AUGUSTA — In cat shows, as in life, physical beauty will only get you so far.

Attitude, or in cat show parlance, temperament, matters.

One of Donna Graveline’s most gorgeous British shorthair cats was back home in Massachusetts this weekend, while she and Willow Wick Figgie Bobbin Ewok and his impossibly-soft-looking chocolate-colored fur and playful temperament competed in the NauTICAts cat club’s annual cat show at the Augusta State Armory.

The seven-month-old kitty batted at a scratching post mounted on one end of a judging table as judge Francine Hicks, of Lisbon Falls, looked and felt him over head to tail. He also played with a feather toy the judge flicked in front of him. It was the second day of his first show. Graveline said he was “a mess” Saturday, but by Sunday he had relaxed and, as long as he didn’t go too long without some play time, seemed happy to be there.

“They have to like it,” she said of what makes a good show cat. “I have a beautiful cat I can’t show, because she just can’t handle it.”

A cat can even be disqualified if its temperament is bad enough. Plus, biting a judge probably isn’t the best way to win best of show.


“Not every cat can be a show cat,” agreed Hicks, a regional director of the International Cat Association who has judged cats for some 13 years.

She said judges learn to recognize the signs a cat may be about to lose its patience with being handled by a stranger —such as a twitching tail or tense body — before they act out.

Still, with an auditorium full of cats, each being transferred from their owner’s crates to cages behind the judging tables, to the judging tables, and back again, accidents happen. Such as the occasional cat making a jump for it while being held by their owners or judges and at least briefly avoiding capture in the auditorium.

“We had three escapees yesterday,” said Hicks, who seemed to greet every cat — and person — with a smile. “Which was fun for the cats. Not for the owners.”

Janet Spain came to Augusta from New York to show cats all weekend, including her Savannah cat named Black Zahara, which was recently recognized as a supreme grand champion, the highest recognition a cat can get.

She and her husband breed the sleek Savannahs. She said temperament is one of the key things they breed for. She started showing cats in 2000.


“I came here for the cat show. It’s my passion,” said Spain, who wore a black and gold vest that matched the colors of another cat she was showing for someone else, a toyger. “I travel all over the country to do this. They’re my pets, my show cats, my breeding cats and they’re my children.”

The toyger, Hicks noted, is bred to resemble the tigers of the wild in appearance, but not size or attitude. In size and attitude, they’re way more domestic cat than wild tiger.

“We want them to be toy tigers,” she said while examining the friendly, seven-month-old black and gold striped toyger kitty Blaze Star. “You want them to look like little tigers, but not behave like little tigers.”

While not being judged, the show cats behaved like the cats they are. One Maine coon cat inside a cage waiting for its turn on the judging table poked its paw out through the metal bars of the cage to give some St. Patrick’s Day decorations on the table nearby a few smacks.

Others slept.

Many appeared to enjoy being handled by the judges, which included one judge, Dulsa Rudge, who was flown into the competition from England.


Hicks said travel is common for cat judges. The next show she’s judging is, coincidentally, in England. She said it is interesting to see how judges from other places, even though they are judging by the same basic standards, judge different breeds of cats.

The cats are judged on how they conform to standards set for each breed, which can include the shape of their ears and length of their bodies. They are also judged based on their health.

Graveline said preparing for a show means a lot of grooming, trimming of nails and other primping.

Play by cats was encouraged at the show, even on the judging table. Spain said a cat being playful helps show it is healthy and has a good temperament.

Vendors at the show sold items including cat food, scratching posts, cages, toys, and cat-themed art including a cat’s face done in stained glass.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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