What it was like behind the scenes at a new cat show in metro Atlanta

Loving Cats Worldwide launched a new show in Duluth this year, on the same day as a Cat Fanciers’ Association show. For some feline fans, the claws were out.

Reba Don’t Eat That came in second in the household pets category.

Photograph by Larry Johnson Photography

Excitement filled the air of Duluth’s Gas South Convention Center one sunny Sunday morning this spring—as did the plaintive mewling of a Bengal cat named Wigglebutt Wanna Build a Snowman, as did a series of facts delivered by Steven Meserve, who has long blond hair and lives in a pink mansion in Portugal with his partner and 25 feline companions. Meserve is the impresario behind Loving Cats Worldwide (LCWW), the group that organized the confab. Bengals can have a “glitter gene,” he told the crowd, that makes them sparkle in the sun. American shorthairs have a “freaky, unexpected weight, like their muscles have muscles.”

A man in the marketplace section asked me if this was my first time attending. The show had improved since it was at the fairgrounds last year, he said, as another visitor and I exchanged a glance. This is Loving Cats Worldwide, she corrected. It’s their first show here.

The other show, affiliated with the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), was going on nine miles away at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. “I know people that were at that show,” said Dawn Wise, who’d brought her cat Reba Don’t Eat That, the One-Eyed Show Cat to compete at the new event. “I know people that were torn between their loyalty to CFA and their curiosity as to what was going on with LCWW. I know people that were bashing LCWW, that it’s not a real cat show.” Wise, who lives in Alpharetta, posted about the LCWW show on Facebook and invited her local cat friends to stop by: It’ll be different from anything you’ve seen. Somebody else commented, “Nope. Not LCWW. Not ever.”

Meserve hears these criticisms often. “It’s like Coca-Cola telling Pepsi they’re not a soda,” he said. “We are in the Gilded Age for cat fancy”—and LCWW is nouveau riche. People may not pay close attention to all the organizing bodies, like CFA, that host cat shows, but they do notice LCWW’s “different energy,” Meserve said. “No other organization has launched on four continents with 50 shows in a year. Everybody’s nervous.” In the last year, LCWW has had more than 100,000 visitors at shows around the world; Atlanta’s drew 3,500.

In the center of the ballroom, judges ranked cats competing in various classes. Coming in second in the household pets category, Wise’s cat Reba beat out competitors I’m Allergic to Color of Wigglebutt, Pudgy Taquito Mittens, and Neville the Brave. Wise, who’s been on the circuit since 2018, told me that household pets are generally judged on personality, whereas pedigrees are judged more heavily on looks. The former category can be a bit arbitrary, coming down to “literally which cat [the judge] fell in love with first that day,” Wise said. Cats can also be moody. Basically, “you never know what the judge or the cat will do.”

Reba—who was rescued from a hoarding situation in 2017 and lost her eye to an infection—has been showing for more than four years. She’s a therapy cat at Dragon Con and at multiple nursing homes in Alpharetta. She attends the Georgia Renaissance Festival every year. Wise is also an officer with a national CFA club; when I asked for a verdict on LCWW, she said she was impressed. I mentioned Meserve’s “different energy” comment. “That’s one way to put it,” she said.

This article appears in our July 2023 issue.