At the LA Feline Film Festival, Real Cats Ruled the Day


When I saw the press release for the Los Angeles Feline Film Festival and it said that attendees were invited to bring their cats, I doubted whether many people would do that. It’s only by lucky circumstance that I have a new kitten right now who I wanted to bring. I am training Summer, my friendly little Somali, to be a therapy cat, and I believed this would be a good experience for her. She could be on a leash and meet lots of people. My plan was to bring her for about an hour (she had been at cat shows and pet stores, but never outdoors before), and then take her home.

The event was created as the Internet Cat Video Festival in 2012 by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Now the Feline Film Festival, held to celebrate cat videos and feline culture, has become a 39-city global tour. Here in L.A., it was presented by pet product company Organikat. As I approached the parking lot at Exposition Park, I could tell this event was shaping up to be a big deal here in my hometown. The festival wasn’t even open yet and there was a line of cars waiting to park. The top level of the parking structure was already full.

My fantasy about bringing Summer to the festival revolved around her exploring this new, exciting world and learning to walk on a leash after only practicing indoors. And yes, we had some of that.

It also revolved around her meeting new people and being fawned over. And yes, there was a lot of that too.

What my fantasy decidedly did not include, however, was what happened after we had been there for about 15 minutes. Summer was still in her carrier and she was frantic to get out. So I set her down, and she immediately started tearing at the grass with her claws. “Oh no,” I thought. But oh yes, she needed to go to the bathroom! And it wasn’t a polite pee either. Summer squatted and pooped on the grass, right by a booth in the line of foot traffic. And I thought this was a problem only dog owners had! I had to grab a plastic bag from a rescue booth to clean up after her.

There was a “comfort station” for cats, sponsored by Modko and Swheat Scoop, but Summer and I only discovered it after her indiscretion.

I popped her into one of the litter boxes, just in case she had any leftover needs, but she was done.

And after about an hour, she was definitely done with the festival. It was hot and she was overstimulated, so I took her home. For a first outing, though, it was pretty successful. As soon as I settled Summer back home, I returned to the festival via L.A.’s wonderful and often underused Metro Rail ($1.75 got me from Mount Washington to Exposition Park, with free transfers). And I saw many other festivalgoers with their felines in tow. Some viewed their surroundings wide-eyed.

Others took it in stride.

Some were sacked out.

This guy fell in love with me. His owner harness and leash trained him early on, and even though he was still young, he handled the festival like an old pro. Summer has a way to go before getting as comfortable as he was!

There was one feline escapee, who was located and returned to his owner (and yes, the two of them intend to return if the festival is held again next year). The high comfort level of so many of these cats lead me to wonder: How much public feline reticence comes from our own attitudes towards cats, and how much of it is actually part of their DNA? I think if given the chance, many cats would surprise us with their ability to adapt to being out and about.

As for the rest of the LA Feline Festival, it was all I expected it to be and better. There was cat fashion to be had, and authors appearing, sometimes together — here, Kate Benjamin promotes her new book, Catification (which she wrote with Jackson Galaxy) to a woman in a cool cat dress.

There was cool cat wear, like these bow tie collars.

And fun cat items like these cat yoga mats.

One of my favorite cat toy booths was WhimsilyEverAfter, which artfully handcrafts organic catnip toys, which are pricey but durable and very creative!

While the kitsch factor was high, with many people dressed in bizarre cat costumes and makeup, the best part of the LA Feline Film Festival for me was the presence of so many rescues. There was a whole row of booths devoted to rescue cats, with many kitties for adoption in attendance. This sweet blind kitty is actually a permanent resident of Milo’s Sanctuary, which specializes in rescuing special-needs cats. While she does not need a home, many other of the residents do.

Even the celebrity cats in attendance promoted meaningful causes. Here, Erica Triantafilo, whose cat Tara rescued her autistic son from a dog attack, talks about how she believes in the importance of pets for children, especially those with special needs. Tara, meanwhile, grabs a few bites in between celebrity appearances. How wonderful it is that Tara and her family are using their newfound fame for good. This is a running theme in the feline celebrity arena — Lil BUB, who was also at the festival, supports cat rescue, and Aragon (Lord Tubbington of Glee), another celebrity cat in attendance, is also a therapy cat.

Even the camera crews realized that in spite of the silly fun of the LA Feline Film Festival, it was the adoptable cats that ruled the day.

Oh yes, there were cat videos. As the sun went down, the vendors closed down their booths. Cages were packed up and rescue cats went home to their fosters or facilities.

It was time for the main attraction. Will Braden, creator of Henri Le Cat Noir, put together a 70-minute compilation of some of the best cat videos on the Internet, and cat lovers could bond and laugh over them together. It was the perfect end to an awesomely feline-centric day.

Did you attend the LA Feline Film Festival? Have you ever attended a cat film fest? Tell us your experiences in the comments!

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