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    Feline Enthusiast’s Quest for His Pet to Be Declared ‘Best Cat’

    By John Chen–

    Bobby San Miguel’s two Bengal cats have won many ribbons over the past two years in Northern California cat shows. “Our girl Elektra is a Grand Champion and our boy Orestes is a Quadruple Grand Champion,” he recently told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. A proud cat dad, San Miguel beams with joy when speaking about his kitties. “Although Elektra has retired, Orestes is still competing and we’re hoping he can achieve the ultimate title of Best Cat.”

    I’ve always been an animal lover, but never really understood the concept of dog and cat shows, let alone calling them a sport. Yes, when the shows are covered live on a major sports channel, it’s a sport. I’ve seen the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the ultimate dog show where legends are made, on TV. And I admit there are some amazing animals being shown and the commentaries can be quite educational. I know it takes a lot to train a dog to perform and “be shown,” but cats? That’s just crazy talk!

    This all changed when my friend San Miguel started showing his beautiful Bengal cats a couple of years ago at Northern California cat shows. Intrigued, I attended the Ione Wine Country Cat Show in Ione, CA, last year to see Elektra and Orestes compete and to learn what a cat show is all about.

    Originally from Florida, San Miguel was a former marine biologist and is a lifelong fitness instructor who never owned a pet until he and his fiancé Bryce Dahlmeier adopted two Bengal kittens nearly three years ago. “We got Bengals because my friend had one and highly recommended the breed,” he explained. “They look like little wild cats, are extremely intelligent and very dog-like. Bengals follow you around and we walk them on a leash.”

    San Miguel continued, “Because my family had bred dogs when I was a kid, I had an interest in breeding pets. I realized the best way to be more educated on becoming a cat breeder was to have a show cat, and meet and learn from successful breeders as well as what it takes to have the best Bengal cat.”

    San Miguel added, “At cat shows, breeders, competitors, and attendees are cat lovers. Yes, a few are crazy cat ladies, but the vast majority love their cats and treat them like members of their family.”

    I can attest to that after first attending the Ione Cat Show, then the Golden Gate Dog Show at Cow Palace in San Francisco, and more recently, the San Mateo Cat Show. These shows not only bring out the best of breeds, but also bring out our great passion and love for animals.

    San Miguel further enlightened me on why he enters Orestes. “Doing shows, I have become a student of cats,” he said. “For example, cats are colony animals where they can co-exist, interact and share a habitat with other cats, but only if they are familiar with them. Whereas dogs are pack animals, forming strong bonds, living and hunting with relatives. This knowledge is significant to understanding how cats may react and behave at shows. Additionally, it’s important to start showing cats when they are kittens as young as four months so they can get used to being handled and shown in a somewhat chaotic environment with lots of people, noise, and other cats.”

    In my own personal experience attending cat and dog shows, breeders and owners are animal enthusiasts and advocates like San Miguel. Most are eager to tell you about their pet “children” and to answer questions. They will do just about anything and everything for their furry companions. One can clearly see the strong bond between people and their pets. Sometimes at these competitive shows, winning isn’t the end all. It’s about sharing their love of cats and dogs with others.

    Whether you are a cat and/or dog lover, or just an intrigued bystander, why not check out a cat or dog show and meet enthusiastic pet parents, learn about both common and exotic breeds, and learn more about the animals you will fall in love with? And maybe you’ll have a new addition in your life and become a blissfully crazy cat person!

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.

    Published on December 19, 2019