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"Looking for the perfect Phhft!" An APR 40th anniversary encore presentation

Alabama Public Radio is celebrating forty years on the air in 2022. The APR news team is diving into our archives to bring you encore airings of the best of our coverage. That includes this story from 2017. That was when APR student intern Katie Willem took us to a Birmingham Cat show. Here’s that story from the APR archives…


Credit Katie Willem
Jagger the Himalayan cat

If you’re into cats, then the Cat Fanciers Association’s Cat show in Birmingham is the place to be. For most of us, dogs go woof and cats go meow, but there are different breeds of both. Here at the cat show, we met one contestant…

“His registered name is Cotton Top Goodtime Tease; we just call him ‘Ti’ around the house. He is a Persian," says Emily Connoway. She brought Ti all the way from Springfield, Illinois to compete. She says a lot goes into it. “You’ve got different things you’ve got to go through. You have to register them for the show, put in their information so the people and the judges know what kind of cats they’re judging," says Connoway. "You have to bring your own show cage, or they’ll provide wire cages, and you have to have stuff to go over it, curtains and stuff. You bring your own grooming stuff. That’s mostly about it.”

Cat owners may take all of this seriously, but Connoway admits Ti doesn’t. “He’s just a big, fluffy goofball. He likes to wake me up super early.”

There weren’t only contestants at the show. Cat lovers of all ages came to see all the different types of cats there were at the show.

Credit Katie Willem
Jay Losier and his Burmese cat Raphael Stavros

“I know how to speak kitty, ‘Meow’,” says Finley, who's representing the younger set. She came with her family to see all of the different cats. “I love kitties. So cute," she says. "When I was young, my momma had a cat and I always used to lay on the cat.”

I also met Caleb, who was also able to tell me what he had witnessed so far.

“I’ve just been seeing a lot of short hairs most but a lot of friendly cats, a lot of very intent people who really want to show their cat off and I’m really happy about it—how people are just willing to show off their pets.”

Any wife who smiles and sits through football games with her husband might identify with Paul Smith. “Well, that’s my wife there, she does most of it," says Smith. "I just sit here and read my ipad or play my game.”  

Credit Katie Willem
Sally Smith and her 5 month old kitten Nola

Sally Smith is the cat fan, not Paul. She brought her 5 month old kitten, Nola, to show for the first time.

“It’s been my experience that if you don’t show them when they’re very young then they don’t know what to expect if you try to take them out later on. Sometimes they do funny things like stand there and go ‘what’s all this’ and roll their eyes at you and sometimes they get frantic, which is what this one is doing, but it’s the same behavior, you know, they’re still trying to figure it all out, and it’s a big learning curve at first.”

Smith is from Atlanta, and stayed in a hotel overnight for the show. She explained some of the on-the-road hardships that the cat fancy goers face.

“When they come to a show, particularly an out of town show, they have to learn how to behave in a hotel room. They’ve not slept in bed with you, because the older cats already have the place of preference, so they have to learn how to sleep in bed with you and not get up and wander around or play in the middle of the night and lick you hair and do all those fun things.”

Credit Katie Willem
Teddy the Persian cat

Judges don’t get to see behind the scene action, but many have experience showing their own cats. Pamela Bassett is a judge from Louisiana. “Well, I’ve been showing cats for over forty years. My mom and I—I grew up in it—showed all over the world, all over the country, loved it, so the next step was to become a cat show judge.” When asked why she judged here in Alabama, Bassett gave positive remarks. “Birmingham Feline Fanciers has been one of the older, more established cat shows within the cat fancy.

They have an annual show every January. I’ve judged here and I’ve also exhibited here for many years. It’s just a lot of fun, people can come out and visit us and look at all the pedigree cats, all the judging and everything that’s going on.”

And for the winners it’s a case of Cat’s all, folks. I’m Katie Willem, APR news in Birmingham….

Former APR intern Katie Willem covered stories for the newsroom ranging from the sexual assault SANE Nursing program, a voting registration drive by U.S. Senator Doug Jones, and University of Alabama researchers studying a 2017 solar eclipse.
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