Last weekend I traveled to Atlanta for the annual BarkWorld Expo, a huge pet industry conference that brings together writers, brands, and social influencers — oh, and lots of dogs, too. (You can read Dogster senior editor Pam Mitchell’s roundup of her favorite BarkWorld moments here.)
I knew I would find fewer opportunities to meet cat people, or even cats, than at CatConLA earlier this year, where Catster senior editor Keith Bowers served as the MC and where I helped rescue an injured cat outside the conference venue. But I was determined to get my kitty fix among all the pups and hounds.
Here are my feline findings.
Community manager Lori Malm and I spotted this fabulous tchotchke-on-tchotchke cat sculpture at the Atlanta airport on the way in. I have a home full of kitty-cat thingumabobs and whatsits, as my visit to the world’s best cat lady estate sale will attest, so this might be an interesting craft project for me sometime.
We plan to follow up with Engel about her sculpture and inspirations for sure. (And yes, she does dogs, too.)
Catster Magazine print editor Annie Shirreffs tipped me off to these adorable hand-decorated Mary Janes from Etsy seller emandsprout, and they were a great way to fly my cat lady flag at BarkWorld.
I wore my cat shoes to some of the keynote speeches and got lots of compliments.
Pam and I took part in a speed-dating session where we met a series of BarkWorld attendees who wanted to know more about our sites and the print magazines, including our new mag, Lucky Puppy (which will also feature lucky kitties).
I absolutely love such chances to talk with fellow pet people about our shared passion for helping critters. We love you all! We’ve already reached out to some people about writing articles for Catster, so watch this space.
The good folks at Halo charmed everyone into having a photo taken with the promise that every picture shared with the hashtags #halofeeditforward and #barkworld would result in a meal for a shelter pet. Later in the conference, they expanded that to make it one meal per person in the photo, so there were lots of happy and crowded shots like this. I’m drinking tea in this shot because I’m English, it was daytime, and it’s my default setting.
Then Halo announced that it was so inspired by the BarkWorld contributions that it has increased the donation to 10,000 meals on behalf of all the attendees. Huzzah! More dinner — and tea — for everyone.
I roomed next door to Julie McAlee of Sometimes, Cats Herd You and Jeanne Kudich of Random Felines, so when they told me they were hosting Sophie the cerebellar hypoplasia kitty and her human, Emily Hall, from Kitty Cat Chronicles, I invited myself in for a visit. Pam and I brought Catster and Dogster writers Meghan Lodge and Susan Willett.
We’ve written about “wobbly cats” on Catster before. They can’t always walk or jump straight, but they have a normal life expectancy and they are just normal cats, albeit unsteady ones.
Sophie’s CH means she might misjudge a leap onto a bed, or tumble and roll when she starts to pounce. But she’s a bouncy little thing who doesn’t know anything is wrong with her, and she loves to play and meet strangers. We all got nuzzled and snuggled by her.
I met Tom Otto and Shaun Sears of Canopy Cat Rescue at the speed dating event and had a wonderful chat; I even got to introduce their presentation on Friday. They’re certified arborists and lifelong cat guys who spend a lot of time climbing trees in the Pacific Northwest to rescue cats who’ve gone vertical and can’t get down.
They showed lots of adorable and vertiginous videos of their rescues — you can check out more on their Twitter feed and YouTube channel — and explained how and why cats get stuck. (Our own s.e. smith is interviewing them for Catster soon, so watch for that.)
Tom and Shaun told me they had a cat to rescue on their return to Seattle, and later they posted a photo — and Shaun wore a BarkWorld shirt in our honor!
Tom and Shaun do all their rescuing for free, but they’ll happily accept donations.
We’re big fans of cats in snazzy clothes here at Catster, which is why I was so glad to meet one-woman Catster Hero Lindsi Jones, a photographer and artist from Valdosta, Georgia. She photographs cats from Miss Kitty Feline Sanctuary in cute bow ties to help them get adopted — and she sponsors a cat at the rescue every time she photographs a wedding.
This sweet orange kitty was the only one I saw walking the halls at the conference. His name is Hoss Cartwright and he absolutely lapped up all the attention he was getting from cat folks who were missing their own kitties, like me.
About Vicky Walker: Prickly British grammar nerd with a soft center. Obsessed with old people, history, and the contents of the litter box. Endlessly patient wrangler of two cats, one of whom may or may not be indoor-outdoor — don’t be mad. Executive editor at Catster and Dogster.