Last weekend, CatCon took the internet by storm. Ten-thousand people descended on the convention in Los Angeles, which featured appearances by celebrity cats, cat-centric panels, and all the cat swag you could shake a stick with a dangling feather at.
The internet’s love affair with our cat friends is long documented (and we’ve been posing cats in wacky situations since the advent of photography). I fully expect future scholars to publish dissertations attempting to parse the cultural meaning of LOLCats. Back in the 2000s, those image macros featuring a cat and a grammatically incorrect message were popular enough to become a business model for I Can Haz Cheezburger, among other LOLCat spinoff businesses.
And now we have celebrity cats. Grumpy Cat is king — or queen, as she’s a she — with a movie, product lines and tie-ins, an entourage, and a significant fee for an appearance.
Grumpy Cat was not in attendance at the inaugural CatCon. As reported by the New York Times:
She was apparently not welcome. “I didn’t want cats being held up like pieces of meat,” [organizer] Ms. Michals said.
Cat-handler side-eye aside, there were other famous felines on hand at CatCon: the ridiculously wonderful to behold L’il Bub, a star with 27 million YouTube views, and Pudge the cat, an exotic shorthair with a moustache and followers in the hundreds of thousands across a variety of platforms. L’il Bub held forth from a l’il desk:
Image via Instagram: continuants
Two days of programming featured panels with titles like My Cat’s a Celebrity... And How I’ve Dealt With That; Photographing Cats - It Looks Easy, But It’s Not; You Can Be a Cat Guy and Still Be Cool; How Cats Have Changed the Internet & My Favorite Memes; Goodbye Dowdy, Hello Gorgeous: Debunking the Cat Lady Myth, which was introduced by Big Bang Theory actress (and neuroscientist) Mayim Bialik, who was there to help promote the Con’s cat adoption efforts.
While Instagram is often referred to as a repository for cat photos, Tumblr went mad for CatCon, with CatCon fans and attendees posting in a feline-fuelled frenzy all weekend.
There were cosplayers appearing, creators there to sell a wide array of themed merchandise for humans and cats, and of course, posts promoting the famous cats’ appearance on their personal Tumblr feeds. Faraway fans who couldn’t make it to LA were also excited about CatCon as a Snapchat “event.
Following the attendees’ accounts, it appears that CatCon was a “super-crowded” success, and it is only likely to grow in popularity after the profusion of this year’s social media insanity. With tickets priced at $25 and a portion of the funds going to cat-orientated charities, it’s not a bad way to pass a weekend. But what’s next? Will dogs have their convention day? It’s unlikely.
While the internet never gets tired of a cute pup, our canine companions just don’t seem to have the same viral reach. Can you name a celebrity dog instantly recognisable by his scrunched-up face, with his own brand of coffee? Doge has yet to launch a clothing line. Why do cats have such a stranglehold on the internet — and our hearts and wallets? Is this all part of their master plan?