Hello Kitty

Ancient Egyptians worshiped the cat. Cats have never forgotten this. But most cat owners are okay with feline servitude. If you're the type who selects friends based on your cat's opinions, know well the "Smell of Hell," or buy 50 pounds of litter at a time -- time to pack up Miss Antoinette and Sergeant Whiskers and head to The Friskies & CFA Phoenix Feline Fanciers Cat Show, sponsored by the famed kitty chow brand and the Cat Fanciers' Association.

"Celebrity" cats at this year's event include the Friskies team, the Chef's Blend cat and the Fancy Feast cat, which will perform tricks like hoop jumping and tightrope walking intermittently throughout the day. Karen Thomas, a trainer with the film industry, has trained all sorts of animal actors, including the Fancy Feast cat, whose name is Gimmel. "We show people how to train their cats, how to brush a cat's teeth," she says. "One [cat] pushes a grocery cart, and one even plays the piano." Not to be outdone, Gimmel rings a bell for room service.

Thomas says cats are relatively easy to train. "People take their cat's independence to mean they're hard to train," says Thomas. "But cats learn quickly, and they're very intelligent -- more so than dogs."

After being sufficiently impressed by the famous daredevil pusses, nearly 300 of the country's top pedigreed cats will show off in a competitive showdown. All 38 recognized breeds of cat will be in competition, and there are special categories for Household Pets (like mommy's precious Fluffernutter from the pound) and Junior Showmanship (for kids with cats).

There will be veterinarians to answer questions, as well as 30 to 40 vendors on site, so you're sure to find stocking stuffers for Snickers. Homeless kitties will be available for adoption, and event proceeds will benefit local "Friends for Life" animal shelter.

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Quetta Carpenter