At local contest, felines vie to be the cat's meow

In Timonium, kitties of all kinds show off their beauty and skill


News from around the Baltimore region

July 25, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

Nine-year-old Katya McKenzie tapped a plastic stick with fluorescent, dangling feathers against the entrance to a red, L-shaped tunnel.

"In here, Boris. In here," she coaxed her prizewinning Russian Siberian cat.

Boris had already jumped through plenty of hoops - also weaved around polls, climbed ramps and barreled through straight tunnels - in training for this weekend's agility contest at the NovaCats Cat Club's regional competition in Timonium.

But Boris didn't like this tunnel, likely because he couldn't see the end of it. He abruptly stopped, sat on his fluffy tail and watched Katya (that's cot-ya, not cat-ya) meow, wildly gesture and even try to shove him along. A push forced him to take a few steps, but he just sat down again.

Katya feared the practice runs had tired her long-haired, cream-colored cat, but Boris' stance seemed more firm than lazy. If he were Garfield, he might say: "Go play with Odie. He would get a kick out of this."

She, her parents and four siblings were among the more laid-back participants in the competition at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. For instance, the family of seven didn't seem too distraught when a judge quietly suggested that they neuter one of their other Russian Siberians and let him peacefully exist as a household pet.

It seems that all cats are not created equal. Sadly, this one had a sagging chin.

During the competition, seven judges awarded ribbons to the top cats in various categories, including adult, kitten, whole (capable of breeding), altered (neutered or spayed), long-haired, short-haired, even ordinary household pets, and that hard-to-coax stuff labeled agility.

Owners clustered and chattered around the "rings" where the cats were being judged - each a board resting atop a long banquet-style table.

Judge Pamela Barrett, of Deer Island, Ore., stood behind her ring wearing a white veterinary coat over a black formal dress with a swooping neckline. She appeared as elegant as the black-and-silver Egyptian Mau she pulled from its cage.

She scrutinized its body, stroking its wildly patterned back, holding its cheeks, pulling back its ears and peering into its green eyes in swift, skilled movements. Barrett then picked up a toy - a glittering silver pom-pom - and waved it in front of the cat's face, eliciting paw swats.

"I want to see them alert, with their eyes and ears open," Barrett said. "You're looking for their natural smile, rather than them pouting or scared."

Pat and Randy Doss's snow-white Ragdoll-breed cat had picked up nine ribbons as of midafternoon yesterday. They hung from the front of his cage.

Professional photographs of the more successful of their two Ragdolls, which achieved the highest feline rank of Supreme Grand Champion, were framed in a fold-out display. A small sign affixed to the cage admonished: "Touch not the cat, lest ye be mistaken for a rat."

The cat's formal name was on par with the size of his ribbons: "Kylador's Travelin Salesman of Dollheaven." Kylador is the name of the Ragdoll's breeder. "Travelin Salesman," which the Dosses shorten to "Travelin," is its given name. And "Dollheaven" is the name of the Dosses' cattery.

"We limit each cat's official name to 36 characters," said Teri Matzkin of Arlington, Va., a noted Maine coon cat breeder who organized the competition. "Thankfully."

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