Pussy Galore 

It's survival of the cutest at Memphis International Cat Enthusiasts' fourth annual cat show.

Meow, meow, meow, meow; meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow; meow, meow, meow, meow Oh, how embarrassing! You caught me singing a little song my TV taught me. It's about the world-famous cat food that kitties actually ask for by name. I can't remember what it's called right now, but I can tell you that I like the kitties very, very much because they are fluffy and cute, and when you come home in the morning, they rub up against your leg and purr and they never yell at you or call you a real bad name like stupid-head and tell you that you're a stupid-head and you can't do anything right and that nobody with half a brain will ever be you friend like some human roommates will. My favorite kitty name is Cuddles (I also like Sassy and Peanut). My favorite kitty-related hobby is taking pictures of kitties doing stuff around the house and making up funny captions for the pictures like "I didn't do it" or "That's not my hairball." My favorite cat person (well, this week anyway) is Beth Hicks of the Memphis International Cat Enthusiasts (M.I.C.E.), which is hosting the fourth annual Championship and Household Pet Cat Show on Saturday and Sunday, November 23rd and 24th at the Mid-South Fairgrounds. Beth's been breeding kitties and judging big-time kitty contests all around the world since disco was in style (the first time) and today she's going to tell us all about it.

Flyer: So when you are judging dogs they have to be pure breeds, and there are all these rules about how the dog has to act, and it seems kind of snotty, really. Is it the same with cats?

Beth Hicks: A cat show can best be described -- 100 percent -- as a feline beauty contest. The only thing that the cats have to do is refrain from eating the judge. If they aren't amenable to being handled, we will fault them rather severely and they will not receive high awards. There are some cats that may be sweethearts at home but they don't like being shown, so you just have to leave them at home.

So if it's a beauty contest, do you have kitty stage-moms? You can tell the cat is miserable being shown, but mom's standing behind her saying, "You're the prettiest; you're the prettiest."

You can say that to the cat all you like, but if the cat doesn't enjoy it, it's not going to get you anywhere. It's a fairly expensive hobby. Think about it: To register a cat costs $65 for two days. That's per cat. There's a minimum of two nights in a hotel room, plus food, plus the airplane ticket or the gas to get here. If your cat isn't behaving well, why bother? It's a lot of money to spend for nothing.

What's the difference between M.I.C.E. and other cat-fancier associations? Are they all the same?

Other groups don't welcome household pets the way we do. We LOVE household pets. A lot of our exhibitors don't own pedigreed cats. I have an exhibitor coming from Florida and all she shows is household pets -- they have nine of them. Another class that is not available in dog shows is the alter class

The alter class?

Pedigreed cats that have been neutered or spayed.

Oh, as in, "they've been altered." Gotcha.

We have pedigreed kittens. which are 4 to 8 months old. We have cats 8 months (that's whole cats, not neutered or spayed). We have alters, pedigreed cats that have been neutered or spayed. Then we have household kittens and household cats which must be neutered or spayed.

So what do the winners get -- the kitties, I mean, not their owners?

Nothing.

What? No lifetime supply of kitty nip? No big chance to become the next spokeskitty for Friskies?

Nope, nothing. THERE ALL SPOILED ROTTEN ANYWAY!

Now if it's a male, if it's a top-runner, he stands to get more girls. People will want to use him for stud service.

But there's no chance for kitty-endorsements? Cat toys? Collars? Kitty litter? There aren't agents everywhere looking for the next Morris?

No. Some of the cats you see in those commercials aren't good cats, but the advertisers don't know. What advertisers are looking for is a certain disposition.

What I'm most excited about is the competition where you take pictures of your kitty and make up funny captions to go along with the pictures like "There's a human in my bed" and stuff like that.

It's a great contest, and people love it. It's especially good for pets that might not like to be shown. I had a lady call to ask if there was a size restriction on the photo contest because she has a framed poster-sized photo of her cat over the mantle. Quote: "In 25-years of marriage, it's the best present that man ever gave me."

So that's what I'm excited about. What are you excited about?

I'd be thrilled beyond belief if 5,000 came out for the show over the course of two days. And I'd like to give each of the four [benefit] groups [Mewtopia, House of Mews, Memphis and Shelby County Humane Society, and the Humane Society of Eastern Arkansas] $2,000 each, and I'd like to see 40 or 50 cats adopted over the weekend. If I can beat that, great.

That would be great. Anything else?

Can you tell people who aren't in the competition not to bring their cats from home?

You can't bring your kitty from home? Sassy won't care, but Cuddles will be disappointed and so will Peanut and Gus.

Sorry. That is just not the kind of catfight I need.

For more information about Memphis International Cat Enthusiasts' cat show log on to MiceShow.org.

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