It’s not easy for a superstar to get ready in the morning.
This particular light-haired beauty goes through quite a three-hour process: A bath and shampoo, blow-dry, substantial time with a brush, trims here and there, then finishing off with various powders and hair sprays.
But we’re not talking Beyonce or Lady Gaga here: All this is for a 2-year-old Persian cat named Arch Gabriel.
The decidedly pampered feline is a distinguished show cat. And earlier this month, he flaunted and preened alongside dozens of other purebred exemplars during a pair of weekend shows hosted by the Damn Yankees Cat Club and Cats Incredible Inc. at the Holiday Inn in Boxborough.
“He’s very good,” said Arch Gabriel’s human companion, Sandra Marsinelli of Revere. “He likes it.”
Cats have a certain reputation, throwing off an air of superiority.
Well, these cats truly are.
Much like the dogs of Westminster, the thousands of felines that compete in shows across the world represent the pinnacle of their breeds: The best looking, the best built, the best behaved. Judged on breed standards established by the Cat Fanciers’ Association, they rack up points as they participate in various shows throughout the year, with the pinnacle being the World Championship Cat Show (this year’s edition will be held in Michigan in November). The most decorated eventually earn titles of “grand champion” or “grand premier.”
Aruba, a 1-year-old Burmese from Bristol, Conn., is on her way to earning the latter distinction — she has already ascended to “premier” status — after picking up additional points at the Boxborough competitions, held on Sept. 14 and 15.
Her owner, Mary Goehring, has other cats that have achieved the honor. Still, she stressed, “first and foremost, our cats are our pets.”
“Pet first, showing second,” her husband Michael agreed as the two stood in the Holiday Inn exhibition hall, filled with lines of tables topped with crates.
Around the periphery of the hall, six “rings” were set up, with rotations of cats being eyed by judges. Back inside their crates, breeds ranged from stately Siamese to exotic sphynx to enormous, fluffy Maine coons; cavorting, napping, keeping a keen eye on the proceedings. Others were being snuggled into sweaters, or were curled gently in crooks of arms. A few mewled at the intrusion of being moved into carry crates by their two-legged escorts.
Aruba, whose “champagne” coloring is light contrasted with subtle waves of dark, explored her own “show shelter,” a clear structure with zip-down sides.
“They’re lap cats, very inquisitive, loving, active, fun,” Goehring said of the Burmese breed. “They’re always getting themselves into some sort of trouble. They have lots of opinions, and they’ll let you know. They’re little clowns.”
Nearby, Karen Greenman of Latham, N.Y., prepared her Persian for the ring. She brushed 5-month-old Miss Madagascar’s tummy, ruff, and tail with a thick comb, wiped her eyes with a tissue, and applied powders and eye drops. The fluffy white cat, with subtle highlights of brown and orange, all the while gently swished her tail.
Marsinelli, sitting beside her, explained the process: Persians, which are long-haired cats, have to be bathed at least twice a week, brushed every day, trimmed regularly. They even have special beehive-shaped bowls — with just a small hole at the top – that they drink out of to ensure they don’t get the fur around their mouth wet.
She said she has “all different kinds of blow dryers” for Arch Gabriel, who was curled up in a bed in his crate nearby, a purring ball of puff. “Every kind of shear, razor, hair spray, shampoo, powders.”
“You have no idea the money we spend,” she added, noting that the purebred cats themselves cost in the thousands.
Is he spoiled? Yes. “But a lover,” she said with a laugh.
Short-haired Aruba, on the other hand, requires much less work: A bath, a clip of the nails, a cleaning of the ears.
“That’s pretty much it,” Goehring said with a shrug. “It takes about five minutes.”
Just a few minutes earlier, judge Ellyn Honey had awarded Aruba the top honor of the day in the breed’s “premier” category.
“Beautiful, love the roundness of the head,” she said before announcing her pick. “Good feel to the body, nice and heavy.”
Judges go through rigorous training, and learn to scrutinize cats on numerous factors, including cleanliness, alertness, temperament, healthy bone structure, muscle tone, movement, clear eyes, and shiny coat.
In Cat Fanciers’ Association-sponsored shows, which include the events in Boxborough, breeds compete in one of seven categories: kitten, championship, premiership, veteran, household pet (no pedigrees required), miscellaneous, or provisional (for breeds seeking recognition by the association).
And in competition, the reward is simply pride and accomplishment.
“You don’t get paid for doing this — you get ribbons; lots and lots of ribbons,” said Goehring.
But she also enjoys talking with spectators, she said, and educating them about the Burmese breed, or about cats in general. For instance: Be humane, be smart, and, if you’re planning to buy a purebred cat, read up on the breed’s personality.
“Do your research and believe what you read,” she advised. “Don’t get a cat just because you think it’s pretty.”Taryn Plumb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.