A PURR-FECT PAIRING: Chittenden, Buttercup

A cream-colored feline and a fluffy black male eyed each other speculatively from either side of the junior cat showmanship table. 

A rumbling growl emanated from the female. Her three kittens were sleeping soundly in her crate nearby, but that didn’t quell her protective instincts. In a flash, the beige cat lunged across the table, swatting at her black-furred competitor, and grazing his owner Bud Ullrey in the process. 

“Ouch! Ouch!” Ullrey said as he tried to pull his cat from the fray, incurring scratch after scratch. Finally the cats were yanked to their respective corners, breathing heavily with fur slightly ruffed. Audience members put their hands to their mouths to muffle their chuckles.  

Small animal judge Wyatt Phillips decided that perhaps, it would be best to show the participants one by one. 

From inside the small animal barn, senior cat showmanship exhibitor Kevin Chittenden hardly took note of the incident. He was busy tending to his orange American shorthair, Buttercup. For the third year running, the duo claimed top honors in showmanship — as well as the coveted best of show trophy. 

In cat showmanship, exhibitors are asked to point out the various body parts of their animal and answer a series of questions about feline characteristics. Judges look for animals with a clean appearance and good temperament. Exhibitors are graded on ease of handling their cat, knowledge about the animal and their overall appearance and sportsmanship. 

“I have three cats at home, and I really like playing with them, and I thought it would be fun to bring him to the fair this year,” Chittenden said.

“I’ve done this previous years, and it went well,” he added. “(Buttercup is) only 4 years old, and he’s won three times.” 

To prepare for the cat showmanship competition, Chittenden bathed and brushed Buttercup and familiarized his feline companion with wearing a harness. The difficulty, according to the veteran competitor, came in keeping his cat composed. 

“The hardest part is probably just getting him to stay calm, be relaxed,” Chittenden said. “Because, I guess, the attitude of the cat should also be similar to yours.”

Chittenden acquired Buttercup from some friends in Rapelje when he was just a kitten. Now, Buttercup is Chittenden’s constant companion, following him around when he completes chores or sitting beside him while he studies. 

Throughout his endeavors in cat showmanship, Chittenden learned all about the different breeds and parts of a feline. Chittenden said this year may be the last year of Buttercup’s show career, and advises showman new to the event to focus on two things:

“Point out the best features of your cat so the judge notices (them), and basically just have fun,” Chittenden said.

Kaitlyn Hahn finished as the junior grand champion in cat showmanship and Bud Ullrey was awarded the junior reserve grand champion ribbon.

Story and photo by Mackenzie Reiss / Pioneer Staff Writer