Meet the Breeds

Presented by the American Kennel Club and the Cat Fanciers’ Association at the Javits Center on Saturday, October 17.

I strongly believe in adopting dogs and cats from shelters. My childhood cats—all of them wonderful pets—came from animal shelters, as did Tess and Luna, whom Sean and I adopted in January 2007. A few years ago, though, one beloved branch of my family suddenly became obsessed with Tonkinese cats—a turn of events that has made my pro-shelter, anti-breeder soapbox a lot less fun (and that takes some doing—I love my soapboxes), so suffice it to say that Mom, Dad, Sean, and I did not check out Meet the Breeds because we’re in the market for a pure-bred. No, we were there for the spectacle. My parents happened to visit on a miserably cold, rainy weekend, and we were looking for indoor entertainment.

We certainly found it at the Javits Center. Breeders from all over the United States convened at the event, with booths featuring some 160 dog breeds and 41 cat breeds—a small zoo of domesticated animals. We spent hours wandering through the enormous exhibition hall, marveling at the more exotic breeds and cooing over the cutest ones and learning more than we ever needed to know about everything from the Ocicat to the Manx to the Chinook to the Keeshond.

As odd as some of the animals appeared to my unfamiliar eyes, many of the human beings were even odder. Some of the breeders whose animals originated in a particular area of the globe felt the need to dress the part, leading, unfortunately, to Persian breeders wearing tacky harem outfits, and Cavalier King Charles Terrier breeders dressed like they were attending a 1900s-era English tea party, and Saint Bernard breeders pretending to be medieval monks. (That, I don’t entirely get.) The Sphynx breeders went the opposite direction, dressing themselves normally but outfitting their hairless cats in ludicrously extravagant costumes. (Apparently they put on a “fashion show” a few times during the day. Mom and I missed that, but we did get to meet “Nefertiti,” dressed to the nines, complete with a black wig and a heavy serpent crown. The costume I didn’t care for, but Nefertiti’s guardian generously lifted up the voluminous skirt so that I could pet the cat’s smooth, hairless skin. The tales are true: Sphynx cats do feel like suede hot water bottles. I can see the appeal.)

I hadn’t realized how varied the cat breeds are: small, delicate Singapuras and large, sturdy Maine Coons; fluffy-tailed Ragdolls and stubby little Japanese Bobtails; Cornish Rexes with huge pointy ears and Scottish Folds with small flattened ears; Orientals with long, thin faces and Exotics with round, squashed faces. The diversity of the dogs was predicable but still fun—especially as all the dogs were friendly and easy-going, ready to be petted by anyone who came along. I happily introduced myself to Bull Terriers, Pugs, Clumber Spaniels, Saint Bernards, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Chow Chows, Miniature Schnauzers, Beagles, Bulldogs, Pomerians, Rottweilers, and dozens of others.

And then I came home to our two beautiful pound kitties, who are curled up next to me even as I write this. And as beautiful as those Burmese cats were, as adorable and tempting as I might find the Boston Terriers, I wouldn’t trade Tessie and Lulu for any one of them. In the end, the sweetest, cutest, funniest pets are always your own, the ones you love, the ones who love you back in their own fuzzy little way.

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Here are a few photos my dad took.

A Norwegian Forest Cat:

A Tonkinese:

An Akita:

A Silky Terrier:

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