Cat lovers from across the nation gathered Saturday for the Ocicat International Cat Show at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.
Ocicat International and Maine Street Cat Club’s 2015 event, “Around the World in 80 Meows,” brought together a field of 182 cats and kittens at the Hugh Mills Physical Education Complex. The event continues today.
Everyone seemed to have a different reason for finding their cat show hobby. Diana Belfatto drove up from Florida for the event.
“I blame it on my daughter,” Belfatto said. “She wanted a cat, and here I am.”
Thirty years later, Belfatto is showing her male Persian kitten named Summertime Blues.
Bob Goltzer is an All Breeds specialist who travels across the world to places like South Africa and France for cat show judging.
“I like cats,” Goltzer said. “So it was an easy decision.”
John Adelhoch, who travels across the country to judge, has about 45 years of experience with cats and cat shows. He has bred cats since he was 20 years old, starting with Siamese and Himalayan breeds, and his love for cats just escalated from there.
Adelhoch took a three-day class to become qualified, then underwent training at different shows across the country. He is trained to judge for long-haired cats.
“Cats look different in different areas of the country,” Adelhoch said.
He has been a judge for three years but he was an exhibitor long before that, and said judging is different from exhibiting his own cats.
“It’s a bit impersonal,” Adelhoch said. “You say, ‘thank you for coming’, give them a handshake and that’s it.”
Adelhoch liked the social aspect of exhibiting. He talks to the owners while he judges and encourages applause after each cat is given its ribbon.
“He knows why he’s here,” Adelhoch said as he examined one of the cat’s tail length as it stretched. “He’s a show cat.”
Adelhoch named the white Maine Coon sixth best in show.
The cat’s owners, Pennie Pendleton and Sharon Stelzman, have been showing cats for 27 years. Their first show was on Labor Day weekend of 1992 in Johnson City, Tenn.
“I guess it’s sort of an anniversary for us, then,” Pendleton said.
Passionate Kisses, or Pasha for short, is a male cat they purchased from Stella’s Breeding in Maryland. The duo used to be breeders themselves in Knoxville, Tenn., but now they just own a few cats.
They mostly just show for fun now.
“It’s a beauty contest,” Pendleton said.
A mild panic arose when one of the cats got loose and ran under the bleachers.
“Now the other cats will be stressed out, because they can sense it,” said Michelle Chaffee, a cattery owner, exhibitor and a mentor to other exhibitors. She’s been showing cats for 11 years.
Chaffee runs the Maine Lvrs cattery in her home state of Ohio and showed her orange and white Maine Coon named King of Hearts at Saturday’s shows.
At 7 months and 3 weeks old, this will be his last kitten show, but as of now, he’s the best in his region.
Saturday’s judges included Goltzer, Teresa Keiger, Jan Rogers, Sharon Roy, Neil Quigley, Adelhoch and Marilee Griswold.