THE BASIC DOCUMENTS which govern the world of pedigree cats are the standards which cat fancy organisations in every country lay down for each breed which they recognise.
STANDARDS DESCRIBE the general appearance of the breed, and then take each part of the anatomy in turn, prescribing certain features such as, for example, the slant of the eyes, the size of the ears or the length of the tail.
The coat is also described in detail, noting its texture and quality, and coat colouring is defined. Some colour varieties require coat markings to be of a particular type and density, sometimes (as with tortoiseshell-and-whites, for example) the required proportions of different colours in the coat, and sometimes the positioning of the colouring, are stated. The standard also notes which eye colours are permitted, | how the tail should be marked and the extent of colour-pointing in appropriate breeds and varieties. Some standards also note faults, such as a squint in Siamese or a kinked tail in virtually all breeds.
THE STANDARD IS, in fact, a description of a perfect specimen of a particular breed and colour variety for show purposes. There are of course no perfect specimens of any breed, but all the cats exhibited in a breed class at a major show will be very close to perfection. For this reason, it is always a good idea for a novice to go to
shows in the company of an experienced fancier who can point out the subtleties of quality that lead to a judge’s decision, and getting to know experienced fanciers is one of the advantages of joining a local cat club or association. It should be emphasised that the standard is not necessarily the description of a prize-winning cat, because other factors outside the standard could influence a judge’s opinion. A cat might, for example, match the standard exactly but might not have a suitable temperament for showing, or it might have a health problem. To take an extreme example, a cat may bite the judge. With some if but not all judges, this would disqualify it and the judge has the last word.
The American Cat Fanciers’ Association (not to be confused with the Cat Fanciers’ Association which is also American) in the United States has a more prescriptive system, with points and even fractions of points awarded far more precisely. But even then, in the end, it tends to be the cat with the most pleasing overall features that wins.
JUDGING NON-PEDIGREE CLASSES
THE JUDGES FOR non-pedigree classes of what may be described, depending on the show organisers, as pet, household or domestic cats, or cats exhibited by children within a specific age range, naturally do not work to standards. The challenge of producing an all-purpose standard for family pets would surely defeat even the most diligent standards committees! In these classes, the judges are less intent on the finer points of breeding but are looking for handsome, healthy cats which are obviously loved and well cared for. No one should imagine, however, that these classes are a soft option. Competition is intense, standards are high, and as much care must go into preparing entrants for these as for the most exotic pedigree classes.
At the same time, judges are well aware of the reality that a family pet comes from a very different type of background to a pedigree cat in which its owner will have invested huge amounts of time and attention. The cat fancy values these non-pedigree competitions partly because they arouse interest in cat care in the general sense, but also because young competitors are part of the pool of cat lovers from which the more earnest pedigree competitors of the future will be drawn.
IN THE UNITED STATES, show standards set out, in addition to the requirements for specific breeds and colour varieties, the general condition that is expected of cats exhibited for show. This is because American organisations have largely abandoned the process of’ vetting-in’ cats at shows and rely on owners not to submit cats that fall below accepted standards of condition. In practice, no owner experienced in exhibiting would dream of entering a cat that was not physically in tip-top condition, but laying down these basic requirements provides a basis on which a judge can disqualify a cat deemed not to be fit to be shown.