When Bob Rohrbaugh and Janet Spain first saw each other across a crowded room back in 2002, that room was crowded with cats. More specifically, the room was a hall at a cat show.
For years, they admired each other’s cats from afar. At the time, Bob was interested in a rare breed called the Toyger, while Janet was into Savannahs. Neither breed was officially recognized yet, but each independently began showing and working on developing their breeds to gain championship status. In this shared pursuit of exotic feline recognition, the duo also recognized their own compatibility.
Fast forward to 2014, and the pair finally began to date.
“Once we became a couple and started to travel and show our cats together, they spent many a night in the hotels and show halls playing together. [The cats] had no idea that they were different breeds. They were friends like we were friends,” Spain tells PEOPLE exclusively.
In August of 2015, the couple was attending a cat show in Florida together when Bob popped the question.
“Once the judging was over, we brought our cats back to the hotel room,” recalls Spain. “It was a beautiful evening … We walked down to the beach with a bottle of champagne, glasses and a beach towel to watch the sunset. Bob leaned over and kissed me, and said ‘Will you marry me?’ It was most romantic and, of course, I said ‘Yes.'”
Although the cats weren’t part of the proposal itself, Janet says “if it wasn’t for the cats we would never have met and fallen in love.”
Along the way, Bob became the secretary of the Westchester Feline Club and Janet is the club’s show manager. Currently, they are not only planning the club’s 2017 cat show over the weekend of May 20-21, but also their own wedding. The couple will be married in one of the show rings at the Ramada in Fishkill, New York, by a cat judge after the show on Saturday.
“We will have our boy Midnight in a groom outfit, and the girl Toyger dressed as a bride at the show,” says Spain. “They will not be part of the ceremony, but will be there to share our celebration.”
Aside from the non-traditional wedding, the cat show itself will feature six judging rings with judges from across the country. Usually between 100 to 250 cats and kittens compete in the TICA (The International Cat Association) show, comprised of 71 breeds in championship. Competitions include best of breed, best of region and best internationally. Janet’s cat AList Savanna’s Midnight Jas and Bob’s SGC Wildfx Seekin Stardom were both best of breed winners last year. Midnight Jas also gained the title for international winning cat.
For those who are more familiar with dog shows, cat show judging is similar as the judges are looking for confirmation to the breed standard. Body, eyes, color and personality complete the full cat-judging package. (See Janet’s winning Savannah below.)
“Cats are judged on a judging table and are not walked on leashes,” notes Spain. “The wonderful part of TICA [is] that all cat lovers can participate with either pedigree cats or household pets … once a kitten turns 4 months old, it is eligible to enter the show and can compete as a kitten until it reaches 8 months old then the kitten graduates into the adult class. There’s no age limit for competition.”
RELATED VIDEO: How to Cut Your Cat’s Nails
In addition to regional and international winners, other titles include champion, grand champion, double grand, triple grand and quadruple grand champion, then supreme grand champion — the highest title awarded. There is also a lifetime achievement award. For Janet and Bob, their cat-loving life together is an achievement in of itself.
When asked what their non-cat show family thinks of their passion for all things feline, Janet says “For sure they think we spend way too much time and money on our cats and spend way too much time talking about our cats … [but] they are accepting of our lives and know that [it’s] what we love most of all.”
As for their honeymoon, “It will definitely be a cat show with our cats,” says Janet. Sounds purr-fect.
For more information about the Westchester Feline Club Cat Show on May 20-21 in Fishkill, New York, visit the club’s Facebook page.