This Saturday, New York City will once again host the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, as it has every year since 1877.
But this year, cats will be included in the week-long event, which has long been one of the most prestigious competitive dog shows in the world.
When that was first reported, some seemed to think that dogs would be sharing the stage — and the competition for the title of “Best in Show” — with felines. Disgruntled dog lovers were dismayed and took to Twitter to express their opposition.
One columnist even opined in an op-ed published by the Chicago Tribune that the news put the United States in danger.
“It pains me to say this,” author Rex Huppke wrote, “But our country is in peril.”
Of course, Huppke was just kidding. Even so, it was hard to imagine what cats would do at a dog show.
“It is just for public education and fun,” explained Gail Miller Bisher, director of communications at the Westminster Kennel Club and a dog show analyst for Fox Sports.
In short, the show is a combination of two events — the formal dog competition and what is known as the “meet the breeds” event.
“The American Kennel Club’s “meet the breeds” is really a public education offering, so there are booths of every breed for the public to learn about,” Bisher said. “The whole point is to touch the dogs, and learn about the breeds from the groomers, owners and handlers, so that [ticket holders] can know more about dogs before possibly bringing one into their home.”
This year, the educational part of the dog show has been extended to cats.
According to Bisher, there’s no master plan or ulterior motive to cats being at a dog show.
“The AKC has worked with The International Cat Association (TICA http://www.tica.org/) in the past; so they invited TICA to bring up to 40 breeds of cats as part of that public education offering,” she said.
Still, it’s too close for comfort for some dog lovers, such as Rex Huppke, who writes:
“I’m calling for an immediate ban on any felines seeking to enter the Westminster Dog Show festivities. We just need to shut it down until we can figure this thing out….
This country was founded by people who loved dogs. It’s an accurate historical fact, according to something I found on the Internet, that a 25-year-old Pilgrim named John Goodman brought both his mastiff and English springer spaniel with him on the Mayflower.
(There are also reports of a cat on the Mayflower, but I think that’s just fake news).”