Cat show lures feline enthusiasts

March 17, 2013
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Brad Hundt / Observer-Reporter
Sarah Earls of Indianapolis hangs out with her cat, Rondeelu Maximilian of Haverford, at the Western Pennsylvania Cat Fanciers’ Show at the Iceoplex at Southpointe Saturday. Order a Print
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Brad Hundt / Observer-Reporter Sharon Powell, a judge at the Western Pennsylvania Cat Fanciers Show, lures a cat up a pole during a contest Saturday.

Rondeelu Maximilian of Haverford is not some long-departed, bewhiskered European nobleman whose exploits are recounted in some yellowed tome on a back shelf in a used bookstore.

Rather, Rondeelu Maximilan of Haverford is just 7 months old and weighs in at 14 pounds but is already well-traveled. The cat, of the Maine Coon breed, has already logged journeys to several cat shows, including the annual exhibition sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Cat Fanciers at the Iceoplex at Southpointe Saturday and Sunday.

Rondeelu Maximilian’s owner, Sarah Earls of Indianapolis, estimated that she visits two cat shows per month. The shows, like baseball card shows or fan conventions, mix camaraderie and commerce, as folks who find the siren call of the cat’s meow irresistible gather to buy goods, get their cats judged and catch up with fellow feline aficionados who venture from show to show.

“It’s a whole little world,” Earls said. “We love it. It keeps us out of the bingo halls.”

There were 164 caged cats who passed through the doors of the Iceopolex over the show’s two days. Most were carefully appraised by judges who also ride the cat-show circuit and, according to Gene Darrah, who hails from Alliance, Ohio, and has 34 years of judging under his belt, the whole cat is scrutinized, from their bones and legs to their coat. Most are placed on a small platform on a table, which is sprayed with disinfectant after each cat appears. They are shown off, with the more unusual or cute generating smiles and oooohs and aaaahs from spectators. Ribbons were then given to the cats that placed in each category.

It’s believed the first cat show happened in London July 13, 1871, with 160 cats being displayed. The first official cat show on these shores happened at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1895.

Alexis Chontos of West Mifflin stopped by the show, even though she and her husband no longer have cats – “You get to be too busy,” she said. Nonetheless, Chontos has remained interested in cats and the people she knows from years of going to cat shows.

“Cats never go out of your blood,” she said.

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. Brad holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from George State University in Atlanta, Ga., and a master’s in popular culture studies from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University. He has covered the arts and entertainment for the O-R, and also worked as a municipal beat reporter. He now serves as editorial page editor.

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