When it comes to animal shows, this one is the cat’s whiskers.
The LondonCats Cat Extravaganza was the purrfect weekend for furry felines.
More than 5,000 cat lovers and 200 kitties jetted in from around the world for the event at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, Surrey.
The three-day event, nicknamed the cat version of Crufts, wasn’t for your average moggy – it was for top cats, exotic breeds, celebrity names and precious pussies.
Headliners included the leopard-like Bengal, classic British Shorthair, giant Maine Coon and the hairless Sphynx.
There were also newcomers like the Lykoi, also known as the werewolf cat, the American Curl, distinguished by its unusual curled-back ears, and the Toyger which looks like a tiger.
They and their owners were in a well-mannered cat fight for a title – best kitten, best cat, best alter and best household pet – judged by an international panel.
Half of UK adults own a pet, according to a 2019 survey by animal charity PDSA.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of the population are cat owners, with an estimated 10.9m pet cats.
This compares to 26% who have a dog, with 9.9m pet dogs.
But now pussies have the same opportunity as pups to strut their stuff at their own feline show.
Carole McFadden flew from the United States to enter her one-and-a-half-year-old Chartreux cat, Carchet Oreanna, into the competition.
Carchet Oreanna was an international winner as a kitten and, according to Carole, from Idaho, she is working on a global win as an adult.
She said: “I go to shows all the time in the US and some in Europe, but this is my first time in London.
“There’s a big count here; there are a lot of cats competing and I’m here for the points.”
The weekend was cat-littered with social media favourites.
Bob, the ginger cat made famous by the book and film A Street Cat Named Bob, was there with his human, James Bowen.
Author and busker James adopted Bob after finding him in his supported housing block in Tottenham.
His memoir, published in 2012, became a bestseller and Bob has amassed more than 55,000 followers.
Instagram famous British Shorthair Starina, described by her owner as a ‘supermeowdel,’ was also available for cuddles.
Starina is known for her mismatched ‘David Bowie eyes’ and is signed to the leading animal modelling agency, PetLondon.
She has appeared in Vogue and campaigns for Paul Smith and Stella McCartney.
Instagram is crammed with cute kitties.
A study by Compare the Market in 2019 revealed the most popular breed on Instagram was the Maine Coon with 6.63m hashtags.
Closely followed was the Siamese with 5.33m, the Bengal with 4.26m and the munchkin with 2.44m.
The adorable rescue kitty, Nala (@nala_cat on Instagram), holds the Guinness World Record title for the most Instagram followers for a cat – an impressive 4.2m – now up to 4.3.
LondonCats founder and events director Steven Meserve is keen to reach a new audience of social media lovers with his “progressive” approach to cat shows.
He said: “Most people know about dog shows but so many don’t know there are cat shows.
“We’re trying to break free of the stigma of the ‘crazy cat lady’. We do need them, but we have a whole different generation that is interested in this now.
“One day I’d like to say I’m going to a cat show and people not say, ‘that’s a little bit strange’.”
Previously a dog lover, Steven has been involved in cat shows since he was 18.
He said: “I don’t even know what happened to make me love cats so much. I grew up with dogs my entire life.
“Then one day when I was 18, I saw an advert in the newspaper for ‘toy leopards’ and was so intrigued.
“I went and bought my first Bengal cat for $1,500 and put it in a cat show. The rest is history.”
Among the cat lovers at the event was Paul Bunce who has a Russian Blue Tabby named Mimi.
Paul, from Horsham, said: “I love cats very much and it’s great to see so many different breeds.
“Mimi is in charge of the house and she looks after me. When I’m not well, she will come and lay on my bad leg and make sure I’m okay.”
James Greenwood, from Brighton, bought himself and his girlfriend tickets to the show as a Christmas present.
James said: “We’ve never been to anything like this before, but we love everything about cats.
“They just do what they want, when they want, but they also love a bit of affection.”
Phil Biddlecombe, who has three rescue cats, travelled from Southampton for the show.
He said: “I’ve always had cats in my family, and I’ve converted my wife Hayley to be a cat person. I couldn’t live in a house without one.
There were also workshops, talks, demonstrations and awards across the weekend.
Speakers included A Tale of Two Kitties author Nick Harding and Pauline Kemp from cat grooming business Awesome Paws.
Humans could also pick up an array of cat-related paraphernalia.
One stall even offered delivery and recollection of cat litter to be composted and used to grow trees in London.