A Brief History of UK Cat Shows

The very first 'official' cat show was held at the Crystal Palace in London on the 13th July 1871, the first 'show manager' was Harrison Weir the well known artist and writer. The show was held on a Thursday not the familiar Saturday we know today. There were 25 classes for Eastern and other Foreign breeds as well as native British varieties. The first shows to be held by any of the present day clubs was held by The National Cat Club in 1887 followed by The Scottish Cat Club in 1894. Shows had to be abandoned during the years of the First and Second World Wars so the National Cat Club's Centenary Show was held in December 1996.

Coranation Cat Show

 

When The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy was founded by the Cat Clubs in 1910 there were 16 cat clubs represented, including one - Wilson's Ltd. Cat Club - which seems to have been something of a business venture; not surprisingly it does not appear to have survived for very long. The first GCCF Stud Book lists winners from shows held from 1910 to 1912. The Longhairs appeared in black, white, blue, red or orange, cream, smoke, silver tabby, brown tabby, red tabby, Chinchillas, tortoiseshell and tortie and white. The British Shorthairs were represented by most of the same colours and patterns except red, smoke, Chinchilla and tortoiseshell. The other breeds were Abyssinians, Siamese and Manx. Today the number of breeds and colours have increased tremendously.

 

Conditions at cat shows have improved over the years, the cats are no longer penned on straw, the judges and stewards all wear white coats and hygiene is very much more evident. Judges now use trolleys on which to place the cats for judging and these can be wheeled from pen to pen but thirty years ago the stewards had to struggle with a card table moving it from pen to pen for the judge - this needed real stamina!

 

Important events have been celebrated with special shows, in 1953 The Supreme Cat ShowCoronation Cat Show was held at The Royal Horticultural Society's New Hall in Westminster. A quick glance at the first page of the catalogue tells us that one of the veterinary surgeons in attendance was Mrs Muriel Calder who was, until recently, our GCCF Veterinary Officer and was our Vice-President; surely an honour for a youthful Vet.

 

Sadly none of the judges are still alive but there are a few familiar names in the list of exhibitors. 388 cats attended the show and the catalogue cover pictures 'the cat that came to London to see the Queen' Supreme catalogue cover.

 

1976 saw a new Cat Show enter the calendar, the Supreme Cat Show. The show was organised by the GCCF and all the cats had to qualify by winning open classes at other Championship Shows. Today the Supreme has developed into a large and prestigious show and is held at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham each November. A new method of judging was introduced - Ring Judging - all the cats are taken from their brilliantly decorated pens to the judging rings where the judges sit facing the public to judge the cats and often give a commentary on their judging. This show produces the country's top prize winners, the Supreme title holders.