The First CatCon: People Are Cool Cats, Too!
Did you miss out on CatCon in Los Angeles last weekend? I bought my tickets several months ago, and I really had very little idea of what to expect. I didn’t know how many people would be there, what the talks would be about, or what kind of exhibitors would be there. But as the date for CatCon grew closer, the details filled in…and even then, I knew it was going to be something that you’d have to actually experience first-hand in order to know what it was all about. So, today I’m going to write about the first-ever CatCon, from a cat behaviorists’ perspective. I hope that even if you didn’t get to go, this post will give you a glimpse into this crazy weekend full of cats, cat culture, and the people who embrace it!
Pre-CatCon Visit to Best Friends Animal Society
On Friday, the day before CatCon, I was fortunate to be able to meet up with my friend Liz, who works with neonatal kittens and fosters at Best Friends Animal Society in LA. Liz and I do our Cat Chat podcast together, but we’d never actually met in person, if you can believe it (ah, the wonders of technology). So, I met her after she got off of work and she was able to give me and my husband a special tour of the no-kill adoption facility. I even got to meet a few of the cats who would also be attending CatCon that weekend, because Best Friends supplied all of the cats and kittens that would be up for adoption at CatCon. They were obviously practicing their A-games, because Chris and I fell in love with one particular kitty named Khan. Or maybe he fell in love with us! He was actually adopted on Saturday (hooray!) and I hope that whoever his new guardians are modified his name to be CatKhan! But I’m getting ahead of myself, I suppose. In addition to meeting a lot of adoptable cats (and some dogs), we also got to see the neonatal kittens in a special part of the shelter where they are raised until they can be fostered or adopted out. I think if the room had even one more kitten in it, it would have exploded from all of the cuteness!!! But these kittens have to be taken care of around the clock, and from what I saw, taking care of all the kittens was a lot of hard (and very messy) work. I have great admiration for Liz and the people she works with! And, it was awesome to see such a well-run shelter that is dedicated to finding homes for all the animals that they care for. Save Them All is the Best Friends motto, and if anyone can do it, they can. (Click on any of the below pictures to enlarge them.)
CatCon Day 1: An Overwhelming Number of People, Cats, and Stuff I Want to Buy
The first day of CatCon started with a line of people going around the block waiting to get in to The Reef, where the event was being held. There were all sorts of people in line, but common themes seemed to be cat ears and tattoos. Ah, I have found my people, at last! Not only were these people who undoubtedly appreciate the feline form, but this was going to be a feast for the eyes. I’m willing to bet that people-watching at an event like this amounts to heaven for anyone who identifies as a behaviorist! Right? Right! After getting inside, I met up with my friend Janet and we made a bee-line up to the Lil BUB meet and greet (and let me say right now that it was TOTALLY WORTH IT to pay the extra money for the Lil BUB meet and greet package!). We knew the line would probably be long (and it was), but it moved quickly and soon I was chatting it up with Mike Bridavsky (Lil BUB’s Dude) and Lil BUB herself! I thanked Mike for all of the work he and BUB have done with Fix Nation, and tried to soak up as much science and magic as I could from BUB. Mike was super nice and I can only imagine how much energy it must take to meet (and greet) all of those Lil BUB fans!
Beyond getting to meet Lil BUB and her dude on Saturday, most of Day 1 was a blur. There were So. Many. People! They were expecting 10,000 people at the event, and I think they were all there that day! The line for seeing the adoptable cats wound around the sides of the walls for as far as the eye could see, and there were lines for seeing vendors booths, too (I didn’t even get a chance to step into the Pusheen booth). There was an amazing assortment of cat art, with many of the artists themselves present. And any cat accessory you could dream up was available – bow-ties, collars, harnesses, sweaters…not to mention the cat accessories for people! I took lots of photos, which you can see at the bottom of this page. By 2 pm I was pooped. I had to go and take a catnap, because I knew that Day 2 was going to be just as insane.
