In England, during the latter half of the 19th century, gentry and royalty acquired cats and began to breed them to like specimens. Thus began the development of individual breeds in earnest.
Eventually, people wanted to tell others about the results of their breeding programs and cat clubs were formed so that a group could discuss their mutual interests. And, then, of course, they wanted to show off what they were producing and cat shows were organized. The first official British cat show was held at the Crystal Palace in London during 1871.
The importation of cats, and the development of breeding programs and a fledgling cat fancy, spread to North America. Cat clubs and cat shows were started across the United States, and there are many newspaper articles that refer to the breeding and showing of cats in the early part of the 20th century. There are records of cat shows being held as early as 1878 in Boston.
As breeding programs developed, there also was an interest in keeping records of what was being bred and the resulting litters. In 1899, the Chicago Cat Club was the first club created, followed closely by the formation of the Beresford Cat Club. Beresford became a powerful club and began a registration process. In 1901, the American Cat Association was formed and became the main registry of the day.
As is often the norm, not everybody liked the direction that a specific organization was taking and people broke off and formed their own association. Such is the beginning of The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1906 – formed by a group who broke away from the American Cat Association.
When it was formed in 1906, CFA accepted only 6 breeds for registration – Abyssinian, Burmese, Manx, Persian, Russian Blue and Siamese. Today, the association is the largest registry of pedigreed cats in the world and it recognizes over 40 breeds. Since the founding of CFA, the association has registered over two million pedigreed cats.
The first two CFA licensed cat shows were held in 1906 - one in Buffalo and one in Detroit. CFA has expanded enormously since its beginning, and now has affiliated cat clubs around the world. During 2011 CFA cat clubs held 332 cat shows worldwide.
Over 6,700 individual cats were entered at these shows, with a very large number of those cats being exhibited at multiple shows during the year. Cats exhibited at shows accumulate points during the show year, and CFA’s prestigious National Awards are presented at their annual meeting each June.
See also Tracking the Cat Fancy
Text: ©Karen Lawrence