Cat Camp

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Cat Camp was March 11-12. Each day had a schedule of speakers and presentations, plus a few VIP receptions for Jackson Galaxy or Lil Bub. You could buy tickets for each day depending on if you just wanted to shop, attend presentations, or the VIP events.

My husband and I wanted to turn the trip to NY into a mini vacation (that happened to coincide with my Spring Break at school), so we bought a vendor-only ticket for Saturday, and an all access ticket for Sunday. There were interesting speakers on both days, but if I’d had to choose only one, I’d figured I’d be most interested in Kate Benjamin from Hauspanther and of course, Jackson Galaxy’s keynote. One of the rescues I work with, Only Maine Coons Rescue (I foster Frosty through them), was also a vendor at Cat Camp.

After a bus from DC, quick lunch, and check in at our hotel, we didn’t arrive to Cat Camp until 3pm on Saturday, a few hours after they’d already opened.

On one side of the main area, cages of kitties were set up from various rescues. Cats of all ages were available for adoption, from kittens to seniors.

A special mention goes to KittyKind, a rescue local to the NY area that specializes in special needs kitties. One of my colleagues from OMC even adopted a kitty from them! Phoebe was born with hypoplasia, missing bones in her legs, and as a result her legs are twisty.

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On the left side of the convention were vendors ranging from rescues fundraising, artists selling prints, tshirt people, and some animal advocates like The Pet Project, who educate against declawing. They released a Paw Project movie, available online. I snagged one of their bumper stickers for a fellow volunteer, and their pin is on my school backpack now.

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Similar to Pusheen Box, other subscription box sellers were there, like Cat Lady Box. Each box seems to have a theme: their “glamour” themed box included a cat toy shaped like glasses, and glasses shaped like cats, so that human and cat get a treat out of the box. They also had a black cat themed box, where all items were  black cats; perfect for those I know who are in love with their black kitties. They were selling some of their leftover items from the boxes. I won’t lie, their goods made it tempting to set up a subscription, except I can’t justify having more than one box subscription.

Some of the vendors I chatted with mentioned that once the convention was open, swarms of people were there looking to buy. It was still relatively crowded when I arrived, but I was able to purchase everything I wanted (or at least could afford) there.

Being in CCT, where my program does emphasize UI/UX and technology affordances, I enjoyed Kate Benjamin’s talk on cat products. My initial impression on her work was that it was merely about cat furniture looking good, but her blog also emphasizes that there are two users when it comes to cat products: humans and cats, meaning that not only do the things she highlights in her blogs look cool, they’re products a cat wants to use.

She was leveraging her experience in design to benefit cats and their owners. If cats and humans both want to use her products, then less cats will claw where they shouldn’t, and humans will want to have these items that will keep their cats happy, thus reducing the chances of them giving their cats up.

I liked this mentality. Since being in grad school, I’ve come up with ways to incorporate cat rescue into my project ideas. The whole point of this blog was to demonstrate how technology can be used in the cat rescue community, at least until it transformed into an “everything in my life that’s cats” blog.

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Her presentation went through different cat products from beds, trees, scratchers, and the necessary qualities that they should have in order to be a successful product to both cat and human. I took notes like a nerd, jotting down brands in particular that looked cool.

Something that both her and Jackson Galaxy promote is the idea of a super cat highway, which allows for cats to get around your living space without having to touch the ground. For multi-cat homes, this also helps to prevent confrontation. I’m pretty proud to say that our cats can get from our kitchen to the entertainment system in our living room without having to touch the ground, with the desks, couch, and various cat trees/scratchers/cubes that are all along our walls. Some of her Hauspanther shelving was available for sale at Cat Camp, which my husband was interested in, but didn’t want to order without knowing the measurements of our walls first.

If only we were all filthy rich though; she admitted that many products she showed were insanely expensive and/or came from Europe, so obtaining them wasn’t always possible. However, there are plenty of DIY projects that a cat person can do to imitate. Pinterest is usually full of ideas.

The keynote speaker was Jackson Galaxy, from My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet. I always find this show amusing, because having worked with so many cats myself, I can usually guess what’s “wrong” with the cat. Often times it’s not the cat that’s in error, but the human. You’d be amazed how many people don’t know how to properly play with cats, or realize how much happiness cat furniture can bring to your cat.

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I was unfortunately stuck behind a pilar, but I could hear his speech just fine. He pointed out that something like Cat Camp demonstrates how strong the cat community is, in all senses: adoption, fostering, TNR, education, and consumerism in general. He discussed how everyone in the room had their own pivotal moments when they realized cat rescue is what they wanted to do (I know mine was when kittens appeared in my dad’s backyard). He was really optimistic about what a difference this community has made; he noted that when he was working in a shelter, 12,000 animals were being euthanized per year, versus about 3000 a year now. This is a mixture of education about spay/neuter, TNR, rescue, and changing the way people think about their cats as more than just things.

It’s nice to hear someone else say these things.

When you’re in the “trenches,” so to speak, it can get discouraging. We hear humbling background stories about the cats we’re pulling from high-kill shelters, or seedy homes. Internalizing the statement that by not having the availability to pull one more from the shelter, we’re basically guaranteeing they’re going to be euthanized. Being part of a rescue scrambling for funds because even with rescue discounts, their adoptable pets have climbing medical bills. Dealing with illness and disease that can run rampant in a traditional shelter. Having animals with social or behavioral issues that, although we accept it, worry that an adopter may not.

Being told that despite all of the heartache and stress, we are making a difference. There’s at least a small dent being made, and that small dent equates to several lives being saved. It’s certainly moving to hear.

When I returned to DC on Monday, I was of course reinvigorated to update my blog with ALL THE THINGS. At least until Spring Break ended and school resumed. I tell myself that once I graduate, I really am going to try to write more regularly about all things cats. Going to events like these, being around people with the same goals, will hopefully continue to motivate me as needed. As mentioned before, this was Cat Camp’s first year, and I hope they do it again. I’d happily come to NY every year.

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