There’s no swimsuit, no talent contest and certainly no pleas for world peace. But make no mistake about it: This weekend’s Saintly City Cat Show in St. Paul will be quite the beauty pageant — one in which contestants with furry armpits and whiskers are the norm. More than 100 cats from across the country — from fancy purebreds to shelter cats — will show their stuff, competing for ribbons and bragging rights. Escorted by their proud owners, they’ll be judged on looks and, amazingly, personality.
We caught up with a few local contenders who clearly were ready for their close-ups.
Will one of these felines nab Best Cat? Stay tuned.
Cat person: Brian Tripp, St. Louis Park
Cat-egory: Purebred Sphynx, about 15 months old
Brian Tripp is always herding cats. He owns — and co-owns — more than half a dozen cats, several of which seem to be constantly underfoot in his modest duplex.
Tripp’s cats are well-traveled, crisscrossing the country to vie for honors in about one show a month. Of course, they’re taking part in the St. Paul show, for which Tripp is the official entry clerk. Tripp has his hopes pegged on a rare breed that looks like a cross between a rat and a potbellied pig.
That would be Sigur, a hairless number Tripp got from a breeder in Walker, Minn. “They have fur but it feels like a baby’s bottom — real soft,” he explained.
Sigur’s best feature? “Oh, gosh, his eyes,” Tripp said. “His crystal blue eyes.”
Recently, Sigur bested 50 other cats at a show in St. Louis. Now he’s on track to become a grand premier cat.
While Sigur may be regal in front of the judges, at home “he’s like a cat, a dog and a monkey all rolled into one,” said Tripp, whose hands are covered with tiny scratches.
On show day, Tripp gives Sigur a bath at 5 a.m. He does it that early because “right when they get out of the bath, they get like a rash, but it goes away after an hour. But then after that, his skin looks flawless.”
Tripp fills the bathtub partway and uses a washcloth to wipe down Sigur. “Sometimes I get right there in the bath with him.”
Gypsy Rose Jasmine and Romeo
Cat people: Dave and Gayle Long, Maplewood
Cat-egory: Household Pet (the cat show word for mutt)
Dave and Gayle Long were the first ones to enter the Saintly City Cat Show this year.
And last year.
And the year before that.
The Longs have been showing cats for 30 years, but they’re not into those fancy breeds. They prefer to tout the beauty found in cats from animal shelters. Gypsy Rose Jasmine, one of their current contenders, is a seven-year-old tortoiseshell and white cat with long hair.
In her, Gayle sees a winner. “The different thing with her is she’s white in front, but has a black circle on her chest. It’s just unusual,” she gushed.
Three-year-old Romeo, a blue-and-white shorthair cat, has a winning personality, argues Dave. “Romeo is easygoing,” he said. “He gives me head butts and gets me up early in the morning.”
It’s no surprise that Romeo gravitates to Dave, while Gypsy Rose is partial to Gayle. “She lies by me whether I’m hot or not. She’ll lie there,” she said.
Feline winners of the household pet category receive tiny capes and crowns — that they’re expected to wear.
The fact that Gypsy Rose is not easily humiliated gives her a decent shot at the title, said Gayle. “She’s easy to work with. This is what you want in a show cat — someone who’s mellow and mild.”
Betrayal, aka “Tray”
Cat person: Linda Mae Baker, Inver Grove Heights
Cat-egory: Purebred black Persian, seven years old, male.
Linda Mae Baker lives in what could be called a cat house.
After showing cats for decades, she has thousands of ribbons, more than 80 of which are prominently displayed in a large glass case in her bedroom. Photos of several of her previous show cats — along with winning certificates — adorn her living room walls. Cat-themed ornaments decorate her soon-to-be-removed Christmas tree and dozens of cat figurines perched on an end table greet visitors. In her tidy kitchen, curtains with cat silhouettes dress the windows.
Baker used to dote on Egyptian Maus, known for their exotic spotted coats. But these days, she’s only showing Persians, the fluff balls with the smushed faces.
Betrayal is her latest muse. “He’s a little on the spoiled side,” she said. As soon as he wakes up, he demands his breakfast — dry Iams catfood with a quarter-size dollop of Friskies Buffet canned food on top.
A newcomer to cat shows, this will be only his second contest, but his preshow grooming ritual already screams diva.
Baker’s baby gets a bath in the kitchen sink. “I plop him right in the water and he sits there and looks like, ‘OK, here we go again,’ ” she said.
It takes hours to dry him, using a special cat dryer called the SuperDuck. “It probably has more settings than my dryer,” Baker said. “I know his shampoo is more expensive than mine.”
She back-combs his long tresses and applies dark powder to make him look fluffier. She cleans his eyes and trims the fur around his ears. “We want them to be nice and tiny on top of the head,” she said. “Everything about a Persian is round.”