Updated: 2013-03-07 10:40
By Shi Yingying (China Daily)
Showing off cats is an increasingly popular pursuit. Shi Yingying in Shanghai finds that a significant industry has built up around competitions.
Li Xinke stepped up the grooming routine on his 4-month-old Oriental shorthair cat five weeks before the big show was to take place. He trimmed Baiguo'er's satiny, white fur, combed it with soft brushes and used a silk scarf to remove loose hair. "A single black hair sticking out can cost the cat a title," says Li, who had flown into Shanghai for Shanghai Pet Fair, which was held from March 1 to 3. He claims a household cat needs to be bathed every month, but Baiguo'er gets one bath a week in the run-up to the show, in addition to fur and ear-trimming sessions.
More than 90 cats, both household and pedigree, were judged on their coats, sizes, eye colors and breed characteristics.
"The quality of cats at the show surprised me," says the judge, Yang Wenqun, adding his comprehensive evaluation took into account the cats' facial features, teeth, frame, muscles and tail.
Tails, he says, can be particularly sensitive in some highly bred cats due to uneven bone distribution. "The cat may react or even attack you if you touch its tail," he says.
Yang says cats must be comfortable being handled in competitions if they are to be good show animals.
While cat shows are becoming more popular in China, the pet industry has also boomed in recent years. Grooming has become a sizeable business, transforming from offering simple fur trims to complicated styling.
Pet groomer Lin Jiyu travels across the country to style both ordinary pets and show specimens.
"Grooming has become a huge industry," says Lin, who comes from Guangzhou. "More people want to be groomers."
Lin, who specializes in dogs but didn't attend this year's show in Shanghai because she was looking after a puppy at home, says grooming is an essential part of the pet show circuit.
"Unlike dog shows, cat shows don't allow the owner to participate and the judges are complete strangers to the animals," Yang says. "They can only get used to the competition environment by becoming familiar with cages and show tables."
Yang adds that judges prefer cats that are "easy to handle".