AUGUSTA — The Augusta State Armory on Western Avenue was filled with the sounds of meows and purring – and the odor of kitty litter – during the opening night of Nauticats’ cat show Friday.
The show, which runs through Sunday, is the final one of the season for members of The International Cat Association and will feature more than 100 cats from all over North America.
Club president Donna Madison, who is also one of the judges, said the show will be different this year because owners who have top-ranked cats need the additional points, but owners who can’t win a regional competition don’t need to attend. The season ends Sunday.
“They come from all over,” Madison said. “There is a lot of strategy involved, because you have to think about where your competition is. At the end of the show, one of these cats will be the best in the Northeast region.”
Lisa Ledoux flew to Maine from outside of Tampa, Florida, because her cat is ranked 25th in the world.
“I don’t want him to fall out of the Top 25, so I’m here to hopefully get more points,” Ledoux said. “There wasn’t a show this weekend in our region, and this one was the closest.” Ledoux said attending cat shows is a way to see parts of the country she might not have seen otherwise.
“I love the weather and the low humidity,” Ledoux said. “And I almost died when I saw a ‘watch out for moose’ sign leaving the airport.”
Brigitte Pouliot brought several of her Persian cats from Montreal, where she is a breeder. But her featured cat this weekend is a 14-pounder named A Sky Full of Stars, which is the title of a Coldplay song. Not coincidentally, Pouliot also calls the cat Chris, after Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead singer.
The 1½-year-old is a top-ranked Persian, so like Ledoux, Pouliot is in Maine collecting points.
“He is the 22nd-best cat in the world, so I have to be here,” Pouliot said. “I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and it’s fun because you can travel and meet people. I’ve made friends everywhere.”
The armory was set up with seven “rings” along its walls, where the cats are judged throughout the weekend, some getting the opportunity to compete more than 20 times. The center of the armory has tables filled with fancy carriers, litter boxes and some of the best-groomed cats from around the world. The owners spent the afternoon priming and preparing their fancy felines with brushes and combs, readying them for their big moments in front of the judges.
For the competition, the cats are organized by breed and age and are judged on certain association standards, including condition and balance. This weekend’s competition also features a household pet division, meaning just about every cat could participate, including two owned by Cathy Dunlap of Sabattus.
“I think the household division is the most fun but also the most difficult, because there are no standards,” Dunlap said.
Many participants said while the show brings out plenty of competition, it is all good-natured and friendly. Madison said the shows have been successful for the past two decades for that reason.
“Everyone knows each other and is nice to each other,” Madison said. “Some people have very stressful jobs, and they come here to get away from that. It is a good stress reliever.”
Feline awareness is a major theme for the weekend, and the rescue group Forgotten Felines of Maine hopes to educate those attending the show about strays and caring for feral cats.
“There is a problem with strays all over the state, but it isn’t as bad as in other states,” director Pam Hansberry said. “We hopefully can raise awareness, educate the public and adopt the 15 cats we have with us this weekend.”
The show continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and is open to the public. Admission costs $5 for adults and $4 for students 12 and older. The armory is at 179 Western Ave.