A lot goes into showing a Maine Coon cat. It's so much more than what you see in the pictures. This is my thoughts on planning show cats that are the best representation of the breed in type, size, health, personality and disposition. I want Maine Coons that are large, intelligent, social, and affectionate individuals that will be long lived and bring a lot of joy to their humans.
It all starts with not only the parents but the breeders. Just like humans individuals are influenced by part nature and part nurture so I believe animals are too. Nature is what we think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and various other biological factors. Nurture is general considered to be the influence of external factors after birth such as life experiences early on, learning and socialization. I search for the great bloodlines and the breeders that raise their babies in the home and not cages.
Choosing two individuals that are exceptional in every way. Searching for the best pedigrees that will produce what your dream kitten will be. Not only choosing pedigrees that have large cats but looking at each individual from every perspective. Some of the things I look for are longevity of the bloodline. I want to know how long the cats in that pedigree live to be and what if any health issues they may have had. After that is determined then I look for traits in a bloodline. Are they easy to train, friendly towards people, friendly towards other pets, friendly towards strangers, strong loyalty tendencies, tolerance to being handled or exposed to various stimuli.
Finally, i look at coat type, color and patterns. Some Maine Coons have naturally oily hair and others may not have as much. Yes, for show cats that is very important as it determines the level of grooming that is needed before a show. The Breed Registries (CFA AND TICA) have standards they judge by and it's not just the type, size, health or look of the cat but also temperament, grooming and presentation. I choose my cats last of all for color and pattern. I love all cats and IMO every one is beautiful and unique in it's own way. I suppose if I had to choose a favorite it would be Black Smoke or Silver. I do love all colors though! Who can resist a stunning black kitty or a sweet ginger?!! My favorite pattern is a Mackeral Tabby. I love the calico pattern as well.
After the mating of the two perfect individuals then the real work begins. I take great care in making sure my future mothers receive excellent care before and after mating. They are fed free choice Taste of The Wild AND Royal Canin each day. The bowls are always kept full and they get as much as they want to eat. In the evenings they are fed lightly baked chicken or fish which is de-boned and put on several platters for all kitties to enjoy. They receive vitamins daily as well as collagen and joint supplements for growing kitties of all ages. I also feed milk formula to any kitty under 4 months old. The feeding program is essential in the development of champion cats along with frequent parasite control (regular worming and we also use Revolution Plus prescription medication for topical treatment of fleas, worms, earmites and ticks).
Grooming is done daily for the show cats. I use an aluminum comb and it takes a few minutes a day. As the coat gets longer and more lush I add a slicker to the routine. We have cations outside with toys and several climbing levels. Fitness and play are essential as one of the things the judges look for is a fit cat that is in excellent condition. For my lazier kitties I spend an hour or so a day each evening playing with them with wants and balls. Everyone loves play and its also a great way to build bonds. Treats help with that too!! :)
A few days before a show I determine coat condition. If it is especially oily I will bath them 2 to 3 times before the actual show day. Maine Coon kitties love water and generally enjoy the bath. Some also LOVE the blow dryer as well and will come running when they hear it start up. The bath is 2 to 4 steps depending on the coat of each cat. Having that perfect show appearance takes about an hour and a half per bath including the blow drying. After I finish the steps of the bath I towel dry until just damp then follow up with a warm to cool blow dry. Before blow drying i comb the kitties out so their hair is falling smoothly. After that is all done, I clean the ears and clip the nails. Kitties are not allowed on the catios the night before a show. They will roll and find things to get dirty in outside lol :D
We usually are up at 3 to 4 am the day of the show. Chores for the horses and other kitties to do. We pack the vehicle, last minute touch up of the show kitties then we get ready ourselves. It's a lot of planning for each show. I have a caregiver staying in the home for the other pets while I am away and have someone to feed the horses as well in the evenings. We love to stay in hotels but the kitties at home worry about us being gone so we limit hotels to areas further than 3 hours one way. Each show is about 20 hours of preparation time give or take. We drive to the show and set up our show cages and equipment (about an hour to put up then take down at the end of day 2). Before each class we groom each cat then run them to all the rings (some shows are 6 rings per day and some are more). Each ring is it's own mini show. There are up to 200 cats in the show and they will all be shown in each ring. Each ring will show individual breeds then have a final for each breed. Each breed will have a best of breed final and after all the breed finals are done then there is a best of all breeds for each ring. It is extremely competitive and people fly in to the shows from all over. The shows are a tremendous amount of effort but fun to attend. The outcome determines the cats that are the best of their breed in type, color, health and disposition. I am always so proud of my fur babies when they walk away with best of breeds or best of all breeds. They have gone through a lot of preparation to achieve these titles and awards and always maintain a sweet temperament through it all.