With my husband away this past weekend, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands to unleash my inner cat lady. How? By attending a cat show, of course!
Yes, there is such a thing!
Over 900 cats spent two days in the cavernous hall of Vicenza Fiera exhibition centre being preened, fawned over, and lusted after. Some of them even took part in a catwalk. The proper type of catwalk, where humans dressed in themed costumes were mere props for luscious cats.
It was great!
The only downside for me was that no petting was allowed. I am sure though the cats were relieved, otherwise a crowd of adoring humans eager to sink their paws into the cats’ fluffy fur wouldn’t have left them in peace all day long.
There were all sorts of cats: Persian, Norwegian, British Shorthair and Angora. Plus several I had only ever heard of but have never seen in real life. Like the huge Maine Coon – the largest domesticated breed of cat – which looked adorable with its pointy ears with protruding fluffy tufts of hair.
As well as the Egyptian cat with its hairless wrinkly skin which was fascinating to look at. It was like an anatomical model of a cat, giving you a really good idea of all the muscle work which goes on under the furry coat of the other feline types to make their bodies move the gracious way they do.
And there were breeds I had never even heard of, like the mysterious Chartreux – the rare blue cat of France, companion to monks and to Charles de Gaulle.
To my utter delight, there was also my very favourite breed of cat: the lovely, fluffy and simply divine Ragdoll, which melts me into a puddle on the floor just with a glance of her blue eyes.
This is the type of cat I am going to get when I finally win our eternal domestic debate as to what pet we are going to have one day in the future: a cat or a dog. Yes, my husband is a dog person. He doesn’t mind cats, but he doesn’t think they can be relied on, as ‘they don’t come when you call them'(!).
Who needs submissive?! Especially when you have a gorgeous and temperamental ball of fur to pet and love with all your heart?! Even if it doesn’t love you back with the blind obedience of a dog. It seems to me that the relationship between a human and a cat is much more evolved than this. From the human side there is love and there is dedication and there is respect. On the cat’s side there is permission to be adored.
Yet, cats can be surprisingly vulnerable and in need of countless hugs, so how can you resist them?
We had three cats (not at the same time) when I was growing up. Their names were: Donka, Doncho and Mona. During family get-togethers we still reminisce over shared memories of our time with them.
Mona was a splendid Siamese cat who scratched and bit everyone she didn’t deem worthy of her attention and/or anyone who she didn’t think deserved our family’s trust. She was fiercely independent, yet, when my parents went on holiday for two weeks one year, she became this heartbroken little kitten looking for them and just needing lots and lots of cuddles. When, several years after that, my mum called me to tell me that Mona had died, I cried inconsolable tears. She was a true member of our family.
I haven’t had a cat since, but would love to one day in the future. Hence, I used the opportunity at the cat show to collect the business cards of the different breeders. Signs ‘Kittens available’ and even photos of happy litters were placed on top of some of the cages in which the show cats were relaxing before and after being taken to the judges for evaluation.
I think, seeing how the cat judges worked was the most captivating part of the cat show for me. Right at the back of the hall, small tables had been lined up, each surrounded by a number of cages. The judges worked on these tables and the cats they had been assigned to evaluate were waiting their turn in the cages.
Once a judge had finished with a cat, they would make several notes in their evaluation sheets, then wipe their hands clean and turn their eye to the new cat brought to the table. I observed this lady for a few minutes.
She just loved cats. She stroke them, spoke to them gently, all the while appraising their posture, body shape, eye colour, ear shape and several other details. Apparently, cats are not judged against each other but against an ‘ideal cat’ for their own breed.
A large crowd had gathered in front of the table of another judge. Each new cat which was brought to it would be lifted high in the air by the judge’s assistant and the crowd of people would erupt in ovation, clapping to express their appreciation. I thought: That’s proper cat lady dedication!
Just a little bit to one side from there, a cat seminar was taking place, with a cat comfortably lying on a table whilst a lady was explaining something to her captivated audience.
As a matter of fact, the cat seminar programme looked quite interesting. Unfortunately, the talk I was most compelled by was to be given the day after I visited the show. It was a presentation of a book called ‘Why the citizens of Vicenza are called ‘cat-eaters’. Written by the editor of the local newspaper, it centres around the alleged fact that the population of our current hometown had turned to cats for sustenance during periods of famine like the Second World War.
I would have loved to learn more about it. May be I should email the author and see if he would like to be interviewed for my blog?! In the meantime, I came across a great stall at the cat show selling sweets and a signature cake under the brand name of ‘La Gata’ (The Cat).
Apparently these baked goods are typical for Vicenza and are made by a local artisan collective. Look closely at the cake boxes and the packets with sweets and you will see that their marketing slogan is: ‘The citizens of Vicenza eat The Cat’!
And let me finish with a few more words about the highlight of the cat show. Never before the word ‘catwalk’ had been used so appropriately. As people dressed in costumes in line with the breed of their cat took to the stage, all the audience had eyes for were the cats in the humans’ hands.
The MC introduced each cat by sharing interesting information about the story of its breed. From Ancient Egypt and Rome through monastic orders and Far Eastern temples to the British society salons cats have been with us for thousands of years.
Adored, spoiled, but also persecuted (as in the case of the black cat during Medieval times), cats hold a very special place in our hearts.
Cat ladies and gentlemen, show them your love!
Don’t forget to let me know if you are a cat- or a dog-person! Based on your experience should we get a cat or a dog when the time is right for our family? Which breed? Ta!