"My cat's on Instagram" is a phrase you don't hear all that often, unless you happened to be at Sunday's premiere of the L.A. Feline Film Festival at Exposition Park. It was everything magical that a cat lover dreams of: Web favorite Lil Bub and other celebrity cats, an 80-foot outdoor screen playing the Web's best cat videos, and a safe space for humans to dress as cats in public.
The festival was organized by Organikat, an eco-friendly maker of cat products, and it drew an estimated 7,000 feline fans. The global 39-city tour began as an initiative by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. A percentage of Sunday's ticket sales went to cat rescue and adoption groups, such as No-Kill Los Angeles Pet Adoption Center and Kitty Bungalow.
Super fans paid $100 to meet wide-eyed, Internet-famous Lil Bub, the host of a popular Web series and a published author. Owner Mike Bridavsky, who has two tattoos (cat-toos?) of Bub's likeness, says events like the Feline Film Festival help boost awareness for cat-related causes. "All the money from Bub's appearances goes to charity...for special needs pets, which Bub is," he says.
The proud cat dad says Bub is very intellectual, a trait missed by people who judge the perma-kitten on her appearance. "Yeah, she's silly looking, but … she's like a superhero. She's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but a cat."
A real-life feline superhero, Tara the Hero Cat, the domestic defender from Bakersfield who fought off a dog to save her boy, also did a meet-and-greet with her selfie-snapping fans. A surveillance video captured Tara's heroic act and swiftly went viral, propelling the housecat into the feline hall of fame. Tara's owner Erica Triantafilo says Tara receives letters and treats from Japan, Russia, Australia, Mexico, Canada and other countries.
And then there's the cat that got famous on Animal Planet for stealing from the neighbors. Dusty the Klepto Kitty's owner Jean Chu says the cat burglar brings home gloves, shoes, pacifiers and once even got his paws on a neighbor's bra and a bikini. "He started when he was about 2," confesses Chu. She suspects her 17-pound snowshoe cat is playing a misguided game of fetch in the neighborhood. But Dusty's no hoarder -- he apparently leaves his loot on the doorstep. Classic thrill crime? You be the judge.
With so many festival-goers donned in full-kitty garb, one might wonder, what is it about cats that makes cat-lovers such loyal and enthusiastic pet owners?
Briana and Sam Kriemelmeyer were there to answer. "We were breaded cats for Halloween last year," said Briana, who was referring to the Internet meme of a cat's face framed by a slice of bread. She was sporting a gray cat hat she fashioned to resemble her Canadian sphynx, Omar Little (who she'll dress up as for Halloween this year).
"I don't like cats very much," she admitted, but the complex relationship between a cat and owner is what drew her into cat culture. "I think people have much more personal relationships with their cats than people with dogs because they kind of make you work for it," Briana said. "And when a cat … bonds with you, it's because you … earned their respect."