The auditorium is lined with rows and rows of cat houses; big, beautiful comfy cat houses. Although this is only one of the many Cat Fanciers pedigreed cat shows held around the country, it’s my first, and I’m impressed by the individual flair of each cat house’s décor. One has a lush purple interior with intricate glass baubles hanging from the front. Another is decorated with fabric that looks like piano keys. When they aren’t being shown to the judges in the U-shaped arena, the cats lie around, either inside their houses or nearby on a table or chair. A few deign to bat at toys offered by adoring owners, but for the most part they sleep or lounge and look around.

None of the cats seem at all perturbed. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I shoved my cat into a container (even one as nice as these), drove him in the car, and then carried him over to a stranger who held him by the tail while running his hand backwards up his backside. Before that judge got halfway done he’d have only a shred of arm left, and Dr. Snuggs would shoot underneath something, hissing furiously, with saucer-sized eyes.

But these are show cats. They take in all of the handling—and the primping and coddling—with an air of feline entitlement.

A teenage boy, maybe sixteen, is holding a completely hairless cat upside down on his lap like a baby. His mother takes another cat from its cage and wipes it down with what appears to be baby wipes. “How do you keep him from running around?” I ask (without hair, it’s easy to tell this cat is a male). “Oh, you just hold him. But he’s not going anywhere—he’s getting his foot rubbed.” The cat looks at me, upside down. “Yeah,” the boy says to him. “You’re my baby.”

For the finals, people crowd around the little judging areas. Each specimen is brought to the judges’ table and felt up like there’s no tomorrow. After each manhandling, the judge takes a wand with wiggly things on the end and offers it to the cat, who politely obliges by batting at it. It’s as if he knows he’s the cutest thing on earth.

“I just love his big, bold rectangular body and darling little nose,” one judge says while hanging a ribbon on a cage. “And he is our tenth best cat!” The onlookers respond with polite golf claps, but by the time we’ve reached the Best In Show (“Look at this nicely balanced body and warm cream coat, it’s like vanilla ice cream!”) the owners are shrieking and hugging each other. “It’s OK,” one woman croons to her Siamese as she carries it back to their little haven. “We’re all done now.”

The Anthony Wayne Cat Fanciers Show returns to the U-M Coliseum on Saturday, May 9.