Top cat: 4-H fair projects focus on felines

By: 
Jenny Gessaman
Reporter
A woman inspects the eyes of a black and white cat as a young girl holds the animal in place.

Judge Rosezelle Niel  inspects Lola the cat for clear eyes as owner Kaitlin Sramek holds her pet at Tuesday’s 4-H Pocket Pet and Cat Show. The event included two pocket pets and nine felines.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

These cute critters aren’t the livestock common to most 4-H fair exhibits, but Tuesday’s Pocket Pet and Cat Show still featured the 4-H’s trademark showmanship.

The event’s early fair date was scheduled to accommodate the animals, according to 4-H Program Assistant Jennifer Saunders.

“We do it earlier because cats and some of the pocket pets are more susceptible to stress,” she said.

Despite a difference in temperament, small animals are the same as any livestock project. Kaitlin Sramek, a member of the Hilger High Goalers 4-H club, prepared for the show with a workbook and grooming tools. The book outlines what is needed to complete a cat project, and Sramek completed some interesting activities.

“One activity, you’re supposed to teach your cat to do a trick,” she said.

Others were more experimental.

“We had to buy four different types of litter and see what was used more than another,” Sramek said.

Her cat project has helped Sramek learn about the care and training of her cat, Lola. This was her third year showing, and she was pleased with how Lola did.

“My cat has really surprised me because I didn’t know if she’d be that calm when I was showing her,” Sramek said.

Alyssa Tombarge was happy with the show, too.

“This year, I really enjoyed it,” she said.

Tombarge is a member of Lewistown’s Heart of the Snowies 4-H club. This was her return to cats after trying and disliking a cat project several years ago.

One thing that brought Tombarge back was the project activities. She aspires to be a vet, and was given the chance to help at a veterinary clinic. Tombarge even assisted in a surgery to remove a cat’s tooth.

“I learned a lot, especially about the dental side of cats,” she said.

Tombarge has also done a lot of work with her own cat, Theda. She learned how to bath and transport the animal, two high-tension situations for the pair. So was all the work worth it?

“I believe it was,” Tombarge said. “I’ve been able to practice showmanship and get better control of my cat with the harness.”

After a moment, she reconsidered.

“The bathing part, no, I don’t believe it was,” she laughed.

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