All You Need to Know About the World of Cat Shows

cat pageant show winner

If you've ever flipped through daytime television in aimless boredom, you’ve likely stumbled on a publicized dog or cat show.

And since your cat is the most adorable one you’ve ever seen – right, cat parents? – you may have thought about entering your gorgeous fur baby in a cat show.

Why not? Seems like a great place for like-minded cat lovers to congregate and celebrate the beauty of cats.

Before you put yourself and your cat on the podium, here’s what you need to know about the world of cat shows and what it's really like to step into the ring.

What It’s All About

Here in the United States, cat shows are largely hosted and governed by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). The CFA is the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats and hosts the most prominent cat shows each year.



Founded in 1906 in Buffalo, New York, the CFA has grown into something that only true cat lovers can appreciate. In 2011, CFA moved their Global Headquarters to Alliance, Ohio, where they now share a stunning multi-story granite office building with the CFA Foundation Feline Historical Museum.

Clearly, these people know (and adore) cats. Today, CFA has more than 600 member clubs around the world and now licenses 400 cat shows globally each year. The registry that started CFA more than a hundred years ago now includes more than 2 million cats.

But the CFA and their shows represent more than just the feline version of Ms. Congeniality.

In all, the CFA and the cat shows they host stand for some powerful values that we can all get behind – like promoting the welfare of cats, advocating for legislation for feline research, supporting breeders, ensuring ethical and high standards for breeding cats safely, and providing a forum for cat lovers to come together.

Pedigreed or Moggy?

If you’ve ever considered showing your adorable feline friend but are concerned that she’s not “pure blood” or pedigreed, we have some good news for you: cat shows aren’t just for the royale elite of the cat world anymore!

There are two different kinds of cat shows today: pedigreed and moggy.

pedigree cat show winner

Pedigreed cat shows are based on breed standards. The CFA has developed a set of standards for each breed. When you enter your cat into a pedigreed show, your cat will be judged according to those textbook standards. The cat who represents those standards in real life most closely wins the top award.

In order to qualify for a pedigreed show, a cat must be registered and her lineage must be traceable. This usually means you purchased your cat from a breeder who has professionally and rigorously kept records of your cat’s heritage.

Moggy cat shows are bit more fun, in our opinion. Rather than being all about the pedigree and a meticulous cat family tree, moggy cats are mixed breeds that may not hold any information about their ancestry.

According to the CFA, moggies (also known as “companion cats” or “household pets”) are judged “for their uniqueness, pleasing appearance, unusual markings, and sweet dispositions.” In an effort to promote positive cat parenting choices, the CFA only allows moggies to enter competition if they are not declawed and, if they’re over the age of eight months, they’ve been spayed or neutered.

As an added bonus, the CFA awards a special Merit ribbon to each moggie contestant who is in good health and vitality. While cat shows used to be all about purity of breed and superficial appearance, the CFA and cat shows around the world have gone out of their way to ensure that these events prioritize good cat health and include cats of all breeds – because diversity is the cat’s meow.

Step Right Up

Even if your cat isn’t pedigreed, you and your fluffy friend can get in on the cat-lovin’ action. Download the show rules and fill out an entry form with CFA today and you could be stroking your cat’s ego with plenty of adoring onlookers in no time.

Want to know more about your cat’s lineage before signing her up to strut her stuff? You can get your cat’s DNA tested through CFA’s partner, In addition to finding out fun facts about your cat’s ancestry, you can also find out crucial health information that can help you plan ahead to ensure your cat has a long, healthy life.

We love all cats, so show off yours on Instagram and tag us at #PrettyLitter for a chance to be featured! And don’t be afraid to let your cat fancy flag fly.


Don't forget to follow us on Instagram: @prettylittercats


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Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell


3 Responses

Cynthia Anne Larson, DVM
Cynthia Anne Larson, DVM

March 29, 2019

I beg to differ with the commentator who found cat shows unapproachable. You only get out of it what you put into it. If you go to a cat show ready to learn & you have the patience to observe what’s around you, you will find an exciting world to belong to, known as The Cat Fancy. That is, if you like cats. You have to like cats. Remember when you go, cat shows are very active places where the exhibitors must be constantly on the lookout for when their cat is called up to the judging ring. Cats are called up to the rings of several different judges throughout the day & as a result, the exhibitors are often on the move right when you want to ask them a question. Please be aware that if an exhibitor cannot stop right then, you can wait for the down times in between rings to visit & have your questions answered. The first time you go to a cat show it is bound to be confusing, but like anything, with a little patient observation, you will catch on. The exhibitors love to talk about their cats, so when you find someone who is inbetween rings, by all means, approach them & you will find that they are happy to share what’s going on with you. By observing what is going on around you, you will soon see that the cat show is organized in an approachable way. There are the judging rings, usually at least half a dozen of them, which are hives of activity all day long. You can park yourself in one of the rows of chairs set out in front of the judging ring, and essentially, the show will come to you. You will see breed after breed take their turns in the ring & often the judge will discuss what’s happening, so grab a seat right up front. In addition to the several judging rings, there is what is known as the benching area. These are rows upon rows of tables where exhibitors set up & decorate their cat’s pens. You can freely wander through the rows of tables & stop to talk to exhibitors whose cats you like. Just be sure to exercise a little judicious patience if it appears that the exhibitor you’ve approached is busy getting ready to take their cat up to the ring. Just move on down the row to the next interesting cat you see & try your luck there. You can always return to the benching area of the cat you saw earlier at a later, less busy time. To the commentator who found cat shows unapproachable, I would like to invite you back for another look. It’s like anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. If you love cats, you will love all the activity that’s going on at a cat show. Please come back & enjoy yourself.

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

March 06, 2019

@Barbara – Good point! You’re correct. Cat shows are typically only attended by the cat owners. I wish they’d change that so we could all enjoy seeing the cool kitties!

Barbara Warner
Barbara Warner

March 06, 2019

I went to my first cat show a few weeks ago and found it to be NOT PUBLIC FRIENDLY. Sorry but it was impossible to find a particular breed of cat because they were randomly caged all over the cage signs to tell you what breed you were looking at plus none of the six rings had visible ring numbers..i wanted to see household pets but had no clue which ring was which..very very confusing to a new cat show idea what the multiple ribbons meant and no simple pamplets to pick up to explain it all either..announcers at rings offered no do uyou rver expect the public to get excited about cats if uyou dont make cat shows public friendly?

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