To be honest, prior to heading to LA last weekend, I wasn’t really sure what to expect of CatCon. In fact, I spoke to some local acquaintances who had been hearing advertisements on the radio and their first impression was, “Wow, it’s a gathering for crazy cat people!”
For an event that billed itself as “ComicCon for Cat People,” it’s an understandable conclusion, considering the stigma that clung to comic book fans for several decades. Though pop-culture and mainstream media now celebrates nerds and geeks alike, the crazy cat lady profile, in all of its negative glory, is still with us.
PetSmart Charities recently surveyed over 1,000 people to understand what the current “cattitude” is in the public eye. It was of no surprise that there is still a crazy cat lady stereotype — typically single women, living alone, who have one or more cats (the average cat owning household has 2).
Hold up! What about all of those cat videos? Isn’t mainstream media and pop-culture embracing the cat? How can this still be true?
While it is true that cats are totally in at the moment, there is little connecting them to their owners to fight these negative stereotypes. Which brings us back to CatConLA …
As someone who had been to ComicCon in the days before it was cool, I was expecting a busy event, but no competition to get in to see speakers or having to elbow someone to get through the isles. This was, however, exactly what occurred — pure insanity in the best possible way.
Some 10,000 people poured into The Reef — a design center in Downtown LA — over the two day event. There were lines to get into the panels and sessions (particularly for Lil Bub), even the over-flow area was packed, and most of the vendors were low on merchandise by early afternoon on the first day.
In the midst of this amazing mix of people — young, old, families, and singles — were some fantastic speakers who all had positive and important messages for the cat loving public. Simon Toefield of Simon’s Cat (a comic that I get sent at least once every few months by my friends), spoke of the individuality of his cats; how each one was unique with their own personality. Mayim Bialik, known for her work on the small screen, championed women cat owners and is helping to bust the cat lady myth by proclaiming herself a proud cat parent. Mike Bridavsky and Lil Bub, dropped in on a session to speak about how adoption can change lives for both owner and pet. In addition, Lil Bub acted as an amazing example of how special needs pets are just as valued as any others.
Overall, while this event isn’t the key to breaking down these long standing myths, it is a good start. Social Media was alight with tweets and posts about the event, which was also streamed on Animal Planet’s website.
So what can we do moving forward to build on this momentum? A few ideas …
- Take Cat-ptures (cat pictures)! Post more pictures in the Social realm of you and your cat. The more people see owners and associate them with their pet, the less the crazy cat owner stereotype will stick in their mind.
- Promote the benefits of owning a cat. Cats are amazing animals for a multitude of reasons. Companionship for sure, but also for their unique personalities, endearing habits, and let’s face it, cats can be totally hysterical.
- Support your local shelter or adoption center. This may even include having face-to-face time with potential adopters (a sure fire way to share why cats are awesome) and if all else fails, you can cuddle some really amazing felines in the process.