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Westminster Dog Show Opens Up Competition To Cats

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In a time of great division, two longtime rivals will come together later this month for an unprecedented meeting that upends more than a century of tradition.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Of course we're talking about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which this year, for the first time ever, will feature cats.

CORNISH: Yep, cats.

SHAPIRO: Forty cat breeds will take the stage in New York City later this month alongside all the dogs.

CORNISH: The cats are taking part in what's called the American Kennel Club Meet the Breeds, an event that's open to the public so people can walk up and down the rows of breeders and cats and ask questions.

SHAPIRO: Gail Miller Bisher of the Westminster Kennel Club says each cat will have its own booth.

GAIL MILLER BISHER: And so for the cats, what they generally do is - they can - they also decorate their booths, and they're really just there to have the animals interact with the public and answer questions that people may have.

CORNISH: Now, the event is not a head-to-head competition. The felines will not be competing directly against the dogs, though Bisher says they will have to jump through some hoops.

BISHER: They will be putting on a cat agility demonstration where the cats are being led through an obstacle course of sorts.

SHAPIRO: Gail Miller Bisher says she's not worried about any potential conflict between the cats and the dogs.

BISHER: No, no, it'll all be very safe. The cats will be in their own section, own area. And these are show cats, so they're very well-behaved, well-trained - and show dogs, who are also well-trained and under control at all times.

CORNISH: Bisher says dog traditionalists can rest easy. Dogs are still the star of the show. The cats will only be around for one day, and they can't win any awards like Best in Show.

SHAPIRO: And she insists the name of the event, the Westminster Dog Show, won't change.

BISHER: I don't see that happening (laughter). After 141 years of a dog show, I would say we're sticking with the Dog Show.

SHAPIRO: The Westminster Dog Show with cats starts February 11 in New York City.

(SOUNDBITE OF RATATAT SONG, "WILDCAT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.