As Time magazine said in recent story, "It seems that it's no longer just a dog's world at the Westminster Dog Show."
For the first time in the history of the 141-year Westminster Dog Show, cats shared space with dogs on New York City’s Piers 92 & 94 as they took part in this year’s AKC Meet the Breeds, an informational companion event to Westminster showcasing various dog and cat breeds. Participation in this year’s Meet the Breeds marked the return of TICA cats after a three-year hiatus from the event.
“We have heard people’s demands for the cats. And they returned,” said Brandi Hunter, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club.
During Meet The Breeds more, than 15,000 spectators pet and played with 39 different TICA cat breeds and household pets while mingling with enthusiasts to learn more about the history and distinct characteristics of each breed.
For TICA, Meet the Breeds served as an important step in educating animal lovers about something they might not have the chance to learn about elsewhere.
"People know a lot about dog breeds, but aren’t as familiar with cat breeds," said Former TICA President, Vickie Fisher. “Since there also isn’t a lot of literature available about cat breeds, Meet the Breeds serves as an incredible opportunity for TICA to help people understand the value of cats as different companion animals."
The event featured 28 booths decorated to depict the history and characteristics of each breed, in effect, transporting attendees to exotic destinations while teaching the public about TICA’s different pedigreed cats. Booths like the British Shorthair/Longhair and Devon Rex took people to Great Britain, the Donskoy booth had the feel of being in the Russian city of Rostov, the Savannah booth was made to look like attendees were stepping into the African Savannah and the Bengal booth, if you could make your way through the crowds of people, took spectators on a safari in the jungle to meet Bengal cats. Throughout the day, adoring spectators were busy snapping pictures and patiently waiting in crowds to pet and learn about each pedigree. Booths by the Winn Foundation and Nobowl also informed the public while attendees were amazed by the feline fashions provided by Emily Green.
Adults and kids shouted and cheered cats on as they jumped through hoops and rushed through tunnels chasing a feathered toy during ICAT agility competitions. Vickie Shields awarded first-time Sphynx agility competitor “Misha” (owned by Blake Gipson) the award for the fastest cat, while Minuet “Autumn” (owned by Samantha McConnell) took second, Minuet “Romeo” (owned by Samantha McConnell) came in third, American Bobtail “Zuni” (owned by Shana & Connor Rodriquez) raced to fourth and Minuet “Nick” (owned by Samantha McConnell) finished in fifth place.
Not only was TICA’s involvement in Meet the Breeds a huge success with the public, national press took notice and gave cats rave reviews in more than 40 stories and slideshows of pedigreed cats in major national media including: the Sunday New York Times (a story the cover of the Sports section with an image of a cat), USA Today, The Associated Press, Catster, Yahoo Sports, and Time magazine.
Leading up to the event, TICA Board Member Anthony Hutcherson and his Bengal Jungletrax Abiding Ovation participated in AKC’s Meet the Breeds press conference. News of the return of the cats to this year’s event generated more than two-dozen ‘Cats-at-Westminster’ headlines in such prominent media outlets as the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and NPR. Morning television shows such as Good Day New York introduced viewers to the Sphynx and Bengal breeds. Reports of TICA’s return to Meet the Breeds even overtook AKC’s own announcement of new breeds eligible to compete in this year’s Westminster show.
TICA’s participation in AKC Meet the Breeds reinforced the value of pedigreed and household pet cats and dogs in the lives of people from all backgrounds. The event affirmed in a definite and resounding voice that people genuinely appreciate cats and dogs and want them as part of their lives (even New Yorkers).
TICA’s success in Meet the Breeds was due in part to an incalculable amount of work from Former President Vickie Fisher, Cheryl Hogan, Roeann Fulkerson, Anthony Hutcherson and Christian Cherau who planned, prepared, recruited and executed TICA’s participation.
A huge thank you goes out to all the TICA Members who came from far and wide and spent numerous hours carefully planning and decorating their booths. Judy Sugden flew in from Southern California, Frances Harshaw arrived from Texas, Kay Hanvey trekked in from Washington state while Monika Dany earned the most miles on the trip from Austria. TICA would like to thank all the breeders and booth participants who helped make this year’s Meet the Breeds a huge success for TICA and cats in general. Participants include:
- Abyssinian booth ambassadors, Brenda Russo, Jean Hannum, Jeff & Melanie Rousell
- American Bobtail ambassadors, Shana & Connor Rodriquez and Austin Reyes
- American Shorthair ambassador Eileen Schneider
- Australia Mist ambassadors Kay Hanvey and Erma Goforth
- Bengal ambassadors Anthony Hutcherson, Mary Kimmelman, Arnie Landers, Vickie & Joe Jeffers, and Helen Mitchell
- British Shorthair/Longhair ambassadors Monica Dany and Renae & Micah Silver
- Devon Rex ambassadors Wendy & Rafael Garcia
- Donskoy ambassadors Maritza Valentin, Elizabeth Yu, Irene Carnes and Kathryn Eden
- Exotic Shorthair/Himalayan/Persian ambassadors Frances & David Hershaw and Craig Sharpe
- Havana ambassadors Leann Rupy, Alicia Herman and Dan & Tina Hocker
- Khao Manee ambassador Barbara Rice
- Maine Coon ambassadors Elaine Magee, Jose Rojas and David Billinglsey
- Cymric/Manx ambassadors Vickie Webberly, Glen Rowse and Linda Ward
- Minskin ambassador Rachel Gouveia
- Minuet ambassadors Samantha McConnell, Susan Rivers, Karen Rosenbaum, Robin Berman, Colleen Dugan and Sandra Rauch
- Munchkin ambassadors Sherri McConnell and Marty Seserko
- Siamese/Balinese/Oriental ambassadors Pat Muise, Julie Keyer and Susan Adler
- Peterbald ambassador Jackie Rose
- Pixiebob ambassador Jane Handelsman
- Ragdoll ambassadors David Nudleman, Christine Lupo and Jayne Harmon
- Savannah ambassadors Pam Flachs and Paige Hiemer
- Singapura ambassadors Margo & James Hill
- Sphynx ambassador Blake Gipson
- Thai ambassadors Alice Billman, Tim Zabkar and Emily Winfield
- Toyger ambassador Janet Spain, Judy Sugden and Robert Rohrbaugh
- Household pet ambassador Pam Mitchell