On the first official day of SXSW Interactive Festival, I was ready to go home. That’s because I had the good fortune of getting in early to see Grumpy Cat (and also Scumbag Steve, but this is Catster, so we’re focusing on the kitty here). I’ve attended the festival four years now, to catch up on the latest and greatest in technology and meeting friends from around the country.
I’m not usually one to namedrop "I know people at Mashable and stuff and am important and need to see the cat" — but this was GRUMPY CAT, the most famous cat in the world since Keyboard Cat (whom I also met — sorta — by meeting Brad O’Farrell, who turned Keyboard Cat into a phenomenon). Mashable, one of the biggest social media/tech websites, celebrated memes including Grumpy Cat and Nyan Cat during the annual festival.
Anyway, it was raining, the line to get into the Mashable House (where Grumpy was appearing) was around the block, and there were Friends of Mashable going in. Aww, to heck with it. I strode up, said who I was, and asked for a couple of Mashable folks I know to be told I was there.
Next thing I knew, I was inside. But where was the cat? Tardar Sauce, as she is known in her "real" life (what is real life anymore, after you’re Internet Famous?), was behind curtains in a cordoned-off little area of the tent/house.
She was brought out a few times before the crowds were let in. Each time she was carried from her quiet comfort zone, an entourage to rival that of Entourage‘s Vince Chase’s trailed behind. A dozen or more cellphone and full-size cameras popped out, silently taking the kitty’s picture.
She crawled out of her doughnut bed. Looked around, unimpressed. Climbed back in. One or two people were allowed to hold her, then she’d go back to her quiet zone for a bit. She needed to be ready for her adoring crowds.
At one point, Pete Cashmore, the founder and face of Mashable, arrived. Virtually no one noticed, as all eyes were on Tardar Sauce. Pete whipped out his phone to take his own photo of Grumpy Cat. He knows when he’s in the presence of true celebrity.
I’ve heard some rumblings on the interwebs about Grumpy Cat’s appearance at SXSW being akin to animal abuse, but I’ve known and had cats for a significant part of my life (excepting the last 10 years or so). You know when a cat is upset — or tranquilized — and this cat was neither.
Tardar was neither Grumpy nor Sleepy. She didn’t shy from people or hiss or try to get away. She was, perhaps, the most laid-back cat I’ve seen.
Some cats, like some people, don’t mind crowds. Obviously, Grumpy is one of those cats. And everyone involved was making sure that the cat wasn’t stressed, allowing her to be seen by the crowds for only an hour at a time, a couple times a day.
I tried to pet her and was quickly admonished; those waiting in line to have their photos taken with her were told in no uncertain terms not to touch the kitty.
I was happy to have met Grumpy Cat. This tiny cat has amused so many people, no matter if that’s rational. We encounter so many memes and jokes on the Internet, and they’re all kind of abstract. But we know the value of having pets, so why shouldn’t meeting animals you know from the Internet have any less value? And my hand did graze Grumpy Cat’s fur before I was told off. Just so you know, she’s super soft and cuddly.
Amy is a writer, speaker, and bacon queen who lives in New Jersey with her husband, sons, and Siberian Husky. She works for NYC tech startup Internet Media Labs and has written for a variety of sites, including VentureBeat, Tech Cocktail, Network World, and TV Tyrant. Her last cats were two black kitties from the same litter, named Frankie & Teddy.
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