They came in on little cat feet with meowing ringtones. They came sporting giant Siamese cat heads, kitten-themed T-shirts that read “Downton Tabby” and “Cats are the New Kids.”
Nearly all wore cat ears -- from green foam to black lace, some of simple bent wire, others crafted from delicate dried rosebuds or rows of pearls.
The event was the first CatConLA, a two-day conclave of feline fanciers at the Reef in downtown Los Angeles -- “like a Comic-Con for cat people,” said attendee Bryanna Cleland of Fairfield, Calif.
Cleland had borrowed a friend’s outsized cat head and tail so she could go full Siamese for the event, posing for pictures and dispensing cuddles. (She said the outfit is doing double duty this weekend -- at a nearby convention called Califur.)
While dog owners have long had the built-in sociability of the dog park and on-leash walks, feline ownership, by nature, is more solitary. But here, lovers of all things feline were in full mingle mode, pawing through merchandise that ranged from $3 “catnip joints” to a $100 interactive robotic kitty.
Cat puns abounded. There were Feline Yogi mats for sale, and “Business Catual” bow ties. There was even a guy, shield in tow, dressed as Cat-ptain America.
Organizers said one of the event’s goals was to flip the script on negative perceptions of cat ownership.
To that end, event sponsor PetSmart Charities enlisted actress Mayim Bialik to introduce a seminar on the topic of debunking the cat lady myth. As she did, Bialik who owns a feral rescue cat named Frances Miffy Goes to the Zoo, issued a challenge to help break the stereotype.
“Post a selfie of yourself with your adopted cat,” the actress urged. Bialik said she’ll choose five of her favorites and the pets and their owners will become the faces of PetSmart Charities.
What was missing from the event, mostly, were actual cats.
There was a strict rule not to bring your own, so the only living cats present were celebrities, such as the endearingly deformed Internet sensation Lil Bub, who were doing meet and greets, and the 65 kittens brought for on-the-spot adoption by the Best Friends animal shelter.
At one point at least 50 people were in line for the kittens.