By Lauren Merryfield
I have been a member of the Cat Writers’ Association for several years now, but had never attended one of it’s annual conferences.
Further, I’ve been to local cat shows, but never to the International Cat Show sponsored by the Cat Fanciers’ Association.
Upon discovering that both of these catly events would be happening in Houston, Texas, in November of 2002, I had a talk with my husband, Jim, about Christmas gifts–wouldn’t attending these two special events make a PURRfect gift for both of us–from both of us? He agreed, and, off we went!
We were too late for reservations at the main hotel, however, an alternative hotel was able to accommodate us at the Cat Fanciers’ rate.
Very soon during our stay, we discovered, by the sounds of “meow” emanating from cat carriers in hallways, in the lobby, in the elevator, on rides to and from the hotel, that some members of the Cat Fanciers’ Association were our hotel-mates.
Following are just some of my responses to my first time at these conferences.
I’ve been a CWA member for two years and this was my first conference!
Names of some of our members were familiar to me, but I can’t say that I *knew* anyone. Introductions around the room at the beginning of the conference might have helped, though most of the people in attendance already knew each other–A little daunting for a first-timer.
I felt a stressful sense of ambiguity and even some guilt in not attending all of the seminars. Reasons for such delinquency:
1: Two seminars happening simultaneously.
2: Probably really number one–cat show! cat show! cat show!
3: Met the family of an epal of two years who has eleven cats; need I say more? Yes! there’s more! Meeting them Was wonderful! And, get this, they took us to the Katz’s Deli, for real! Excellent human food!
I enjoyed the banquet. I appreciated being present as deserving cat-writers received commendation for their efforts. I further noticed that the awards were spread around, except in a couple deserving cases!
Some brand new members were first-time winners! This gave me hope for the future, being a relatively new member myself.
Then there was that cat show, beckoning me magnetically through the duration of my stay.
Since I personally feel a terrible internal conflict regarding Miss America-type shows for humans, plus, considering myself to be a potential Meowmmy to any cats–all cats–I refused to focus on the judging and some of the well, catty remarks during bus rides which would be disparaging to so many homeless cats and even my own dear ones!
However, I loved just being in a roomful of over 1 thousand cats! They were all so beautiful, though some of the most overly-trained cats I’ve ever met!
Meeting some of them was such a privilege; for meeting any cats–all cats–is a privilege to me!
Being a 60’s, non-conformist type, I shy away from protocol in favor of spontaneity and creativity. The cat show was far too orderly for me, though a remote aspect of myself understands this necessity.
In all honesty, I was disappointed not to hear “Attention in ring seven! Cat out!” and a scramble to see who could get all the doors closed soonest. The daydream of that “cat out” coming to me, giving me the opportunity to snuggle and smuggle him/her out to a life of freedom was fantastic, though short-lived, as the “kittens in premiership, ready in ring 3,” “Will cats 729 through 735 please be brought to ring nine, with the exception of number 731,” brought me back to cat show reality.
“Kittens in premiership? What does that mean?” I asked of a patient cat-shower whose American wire-hair cat was being touch by me for the first time.
“Cats in championship are not neutered and most likely bred, while cats in premiership have been spayed or neutered,” I was informed.
Though I love any cats–all cats–it was enlightening and entertaining to meet a hairless Sphinx cat, an American wire-hair cat, and a prize-winning Balinese cat for the first time. Last Train to Georgia, nicknamed Chooch, had been in the previous day’s paper, so I understood the ownee’s pride. (They only think they own the cats, right?)
On the front burner of my mind, however, were the facts that other papers throughout the world were reporting cruelty to cats, homelessness of cats, euthanasia of cats for lack of room, and cats becoming road-kill. The mixed feelings never escaped me!
Psychologically, I was able to bring my angst down a notch by PURRchasing a shirt stating “Without pawprints in it, life is just not worth living.”
The feeling, among cats, may not be mutual, but in many cases in fact, they are reciprocal; we need cats as much as they need us to enrich each others’ lives.
One embarrassing event occurred on my second visit to the cat show. My husband, Jim, and I were snooping down Meow Mall, the vendors’ area, when suddenly I needed to sit, right now! This is quite the norm for those of us with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome.
We immediately scurried to ring 2 where I nearly collapsed. I heard a woman with kids in tow say to them, “I think she’s having a seizure; we better go get help.”
I thought this odd, having gone to school with kids who had seizures and there is usually quite a lot of unusual commotion during such an event.
As I was dismissing the seemingly incongruous concern, I heard “Attention in ring 2. There’s a medical emergency in ring 2,” though stated matter-of-factly, I felt the creepy-crawlies! I was in ring 2. What was happening unbeknownst to me?
Imagine the shock when I was suddenly surrounded by medical personnel, at least one CWA member, and the vendor of a shirt my husband had just PURRchased.
“Can you talk?” “Are you alone?” “Well where *is* your husband?” the last question was asked critically. I explained that someone must have heard me say to Jim what seems pretty normal for us and they heard it as an emergency.
Jim, being not at all unattentive, was PURRusing the arena so that we could make better and quicker decisions on where to go next in all the surrounding catliness, thus, he had not deserted me.
Having been naughty at the deli in eating dessert, (my blood sugar was probably too high, though I am not diabetic), so I may have looked worse off than I really was.
It was relieving to know that humans and felines were all in good hands at the show, and now we had a bit of humor to write home about.
Oh yes! Just one more thing! Though we met some of the greatest cats in the whole wide world, there is a triple tie for first best cats — as demonstrated in a wonderful home-coming reunion — Jaspur, Mikey and Gabrielle, never to be show cats but they sure put on a great and loving cat show for us as we dumped our exhausted bodies through our front door!
Lauren has written about cats since she was in grade-school. She is a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and has contributed human and animal-interest articles to several publications.