Southern Illinois Feline Fanciers cat show takes place in Carbondale

By Gus Bode

Vicky Johnson spent Sunday afternoon gently combing the hair of her cat, looking out for matting and making certain each individual hair is separated in the process.

Although Johnson remained focused on the grooming process, her cat did not possess the same dedication as the woman showing her. The fluffy Persian is somewhat distraught about being removed from her previous sprawled-out position. In response to the unwanted attention, the cat scrunches her face and squints her eyes as Johnson lifts her head to brush the hairs under her chin.

While Johnson said she has come to enjoy participating in cat shows and has four years of experience in them, she said competitions are not a favorite of her cats. In fact, she admitted the participant she entered Sunday “does not like doing them.”


Her cat does not make any attempt to counter her owner’s statement and appear interested in the competition. Johnson could not expect any different from the cat she named Would I Lie To You after an Annie Lennox song.

Would I Lie To You, the offspring of a mother named Who’s That Girl, was among 160 cats that participated in the Southern Illinois Feline Fanciers show last weekend at the Carbondale Civic Center. This is 5th year for the two-day event, which ran for several hours on both Saturday and Sunday and will take place in Marion next year.

Show manager Ron Kman said turnout for this year’s event was only slightly down from the previous year, with everything operating pretty much the same as last year’s show. The show caters to cats from across the nation from several long and shorthaired breeds and is separated by the grouping of premiere and champion.

He said the competition is one of only a few in the nation that contains a household category, which non-registered cats could compete in.

“We have a household category now,” said Kman, who added that the show donated $500 of its proceeds to the Southern Illinois Humane Society. “So as long as it’s spayed or neutered and has all of its front claws, you can bring your fat, lazy housecat.”

While he jokes about the new category open to the “average cat,” he said the standards are much higher for other cats in competition.

“”It basically has to be perfect,” Kman said. “You know purrfect.”


Each day consisted of showing the cats to six judges, who came from various areas in Illinois such as Elgin and Champaign and other states including Kentucky, Nebraska and Ohio.

According to Kman, each cat begins with 100 points and is marked down from there according to standards set for each breed. He said cats are evaluated by each of the judges over a two-day period. They are rated on their appearance in categories such as ear set, head type and stance as well as the individual standards of each judge.

“The judges, they’re individual people just like you and I and they have their individual opinions about each type of cat and what they like,” Kman said. “When you put your cat into the ring, it has to be presented in the right way and the judge knows that. If you’re not presenting your cat to the judge properly, it doesn’t do any good and it doesn’t win.”

Sunday marked Beverly Wood’s first time judging shorthaired breeds of cats. Wood, who is from Lincoln, Neb., said she has been judging the longhaired breeds of cat like the Persian since 1999. Similar to any judge, Wood has her preferences and features that stand out to her, particularly the facial features of the cat.

Lyn Bayliss was among the participants hoping that her cats would stand out to Wood and the other five judges. She and her husband, Colin, entered three cats in the show this weekend. The three cats, which the couple refers to as the Beaubell Persians, are among 12 cats they are currently raising and breeding.

Lyn and Colin Bayliss, who are originally from England, have been participating in cat shows nation wide for approximately eight of the 13 years they have spent in the United States. The couple said there is quite a contrast between the amount of shows in England, where there may be one show every two weeks and the United States, which has roughly “half a dozen each week.”

The couple has been taking advantage of the vast competition in the country, spending most of the year traveling from competition to competition.

“There is no place we can go where we don’t know at least three people,” Lyn Bayliss said.

She said they attend about five shows a week and have been to shows in 35 states and Canada. While Lyn and her husband enjoy the thrill of victory, she said there is more to the shows than simply competing with other cat owners.

“There’s no money to be made. It’s a poorly subsidized hobby but it’s a lot of fun,” Colin Bayliss said.

Emily Hartmann also pointed out these shows are not for those who lack time and, particularly, money.

“[The shows] are all for people who have more money than sense,” she laughed.

Hartmann attended the event with two participants from the little known breed of cat Cornish Rex. Often referred to as the “greyhound of the cat family,” the breed is identified by its large ears and the fact that the fur consists solely of the undercoat. Cornish Rexes are judged predominantly on this tight, wavy undercoat, which is known as Marcel waves.

“The Cornish Rex first showed up in Cornwall, England, and that’s how they got their name,” said Hartmann, a Murphysboro resident. “People with allergies can usually tolerate the Cornish Rex. I have a sister who’s highly allergic to cats and she can sleep with these.”

Sharon McKenzie, a St. Louis resident who breeds the Cornish Rexes, said along with their short coat, the breed is also known for being highly active.

“What always impressed me about the Cornish Rex is I used to have Siamese cats, and with them every time someone would come to the door, they would run and hide,” said McKenzie, who bred the two Cornish Rex contestants, Race and Arby. “[The Cornish Rex breed] is very outgoing. When the neighbor’s kids come to the door to sell cookies, they would just run right up to them.”

Hartmann said she also enjoyed the high activity as well as how people-oriented the breed is.

“When a lot of cats get more mature, they just sit around and get docile,” Hartmann said. “But these cats are always active. I refer to them as my interactive room dcor.”

Despite the level of competition that cat shows involve, even the judges had to admit the show was more about love of the animal than competition.

“I’m in it for the cats,” Wood said.