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Feline conquers on world stage; Decatur sphynx cat holds top Cat Fancier Association honors

By Jimmy Alford | Published Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When he lies around sunbathing in his luxurious mansion, his skin wrinkles. Standing and stretching reveals subtle tan lines.

His house is three stories and fully carpeted. He spends many days and nights on the road, and is always chauffeured.

INDELIBLE GREATNESS – Ink is 2014′s No. 1 sphinx cat in the world according to the Cat Fanciers Association. He beat out thousands of cats to earn the title. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

His name is GCBW Pinupcats Indelible Ink of Ri-Leen – Ink, for short – and he is No. 1 worldwide.

He is, in short, the most interesting cat in the world.

Ink, one of several cats belonging to Kathleen Forth of Decatur, was recently named the top of his breed – sphynx – by the Cat Fanciers Association.

To earn that spot, Ink had to beat out thousands of other cats from across the world. It takes a lot of hard work and even more patience – qualities Forth has developed over many years of competition.

She started out showing cocker spaniels at American Kennel Club shows about 40 years ago.

“I’ve never won anything this high up. I showed dogs for years and never had anything this special,” Forth said.

She made her first move into the hairless animal world when she changed breeds and began showing Chinese cresteds and xoloitzcuintles. She rose to No. 7 in the United States while showing dogs.

She said competition in the dog world was tough.

“You pretty much have to have a professional handler, if you want to win,” Forth said. “Because that is what you’re up against. It’s always been just us.”

Eventually she left the world of dog shows, seeking a less rambunctious and hyperactive animal. While she still owned several Chinese cresteds, Forth entered the cat fanciers world.

Chauffeured

CHAUFFEURED – At competition, Ink prefers to travel atop his owner’s walker, which always draws the attention of passersby who are used to more surly felines. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“When I first found the sphynx breed, I loved them,” Forth said. “Just wipe them down with a wash cloth and they’re clean – no worries. The hardest thing is keeping their ears clean.”

According to the Cat Fanciers Association, CFA, the sphynx breed was discovered in 1966 when a domestic cat gave birth to a hairless kitten in Toronto. It has only been a show breed for 12 years.

A natural genetic mutation was discovered and the sphynx cat joined the ranks of a few other naturally hairless cat breeds in the world.

Forth said the low level of upkeep drew her to the breed. Sphynxes do have some issues including those ears and the fact their skin can be oily and have acne – but owners don’t have to contend with vast amounts of grooming.

Tending Camp

TENDING CAMP – Kathleen Forth’s granddaughter Chelsea Crier watches over the flock during a competition. Submitted photo

“The people who show Persians spend all day grooming the cat and putting baby powder on them. It’s constant upkeep,” Forth said. “Sometimes the sphynx’ skin isn’t great, but that is one great thing that has come from Ink – his great skin.”

Not all sphynx cats are completely hairless. Some have short hair on their nose, ears and sometimes on toes and tail, as well as a fine coat overall that makes the cat more akin to a “warm peach.”

Forth said some people think the cats’ looks are odd, but everyone falls in love with the breed’s personalities.

“They’re all loving and know no strangers. I think they are more people-oriented,” Forth said. “You can call them, and they’ll come to you instead of just stare at you as if saying ‘You’re talking to me?’”

Anyone walking through her home will likely end up with a cat riding on their shoulders, and if they have facial hair the cats will get up close and personal.

“They are very sociable,” Forth said. “They want to touch you and be touched.”

Forth draws a crowd whenever she competes. Her well-behaved cats are usually up for some friendly petting from passersby.

“When we go to shows, organizers comment on how many people stop and talk to us,” Forth said. “I let people use a hand sanitizer and pet him. They love it, and they’ll come back. They are so different and have such wonderful personalities. You’ll never want a different kind of cat.”

Real Personality

REAL PERSONALITY – Owner Kathleen Forth said Ink loves people and having his picture taken. Photo by Helmi Flick

While these cats get plenty of time on the road and at shows, Forth’s cats are strictly indoor animals as they are too valuable to expose to risk of outdoor life. A sphynx kitten sells for anywhere between $1,000 to $2,500.

The first sphynx cat Forth ever had was one of three kittens that cost one of her friends $10,000 after being shipped from Belgium.

The cat was given to Forth after an infection caused it to become sterile.

Much of their value is in breeding. Ink’s stud fee right now is $2,500, but now that he’s No. 1 worldwide, Forth could easily get $4,000.

It was a long road to get to that point. At 67, Forth was gone 20 weekends of the year to competitions in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Louisiana.

“It’s a lot of waiting. It’s usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Forth said. “You pray it’s over by 5 p.m. It’s called a bench show. The animal stays in that area until you’re called. You just listen all day long until each ring calls and if you are called back.”

She said each competition had six different judges in six rooms. Each judging counts as a separate show.

“Each of those judges will see every cat. Then they call back the top 10 from each category,” Forth said. “You pray to be in that top 10. That is where you pick up all your points.”

The points are cumulative and are tabulated to determine the top feline at the end of a season, which runs May-April. As of April, Ink has beaten 2,500 cats in his rise to No. 1. In that time he has also risen through the ranks in a much tougher field – all-breed.

There, cats compete for top looks regardless of breed, so an American short-hair will be against a Russian Blue and a Persian. Ink has risen from No. 25 in 2012-13 to No. 3 in his region during the 2013-2014 season.

“It’s wonderful for us because sphynx doesn’t get picked as often as other breeds, like Persians,” Forth said. “He’s behind a Persian and a Russian blue.”

Forth would like to hold onto the No. 1 spot for her breed and continue her rise for all-breed, but she has been forced to miss some shows. She is recovering from knee surgery.

But it’s only a temporary setback. She has no plans to slow down.

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