CatCon Day 2: Talk about Cats, More Stuff, and More Lil BUB
Remember the Lil BUB meet and greet package that I mentioned? One of the best things about it was that it gave me VIP access to the talks that were happening throughout the weekend. And while I didn’t go to any talks on Saturday, I did see a few on Sunday. The first talk I went to was by Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezburger and creator of the cat meme. His talk was titled “How cats have changed the Internet and my favorite memes”, so it was pretty much what you would expect – a highly entertaining talk about why people like cat pictures interspersed with hilarious cat memes. (A question from the audience of note: Why do people who enjoy seeing pictures of cats also enjoy illiteracy?”) He was super funny, and I even got to say hello after his talk.
Next up were Will Braden (creator of the “Henri, Le Chat Noir” videos) and Scott Stulen (creator of the Internet Cat Video Festival), who gave a talk called “Cat Vid Fest Favorites”. Again, pretty much what you would expect, but they also talked a lot about what they look for in a good cat video when they select submissions to the Internet Cat Video Festival. While I’m not about to make any viral youtube videos in the near future, I like watching cat videos on youtube and I concur with Will and Scott’s assessment of what makes a good cat video!
I had some time to hang out between talks, so I spent a fair amount of time looking at vendor booths and purchasing cat art and t-shirts. I was able to get into the Best Friends adoption area to just buy a couple of shirts, and I didn’t even have to wait in the insanely long line! And, I heard that a total of 74 cats were adopted at the event…in fact, they had to bring more cats to the event on Sunday because they ran out! Hooray for all of those adopted kitties – that’s what it’s all about, I think. And, another miracle: given how many people were at CatCon, you’d think it would be pretty much impossible to run into anyone, right? Incorrect! I actually ran into two fellow cat behaviorists whom I was hoping to meet. First, I saw Daniel Quagliozzi from Go Cat Go in San Francisco, and then Sally Williams from The Contented Cat out of New Jersey. I spent some time talking with Sally about her business and we traded some tips with each other; both Daniel and Sally are behaviorists that I admire very much and I was thrilled to have met them!
BONUS TREAT TIME! Sally gave me a tip-off that a celebricat was holed up in an RV in the parking lot across the street, and that I should just go and knock on the door. Sound sketchy? Yes, incredibly! But, true to her word, the people who answered my knock were very nice, and were in fact the dedicated parents of Sauerkraut the kitty! They were on tour from Oklahoma, visiting various events and raising money for animal shelters and causes. Kitties were generally not allowed into CatCon, so Sauerkraut was happy to visit with people from the RV. And while I was super excited to meet her, she couldn’t have cared less about meeting me! But maybe that’s just the way she looks all of the time!?! (Please tell me it is.)
But back to CatCon. After waiting in line for about an hour and a half, I was on my way into the final talk of the event: Lil BUB’s Big Show with Mike Bridavsky, Lil BUB, and Jack McBrayer (you know him as Kenneth from 30 Rock). So. Insanely. Cute!!! Lil Bub sat at a little host desk with a microphone, while Mike wrote what she was saying on his computer and projected it on a video screen. OOOPS! I mean, Mike just sat there and checked his email, yes, that was what he was doing. BUB showed some videos, and then introduced us to Jack, who pretty much just cracked up the entire time. The best part was the Q&A session with the audience – BUB answered her own questions, and Jack was hilarious in his innocent, southern-charm kind of way (“When people tell me I would make a good serial killer, do they mean that as a compliment?”). It was catastic!
And just as quickly as the first CatCon got started, it was over. As soon as we emerged from the presentation room, we saw that half of the lights had been turned off, most of the people were gone, and most of the booths were empty and dismantled. It was a bit sad, actually, because you saw that the magical place of CatCon didn’t exist outside of this weekend – it was gone in both time and space. But there’s always next year and CatCon 2, yes? YES??? YESSSSSS!!!!! Enjoy these pictures – click to make them larger. And don’t miss CatCon next year! It will be worth it!
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