Before COVID, my Augusts were spent convincing Mama Su that my attendance at BurningMan was vital to the preservation of my soul and spirit. That sordid bacchanal of radical inclusion, self-expression and self-reliance offers provocative art and un-paralleled people watching, and apart from the Orgy Dome (never been), Cuddle Puddle (once) and occasional trollop peddling a vintage bicycle across the playa in cowboy boots, boa and top hat, it’s not nearly as depraved and debauched as Su would like to believe. For me, it offered a chance to get as far as possible from my normalcy within a one-day drive, and when I tell you my head is better for the annual reboots, believe it. My face would cramp from the grinning.
But nothing in my retreats to the Nevada desert prepared me for CatCon, the annual worldwide cat convention held in Pasadena last weekend. Billed as is “where pop culture and cat culture collide”, CatCon is a wild colony of vendors of cat-themed apparel, hi-tech litter boxes and holistic remedies, cat-centric social media influencers and pretty much every hyper-committed, batshit crazy cat person within 300 miles. When rescue collaborators Tammy Barker-Noell and Sarah Hueck flexed their tickets and advised that our street cred was at risk, I took it as a test of our legitimacy and convinced the Diva to drive down last Saturday to check it out.
The drive south was uneventful but for what I mistakenly thought was Mama Su snoring, and after picking up 40 shirts from my favorite drycleaner (think go to vet for shirts and suits), we headed over to Pasadena. I texted Sarah and asked if my “Hold my drink, I need to pet this cat” hat was on point, and she responded with a selfie of her miniature scratching post earrings and opined that at best my lame get-up suggested “undercover cop.” Perfect.
Rolling up on the convention center at 3p for a 5p closing, we were on the clock. On the way in, Mama Su spotted a couple of influencers she follows—“OMG! I love your posts!”—and after a photo op in front of the CatCon banner, chastised me for not recognizing these obvious celebrities and prodded me to pick up the pace. “You’re embarrassing! Come on! Too much to see!”
At BurningMan, I’m more lurker than participant, a strategy I intended to employ here, but Mama Su was not about to waste this half-day vacation from litter boxes and laundry—she was ENGAGED. While I shuffled around making snarky comments, Su sprinted from booth to booth, checking out offerings, making snap assessments of their applicability to our mission and letting me know when she needed my insight. “This soy-based litter would be perfect for us.” “What do you think of these CatCon shorts?” “OMG…we need an Instagram!”
Once you’ve stumbled into the unseemly world of cat rescue, it’s hard to find friends that can relate to the daily challenges you tolerate. Not so at CatCon. Here you can find all sorts of like-minded folks with more extreme cases against which to calibrate your normal. “They peed in your hamper? Mine peed in the toaster.” I was tempted to counter, “But do they pee in your air ducts?” but simply nodded my understanding and kept moving.
After an hour and half of wandering the aisles, I had failed to score any of the “good” catnip—“You know…like you sell to your friends…”—and after discovering that Whiskery Workshop wasn’t a typo, I’d decided I’d been there done that and talked Su out of ordering cat-shelving for the Kitten Room and heading out to get something to eat. Over marginal Brazilian food, we concluded that if a couple could generate 10,000 followers and an income with three cats, we would rule the internet with our horde. Between the PTS room pulls, storm drain saves and the daily emotional maelstrom, we’re awash in content, and dinner then turned into a debate over positioning Louie as a lifestyle brand—“There’s a Louie for that!”—or re-branding him as Wei Tu Phat, a portly Himalayan enforcer, like Oddjob from Goldfinger, only furrier.
Our speculation about the can’t miss it awesomeness of our proposed TikTok continued during the 3 ½ hour drive home until the sight of dirty cat beds and cat dishes piled up on the lundry room steps shocked us back to reality, and a week later we’re back into our usual routine. But make no mistake, CatCon is proof that there’s an audience out there that understands a washer load of cat toys, and we intend to capture it. CatCon.