AUGUSTA — As they were walking into the Augusta Armory Sunday, Manny and Alexia Ortega weren’t planning to leave with a cat, but it was not a certainty that they wouldn’t.

The Ortegas, with their children Ben and Carmen, drove from Alfred to Augusta on Sunday for the final day of the Nauticats Annual Cat Show, a show of The International Cat Association.

People came from as far away as Texas and Canada to show their cats over the three-day event at the show, which also promotes cat adoption and care.

Inside the armory’s main hall, Brigitte Pouliot and her sister were preparing the five cats they brought from Montreal for judging. Hers are Persians, and she brought along an American short hair to show for a friend.

Pouliot, who is a senior marketing director for a real estate company, has been breeding Anouchka Persians as a hobby for more than a decade and routinely travels to show them.

“What I want is my line, which is Anouchka, to be recognized as a championship line,” Pouliot said.

One of them, Adelaide, is a 9-month-old calico and has already been ranked as a supreme grand champion as an adult, and is currently the 20th best kitten in the world, although that might change before the end of the season at the end of April.

“It’s quite spectacular that she has been able to achieve the supreme grand champion title, which is the highest in TICA, in only two shows because it usually takes four, five or six shows to do it,” Pouliot said.

In competition, cats are considered kittens until they are seven months, 30 days old. The next day, they are considered adults. Pouliot she said she’s continuing to show Adelaide to improve her ranking to one of the best cats in the region.

Showing cats is a way for Pouliot to compare her cats with others and to confirm her breeding program is heading in the right direction.

The International Cat Association bills itself as the fastest-growing registry of pedigreed cats in the world and is the world’s largest genetic registry of pedigreed cats.

Contestants watch a feline get judged Sunday during the cat show in Augusta. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Donna Madison, northeast regional director for TICA and one of the judges for the Augusta show, speaks in the verbal shorthand of the standards of the cat world. For the Persians she was judging, she was looking for a cobby body — one that’s sturdy and muscular — a short tail, small ears and a flat face. She demonstrated the flatness of the face by holding a finger against the face of the cat she was judging.

“We’re looking for roundedness and big eyes,” Madison said. “Very big eyes.”

Both pedigreed and household pets are judged, and they are subject to the rules and regulations of the association.

But it’s not all about the competition.

“We have classes for kids where they learn to take care of their kitties,” Madison said. At the end of the class each child gets a certificate of completion.

Some of the cats shown are rescue cats, Madison said, and cats are available for adoption at the shows.

The association also promotes spaying and neutering programs and a cat therapy program.

The shows draw people from all over. In past years, contestants have come from overseas, she said, but none traveled that far this year.

Madison said despite the competition, friendships are made and communities are built.

Pouliot traveled to Portland, Oregon, in January, and that’s only one of the destinations. In her years of showing, she has made friends from all over the United States.

“I always have someone to go have dinner with,” she said.

The Ortegas have two cats at home already, 14-month-old litter mates Blizzard and Zap. Both are white with bi color eyes — one blue and one amber — and one has extra toes; the family refers to them as oven mitts.

Manny Ortega said he works with one of the judges, but taking the hour-and-a-half drive to Augusta for the show was a perfect family outing for a Sunday.

The question of adding a cat to the family had not been wholly decided, but Ben and Carmen were excited at the prospect.

Alexia Ortega has had a Maine Coon cat in the past and has a soft spot for them.

“You’re the one who brought it up,” Alexia Ortega told her husband as they walked into the show.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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