It only cost $4 to witness royalty last weekend at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds: cat royalty.
His name is Mishikoonz Mystic Lake, or just “Mystic” for short, and he’s a 19-pound red-silver tabby and white polydactyl Maine Coon. In layman’s terms, he’s an enormous, shaggy, ginger and white cat with extra toes.
Mystic and his owners travel all over the country visiting cat shows held by The International Cat Association (TICA), the world’s largest cat registry. If not for COVID-19, the team would travel all over the world.
Even with their limited mobility, Mystic is sitting at the number one TICA spot in the world, a thousand points above his nearest competitor. His family lives in Redmond, Oregon, so coming to Lewis County for a show was practically a “home show,” said Mystic’s breeder and owner Cari Tucker.
“You compete for points, so he has more points than any other cat in the world,” Tucker said. “It’s a shock. The top 25 get an international win. That’s all I was going for, because he’s a good cat. But then he just kept his end of the bargain, and so I have to do my part.”
Mystic was one of more than 70 cats to compete in the show at the fairgrounds over the weekend, which was held by And A Mouse Cat Club, which is based in Olympia but holds shows across the region.
The show was managed by grizzled cat judge Kay Hanvey, who chartered And A Mouse 30 years ago. Cats are judged in different categories of kittens (between four and eight months old) and adults (8 months and older) for all pedigree cats. There is also a household pet category.
In each competition, judges compare contestants to a TICA standard for that breed. For an over-simplified example, the best Savannah cat — a domestic breed closely related to wild African serval cats — has a short to medium length coat with a slightly coarse feel, a spotted pattern and a triangle head.
To get cats ready to be handled by judges and patient enough to compete all day, they need to start learning about show life as soon as possible. No cats are allowed in show halls until 3 months of age. Once they reach 3 months, most breeders will pack kittens along to help them acclimate to the noise and social aspects of showing.
For Rainier-based breeder Julie Laney, getting her cats ready for shows starts long before they set paw in a show hall. Although Laney’s Savannah cat, Cloudsrest, is only six generations removed from a wild serval, she’s a chipper, friendly companion who doesn’t seem to mind getting passed around between judges.
“You need to get them into a room with lots of noise,” Laney said. “We take them to the gas station, we take them to Home Depot, we take them everywhere. So they get handled by people that aren’t us, so they’re used to it. You have to do that for a show cat.”
Though owners must be dedicated and focused to keep up regular show appearances, the stakes at the And A Mouse shows are low. Everyone gets a sticker, and cats receive a round of applause, ribbons and plenty of scratches behind the ear.
And really, a ribbon is far more valuable to a cat than any sum of money.
The most chaotic moments in the show world are when cats find a way to slip out of their cages. In those instances, someone yells, “Cat out!” and everyone in the hall stands still, while some guard the door to make sure nobody comes in or out. Then, the owner has to go catch their cat.
One Bengal cat escaped its cage on Sunday, giving the well-rehearsed “cat out” plan a test. He was returned within one minute.
When asked if that Bengal had been getting out often, Hanvey said: “He’s been out more than he’s been in.”
One cat judge said there are a few misunderstandings about cat breeding, because “98% of cats are spayed or neutered,” she said. So, some veterinarians are just not used to seeing people who would purposely breed cats.
“So a lot of what we try to do is educate,” the judge said. “If I never got into the cat fancy I would have two cats and I would replace them every 15 to 20 years. I have more cats in my life, but it doesn’t have an impact on those random-bred cats, it just has an effect on this hobby that we have, preserving these ancient breeds.”
After that statement, the judge received a round of applause.
For more information on TICA, visit https://tica.org/ for And A Mouse, go to http://www.andamouse.com/.
And A Mouse Cat Club will hold its next show at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in June.