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Kids and Cats

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Twins, Ashleigh and Brittany Nel enjoy the benefits of owning and showing cats

Owning a pet has tremendous benefits in terms of health and emotional well-being. This is particularly important for young people, who are attracted to their beautiful patterns, soft fur and gentle purrs. Having a cat at home can help teach your child to be a responsible pet owner under your watchful eye. Pets will also help to build your child’s self-esteem and help her feel needed as she cares for her pet. Cultivating a healthy and safe environment for your children and their cats will ensure that everyone is safe. Owning a cat doesn’t stop at feeding, grooming and special playtime. Across the world children are getting involved in the cat fancy and showing their pedigree cats.

Recently the Animaltalk team highlighted the value that cats and the Cat Fancy world can have for children by chatting to children who take part themselves, here is their input:

Twice as nice

Ashleigh and Brittany Nel have been involved in the cat world practically since their birth! Their mom is Gail Nel of Westwood Cattery. The girls wrote matric in 2013 and both were accepted into the University of Pretoria for 2014, where they will be studying sports science and biokinetics.

What do you think makes cats different pets to have in the home than other companion animals? 

Ashleigh: Cats are very affectionate and are always seeking attention. They basically never leave your side and are great for cuddling in bed on a cold winter’s night. Cats are generally also very clean and our two breeds require very little grooming or pampering. The Orientals are very clever and are always at your side if you are feeling sick or down.

How did you find attending the shows through the years – and juggling this with your school and sport?

Brittany: The shows were fun and entertaining when we were younger, but when we started high school we did find it difficult to juggle shows with school work, hockey, athletics and ballet extramurals. We really enjoy the away shows – in Durban, Cape Town and Kimberley – as we can make a little holiday out of them. We also got to go to Australia for 3 weeks when our mom judged there a few years ago. We meet interesting people when we travel out of town, and have made many friends in various places.

Stars in the making

Jonathan Bala (14) and his sister Genevieve (12) are avid animal lovers. Their mom, Fatima Bala, owns Feline Magic Cattery and breeds British Shorthairs and Persians. Jonathan was just 7 years old when he got his very own show cat. He was one of the first kids in South Africa to show in the cat fancy. Genevieve (Gena) soon followed in her brother’s footsteps.

Why do you think more kids need to get involved?

Gena: We are the future generation of cat breeders. If we don’t get involved now, we won’t know the breeds or anything about showing cats.

Jonathan: It would be sad to see the cat fancy have to close its doors. We need to get new blood coming in. Showing cats is fun. My favourite part is meeting new people. I love going to the shows and seeing the people I’ve made friends with.

How would you encourage other kids to get involved?

Gena: If your parents show their cats, go with to the shows and see how it’s done. You can get involved! They let kids help out as stewards now (after 16 years old) and that gives you a good idea of how the shows work. It’s also fun to take your own cat to be judged… and win a prize!

Little cat lovers 

Ilse van der Leek’s 2 children, Xander (9) and Zara-belle (7), entered their very first cat show in Durbanville last year and it was an exciting day! Mom Ilse answered our questions.

What is it about the cat shows that you enjoy?

We love looking at the different breeds and chatting to all the owners. Everyone has a story to tell and has a different piece of information to share. Everyone is incredibly helpful and willing to pitch in when needed. The judges are wonderful with the children and the cats!

Tell us about your first show.

We did not know what to expect, but the organisation was very well done and everything ran smoothly with us newbies. The judges and stewards helped us and explained every step, from our numbers for our kittens to the end process of getting your certificates validated. We were very surprised that our kittens won a variety of prizes and the pride in my children’s eyes was indescribable! They are both Kitten Champions and Sterretjie won the Ring award in the kitten ring. We walked away elated, tired and with a handful each of rosettes and certificates! What a day!

Text: Gina Hartoog

Photography: Gina Hartoog, Theresa Fouche, Gail Nel and Ilse van der Leek

The full article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Animaltalk magazine. For the latest issue, visit coolmags.com for subscription information.

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