first person

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2006, 12:00am

Rarteo Lo China-Keung, 41, is president of the Hong Kong Cat Lovers' Society, which is staging its first Cat Expo at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on August 5 and 6.

From a Chinese point of view, a dog is more like a foreigner. When they meet you they show affection, like foreigners who hug and kiss each other warmly.

A cat will smell you a little bit, walk by and may rub against you and that's it. This is more similar to the Chinese way. Cats never use big actions. They still care about you, but don't do the showy stuff.

I have been keeping cats for about 13 years. I have two British short-haired cats and a domestic long-haired cat. I used to show my cats when they were young, but now they are old and they have retired.

People say they prefer dogs because they have definite personalities, but all my cats have personalities. One likes slippers very much, especially old smelly slippers. Another is deaf and lives in a very calm world. We think she has been deaf since birth. At first we thought she was brave because she was not startled by loud noises, but then we realised it was because she couldn't hear anything. The third is just like a dog and spends a lot of time around us.

I like cats better than dogs, and the city way of life here is much better for cats. People work long hours. They go out early in the morning and come back late at night. A cat still needs attention but less care. They don't need the space or the outdoor walks and exercise. They can use any free space in your home to get their exercise.

I was one of the founders of the Hong Kong Cat Lovers' Society. We formed in November 1997 and I became president in 1999.

During that time, I have seen a very sharp increase in cats in pet shows and in pet shops.

Eight or 10 years ago when you walked around a pet shop, 95 per cent of the animals were dogs. Now when you go to a pet shop 95 per cent of them have a glass cabinet with cats inside.

As a society we have been running cat shows since 1998, but the event on August 5 and 6 will be our first expo. Our mother club, the Cat Fanciers' Association in the US, is celebrating its100th anniversary and it is also our club's 10th championship cat show, which is the reason we decided to have a big celebration and do something different.

It will be more of a cultural event than a commercial one with several different displays. There will be an exhibition of paintings of cats by 24 local artists - some of them very famous - and a collection showcase, displaying things with a cat theme which our members have collected or been sent as gifts from all over the world.

The society has also co-organised something with a non-profit-making company called Cat City and the Cat of Fortitude. This is a very special organisation in which half the workers are disabled. It produces a series of products based on seven cat cartoon characters all of which have different disabilities.

They will set up something like a playground in which people will be invited to take part in role-playing games in which they are blindfolded and then have to make their way through an obstacle course. It is aimed as showing people what life is like for a blind person. I think it will give a very good signal to the community.

Our fifth event we are calling a big parade. We have 44 recognised cat breeds in our organisation and we are getting together some educational material, photographs and text on each breed.

There are no evil connotations about cats in Chinese culture as there are in western culture, but some people are still scared of cats. When they talk about cats, they say cats are cruel, they will scratch you. We hope the expo will show people the benefits of keeping cats.

Details about Cat of Fortitude's work can be found on the website