The Premier Online Magazine devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats
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The Premier Online Magazine
devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

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The Premier Online Magazine devoted
to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

Close this search box.

GC, BWR, NW Loveknot’s Raphael

CFA First National Winning Pointed Exotic Shorthair In Championship

My name is Laura Benko. I first began showing Himalayans and Persians in the mid 1980’s. When I married and started a family, a had to give up my beloved cats… but my love for them and desire to show and breed pedigreed cats remained with me throughout the years. When my youngest child became a senior in high school, I began my cattery again — this time with colorpoint and solid Exotics.

Baby Raphael

In early 2021, I bred my blue-cream Exotish Shorthair to my sealpoint regional winner, GC, RW Loveknot’s Top Hat and Tails.

(left) Raphael’s Dam: Loveknot’s Miss Adventure (right) Raphael’s Sire: GC, RW Loveknot’s Top Hat and Tails

Addie produced a small litter of two cream point boys. One was particularly stunning. I looked at him and I thought of the name “Raphael”. I knew that it was meant to be his name. But I had his father, so I had no place for him in my breeding program. A family who had purchased a kitten from me previously inquired if I had another kitten to be a “little brother” for the first. I offered them the beautiful Kitten, knowing that it was a very loving home and he was an exceptionally sweet kitten.

Baby Raphael cuddles up to his sibling

Ultimately the family chose to wait. Not long after, I unexpectedly lost Raphael’s father, creating a place for the show baby in my breeding program. He was staying at Loveknot.

Kitten Career 2021-2022

As a kitten, Raphael showed very well. His large, round eyes, incredible eye color, deep nose break and broad, smooth head were his most notable features. He was a natural showman. He was often Best Kitten in the finals and easily racked up enough points to be CFA Midwest Region’s 5th Best Kitten.

Raphael as a kitten
In between show rings, Raphael loved playing with his favorite toy — a yellow bow.

As An Adult

Raphael granded quickly at 8 months. Beginning with the 2021/2022 season, CFA split the Exotic Shorthairs into separate Breed/Color divisions for the first time.  We decided to continue showing Raphael after granding to see if he could earn a national Breed title.

New GC Loveknot Raphael pictured at 8 months of age

And he did it! Raphael was the first cat to earn the title of Best Colorpoint Exotic for CFA Regions 1-9.

GC, RW Loveknot’s Raphael was now a “double” regional winner:

  • CFA Midwest Region’s 5th Best Cat in Championship
  • CFA Midwest Region’s 5th Best Kitten
  • Multiple Best Kitten and Best Cat Winner
  • 2 show Grand at 8 months
  • Best Cat as an Open

We were so proud of Raphael’s accomplishments. He was retired and began a new career siring kittens.

GC, BWR, RW Loveknot’s Raphael

Papa Raphael

Raphael’s first litter was a singleton — a tortie point Exotic female. She granded in 2024 and is now GC Loveknot’s Piccolo.

Raphael’s first daughter, GC Loveknot’s Piccolo

More Raphael babies are waiting their turn in the show ring: shorthair, longhair, pointed, parti-colors.

More Raphael offspring

A Friend’s Advice

In the summer of 2023, I had a friend over to visit the cattery, Garry Hollingsworth, a retired breeder and exhibitor of Himalayans and Persians under the cattery name “Impression”. He was one of my original mentors when I first began with Persians and Himalayans in the late 1980’s. Garry looked at Raphael and said that he believed he was “magnificent” and had national potential. I thanked him for his kind and generous words; they meant a lot to me. But he didn’t stop there. He ended the conversation by saying that I shouldn’t take for granted that I’d ever have a cat like Raphael again. I should take him back out to the shows and give him a chance to see how far he would fare against the best cats in CFA nationally.

His words echoed through my mind for several days. I couldn’t shake them. I realized that I had to try. Thanks to Garry’s prompting, I began getting Raphael into condition to show again. The goal this time would be to add the NW title to the front of his name.

