WASHINGTON - This year, cats will be part of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show next week at New York's Madison Square Garden in an event called "Meet the Breeds." A Maryland cat breeder is bringing one of his champion felines to the prestigious competition.
"I am on the board of The International Cat Association (TICA) and they are participating in something called 'Meet the Breed' where [American Kennel Club] and Westminster want everybody to come see the diverse array of breeds of both dogs and cats so they can choose the right one for them and get to know them," said Anthony Hutcherson of JungleTrax in Port Tobacco, Maryland. "See all of the beauty, the variation, coats, colors and patterns, so when they make a choice, they can make it for life."
Hutcherson will be joined with Ovation, a Bengal Cat, to New York City for the event on Feb. 11.
"The goal of a Bengal cat is to get a cat that looks as much like a leopard as possible, but is a sweet, friendly, easygoing domestic cat," said Hutcherson.
So how did he get into cat breeding?
"My parents gave me a kitten when I was a kid and it was the greatest thing ever and I thought nothing could compare to this," he said. "That cat and I had a super relationship. Then I thought, 'You know what? What could be better than this? How about a leopard?' So I asked my parents and they said no. [The Bengal Cat] was the next best alternative. I was literally in the grocery store with my mom and the National Enquirer or one of those newspapers had an article about a woman who created a cat breed that looked like a leopard that was a domestic cat."
The inclusion of cats into the Westminster Dog Show has created an odd reaction to the thought of dogs and cats being together for the event and has even reminded people of Bill Murray's character in the movie "Ghostbusters" calling dogs and cats living together "mass hysteria."
"It has been bizarre, hilarious," Hutcheson said. "I have heard talk about trans-speciesism. I have heard about the apocalypse that Bill Murray has talked about in one of the movies. It's been a lot of fun and the people at AKC want me to make sure everybody knows that a cat is not going to be able to win 'Best in Show' at Westminster."
The Maryland cat breeder said being involved in Westminster Dog Show was entirely unexpected.
"I had no hope, no idea," he said. "I would watch it as a kid and think that is just incredible. All of these amazing dogs, these cool people on TV and then I got a call."