Forget the tired “cat lady” stereotype. There are cat people everywhere, especially in New York City, which is home to more than half a million pet cats and up to half a million strays.
This weekend, adoptable cats and the people who love them will come together for the first time at Cat Camp, a two-day symposium dedicated to all things feline.
The cat-stravaganza, taking place at at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion, will feature popular speakers like Jackson Galaxy of “My Cat From Hell” and “Kitten Lady” Hannah Shaw, as well as educational panels, meet-and-greets with cat celebs like Lil BUB, kitty-centric vendors, and adoptable cats on-site through local rescue organizations.
Christina Ha, creator of Cat Camp and co-founder of New York City’s first cat cafe, Meow Parlour, said she conceived the conference to “connect people who love cats” with engaging educational tools. She said she envisioned “a sane environment where [cat advocates] can see other people doing great stuff, and feed off each other’s mission.”
There will be plenty of learning opportunities via panels focused on issues like Trap Neuter Return, caring for orphaned kittens, and cat behavior. But the symposium will be light-hearted, too. “I didn't want it to be too serious. I wanted it to be fun,” Ha said.
To that end, there will also be face-painting, a massive “Cat-Opoly” game board, and a screening of the recent Turkish cat documentary “Kedi.”
Jackson Galaxy, the event’s keynote speaker, said he was “on board before [organizers] even knew I was on board.” Of his speech, he noted, “The people in that room will be stoked on cats to begin with. My job is to stoke the fire a little more, to talk about what cats bring to us and ask, ‘What can we do for cats?’”
Galaxy, who has amassed a huge following of feline fans thanks to his TV show and bestselling books, has worked in cat rescue for more than 20 years.
“The thing about rescue cats is they've seen the worst in life, so they know how great they've got it [when they’re adopted],” he said. “They are more appreciative.”
Cat Camp organizers hope that at least a few guests walk away not only with a newly adopted rescue cat, but with a fresh recognition for just how much they can individually do to help cats move from shelters and city streets into loving homes.
“It would be a dream for one single guest to leave and think, ‘Oh, as an individual, I can actually make a big difference,’” Ha said.
Cat Camp is happening from 11 a.m.to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street in Manhattan. Tickets are available online.