jrodriguez@mercurynews.com

SAN JOSE -- Just as they have for three decades now, the coolest cats around showed up again in this town. And, man, did they impress the ladies!

"This one has heavy bones, massive feet and great big eyes," Vicki Nye said as she wrapped her arms around the white, blond and dark brown Persian Calico named Desi and cooed, "If I could steal one, it would be this one."

OK, let's not get too carried away.

Nye was a judge Sunday at the 30th annual Tails and No Tales Cat Show at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Desi was a furry prizewinner, bred and owned by Connie Stewart, a Southern California cat lover whose hobby is showing her cats at shows like this.

From the looks of the weekend haul of winning ribbons, Desi did very well.

"She could be cat of the year," Nye said.

Fluffy competition

More than 160 cats, their owners and a few hundred spectators filed into a fairgrounds hall for an eye-popping, mesmerizing competition. From huge, fluffy, flat-faced Persians to slender, short-tailed Japanese Bobtails, the cats covered every imaginable look breeders have worked on for centuries.

The contest itself resembled a beauty contest but sounded something like a horse race. The scoring system was as mystifying as those for Olympic figure skating and NASCAR auto racing, but the constant din, applause or moans of disappointment didn't seem to affect anyone too much.

"The judging is very subjective," said Jo Cordes Brown, the cat club's president. Co-founder Kendall Smith added, "Sure, it gets confusing at times but that's the way it is. You get used to it." At this and other local shows, there was no top winner, no "best of show" as there are in dog shows. Famously finicky cats simply have no interest in running around tracks or jumping through hoops.

Instead, they competed in "rings" presided over by individual judges. Basically, the cats were put in cages around a small table with overhead lights. Cat owners and spectators sat in chairs to watch as the judges lifted one cat a time, placed it on the table and graded how well the feline met standards for its breed. Judges often waved colorful wands to perk up the cats, and they meted out ribbons in a matter of minutes.

As the judges told their audiences what they liked about a cat, a voice on an intrusive but necessary public address system kept announcing the next round, in the next ring. As owners scurried to get their felines ready -- this included the application of eye drops, pep talks and lots and lots of combing -- the cats meowed or purred or generally ignored all the fuss being made over them.

Love of cats

Cats competed in divisions for breed, color, age, size and whether they have been spayed or neutered. There were even divisions for small "toy" cats and ordinary, household cats. Cats earned points based on their placement within each ring combined with the number of opponents each had beaten in the ring.

Got that? Well, never mind. Basically, the top cats in the show earned points toward regional and national awards from the Cat Fancier's Association, a national organization.

The weekend show has come a long way since Smith and a few cat-loving friends applied for membership in the national association. The Tails and No Tales show has grown into the largest in the South Bay and one of the largest in the state.

"I've been doing this for a long time," she said. Smith now lives in Washington state but attends the San Jose show almost every year. "I do it for the love of cats and for friends I've met along the way."

The next Tails and No Tales cat show is scheduled for March 7 and 8, 2015, at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. More information is available online at www.tailsandnotales.com and www.cfa.org."Ž