman I met flew to Sweden to get her rare Norwegian Forest cat. Sweden! These people are dedicated. They are proud of their pedigree felines. They give their cats three-word names. Gaelic names. Names of Roman gods. They subscribe to Maine Coon magazine and Cat Fancy. Their sweaters match the coat coloring of their cats. Based on what I saw this weekend, it is astonishing—nay, negligent—that Christopher Guest hasn’t written this screenplay because, just like his movie Best In Show, these people are as nuts as they are lovable.
This is a level of obsession most people, myself included, envy. Something to be passionate about. Taking the care of an animal to such extremes as to groom them daily, trim them, prune them, to make sure they are as pristine as their papers portray them to be. Dedicating yourself to a species, to a bloodline, to the prestige of the coveted blue ribbon.
When you enter the cat show, there’s a haze in the air. Maybe it’s cat dander, maybe it’s some kind of magical dust, maybe it’s an undiagnosed allergy, but once you pass through the gates, you are in a different world. Rows upon rows of decorated cat kennels are lined up on tables, booths of cat-related merchandise line the walls, and four judging booths are perched in the eye of the hurricane. The merch tables sell everything cat related from furniture to clothing (for both cats and people) to photo booths. The best by far? The Glamour Shots-like gallery booth where large scale portraits of cats or families with their cats are displayed in ornate, gold-leaf frames. The owner’s cat just sitting there, on a stool, watching the people walk by. The cat is wearing a bow tie. Smart owner.
But then, like a show on A&E, someone had to damper the demographic.
I posted a psychotic amount of photos on Instagram because I have a smart phone and I was at a CAT SHOW. Because I wanted to share the wealth, I littered the comments of my photos with hashtags: #cats #catshow #catsofinstagram #fluffycats #unicorn. People were liking them and commenting. They shared it with friends. I was getting traffic. People were thanking me. And then, completely out of nowhere, I got a negative comment. Yes, a negative comment. It was from a faceless person whose profile was just a bunch of clips from the animated movie Frozen. Anonymous. Untraceable. The person was upset with the video of a Persian cat being judged. The judge was petting it, checking its bone structure, its reflexes and alertness, and, as per perusal, the judge put her hands around the cat’s neck to check the it’s head. It only was a few seconds. These cats are so fluffy that can’t tell the size of the skull unless you hold the fur back. The frozen person commented, “She’s hurting it!” followed by a bunch of emoticons with crying faces.
I was outraged. Not just outraged, but angry and helpless in the way you feel inside when your ignorant relative says ignorant things and you can’t call them out because they wouldn’t hear you anyway and you’re in your grandmother’s living room and she upsets easily. It’s crazy to even try to reason with them. They don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve seen Toddlers & Tiaras. This wasn’t that. But I suppose I could see where someone would take it the wrong way, if they didn’t read the caption, and they didn’t pay any attention to everything else happening in the video—like the numbers above the cages, the audience cooing in the background, the loud speaker announcing the next breed—and they hadn’t just liked six other photos I’d taken of six different cats. At a cat show. It’s not a fucking cock fight.
Before I arrived, I was half-way expecting a reality show-type fiasco, mostly because I know cats won’t do anything they don’t want to. How do you get a cat to sit still in front of a crowd of people? What about the other cats? Won’t they attack each other? Or mate with each other? Or both? But nothing happened. It’s astonishing how well behaved they were. There were no fights, very minimal hissing, and, to the best of my knowledge, no kittens were conceived during the show. They didn’t seem to care. Even if they do or did, they’d let you know. They’re cats for god’s sake. They’ll scratch your face off. Besides, it’s not like their owners are going to let them out of their sight for a second. Like I said, it was my first time.
The frozen person probably meant well, but they didn’t know what they were talking about. I thought about commenting back, but instead I blocked the mofo and deleted the comment. You don’t talk about cat people that way. I should probably consider setting my profile to private, but I am not ashamed. I am a cat lady through and through. Not like this, but still. It’s hard to imagine a time when I wasn’t a cat lady. Five years ago I was a dog person. But then I met Walter. He lives in my house. He sleeps on my head. He’s changed my life and he’s changed it for the better. He turned me into the type of person who spends their Saturday at a cat convention in St. Paul.
Would I ever go to another cat show? Hell. Yes. Will I continue to take too many pictures of my cat? You bet your ass I will.