Gigi’s show debut came over Labor Day weekend, 1993. The TICA Annual took place in Valley Forge, PA. That was 1993, it hasn’t been back in my region since, but that’s another story. This is the biggest show of the TICA season, the one where the year-end awards are handed out. I entered three cats- Bo, Penelope, who was also new to showing just two weeks shy of her tenth birthday, and Gigi.

Showing a cat for the first time can be stressful. After knowing Gigi for only a couple of weeks, I was fairly confident that she’d do fine in the show hall. What worried me about showing her was how she’d look. I knew nothing about grooming Somalis! I had never even touched one, much less bathed and combed one, before I got Gigi. I wasn’t entirely certain I knew what I was doing with an Aby; how was I going to handle this! I’m sure I gave Gigi a “practice” bath before that show, but I don’t remember now whether I did or what I used. She must have behaved for her baths back then because if she didn’t, I KNOW I’d remember THAT! One doesn’t soon forget being cut to ribbons or chasing a slippery cat around the house. I had been lucky with bathing subjects, though nobody will ever top Bo, who sat in the water, purred and licked me while I applied various strange liquids and water to his blue coat. I DO remember that I was bathing cats quite late on Friday night; we had gone over to set up our cages that evening, so we’d have less to do the next morning, and because the show hall was so close to home. I didn’t finish bathing Gigi until well after 11PM.

Luckily for me, because I don’t know how I would have done this without her, Pauline had entered a cat and was benched next to me. I got my cats set up in their cages, received some lessons on Somali-combing from Pauline, and then the adventure began, and it really was an adventure! The show was huge and poor Gigi was one of 62 longhairs, a gigantic kitten class for TICA. Maybe this was a good thing. My bad grooming job would get lost in the judging. There were campaigners aplenty so I wasn’t expecting her to final anyway.

One of the first judges to see Gigi was Gloria Stephens, a longtime allbreed judge, genetics instructor, and author. When her number was called, I went to the ring, put Gigi in the cage, and joined Pauline and my mom in the front row to watch the judging. Gloria took Gigi out, stood her on her back legs (Somalis hate this), stretched her, examined her ticking, her head, her eyes, her ears. Gigi seemed to be comfortable in the ring under the nice warm halogen light. Everything was going great, until a look came over Gloria’s face and she called for the breeder or the owner. Pauline said that she was the breeder and Gloria asked her if she was sure the cat was fawn!

I can only imagine what our faces looked like. I didn’t know what to do. I was new to all this; maybe she really wasn’t fawn, even though she did look awfully fawn to my untrained eye.

Pauline tried to show Gloria all the ways that Gigi was fawn, but Gloria would have none of it. Finally she proclaimed, “If this cat was fawn, she would be pink!”

Pauline, my mother and I all cried in unison, “She IS pink!”

Gloria questioned her color every single time Gigi went into her ring, without exception. Good thing there were 12 judges at that show. They couldn’t all insist that Gigi was sorrel, or some color other than fawn.

The cat Pauline was showing was a beautiful boy named Coquelicot, which is a red flower. And Coquelicot was a red cat. He was a gorgeous rich mahogany red with deeply colored ticking. He was listed in the catalog as a ruddy, and I thought he was ruddy for a short time. It was a shame Gloria couldn’t come out into the show hall and see him in all his sorrelness, in the cage right next to Gigi. They were definitely not the same color!

Judge Ellen Crockett presenting Gigi in her final
Photo: Cheryl Leigh

Despite the slightly tense start, the show was a great success for Gigi! She made three finals on the weekend, an impressive outing for any kitten at her first show, but definitely for a minority breed and color.

Gigi did only two more shows as a kitten, finishing with a total of six finals. She made two at her next show, Keestone in October, and wrapped up her kitten career at Westchester in November, with one final. Her six finals were enough to earn her a minor regional award- she was 2nd Best Somali Kitten in the Northeast Region for the 93-94 show season. At the time, I didn’t think it was that great but now that I look back on it and consider the size of the region at that time, the little pink thing did good!

Showing as an adult would be an even bigger challenge.


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