All About Cat Shows

Criteria for Judging Show Cats

The better this Maine coon conforms to its breed standard, the better it would score in a cat show.
The better this Maine coon conforms to its breed standard, the better it would score in a cat show.
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Much like dog shows, the judges at cat shows compare cats to their breed standard. Organizations like the CFA establish standards for every cat breed. These standards specify how an ideal cat of a breed would look and act. The more standards a competing cat fulfills, the better it will score. The standards aspire to describe features that draw from the natural style of a breed. But also, judges look for overall balance and proportion in a cat's features, rather than exactly conforming mathematical measurements [source: CFA]. Occasionally, the CFA's breed council will alter breed standards as breeds develop.

You can find standards for all 41 CFA-recognized breeds on the CFA's page on breed standards. Based on CFA's standards, the Maine coon cat should follow these standards, which reflect the cat's endurance for a difficult climate:

  • Medium or large size, muscular body with no exaggerated features
  • Legs are straight and strong
  • Heavy coat of silky, smooth fur that is shorter on shoulders than on the underside or rear-end (various colors depend on pattern and class)
  • Head should be longer than it is wide with a firm chin and a square snout
  • Profile is smooth and continuous
  • Ears are pointed and large
  • Eyes can be big and expressive, and green, gold, coppery or blue (depending on the coat color and pattern).
  • Neck is of medium length
  • Paws are large and round
  • Tail fur is long and tapers

Different features have different importance, which is reflected in the point values. For instance, the standards indicate that the head is overall worth 30 points (with the shape worth 15, the ears 10, and the eyes five). Allene Tartagalia, executive director of the CFA, discusses for CNN how temperament also plays an important part in judging cats. If a cat eschews the spotlight, it won't have a very good chance of winning, despite its physical attributes.

Of course, these standards and point values are different for every breed, and at shows that compare all breeds, judges must be familiar with a wide breadth of information to judge different breeds against each other. In this respect, dog and cat shows are very similar. However, unlike dog shows, many cat shows incorporate a household cat category in which cats are not judged by breed standards. Instead, judges critique cats in the household category based on physical condition, beauty, personality (such as playfulness and poise) and show presence [source: Davis]. As you might have guessed, judging household cats on these loose terms can make it harder to be objective.

On the next page, learn how cat show competitors are divided into classes and how your cat could become a champion.