It’s impossible to describe a whirlwind, but I’ll do my best. There’s a blizzard churning outside my window so maybe that will inspire me. I’m just back from the very first ever Cat Camp NYC and I’m trying to piece things back together in my mind. For a cat-writer, cat-lover, cat-parent, Cat Camp NYC was a tasty morsel of all the things that make my heart go pitter-patter.
©2017 Robin AF Olson.
Cat Camp NYC, conceived by Christina Ha, owner of Meow Parlour and the Meow Parlour Patisserie, had a hunch that with the explosion of cat images, blogs, TV shows and movies that a symposium on the east coast, of all things cat, would be well received.
She was right.
With full disclosure I have to add, or is it brag or is it sing to the heavens, that yours truly was invited to be one of the Speakers at this year’s event. My task was to hostess a storytelling hour focusing on heartfelt cat rescue tales. According to the schedule, I’d be going right before The Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy’s VIP Meet and Greet. Be still my heart! What a thrill and honor to be included with such a respected cat behaviorist.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Okay, so maybe they forgot to make a sign for the Lounge schedule. They did a nice job considering.
Okay, but that was Sunday and Cat Camp NYC was a two-day event.
It was bitter cold but a crystal clear day. We’d gotten a few inches of snow the day before, but the sidewalks were thankfully well-groomed. With my face half-hidden by my scarf and my hands about to break off from the cold even though they were in my pockets, I was happy to finally arrive at the Metropolitan Pavilion on west 18th street a few minutes before the event opened.
Security stopped me, but I proudly told them I was a Speaker and then suddenly I was welcomed into a group where I could have only dreamed of being a member years ago. I was greeted by a friendly volunteer who got me a Speaker badge and showed me where I could stow my things. The room was abuzz with last minute activity of the many vendors setting up their wares. I told myself I wasn’t going to spend all my money on items for the cats, but I also doubted I’d keep that promise.
It was lovely to walk the show before it got crowded. The exhibitor space was large and well lit. Off to one side were banks of tables topped with small black cages. In each cage was a cat available for adoption. I wondered if I should have had a table there for my rescue, Kitten Associates and our cats, but I also realized the stress from traveling would be awful coming from Sandy Hook, CT.
©2017 Robin AF Olson.Tommy Boy. See him in action HERE.
I was glad to see that some of the cats were seniors or special needs cats. As I walked past each cage I silently prayed that by the end of the show all the cats would be adopted.
I met a cat named Tommy Boy, an FIV+ cat with the burden of also having hypertrophic cardiomyopathy-the heart condition that eventually took the life or our dearest foster cat, Jackson Galaxy. Though it can be managed and the medications aren’t costly, HCM is eventually fatal. Tommy Boy was clearly a big, love-bug, just like Jackson was. He had no problems head-butting my fingers through the cage. Tommy needs to find a forever home ASAP so he can purr and relax with a loving family. To adopt or inquire about Tommy see his listing on Kitty Kind's web site.
The lure of knowing there were cool things to see and learn about was too much. The show opened and the crowds were starting to enter. I got my photo taken with a giant cone of shame on thanks to Worlds Best Cat Litter (who also later donated some litter to my rescue-Thanks, Scott!). I began to see some of my cat lady friends, like Tamar from IHaveCat and Joanne from The Tiniest Tiger, who had a table displaying all her lovely cat-themed products for humans.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Tamar, from IHaveCat.
I decided it was a good time to do a Live Facebook video where I’d do a quick tour of the show hall. Things went pretty smoothly until I entered the cat adoption area. Just as I panned right, a guy stood in front of me. He bent over to get a better look at one of the cats when his behind popped out of his pants! FAIL! Plumber’s butt? After that I thought it might be wiser to stick to taking photos.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My new BFF, Brandy, who adopts senior cats and I think adopted one at the show!
