When word was leaked that cats were to be included in the Westminster Kennel Club’s esteemed dog show, pandemonium erupted. The internet erupted with speculation and outrage at the defilement of this canine institution.
We have all been led to believe that putting cats and dogs together in the same room is never a good idea. From cartoons to Hollywood movies, we have been inundated with images of flying balls of fur, hissing and scratching each other’s eyes out. It couldn’t possibly work.
Even the owners of the prospective feline participants were leery of what would happen. They worried that their precious pets might be injured, and feared that the upcoming show at Madison Square Gardens would be poorly attended.
The rumors several years ago during an International Cat Association event which was being held in close proximity to the American Kennel Club. Yes, cat fans have their own shows and events, just like the dog lovers.
The Kennel Club was hosting a “Meet the Breed” show at the same time as the cat event, and audiences from the two shows started talking to each other. Could it be a good idea to host a future event with participants from both camps?
At first, people were skeptical. The dog shows are incredibly noisy. The audience gets very excited. They hoot. They clap. They stomp their feet. Not exactly an atmosphere favored by cats who are known to be skittish and easily spooked.
The mixed event, however, was putting some of those fears to rest. Incredibly, the day had not descended into pandemonium after all. After seven hours, the cats and dogs were getting along, well, not like cats and dogs. They were actually just getting along.
The dog show world is big business – and it’s a serious business at that. Producers, publicists, suppliers and breeders all have a stake in these shows. You only have to watch Christopher Guest’s mockumentary Best in Show to get the picture. Putting a cat show alongside the dog event was a way of softening the tension, a means for the industry to say “we can have fun with this too”.
Some of the cat breeders really got into to the spirit of the day. Owners of the stunning leopard coated Bengalis dressed in khaki, adorning their booths with jungle scenes and stuffed safari animals.
The audience absolutely lapped it up. They were accustomed to seeing the usual hundred or so canine breeds on display, but were astounded by what they found in the cat section. Over forty breeds of feline, representing as much variety as their canine counterparts.
And the cats were touchable. They could be stroked, snuggled, and smooched. Most seemed to revel in the attention, casting smug glances at the dogs who looked on from across the aisle.
People couldn’t help but make comparisons, and the cats pulled their weight. When it came to jumping, the dogs made a poor showing when set against felines who could leap a dozen feet in the air to catch a toy. Special cat toys were distributed, encouraging show-goers to play with the animals and get to know them up close.
Cats and dogs have been domesticated for centuries, and many households are home to both. The idea of the two species getting along is not unheard of. In such numbers, however, the ease with which they accepted each other was astounding.
The mixed show was highly praised and while it gave rise to heated speculation, the Westminster Kennel show on Saturday will be for dogs only. It seems that the cats will have to wait awhile longer to be accepted into the prestigious canine world. Having shown they can be on their best behavior, however, they will surely be welcome to visit at any time.