Recently, I became aware of a situation that made me shrink with embarrassment. Names and specifics have been changed to protect the guilty . . .
The Players: Agatha is running a regional campaign in championship with her homebred grand. Linda is showing a cat of the same breed which she bought from a small breeder in Europe. Linda granded the kitty early in the season (to the delight of the breeder as it was her first CFA homebred grand!) and has been campaigning it for a regional win ever since.
The Situation: Agatha has been heard referring to Linda and her cat and commenting that she doesn't know why anyone would spend time and money campaigning a purchased cat — that the only reason a person would ever do that must be that they cannot breed a good enough cat of their own to show.
Two Separate Issues
I thought about Agatha's statement. It seemed to me to bring into question two separate issues. Firstly, it was a question of sportsmanship — why would one feel compelled to make such a hurtful statement publicly?
Secondly, was her statement true? She seemed to be saying that people should only campaign homebred cats. Could the only reason a person would campaign a purchased cat actually be because they couldn't breed a good cat of their own?
But first, let us consider Agatha's words from the point of view of good sportsmanship.
The generally held definition of sportsmanship is:
Conduct and attitude considered as befitting participants in sports, especially fair play, courtesy, striving spirit, and grace in losing.
Obviously, and sadly, Agatha's statement was a classic example of poor sportsmanship. While people have the right to think and say whatever they please, bad-mouthing the competition is more a reflection of the speaker's lack of character than it is to do with any substance in their words.
I could not help but wonder what other exhibitors think about a person who makes such comments in the show hall? Do they admire the person? Or is it more likely they would cringe when witnessing such behavior?
Imagine the impression Agatha made on the spectator at the cat show who overheard her making her disparaging remarks? What sort of picture would that paint in a person's mind about the type of people who are involved in the cat fancy? I shudder to imagine.
Was Her Statement True or Was It Just An Misguided Opinion?
Okay, with the sportsmanship issue now out of the way, what about the truth of her statement? Would the only reason that a person might campaign a cat of someone else's breeding really be because they could not breed a good cat of their own?
I was curious . . . so I thought I'd look a bit closer into Linda's background, since she was the target of Agatha's remark.
It didn't take me long to discover that although she only has a small breeding program, Linda had produced many quality cats, including over 25 grands and more than a handful of cats that earned regional wins in Championship, Kittens and Premiership. Linda has also been generous in sharing her high quality homebreds with other breeders and exhibitors — proven by the fact that cats she sold have also earned regional titles for their new owners. In fact, in the season in question, while Linda was campaigning her purchased cat, a new exhibitor she had mentored was successfully campaigning one of Linda's homebreds to another regional title.
Obviously, Agatha's statement was completely wrong.
Anyone Can Buy A Cat To Win With . . .
We live in a world where money talks. "Anyone Can Buy A Cat To Win With." Hmmm . . . sounds logical. But is it really? I suspect it is truer in theory than in practice. While it seems like anyone with enough money should be able to buy a great cat, every exhibitor who has ever been disappointed in a purchase would tell you that is not strictly true. The great cats are not easy to find. And when you find one, it is seldom for sale at any price. And if you find one, and it is for sale, the breeder usually has a choice of many potential buyers — and the chance that you will be the one chosen to receive the cat is probably a long shot.
Is Winning With A Homebred Easier Than With A Purchased Cat?
Why did Agatha think the way she did? There is indeed a very special feeling of accomplishment at the success of a homebred cat, because it does seem on the surface that the accomplishment is "all yours".
Of course, one might say that we should remember that our cats do not materialize out of thin air. Every breeder's program is built upon the foundation of the cats that breeders sold us to get us started. In this way, no breeder stands alone in his cat's accomplishments.
While Agatha thinks it is easy to just buy a good cat, some people think it is easier to breed a good cat. Certainly, the argument could be made that the breeder always gets to choose the pick of their own litters — that's definitely easier than trying to find someone willing to sell you the pick kitten from their litters :-).
Finding A Campaign-Quality Cat To Buy
The truth is, breeders usually keep their best cats for themselves. One of the hardest things to do is to find a good cat to buy. It can often take years. Think I exaggerate? Ask any breeder who has had to look for that great outcross male for their breeding program and couldn't find the right cat at any price.
When a breeder does decide to let a campaign quality cat go, do you think they would be more likely to sell that exceptional cat to a person who thinks like Agatha? Or a person with a track record like Linda's?
Selling A Campaign-Quality Cat
When someone sells me a grandable cat, I consider it my responsibility to try my hardest to grand that cat. It is my way of thanking that breeder for entrusting me with one of their good cats.
Similarly, if a breeder trusts me with a campaign-quality cat, I would try my hardest to show it to its full potential. It seems to me to be the right and generous thing to do.
We — a Special Relationship
When showing a purchased cat, there is a sharing of the campaign experience that can make it very special - not better than showing a homebred - just a different journey with different rewards. The owner and the breeder often forge a unique bond based on their mutual interest in the cat and its career. There is a generosity of spirit between the breeder and exhibitor as they share the glory and the spotlight, the highs and the lows. It is a team effort.
Me, Me, Me
So . . . where did Agatha go wrong in her thinking? When the pride of showing a homebred is twisted into something that perceives the accomplishments of a purchased cat as being less than that of a homebred, the exhibitor has gone badly astray. They are not a bad or evil person. They just have fallen into a trap — a trap fueled by jealousy, selfishness and poor sportsmanship. It is pride that has become arrogant.
Me or We?
So . . . what can be learned from Agatha and Linda?
Take pride in your homebred cat, but do not denigrate those who show a cat of someone else's breeding. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment you have as the breeder of your cat, but do not forget that your breeding program is the heritage of other people's bloodlines.
Showing a homebred or a purchased cat are different situations that deserve to be valued equally.
It is easy and tempting to be a Me, Me, Me type of exhibitor. In the heat of the race, stress can cause people to do or say things they regret. Competition can bring out the best in your character — or the worst.
But you can also decide to be a We-type of exhibitor... to be able to celebrate other people's successes as you do your own . . . and enjoy the special relationships you can build with your fellow breeders.
Me or We. The choice is yours.