Raphael’s profile

The Second Campaign Begins

His first show of his national campaign was Brockport, NY in the fall of 2023. Having taken a full season off, I was nervous about how Raphael might behave being shown as a breeding stud cat. But Raphael was a trooper. With each new show, he warmed up to showing again and quickly found his feet. I’d never shown a male in Championship past one year of age, so he and I learned together the challenges of showing a breeding boy. The coat of a mature male cat is more oily, and stud tail is an issue. By trial and error, I discovered which products worked best for him in comparison to what I had used previously.  As a youngster he never sprayed, but I realized that any stud cat will spray under the right circumstances, like a show hall full of other whole males and queens in season… so I prepared to handle the extra clean-up. Most importantly, I became skilled at neutralizing the smell of a mature male cat.

Raphael wears a crown because Laura treated him like a king, including a feast of food choices.

Putting On The Miles

I began the season with a new SUV. While I was prepared to fly to shows, the shows we needed to go were all within driving distance. The furthest away were two in Kansas, two in Minnesota, two in New York, one in Maryland, two in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, two in Tennessee, Illinois, and the list goes on. I ended the season putting 34,000 miles on the car from traveling to cat shows alone. Audio books and podcasts were my best friends on long trips. I have a tendency to get a little drowsy when I drive, so audio books kept me alert (and awake).

The Crab and Mallet Show in Timonium, Maryland was a white-knuckle drive home. My friend, Donna Zimmerman and her #1 HHP, Johnny, were riding with me. When we checked the weather on our phones, everything looked fine. But on the drive home we hit a snowstorm in the mountains of Maryland with whiteout conditions. It was pitch black night, the snow was pounding the windshield, the wind was blowing the car sideways, no plows were clearing the road, you couldn’t see pavement and there were no ruts to follow. Donna watched the guard rail on the right and I prayed hard and kept both hands on the wheel. I’ve driven under difficult road conditions before, but I’ve never been so afraid as I was that night on the road. It was almost two hours before we were made it off the mountain and the storm tapered off.

Donna Zimmerman with Johnny, CFA’s Best Household Pet 2023-2024

International Judges

As the season progressed, Raphael looked and felt better and better.  I loved having the opportunity to have Raphael handled by judges who had never seen him before, trying to divine their thought process as they evaluated him on the table. Judges Peter and Yanina Vanwonterghem from Belgium were two of my favorites. They judged the Genesee Cat Fanciers Show in New York in March and gave him his two highest scoring rings of the season. 

Another highlight for me was another international judge who had never seen Raphael before. Judge Kit Fung from Hong Kong chose Raphael as his Best Cat at the show in Wheaton, IL. 

Raphael continued his momentum. His name climbed up the national standings… and kept moving up… 25th, 22nd, 19th… We were in a good position in the standings coming out of March, but took nothing for granted. We entered every show in the US in April, and chose our shows based on count and the breed summaries.  By the last show of the season we knew Raphael was CFA’s 17th Best Cat In Championship. We had accomplished our goal. Raphael would add that exclusive NW to his name.

GC, BWR, NW Loveknot’s Raphael, CFA’s 17th Best Cat In Championship 2023-2024

A History-Maker

Once the initial excitement of Raphael earning his NW had calmed down, I wondered when was the last time a colorpoint Exotic had earned an NW in Championship. Not knowing where to find the information, I emailed Lee Harper of PandEcats online magazine to ask her if she knew where I could find a list of past winners. She quickly informed me that although there had been 8 previous colorpoint national winning Exotics, there had NEVER been a pointed Exotic National Winner in Championship. Raphael made CFA history with his win!

GC, BWR, NW Loveknot’s Raphael, CFA’s 17th Best Cat In Championship 2023-2024

A Final Farewell

Being able to show Raphael to his national win was an honor, a privilege, and a dream come true. However Raphael’s historical win was both sweet and bittersweet. Garry, our friend who had first encouraged me to take Raphael on this journey, passed away unexpectedly in January 2024.  Without Garry’s enthusiasm and friendship, I can honestly say that Raphael’s win would never have happened. I am forever indebted to Garry. I miss my friend. But it also makes me smile when I recall the pleasure Garry felt taking Raphael up to the rings during the campaign season. Farewell my friend. You were one-of-a-kind.

Garry Hollingworth takes Raphael up to the judging ring.

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GC, BW, NW Loveknot’s Raphael

Cream Point Exotic Shorthair

CFA’s 17 Best Cat in Championship 2023-2024

DOB 04/29/2021
Sire: GC, RW Loveknot’s Top Hat & Tails
Dam:  Loveknot’s Miss Adventure
Breeder/Owner: Laura Benko