In addition to the cat products and adoptable cats there were two tracks of Speakers ranging from Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther to VIP meet and greets with Lil Bub. There was so much going on it was tough to decide what to do or see-a good problem to have, but I also felt like I wanted a chance to see everything and not miss a beat.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Hannah Shaw, Kitten Lady., gave an inspiring lecture on neonatal kitten care.
I learned some interesting things about neonatal kittens from Hannah, who I had the good fortune to speak with one on one. We traded some tips and I was thankful she's open minded and interested in learning as much as she can. Years ago I caught myself becoming arrogant about what I thought I knew about cat care and that was a huge mistake. You can’t learn enough because there’s always something else to discover-whether it’s the hard way or by having a support network you can go to when times get tough and the unexpected occurs. With all of the Kitten Lady’s fame, she's still humble and approachable. She’s already opened the door to inspiring others to foster the tiniest, frailest foster cats and I can see her doing even more amazing things in the future.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kate Benjamin looking adorable as usual!
I also attended Kate Benjamin’s Feline Design presentation, which to me is like watching a porno because after she gave us the story of her fascinating background before launching Hauspanther (which, by the way I designed the logo for!), she started showing photo after photo of gloriously designed cat furniture. Oh be still my heart!
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Kate kicking butt.
And then there was Jackson Galaxy. As some of you know, four years ago, before he was a superstar and travelled with bodyguards, Jackson took me out for dinner. (It's three parts in case you missed it: Ch 1, Ch 2 and Ch 3. ) It remains one of the best nights of my life, certainly one I’ll never forget, but a lot had changed since I last saw him.
I lost 60 pounds and had to chop my hair off after an unfortunate magenta hair color fail. Would he even know me? Why would it matter? I should be happy to even see him and leave it at that.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Oh boy! Oh boy! I got my hug. Oh, and learn more about Jackson's charity the Jackson Galaxy Foundation.
What was sweet was when I did get to have a chance to have quick chat with him, he seemed a bit taken aback that I thought he wouldn’t remember me. From the hug I got I’d say we were good. From the photos one of my fans took of us, you can see in my expression that I am about to fly without an airplane I’m so happy. Jackson has a natural charisma and warmth that is off the charts. He also is adorable, but out of deep respect for his wife, Minoo, who is one of the most kind and compassionate people, that’s all I’m gonna say. It’s ok to enjoy someone’s company and just let that good feeling keep you going after you part and leave it at that.
Plus, I had stuff to buy so off I went!
Jamie Shelmen, a “moderately crazy cat lover” and artist who has a shop called The Dancing Cat penned a number of hilarious greeting cards and t-shirts. I couldn’t pass up grabbing as many cards as I could, along with a much coveted t-shirt (see photo below).
©2017 Robin AF Olson. WOO!
I met with Mario from Square Paws and we had a great conversation. His cat trees are pure fantasy realized. His creative talent and architectural background give his pieces a sense of whimsy I have rarely ever seen. I told Mario about my dream to re-do our main foster room. About how all our cat trees fall apart because kittens are very hard on sisal and carpet covered cat trees. I told him about the theme of the room (secret for now!) and about how I wanted innovation beyond just a cat tree. The room isn’t very large. The cat tree has to work for kittens 8 weeks and older so it has to perform for cats of many different sizes up to adults. Mario seemed very interested in our project and I’m hoping this connection will be a great benefit to our foster cats one day.
Of all the ways Cat Camp NYC succeeded, the best part of it was the networking. You can’t really connect when you’re commenting on a social media post the way you can in person. I also enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends, like Cathi De Meo Marro, an artist and flutist who created some hilarious cat-themed paintings. Her business is called Cat-Hi.
I got great tips about our TNR, Waterbury Cats project from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. and I learned about two documentaries about cat rescuers who do TNR. One is called Catnip Nation and the other is called The Cat Rescuers. Both projects highlight the importance of doing TNR in ways that aren’t upsetting to viewers. I was glad to know that they both felt that in effective storytelling they could help people not familiar with community cats learn that we need to do more and be more compassionate about their plight without shock tactics. I’ll have more about these projects and their fundraising in a future post.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Distinctly Himalayan's crazy cat beds (the googly-eyed ones are for cats up to 15 lbs).
