The Life of a Scottsdale Show Cat (And His Owner) | Phoenix New Times

The Life of a Scottsdale Show Cat (And His Owner)

Neurosurgery scientist Julie Backes Supple is not a crazy cat lady.
Julie Backes Supple and her feline friend strike a pose.
Julie Backes Supple and her feline friend strike a pose. Robrt L. Pela
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Chuck Bass was showing off his stomach. He rolled onto his back and stretched his legs, then checked to see if anyone was admiring him.

“That is his tummy,” said Chuck’s mom, Julie Backes Supple. “He likes people to see it.”

Last week, Chuck showed off his tummy to great effect at the East of Eden Cat Fanciers show in Monterey, California.

Supple, a nurse practitioner in neurosurgery at Barrow Neurological Institute, was Chuck’s escort. “Not in a million years did I ever think I’d be a cat show person,” she said on Tuesday. She and Chuck Bass and his sister, Mary Tyler Meow, were relaxing in the lounge of the Scottsdale condo complex where they live.

She’d previously lived with two golden retrievers, both successful show dogs. When one died in 2017, only three months after Supple’s mother passed away, she was devastated. “It was soul-crushing,” she admitted. “The other dog was lonely, but I wasn’t emotionally ready for another puppy. I decided on a big, confident cat that could hang with a golden retriever.”

That was Chuck Bass. A year later, Mary Tyler Meow joined the clan. “They have the same dad but different moms,” Supple said. “Ragdolls are the second largest-sized breed after Maine Coon, and they’ll continue to grow until they’re 4.”

Supple’s daughter named Chuck. “She’s a millennial and a huge Gossip Girl fan,” Supple confided. “Chuck Bass is one of the protagonists in that show. She said, ‘Mom, if you’re going to have a cat, he has to have a tough name.’ His Instagram handle is @chuckbass_gossipcat.”

She’s proud of the name she came up with for Chuck’s sister. “I started thinking of actresses who were American and well thought of and that people loved. If I get another cat, I have an idea for an even better name, but I’m not saying what it is. I don’t want anyone to steal it. Maybe my next career will be as a professional cat namer.”

Mary Tyler Meow dashed past. Chuck swatted at her, but she pretended not to notice.

“I call him The Mayor,” Supple admitted. “He has about 5,400 followers on his Instagram account.”

Supple took an online course on how to photograph pets and sent some of the photos to her breeder. “She started in about how I really had to show these cats. There was a show in Arcadia, California, and my cats are registered and street legal, so I entered Mary to see how she’d do.’”

Mary did well. At Chuck’s first show, he was confused. “He though he was there to judge people,” Supple laughed. “He got on the show table, and stood there looking at everyone like, ‘Not bad, not bad.’ The judge was like, ‘This is a professional show cat.’”

She and her cats have since appeared in many shows, all of them out of state. “We don’t have any cat shows here in Arizona,” Supple said, reaching down to stroke Mary’s coat. “They both did well last week at East of Eden. Winning for us is if they make it into the finals.”

Chuck laid down on a coffee table and began washing his elbow. “I know what people think about single women with cats,” Supple said with a shrug. “The people I work with are all scientists, and they’re like, ‘Wait, you’re going to another cat show? Are you that lonely?’ People say I’m a crazy cat lady, and I’m always like, ‘Actually I’m a nurse practitioner who works in neurosurgery, and this is my hobby.’”

Supple has made, she said, a lot of friends in the cat show world. She’s involved in a couple of different cat clubs and is interested in promoting the overall goodness of cats. “It’s easy to get hung up comparing pedigrees or talking about house cats versus show cats. We’ve got to remember that it doesn’t matter how they got where they are. All cats are great.”

She keeps the ribbons won by Chuck and Mary tucked into a keepsake box in the back of a closet. “There are a lot of them,” she admitted. “But I’m not that person who displays ribbons or trophies. My office team is always telling me I should put this stuff up in my office.”

Chuck laid down at her feet and showed her his stomach. “But if I do that,” Supple said, reaching down to pet him, “they’d probably start in with the lonely cat lady thing again.”
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