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Courtesy of TICA
The Cat Agility winner at Meet the Breeds in 2017.

It’s called the American Kennel Club (AKC) Meet the Breeds, which normally refers to types of dogs. But the popular Feb. 9 event held prior to the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show presented by Purina Pro Plan will include a furry participant of another kind.

For the sixth time since 2011, The International Cat Association (TICA) will showcase many of its 73 recognized cat breeds to a public yearning for some hands-on interaction – in some cases with breeds that are unfamiliar – such as the Lykoi, Egyptian Mau, or Toyger.

“It’s our largest event of the year,” says Cheryl Hogan, TICA event manager and a Scottish Fold enthusiast. Hogan, a TICA judge, has owned cats since childhood — “Mostly stray cats I would bring home till I grew up and met pedigreed cats, and now I own both,” she says. “Meet the Breeds gives us a chance to educate the general public about our hobby and the unique personality and traits of different breeds. And it’s great to do it in an environment with dogs nearby.”

Hogan says that cat lovers will have the opportunity to meet and learn about 35 to 40 different cat breeds. “This year, we will also be presenting several short, action-packed demonstrations,” says Hogan.

Children learn more about cats at a Meet the Breeds booth in 2018.

Not for Every Cat

The bustling environment surrounding AKC Meet the Breeds is not for every cat. Make no mistake about it, the challenge here in this up-close-and-personal scenario is a test of the cat’s mettle. Hogan tells breeders interested in displaying their cats that temperament is paramount. “The public will want to touch your cat. Bring only those that will be amicable to that and will not get scared easily in large crowded rooms. In other words, bring your bomb-proof cats that are calm, cool, and collected and not afraid of anything.”

As another precaution, Hogan advises breeders to present cats that will be comfortable with a harness and leash while maneuvering between strangers seeking to pet and handle them — not to mention being near lots of dogs of all sizes.

Introducing International Dog Breeds

“Meet the Breeds brings the experts to the people,” says Brandi Hunter, AKC vice president, public relations and communications. “You may have your mind on one breed when you come in the door, but it will open your eyes to others that might better suit your lifestyle. It gives you a chance to ask all the questions you want and make good contacts.”

While dog breeds have been added through the years, no major changes have been incorporated into the concept, Hunter adds. “It has steadily grown into one of our most popular events and a chance for AKC to connect with the pet-owning public.”

More than 100 dog breeds and varieties will be represented this year, including the Whippet, the breed that took Best in Show at last month’s AKC National Championship in Orlando, Fla.

Two Whippets rest at the Whippet Booth during Meet the Breeds in 2018.

For many attendees, it will be get-acquainted time with some breeds that are likely foreign to them – such as the Cirneco dell’Etna, Lagotto Romagnolo, Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, Norrbottenspets, Peruvian Inca Orchid, and the Spanish Water Dog.

The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, a small spaniel-type breed of Dutch ancestry, will be competing in the Sporting Group at Westminster this year for the first time. And just In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced Coy-ker-hond-tsje.

AKC Meet the Breeds does get crowded. Asked if AKC and the Westminster Kennel Club might extend it for an additional day, Hunter answers, “Not at this point.”

Meet the Breeds is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9. Advance ticket information is available here. Ticket prices at the gate are $32 for adults and $10 for children age 11 and younger.

The 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show presented by Purina Pro Plan will be held Feb. 11 and 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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