Thursday, April 24, 2014

Feline Pageantry

Happy belated Easter, everyone! I'm so excited to tell you about something I've been preparing for months... Bucky's cat show! I've been told it sounds a little "crazy cat lady" and I suppose most outsiders might look in and think that but it was such a great experience and a lot of fun! The casual on-looker might think this is a bunch of crock full of childless single cat-obsessed ladies but this couldn't be further from the truth; handlers/owners were animal lovers who treated these felines like family.

My mom, +ADW and I accompanied Bucky to the All About Pets show in Toronto for a single day participation. This was going to be a challenge because naturally, cats are homebodies and are most content with what's familiar to them and rarely will place themselves out in the open making them vulnerable to attack or otherwise. This show was to be challenging with the birds, reptiles, dog and other cats.

My main objective was to expose him to travel and adapting to new situations. I started months ago, by getting him on a harness and walking him around outside. He doesn't walk like a dog... and usually gets me into knots while weaving in and out of bushes or the porch. But, he started out terrified of going outside and walking about on his own; he'd almost immediately crawl back into my lap while cautiously eying everything around him. He was skittish to noises and strange people walking by. It was a regular effort and the winter didn't really help... though I still took him out when there was snow:

Yep! Those are skulls on his winter vest

It required a lot of reassurance, exposure and patience to encourage him to build his confidence to do things on his own... considering at home, he's what Jackson Galaxy would label a "Mojito Cat". As he became braver, I moved to exposure in the car since he had an accident previously. I'll still need to get to the vet regularly for weightings (and exposure) since he had a lot of trips to the vet (a story for another day!) at the start of our time together.

I didn't know how a cat show worked, previously: in a single day, there are 4 judging rings that an entrant cat would participate in. Each ring gives the cat the opportunity to win top 5 or 10 (depending on the number competing). Each cat gets a giant blank rosette ribbon and each placing meant that they would receive a plaque to stick on their ribbon. When it was your cat's turn, you'd take him to the ring and then place him (naked--without collars or the like) into cage and each cat would be removed and judged by the judge. For cat shows, there's no training or any real skill that judges are looking for. For Bucky's section of Household Pet, most of his points were placed upon temperament/disposition. For cats in strange situations, this is tough because they're so tense with all the stimulation around them. The judge would place the cats and be awarded points; points were added up for the weekend, and then further, there are top 3 places given to the top of each category.

Waiting to be judged (aka, crapping his pants--if he was wearing any)

All the diligent work paid off. We got him to the International Centre without a single peep--he was actually just laying in his cage calmly. And he made it through the 8 hour day without having a complete meltdown. There were a few moments where I wasn't sure if I needed to rescue him and return him home but he placed 5th on one of the rings and we had another milestone of progress forward on his training! It's too bad it wasn't a competition for tricks though... because I've been clicker training Bucky and he's getting really good at the tricks he does know ;)


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