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Gathering of the most divine felines

Cat fanciers from around the U.S. meet in St. Petersburg to compete and enjoy all things cat.

By STEPHANIE GARRY, Times Staff Writer
Published July 29, 2007


Meows from 147 felines filled the cavernous hall of the Coliseum Saturday as cat people across the nation gathered to see who has the prettiest baby.

Coats glistened, eyes shone, and tails flicked. Every now and then, a hiss warned.

The show, sponsored by the Hurricane Cat Club of Tampa, allowed 50 breeds to show off their lovely features - leopard-spotted Bengals, long-haired ragdolls, thick-coated Maine coons and even the occasional rehabilitated stray.

"We're cat people," said Rene Knapp, 56, of Colchester, Conn. "They're my babies. It doesn't matter if they have pedigree or not."

Knapp has a tattoo of her favorite cat, an Abyssinian named Merlot after her favorite wine. She judged the household pets, something she knows a little bit about. She has 21 cats at home -- blackjack -- and won't adopt any more.

The two-day event draws hundred. Members prowled the Coliseum floor, pacing between tables covered in colorful tablecloths and cat cages, holding their pets like footballs.

Cattery owners attend to sample public reaction to their furry products and improve the breed. And cat lovers in the market go to window shop. All can't resist the attraction of winning a ribbon, known as a rosette.

"Once you get that first rosette, you get hooked," said Rob Seliskar, Hurricane Cat Club president and self-described "crazy one."

On Saturday he was decked out in a leather vest, red bandana on his head and beads, in accordance with the show's Gasparilla theme.

This kind of catfest requires strict organization. Governing the show is a 53-page list of show rules, published by TICA, or the International Cat Association based in Harlingen, Texas.

Organizers are strict about hotel stays, too.

"The condition of your room reflects on the entire cat fancy, and it only takes one mishap to lose a hotel even a whole chain forever," reads the Hurricane Cat Club Web site.

Each breed has a standard that judges rule by. Some should have flat faces, ears on the front of the head rather than the side. Fur length and cleanliness all factor in. Personality counts, too.

Scottie Cone, 64, from Raleigh, N.C., brought Toby of Rags2Riches.

A fluffy ragdoll, Toby was born without eyes. But he's become a two-time international winner.

This week, his family learned that he likes to swim when they experimented with putting him in the pool. They knew he liked baths, but were surprised at how he took to the water after riding around on a float.

"Most blind cats are scared," Cone said. "He loves life. He loves to go to PetSmart and ride in the buggy."

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or


More kitties today

St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Well mannered felines compete for best in show. $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.


[Last modified July 28, 2007, 22:48:01]

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