Oh yes, I’m afraid I’ve been bitten. But it’s not the kind of bite you are probably thinking of. I have a high risk job, after all. I groom cats which means that bites are inevitable. However, the the kind of bite I am referring to is caused by the show bug.

In 1998 I purchased a show quality Red Tabby Persian and was invited to my very first CFA cat show. It was there that the show bug bit me. And it bit me good! Over the next 7 years I showed Persians, many of my own breeding. Many of my show cats went on to earn Regional and National Wins from nationally ranked color and breed wins to 3rd Best Cat in Premiership (alter class) in 2004/2005. That year I ran two cats for wins, ranking 1st and 11th in the Southern Region (the biggest and most competitive region in the world!) with both cats and 1st Nationally with my bicolor. It wasn’t until the last 6 weeks of the show season that I quit showing due to the arrival of our 5th child. My cats fell to 3rd regionally and nationally for one and 28th regionally for the other. (Incidentally, the 1st and 2nd nationally and regionally ranked cats were bred, owned, and/or shown by the very judges that judged my cat nearly every weekend – go figure.)

I retired from showing at the end of that 2004/2005 show season. I had other fish to fry. Besides raising and homeschooling 5 children, I had a busy, growing cat grooming biz that took up much of my time. Showing was a thing of the past. I was thankful for the experience and the training it gave me. The competition, judging, grooming practice, and knowledge of breed standards gave me the tools I needed to groom cats owned by other people. I groomed them all as if I was taking them to a show, regardless of breed. I quickly learned that my customers appreciated this immensely. I was told repeatedly by these customers how they had never before received such excellent grooming.
In the fall of 2008 our family purchased another Persian. I wanted him granded simply because it was important to me to keep up the quality that I had become accustomed to. I promised the breeders of this cat that I would, indeed, grand him. Because of this, I stepped back into the show ring for a brief period. It took only a few shows to grand my new cat. I had fun with it but was reminded of how time consuming it was and how political it all really was. But, all in all, I was glad I had gone back into the ring just for the fact that I wanted to prove to myself that I still had “it.” Mission accomplished – no more showing for me.

Well, yesterday I groomed two long hair Exotics for a friend of a friend who was traveling from Charleston to Charlotte for a cat show this weekend. She stopped over in Greenville so I could groom her cats for show the day before she entered the ring to begin the exciting journey of granding both cats.

Both of the cats were as sweet as can be – just like a typical show Persian. Amazing cats! One was loaded with coat and probably the biggest Exotic (or Persian) I had ever seen. I have to confess that the two hours I spent show grooming these two cats was rather enjoyable. I loved every second of it! All the fluffing and trimming and finessing every hair into place. The show bug teeth were sinking in yet again. I pondered for a just a few minutes if I might want to step back into the show ring. Naw, I concluded. It’s really the prepping and grooming that I love so much. I know I can win, been there, done that. It’s the actual getting my hands into all that lustrous Persian show coat that really gets me.
While I was working on these two cats yesterday I thought about how, despite the fact that they are professionally groomed every few weeks, both long hair Exotics were rather greasy down the legs and around the shoulder area. Both had overgrown faces and undefined cheeks. Both had too much dead coat to comb out, and both had clumpy tangles (dreadlocks) down their legs. Why? Well, it’s not really anyone’s fault. Both cats are very well cared for by their lovely owner. But she is not a groomer and doesn’t want to be one. So she has enlisted the help of a local groomer, the only one she could find who was willing to handle her most well-behaved kitties. And this groomer was doing her best to do what she knew to do. Even so, the cats needed more to keep them in the appropriate condition, especially for show.

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I truly hope both Exotics do well in the show ring this weekend, and return home to Charleston with a pile of grand points. But even more than that, I truly hope that their owner is able to locate a groomer who will keep then up in the condition that their breed standard requires and who can handle them in a way that keeps their compliant temperaments intact for a lifetime.

As groomers search for training and education in the cat grooming industry, I trust they will investigate the qualifications of the one who is providing the training. If the person or organization giving the training has never set foot in a show hall or proven their grooming skills by achieving any notable wins in the judging ring, I would look elsewhere. Think about dog grooming standards, which are based on breed standards developed within the dog show world. The most reputable dog grooming icons have a thorough knowledge of these dog breed standards and many have notable accomplishments that give merit to their teaching and instructing. They have a proven reputation founded on standards that have been around for a very long time.

The same should be true for cat grooming. CFA has had written and upheld standards for cat breeds for over 100 years. Anyone who teaches or instructs in the art of cat grooming should have a thorough understanding of these breed standards. Their grooming skills, having been judged against these standards, will have validity and merit. Otherwise, it is all subjective and, most likely, lacking in quality.

Personally, I want to give my clients the very best. That means I want my measuring stick of quality to be based on something absolute, not someone’s subjective interpretation of what is acceptable. Subjectivity breeds mediocrity at best. Competition breeds quality.

So what do you want to give your clients?
My advice: get bit……by the show bug 🙂

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