CatConLA’s Untold Stories: The Underground Celebrity Cat Community

CHICAGO, June 9, 2015 – CatConLA this past weekend was a rousing success with an estimated 10,000 visitors descending upon Los Angeles from all around California; and many making the trek from all parts of the U.S. Attendees pounced on The Reef in Downtown Los Angeles early Saturday, June 6, 2015, to hear talks from top-name cat celebrities like Ben Huh of Cheezburger, Mike Bridavsky of Lil BUB and Will Braden, creator of Henri le Chat Noir. They also came to find cool new cat products with nearly 100 vendors selling the latest in cat necessities… and they came to enjoy each other.

CatConLA is the first major convention for people who love cats and the brainchild of Founder Susan Michals. “The idea behind CatConLA was to change the perception of how the cat lover is viewed; when you say you’re into cats, people think ‘crazy cat lady.’ That’s not a bad thing per se – look at Taylor Swift – she’s the ultimate cat lady right now and proud of it,” says Michals.

Lauren Mieli, Founder of The Catnip Times (me), agreed.

“As an embedded reporter at the show, I saw first hand that the CatConLA attendees were the exact opposite of the typical stereotypes. The crowd was young, vibrant and enthusiastic.”

The event drew a great deal of attention from mainstream media like the LA Times, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conan’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and others who showed up in droves to cover the show. But there was another side of CatConLA that many may have missed:

CatConLA is a Crazy Cat Lady Convention, right? Wrong.

The myth of the old cat lady, is just that – a myth. CatConLA proved that today’s cat lady is cool, hip, and sometimes very sexy. Walking through the aisles of CatConLA, the vibe was definitely vibrant and young. Many young women were sporting kitty ears sponsored by Animal Planet and some came dressed up with a sexier spin on being a cat lady, such as Holly Meowy (@hollymeowy), who was volunteering at the FixNation (@FixNation) booth.


Men really do love cats. And that’s hot right meow.

One of the most surprising things about CatConLA was the number of men that attended. And, no, the men were not being dragged there unwillingly. Scores of young men, many of them hunky, showed up proudly wearing t-shirts with cats on them. While the guys may not have been interested in getting a caticure (cat manicure), they were really interested in looking at new and interesting products to wear or build for their cats like the cat ramps and shelves by Catastrophic Creations or the t-shirts and jewelry with an edge by Outlaw Kitty.

Real Men Love Cats: Bernie, Dave and Derek showing off their best cat T's.

Real Men Love Cats: Bernie, Dave and Derek showing off their best cat T’s.

Cat people showing love for their cats – by wearing them.

Thousands of people showed up wearing amazing t-shirts with cat faces on them. When stopped and asked about where they got their shirt, resoundingly, the answer was “This is my cat!” and “I couldn’t bring my cat with me physically, so this is the next best thing!” said Rob and Heather from Los Angeles who were wearing t-shirts with their cats Harold and Philomena.

The “celebrity cat underground” 

As an “embedded reporter” and one of the celebrity cat underground, it was obvious that the mainstream media missed reporting on the appearance of many other hugely famous internet sensations. These fans are a key driving force behind the internet cat craze and they have had a huge influence on making the mainstream catlebrities famous. Many are also internet cat celebrities (catlebrities) in their own right with enormous followings in the hundreds of thousands. They showed up at CatConLA and convened at after-party events that were not sponsored by or associated with CatConLA, but cropped up independently – a result of the influx of catlebrities coming together. People met at MeowMeetLA and a separate invitation-only private event hosted by Meowbox.

While CatConLA was a public event, it was also a “who’s who” in the celebrity cat world that expands well beyond Grumpy Cat (who did not make an appearance). Names like Chris Poole of Cole & Marmalade, Tara the Hero Cat’s dad, Roger Triantafilo, Eli Omidi of Cats of Instagram, Erik DeLeo, of The LA Feline Film Festival (#LAFFF) and so many others attended. CatConLA gave these people a reason to step out from behind their laptops and meet one another in real life.

They’ve known each other from their blogs, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Some for years…so it was only natural that they use the opportunity that CatConLA presented to gather, have a few drinks, and share their own journey with their fellow cat lovers and friends.

MeowMeetLA was one after party that the community arranged for Caturday night. Held at the Hotel Figueroa, it was open to the public. The event was sponsored by Almost Invisible Cat Litter and co-sponsored by Pussy and Pooch. Kitty Bungalow and Feline Charity attended and had kittens available for adoption. MeowMeetLA drew a huge crowd of over 350 people and 50 celebrity cats. Cat-people from all over the country descended upon the Hotel Figueroa to meet fellow catlebrities and see famous celebrity cats, many featured on Instagram including @stovepipe_the_traveling_cat, @thesauerkrautkitty, @squish_n_duffy_n_fergie, @omarlittlethesphynxcat, @sunglasscat, @sirsorbet, @liladolf, @lonekoala, @pitahchips, @tuxedotrio, @stabbytabby, @zena_shera, @oliveandrye, Katniss, Cat Reporter and so many others… Search #MeowMeetLA on Instagram to see pictures of the event and other attendees.

Meowbox co-founders Olivia Canlas and Francois Deschenes hosted a private, black-tie event at the swanky Ace Hotel in Downtown LA Caturday evening. The affair featured “friends of Meowbox” including Jennifer Conrad, DVM of Paw Project, Eli Omidi from Cats of Instagram, Kady Lone of PUDGE, Andrew Marttila of The Great Went Pet Photography, Tamar Arslanian of IHaveCat and, Lauren Mieli, Founder of The Catnip Times. In red carpet style, guests had their photos taken against a meowbox backdrop, and enjoyed lots of nibbles and libations. Each guest left the posh party with a swag bag filled with kitty goodies.

On the red carpet with meowbox, from left, Tamar Arslanian, Olivia Canlas, Lauren Mieli, Francois Deschenes

On Saturday morning before all of the action started, a reporter from the LA Times asked, “So what do you think? Will this CatCon thing take off? We don’t usually cover stuff like this” to which yours truly of The Catnip Times responded, “I’m Lauren Mieli, Founder of The Catnip Times,” The LA Times reporter chuckled, amused by the name of the cat newspaper. I proceeded, “I exist because you don’t cover stuff like this.”

The verdict? The time for cats has finally come. And that time is right meow.