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Wednesday
Jul102019

Cats in Wonderland: 2019 Garden State Cat Expo & Show set for July 20 - 21 

Hundreds of cats and their people will head to the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center on July 20 and 21 for the 83rd annual Garden State Cat Expo & Show.

Cats will show their best features to the judges, model designer gowns and demonstrate their agility at this fest of all things feline, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days at 97 Sunfield Ave. in Edison. Learn about 42 pedigreed cat breeds, shop for unique kitty gifts, get expert guidance on cat care, sit for cat-inspired face painting, or have a pet’s picture recreated as a caricature. Many homeless cats also will be available for adoption.

Those strolling the exhibit halls might think they’ve fallen into the rabbit hole. This year’s Cats in Wonderland theme is a spin on the beloved Lewis Carroll fantasy that will bring the Cheshire Cat and other characters in decorations, costumes and contests. 

Admission is $15, $12 for seniors and $8 for children under age 12. The $35 family rate admits up to five people (two adults max.) At GardenStateCatExpo.com, print a coupon for $1 off adult or senior admission. Bring cat food to help feed rescued cats.

The cat expo is the major fundraiser of the Garden State Cat Club, the registered not-for profit organization that produces the event annually to support its endeavors related to cat welfare, including donations to no-kill shelters and state rescue groups, including Angel Paws in Colonia and Cause 4 Paws in Union County. 

At the show, feline fashionistas will be outfitted in elaborately detailed gowns, hats and jewelry to complement their striking high cheekbones and lithe feline frames. Learn about these Cornish Rex divas and the more than 40 other cat breeds.

 

Kathy Pritchard, the Cornish Rex cat breeder behind the Famous Fashionista Cats says she usually brings three of her costume-loving cats to the show and about 50 outfits. 

 

Their version of the catwalk is a platform on wheels that keeps them visible and safely above the crowds. “I just stroll them around the show halls,” says Pritchard, who with her family runs Kaylee's Cornish Rex Cattery in Virginia.

 

The designer outfits, mostly made for dogs, are made like a vest that is open underneath so her cats can wear them comfortably. She gets the clothes and accessories from a variety of sources in the U.S. and abroad, she says. “Everything has to be pulled together to create a look.”

 

Her top models, Gia, Eva, Zsa Zsa and Belle are rotated for runway time to keep them from being exhausted or stressed by throngs of adoring fans.

 

“They have such long, skinny necks,” Pritchard says. “They look so regal.” Beyond their striking high cheekbones and large eyes, the cats have bodies made for fashion, with slender waists, long legs and an enviably wavy coat.

 

And they have the temperament to endure crowds, Pritchard says. “They are more amenable to noise and people. They are great with children,” she says. The breed is very dog-like in its desire to please its people, she says.

 

The Garden State Cat Expo & Show, affiliated with the Cat Fanciers' Association (the cat world's American Kennel Club equivalent), is expected to draw more than 300 cats to be evaluated according to breed standards for beauty, condition, temperament and athleticism. Many purebred stand outs will go on become regional and national champions, but the charms of family pets will be recognized at this show as well.

 

“With household cats, the judges are looking for friendly, lovely pussycats that you'd love to have at home,” says Linda Bohm, co-manager of the cat show.  There will be eight judging rings for household

cats, who also can be entered in agility contests. In every case, show-goers are invited to watch.

 

"Some of the judges are wonderful in explaining to the public what they are looking for in a breed cat," Bohm says.

Register cats by July 15 to compete. Entrants must be up to date on vaccinations, at least eight months old, spayed or neutered, and not declawed. (Entry details at GardenStateCatExpo.com.)

 

The show offers an opportunity for would-be cat owners to learn more about different breeds and the responsibilities involved with keeping any cat, says Hope Valenti, owner of Amwell Pet Supply in Hillsborough.

 

“When people take a pet, they should know it is for the pet's lifetime,” says Valenti, a volunteer with Capic Cats, one of the rescue groups to which the Garden State Cat Club contributes. “I really would like people to think ahead as to what it will entail as far as responsibility when they adopt a pet.”

 

Valenti knows too well what happens to abandoned cats and other pets that people can't handle.

 

“I have been rescuing animals and using the store as a venue for animal adoptions,” she says. “We help people who don't want or can't keep their pets. I really don't want to see animals being brought to kill shelters.”

 

In addition to the cats she keeps for adoption at the front of her store, Valenti also has taken in fish, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils.

 

“I don't rescue dogs because we don't have the facility to care for them,” she said. “I don't take reptiles, but we usually can find homes for them.”

 

Valenti, who has owned her store for nearly eight years, started Amwell Animal Rescue Group in 2017. It focuses mostly on smaller pets. “I was rescuing so many guinea pigs and hamsters and rabbits,” she said. “AARG allows me to rescue any animal I want to.”

 

Through her store and various networks, Valenti places homeless pets in the care of responsible owners. Bohm is among them.

 

“She knows the background of every cat she adopts out,” Bohm said. “She is also very specific on how she finds her animals a forever home.”

 

Bohm has five cats, two of which are rescues. She notes that Valenti ensures that animals in her care get high-quality food and the necessary veterinary treatment.

 

“This is why pet adoptions are not free; you pay them back for all the costs,” Bohm notes.

Adoption fees, which are typically $100 to $200, don't fully cover the cost of caring for rescued pets whose veterinary bills can sometimes reach thousands of dollars.

 

The Garden State Cat Club's mission to help all cats includes those living outdoors, mostly away from humans.

 

As a volunteer and board member for Capic Cats, Valenti works with the group to trap, neuter and return (TNR) feral cats, along with the group's other rescue and adoption work.

 

“With Capic, we do hundreds of TNRs in the state,” she says. “You cannot just wipe out the feral cat population.” TNR is a humane approach, and with spaying and neutering to prevent new litters, feral cat colonies will dwindle down, she says.

 

While feral cats typically won't make good pets, there are many homeless cats that will. Bohm suggests that those interested in breed cats also remember homeless cats and kittens.

 

“There is a place for both breed and rescue,” she said. “In the breed cat, you know the type of personality you are going to get. If people are looking for something specific, they should look at a breed cat, but also get a rescue to give a cat a forever home.”

 

In either case, Valenti cautions: “Think before you adopt a pet, because they don't want to be returned.”

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