Cat Shows: An Overview

By Bailee Noella May 16, 2019

While cats have lived side-by-side with people for centuries, we are still mystified and intrigued by their unique beauty. Ancient Egyptians considered felines as sacred beings, and house cats today still carry themselves with that same high regard. We are lucky to recognize more than 50 distinct cat breeds, each sporting its own particular coat and physique. That’s not to mention all of the lovely mixed breed cats! With so many cats and so little time, it’s no wonder cat shows emerged.

Where Was The First Cat Show Hosted?

It is believed that the first ever cat show was hosted at the St. Giles Fair in Winchester, England back in 1598, although it seems the idea didn’t catch on until 1871 when another event was held at London’s Crystal Palace. The number of cat fanciers must have skyrocketed in that span of time, as the turnout for this event was massive in comparison. It’s reported that there were 200,000 enthusiastic guests in attendance and several hundred exotic cats.

With a growing number of cat aficionados, it comes as no surprise that cat shows are now popular all around the globe. One of the largest cat shows in the world, hosted by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), has people from the United States, Europe, and Asia clawing for a chance to participate. The spectacle licenses 400 shows worldwide each season. Hundreds and hundreds of cats are entered for a chance to win the title of champion.

What Happens At Cat Shows?

For feline participants, the day starts off with relaxing, pampering, and grooming a lot of grooming. This ensures that the cats are as calm as possible and look their absolute best for the judges. Cages are set up behind the scenes, each one decorated lovingly by the cat’s owner in accordance with the theme of the show. Guests are welcome to check out all of the different felines in attendance and speak with their owners and breeders. Once a cat’s assigned number is called, however, it’s show time! They are taken out of their cage and brought to several different stations, known as rings, to be judged based on the nature of their personality and the standards of their breed.

Can I Enter A Non-Pedigreed Cat Into A Cat Show?

If your cat doesn’t come from a certified breeder, however, don’t fret. You can still enter your adorable kitty in the show. While the Cat Fanciers’ Association is widely known for registering pedigreed cats and maintaining high standards for the breeds they recognize, felines of all kinds are welcomed with open paws. They offer a separate class, known as the Household Pet Class, for cats without pedigrees. Cats in this division are judged on the uniqueness of their appearance, their health, and, of course, their character.

What Awards Do Cat Show Winners Get?

While every show operates differently, many of them work similarly in regards to how they dish out prizes. Each cat that is judged is awarded points in each ring, which are then tallied up for the whole show season. The cats that score the most points are awarded their rightful title in their division, like Best of Breed or Best of Color. Titles can also be dependent on age and the length of the cat’s coat, long or short. Winners will also take home a ribbon.

What Things Can You Do At A Cat Show?

But there’s a lot more to cat shows than just… well, the showing of cats. Cat shows boast many options for entertainment. One show in Portland even hosted a performance by Moshow, a rapper and self-proclaimed cat person that dedicates his music to felines! Aside from the occasional eccentric concert, guests can also watch exhilarating agility competitions, buy products from vendors like cat treats and books, and attend informational cat lectures. It’s the perfect time to brush up on your knowledge of feline health and history, as well as learn about all of the different breeds you see at the show. Many people also take the opportunity to connect with breeders and shelters to go about adopting their own feline friend.

A sample of Moshow's work

What Are Some Of The Themes At Cat Shows?

Cat shows are also well-known for their playful themes. The Supreme Cat Show, for example, designates a theme for each year so that the cats and their owners can have fun dressing up or decorating their cages. In 2016, the theme was sci-fi. The show saw a whimsical feline take on some of the world’s most famous TV show and movie characters with the likes of Obi-Wan Catnobi and Darth Cater. To add to the excitement and help celebrate the theme, actors from the hit show Doctor Who were even invited!

Who Can Attend A Cat Show?

Time Lords aren’t the only ones welcome to attend cat shows, of course. Everyone is invited to come to the event, which means it can certainly make for an exciting family night out! However, parents are advised to only bring children that are mature and well-behaved. Something else to keep in mind is that aisles at some show halls may be difficult to navigate with a stroller. All visitors, regardless of age, are expected to ask for an owner’s permission before petting their cat or offering any treats. Some owners may ask that you use hand sanitizer before doing so to reduce the possibility of transmitting diseases between cats.

How Do You Sign Your Cat Up To Enter?

Does your cat have what it takes to participate in a show? If you’re dying to enter a competition with your feline friend, be sure to attend one as a spectator first. This allows you to better understand how the shows are run, what to expect, and what the atmosphere will be like when you bring your own kitty in. While you’re there, you can attend lectures and speak with experienced owners to ask questions and get familiar with the process.

When you’re finally ready to enter your cat in a show, you’ll need to gather information and fill out a form several weeks in advance. This usually involves providing your contact information and answering questions like your cat’s name, birthday, and breed. Once you’ve submitted your form and you’ve been accepted, be sure to gather all of the necessary items you will need, such as grooming materials, toys for your cat’s entertainment, and a litter box. Supplies aren’t the only thing you should consider. You will also want to make sure that your cat is up to date on vaccinations and accustomed to being handled by strangers, as well as traveling in a carrier.


Whether you attend a cat show to join in the competition or simply to bask in the glory of so many cats in one building, these shows provide the perfect opportunity for cat lovers of all ages to witness the everlasting beauty of our furry companions. It’s also an excellent time to expand your knowledge on the history that we share with cats and learn about the astonishing number of breeds that exist and each of their endearing quirks. And anyway, does one really need an excuse to go see hundreds of adorable cats in one place?

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