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Catwalk: Tales from the cat circuit Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

This new documentary about cat pageants proves joy still exists

Fur real though

The end of January is almost upon us, and, while we might have made it through what’’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year – aka Blue Monday – the reality is it’s still cold, it’s still miserable, and it’s still getting dark at approx. 1.17pm. With the long nights stretched out ahead of us, and any semblance of a social life abandoned in the early hours of New Year’s Day, things are pretty bleak right now. But I’m here to let you know there is salvation, and that it comes in the form of Catwalk: a 75 minute-long journey into the world of cat pageantry that confirmed, just for a moment, that I am still capable of feeling joy.

Catwalk follows a bunch of Canadian feline fanatics as they travel from cat show to cat show, and compete to have their precious cargo take home the crown of the country’s best cat. If you’ve ever seen cult 90s mockumentary Best In Show, this is essentially that: only it’s actually real and it’s about cats instead of dogs.

First up, there’s Shirley and her cat Oh La La, the luxurious red persian we all want to be (see: I want to be). Groomed to within an inch of her life, La is the epitome of an animal living its best life: doted on by Shirley and sending judges everywhere misty-eyed at her flame-haired beauty and enormous size (seriously: oh lawd she comin). “No one’s going to beat her unless she has a bad hair day… and she never has a bad hair day,” explains one enamoured judge, from the interestingly named Cat Fanciers Association. La’s main opponent comes in the form of ‘loveable goof’ Bobby, a boisterous white Turkish Angora. Bobby’s owner Kim takes great pains to point out every five minutes that Bobby is decidedly lower maintenance than La, and, until La showed up, was a favourite on the pageantry circuit.

Naturally, there’s a healthy rivalry between the two women from the get-go. When her plane is delayed en route to one show, Shirley wonders if Kim has somehow sabotaged her travel plans, while Kim repeatedly tells the camera she hopes Shirley won’t turn up while laughing maniacally, and points out to anyone who will listen that pampered La is ‘just not her kind of cat’ (“Bobby is more than capable of finding his own dinner and slapping it down in the back yard,” she adds disdainfully).

It’s not just Shirley and Kim that Catwalk follows, though. There’s Maine Coon-owning smiling assassin Sabrina, who explains “Whenever you come to the cat shows, all of the competition becomes your enemies by default. We’re all human. We all have arch enemies somewhere in our lives.” Sure, Sabrina. There are owners who write their cats haikus, a rescue owner who calls her cat “the most beautiful thing on the planet, whatever anyone thinks,” when he places last, and one who refers to her small army of Exotic Shorthairs as ‘just a few kitties’. And there’s Katie, whose mum explains that, since she got her cat Smoka and started competing in pageants, her autism has improved significantly, and she’s been able to socialise, much, much more (I’m not crying, you’re crying).

Aside from the obviously hilarious moments involving the cats – Bobby horrifically coughs up a hairball on the judges table, while another is made to wear a coffee filter around its neck to protect its fur, like some sort of mad DIY Elizabethan ruff – it’s seeing these people talk so passionately about something they’re so clearly invested in that will warm even the coldest of hearts. While we languish in bed, scrolling incessantly through In Instagram and wondering why we’re feeling less than fulfilled, cat owners like Kim and Shirley are travelling across the vast expanse of Canada doing what they love most, and (spoiler!) becoming friends on the way: because, as Kim puts it – perhaps only half-jokingly – “We don’t hate each other...we just wish ill on each other’s cats.” And what could be a more beautiful sentiment than that?