A cat show is a rare opportunity to see dozens of beautifully groomed cats, not only of the more common breeds, but also some of the rarest in the world. If you love cats, you'll find spending a couple of hours at a cat show to be interesting, educational and just plain delightful.
Bring your natural curiosity and your love of cats, and you can have a wonderful time. Here are a few tips to make the visit more comfortable and productive.
-- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Show halls are notorious for being too hot or too cold, no matter the outside temperature. Wear something light and carry a sweater, and you're covered either way. Carry a backpack or big purse, and a notepad and pen. You're sure to run across freebies or buy toys to take home to your cat, and you may meet a breeder you want to talk to after the show.
-- Be aware of the demands on exhibitors. Most exhibitors don't mind answering questions and talking about cats to the general public, but not in those tense moments before their animals will be judged. Your first question to any exhibitor should be: "Is this a good time to ask a couple of questions about your cats?"
They'll let you know, and if it's not, they can tell you when will be. Never bother an exhibitor who has a cat in her arms. She's almost certainly headed to or coming from judging. And step aside: Cat-show etiquette -- and common sense -- demands that a person carrying a cat has the right of way.
-- Be respectful of the health and safety of the cats. Don't ask to pet a cat, because you almost certainly won't be allowed to. Breeders are very concerned about the spread of disease. The only people who touch any cats at a show are the people who brought them and the judges, who are careful to sanitize their hands and the judging platform between each cat they handle. If an exhibitor does invite you to pet a cat, you'll likely be asked to wash your hands before and after, which is a small price to pay for the experience of caressing a cat in perfect show condition.
-- Watch at least one class being judged. Unlike dog-show judges, who never share their thoughts with the spectators (or even the competitors), cat-show judges consider education an important part of their job. They discuss the good and not-so-good points of each animal as they judge, and many are not only articulate and knowledgeable but witty as well. After the judging is over, most are happy to answer a question or two.
-- Bring money. Nearly every show has people on hand to sell cat-related merchandise. You often find not only free cat-food samples, but also hand-crafted toys, scratching posts and cat trees direct from the people who make them. Some of the merchandise is more for cat lovers than for the cats themselves: clothing, jewelry, artwork, books. Neat stuff!
Many cat shows also provide booth space for local feline rescue groups, and these deserve your support. If you're spending big bucks on cat toys or cat-themed goods for yourself, be a sport and drop a couple of dollars in the kitty to help out those animals who aren't as lucky as yours or the gorgeous show cats you've been enjoying.
Finding a cat show
The Cat Fanciers' Association (www.cfa.org) and The International Cat Association (www.tica.org) are the two most dominant organizations in the cat-show world. Information on upcoming shows can be found on the organizations' Web sites, or in publications such as Cat Fancy.
The CFA and TICA sites also have information on recognized breeds, how cat shows work and how to get involved with your cat -- even if he's not a purebred.
Keeping items safe from clumsy cat
Q: My cat is so clumsy, constantly knocking stuff off shelves. How can I make her stay on the ground? -- B.G., via e-mail
A: Lithe and agile, cats are not really meant to stay on the ground. Instead of going against your cat's nature, consider moving valuable display items to glass-fronted cases that will keep your cat at bay and still allow you to enjoy the look of your favorite collectibles.
For less valuable pieces, double-sided tape or Velcro can be used to "lock" objects in place on shelves, and can be found at any home-supply store. You can also try a product called Quake Hold, a putty that seals objects to their display surface.
Q: My little terra-poo has what the veterinarian said was an ear infection. I gave her the antibiotics, but she's still shaking her head and her ear looks nasty under the flap. Can you suggest something I can buy that will take care of this? I don't see the point of spending more money at the vet for another expensive and useless round of drugs. -- S.V., via e-mail
A: Whenever a medication your veterinarian gives you doesn't do the trick for any reason, you need to go back for further assistance. Every day I hear from people whose pets are still suffering with problems that would likely be cured if their owners had pursued follow-up care. A medication may need to be stronger, given longer or may need to be changed, decisions that can be made only by a veterinarian.
Since those of use who are not veterinarians are often way off the mark when it comes to a proper diagnosis and treatment, I advise that over-the-counter remedies be purchased and used only as part of treatment program recommended by your veterinarian. As for home remedies, a lot of them are a waste of time and money. Go back to a veterinarian.
Q: How old is a 16-year-old cat in "human" years? The "dog formula" doesn't seem to work -- it would make him 112! -- M.D., via e-mail
A: The "1 equals 7" dog formula doesn't really apply for dogs, either. Consider: A dog who's a year old is a young adult, far more mature than a 7-year-old human child. I've heard of "1 equals 4" or "1 equals 5" rules for cats, but those don't make sense, for the same reasons the dog formula fails.