There was so much more to see like the Distinctly Himalayan felted cat beds or the hilarious tiny sombreros and faux hot sauce pouch catnip toys of Polydactyl Cats. That said, I would have liked to see even more vendors and I hope that if Cat Camp NYC continues that next year will be even bigger and better.
The only shortcoming was that the areas were only curtained off for the special presentations instead of being in a separate walled off space. It was very loud in the Metropolitan Pavilion and the flat screen in the lounge area needed to be about four times bigger so everyone could see the presentations better. That said, the presenters were high-caliber and the presentations were packed full of eager and interested cat people.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat (left) and moi (right).
As for my presentation, I was delighted to have some of my readers in attendance, along with Sydney, one of my adopters, who drove down from Connecticut to see me. We had a very lively group, but again, the noise level made having an intimate discussion a bit tough…and wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of one of my stories, Jackson Galaxy enters the lounge, which I feared would distract everyone in my group (including ME!).
©2017 Sam Moore. Trying to stay focused when you-know-who is right behind me-not in those cat pants though, behind her.
I focused on my tale and was really getting into the story when I got tapped on my shoulder. One of Jackson’s staff whispered to me that if I wanted my photo with Jackson to be used on our Kitten Associates promotions I could get that done but it had to be right now…right in the middle of my session!
©2017 Andrew Marttila. Used with Permission. Um. Yeah, so don't say anything to me about the look on my face. You'd look like that too if you were standing next to Mr. Jackson.
I quickly excused myself and what was kind of funny was his assistant introduced me to Jackson (not realizing I knew him) so I extended my hand with a smirk on my face and said; “how do you do.” Jackson rolled his eyes ever so slightly, then put his arm around me (:::Swoon:::). He asked me which camera to look at for the photo (there were a few photographers clicking away) and I stupidly replied “who gives a sh_t” because by then I figured he must have been completely wiped out by book signings, meet and greets, getting his photo taken with a zillion people already and traveling from Los Angeles. I hoped he didn’t get offended. By then I was pretty delirious, too. It’s not my fault that I was an idiot. Okay it was my fault! I had my story to get back to telling-which I did, seconds later, even though I wish I could have grabbed his hand and run out of the building.
I didn’t get a chance to see much of Lil Bub. Though I love her dearly and think so highly of her dad, Mike, I also didn’t want to take up time for those who had never seen her before. Bub had her own table of goodies at the show which always make me smile. I finally got to see the Bublehead box I designed for her. Looked great! I also found out there are some new Bub plushies coming out and I’ll have more info on them soon.
There was a lot more going on at Cat Camp, but I was so weary by the end of Sunday that I was glad Sam had driven to the city to see my presentation and could drive us home safely while I slumped in the passenger seat. With the daylight savings time change that weekend, the traveling, walking a zillion miles and the excitement of seeing my friends I was ready to pass out.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. The line to get into Jackson's keynote address went around the entire event space.
Cat Camp NYC was a well laid out, well planned event. I wish it had been in an even bigger space yet somehow magically a quieter one. I had so much fun, but I hated leaving my friends so soon. Cat Camp NYC is like going on a first date with “the one.” It’s thrilling to feel connected to someone you have so much in common with that it just feels "right." When it’s time to part you feel sad, wishing it could go on forever, but you know that all good things must come to an end eventually. Maybe you'll meet again soon and that's what keeps your heart beating.
I hope Ms. Ha will decide to launch Cat Camp NYC in 2018 because I will be there with my cat ears on and ready to rock.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Cathi De Meo Marro (left) myself (center), the Healthy Pet Coach, Jodi Ziskin (right). Very pooped after an exciting weekend!