Cats were meowing, snakes slithering, hermit crabs crawling and iguanas lurking. With about 100 people milling in and around those animals Saturday, building 21S at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds resembled a zoo.
It was the scene of the 2000 4-H Cat and Hand Pet Show.
The show featured 34 hand pets -- ferrets, hermit crabs, lizards, snakes, gerbils, hamsters and rabbits -- and 59 cats.
Organizer Mary Berg said the show continues to grow each year.
"I am totally amazed by the number of cats," she said.
Berg said contestants, who spend five minutes with a judge, are evaluated primarily on knowledge about their pet rather than the quality of the pet.
"We use this project as a way for the kids to get a one-on-one opportunity to talk about their pets," Berg said. "It's almost like public speaking."
The grand champion for cats was 16-year-old Clint Hornberger of the Palmyra 4-H Club. The grand champion for hand pets was 14-year-old Kailey Mesler of the Lone Star 4-H Club.
Champions and reserve champions were chosen in four age groups, (7-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-19) for indoor cats, outdoor cats and hand pets. In addition, awards were given for best enhanced cage environment, best decorated cage, most colorful pet and most unusual pet. The latter award went to a cat which thought it was a dog and had a dog as a best friend.
Gillian Broadfoot, 13, Lawrence, brought a cat and a water dragon to the event. Her water dragon, named Lenny, had been trained to "play dead," lying on its back until Broadfoot instructed it to roll back over.
She said the toughest part of preparation was calming her 10-month-old cat.
"She thinks she is at the vet and she had a bad experience last time," Broadfoot said. "I need to get her calm."
Jessica Ardahl, 13, Overbrook,was showing her 2-year-old iguana. The iguana had a 5-foot high cage with a tree branch. She said she feeds the iguana green beans, lettuce and fruits.
"My mom doesn't like him," Ardahl said. "They said I could have him if they didn't have to do anything."
The cage with four hermit crabs belonged to 8-year-old Justin Ballock of Eudora. He said he fed the crabs peanut butter, lettuce and popcorn. Ballock explained what he has learned about his pets.
"If they lose an eye or a leg, it just grows back," he said. "This one hermit crab left its shell to find a new one and then came back to the one he had before."
Chris Berg, 8, Lawrence, had two gerbils at the show. One was named Smoky and the other Woodchips. He said he knew the secret to success.
"You should tell them everything you know before they ask," Berg said.