Two rooms. More than 200 cats. You can imagine the smell.

Well, actually, you can't. Apart from that initial whiff upon entry of unmistakable feline fragrance – of a stuffy lounge where a window or two ought to be opened and the pets let outside – there isn't one.

The New Zealand Cat Fancy Inc. National Show, held this year at Tauranga Racecourse on Saturday, is surprisingly odourless, I'm happy to report.

These cats are clean, you see. They have to be. I soon find that out.

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Kasario Handel's-Messiah, the first cat I meet, gets a bath before every show. He's so fluffy and soft-looking. An Aucklander.

He's also the rarest breed in New Zealand, I'm told. A short-haired Birman. He could go for as much as $875.

Kasario Handel's-Messiah in the arms of his owner, Cheryl Davies-Crook. Photo / Andrew Warner
Kasario Handel's-Messiah in the arms of his owner, Cheryl Davies-Crook. Photo / Andrew Warner

But turns out Kasario isn't even competing today. Aargh. He's just on display. Trying to get some exposure. It's not easy being rare.

Let's move on.

Watson the fat cat is competing. He's a British Blue Shorthair. And about 5kg.

His owner, Avril McBeth from Hamilton, doesn't bath him because it makes his coat too soft.

"So all you've got to do is groom him, wipe his eyes, wipe his face and his ears and you're there."

She's also got to cut all of his claws – that's a rule for every show. Thinking of the judges, obviously. Hell hath no fury like a kitty scorned.

Watson the British Blue Shorthair with owner Avril McBeth. Photo / Andrew Warner
Watson the British Blue Shorthair with owner Avril McBeth. Photo / Andrew Warner

McBeth is a regular at cat shows. She says she likes the company.

"I'm off a farm so I don't see a lot of people and so this is my out. I look after a 93-year-old so it's nice to get away."

British Blue Shorthairs are the Winston Churchill of the cat world, McBeth says. They're grumpy looking, don't make a sound, and only come when they want to.

"But they love food, as you can see by the size of him."

I walk past a naked-looking grey cat that's drawing plenty of attention.

"Oh, that one – it's lost all its fur," one parent whispers to her child.

"That's a funny looking one isn't it?" says another lady walking past.

I'll definitely be back a bit later to meet that wrinkly little fella.

Fred Haslemore from Kawerau introduces me to his cat, Vladimir Doyathink Imsexy (real name).

Vladimir is a 19-week-old Maine Coon, Haslemore says, one of the biggest domestic breeds of cat you can get.

It's true, I saw some of the grown-up Maine Coons in their cages and they're massive. Like stop-you-in-your-tracks massive. Google it.

Fred Haslemore introduces Vladimir Doyathink Imsexy (real name). Photo / Andrew Warner
Fred Haslemore introduces Vladimir Doyathink Imsexy (real name). Photo / Andrew Warner

Haslemore says Vladimir gets a bath three or four days before a show, is left alone to dry, then is combed.

"He had a bit of a dirty today so we had to do it again when we got here."

What do you mean?

"He had an accident on his way here. Poo in the cage. I had to clean him and the cage."

The next cat I meet is probably the Cinderella story of the National Show.

Diesel, a long-haired domestic rescue cat, was found in Pāpāmoa by a dog when he was just 3 weeks old. Abandoned.

He's now 7 months old and has just won his first national title – "Best in Show" for the long-haired domestic category.

His foster parents, Greerton twin sisters Michelle and Megan Harland (from Wild Whiskers Tauranga), are fizzing.

"There was some tough competition so we weren't sure what was going to happen but we were rapt," Michelle says.

The trick? A full bath two days before, a full brush, claws clipped and "we make sure his feet are really white".

Diesel, a long-haired domestic rescue cat, is probably the Cinderella story of the National Show. Pictured here with foster parent Megan Harland. Photo / Andrew Warner
Diesel, a long-haired domestic rescue cat, is probably the Cinderella story of the National Show. Pictured here with foster parent Megan Harland. Photo / Andrew Warner

Okay, now back to the furless naked cat.

"Look how skinny he is!" a kid says walking up to the cage.

An adult man is equally blown away. "No fur. Where's all his fur gone?

"I think he needs a coat when he goes outside."

The cat's name is Toby, thank you very much. He's a chocolate Sphynx.

His owner, Louise Nixon from Hastings, tells me he's just finished in the top 10 for the neuter/spay category.

"He's a proper little show boy," she says. "And he knows how to pull the crowds."

Toby the chocolate Sphynx with owner Louise Nixon. Photo / Andrew Warner
Toby the chocolate Sphynx with owner Louise Nixon. Photo / Andrew Warner

Toby requires more cleaning than most. That's what happens when you don't have any fur.

He gets bathed at least once a week, Nixon says, "basically just give him a good scrub, get the body oils off and make him smell nice".

She then adds with a laugh: "If I could train him to use the shower he can probably jump in the shower with me, but he'd probably die of fright if he saw me in the shower."

This has been fun. Good clean, odourless fun.

The New Zealand Cat Fancy Inc. National Show, held this year at Tauranga Racecourse.