Sorry I can't offer you anything that's easy to remember, but here's the way to figure out the rough human equivalent of a cat's age: Figure the first year as taking the cat to around 15 or so, and the second year as equating to mid-20s in a human. After that, add four "human years" for each "cat year." That would put your cat at the equivalent of more than 80 years old in human terms.
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
Behavior changes could be trouble
You must be aware not only of your pet's physical condition, but also of his behavior. Many times, behavioral changes are later confirmed as illnesses through the use of such diagnostic tools as blood or urine tests. Always be aware of the subtle changes in your pet's behavior, especially regarding the following areas:
-- Changes in eating habits, especially loss of appetite. Be aware of how much and how eagerly your pet eats, and make a mental note of any changes. The ability to keep an eye on feeding behavior is one of the biggest arguments against keeping food always available.
-- Changes in activity level: If a pet who's always ready to run is suddenly not interested in playing, the lethargy may be cause for concern.
-- Changes in drinking habits: Pets drink more in the summer than in the winter, but even taking that into consideration, you look for variations in your pet's drinking habits. Get an idea of what's a normal amount of water, and be aware of changes. You don't need to measure by the ounce: Just keep an eye on how often you're refilling that water bowl.
-- Changes in voice: Does your dog's bark or cat's meow sound different? Is his pattern of vocalizing changing?
If you think you have an "ain't doing right" pet, a visit to your veterinarian is in order if the issue isn't resolved in a few days -- even if there's no overt physical sign of illness that you can see.
(Pet Rx is provided by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN.com), an online service for veterinary professionals. More information can be found at www.veterinarypartner.com.)
ON THE WEB
Site offers names by the thousands
If you can't come up with a name for a new pet after spending a few minutes on www.petnamesworld.com, you just aren't trying very hard. The site claims to offer more than 11,000 names for all kinds of pets, even less-common ones such as pigs and snakes.
The Web site is searchable by alphabet, and offers advanced search functions to help you narrow down to selections based on a name's country of origin, meaning or the kind of pet it's best suited for. As you go through the searching you can add names to your own list of favorites so you can consider just a few finalists.
Pellets form the base of healthy bird diet
The trend in recent years has been toward pelleted diets for parrots, and these pet birds are now healthier than ever before as a result. Pelleted diets are readily available from many reputable manufacturers and can be purchased at specialty bird stores, from avian-supply Web sites or from many veterinarians who work with birds.
Pellets are a blend of foods, such as grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits and various protein sources. Manufacturers mix the ingredients and then either bake and crumble or shape them -- ending up with pellets of a proper size for any given species (large pellets for large birds, small pellets for small birds).
This process produces a food that has an advantage to the "smorgasbord" way of feeding -- the bird cannot pick out his favorite foods and ignore the rest. Pellets also are convenient for bird owners: These commercially prepared diets are easy to buy and relatively inexpensive to use, and they store nicely in a cool, dry place.
Pelleted foods are a solid basis for your pet bird's diet, but even pellets need to be complemented with a variety of vegetables, fruits and "people food," such as whole-grain bread and pasta.
Some foods that are perfectly fine for you (in moderation, of course) are absolutely off-limits to your pet bird. Top of the list: avocado, which of course means not only plain avocado but anything with avocado in it, from guacamole to a California roll at the sushi bar. Another potentially deadly treat is chocolate.
Also, don't plan on sharing alcoholic or caffeinated beverages with your pet bird.
If you're making French toast, take a few more minutes to make a special piece for your parrot. You can "birdify" the recipe by sprinkling the egg-drenched bread with hulled seeds and cooking as usual. Skip the powdered sugar and maple syrup, though: Birdy French toast is great treat just as it is!
BY THE NUMBERS
More the merrier
While most people with dogs are happy to have just one, among cat lovers the trend is for multiple ownership. Figures from 2004 (multiple responses permitted):
Number of cats owned
One 49 percent
Two 24 percent
Three or more 26 percent
Average number of cats owned: 2.4
Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association
First-aid kits for family pet
A first-aid kit for your pets should be part of your emergency supplies. You can pull one together yourself (any pet first-aid book or Web site will have a list of ingredients) or purchase one of any number of ready-made kits available through pet-supply outlets. One company that makes good kits from top-grade supplies is Pet-Pak Inc. (www.healerpetproducts.com, 800-223-5765). Supplies are packed into a hard plastic container, with prices ranging from $26 for a travel kit to $34 for a more extensive home version, not including shipping.
A pet disaster-survival kit is available from ResQPet (www.ResQPet.com, 888-738-7377). Packed in sturdy bright orange bags in sizes from fanny pack to backpack, the ResQPet collections include emergency water packets and purification drops, a muzzle and a space blanket in addition to top-grade first-aid supplies and instructions. The kits run from $50 to $100, including shipping. -- G.S.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
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