There were celebrity cats on view, expensive cat-furniture for sale, and tons of cat memes turned into consumer products.
Maybe it's the dog person in me, but I was a little cynical when I first heard about CatCon. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and the CatCon website didn't go into much detail, other than to promise "the world's top cat-centric merchandise including furniture, art, toys, and clothing... as well as conversations with some of the top cat experts in the world." I worried that this whole convention might just be a sea of overpriced cat meme merchandise. Plus, my last experience at a convention center had been an exhausting nonstop barrage of pushy salespeople. So I headed to CatCon with a bit of wariness and a steely resolve not to buy anything.
Greeting me at the entrance to the convention was a Stumptown coffee kiosk, which was a pretty genius move: get the already-excited attendees hopped up on caffeine from the very beginning. Coffee would be the only product I saw that day that wasn't adorable, round, and a completely unnecessary purchase that (to my own dismay) I desperately wanted.
The first booth I saw was selling Pusheen the Cat merchandise, which instantly destroyed both my cynicism and my resolve not to spend money. If you're not familiar with Pusheen, she is a fat, round, and very cute cartoon cat who does cute things in GIF form. CatCon had stacks upon stacks of regular-size plush Pusheens, but the Pusheen plush de Grace was the one that was the size of a small bed. It was the roundest thing I've ever seen. I laid my head on it and prayed that someone would walk by, see how much I needed it, and buy it for me. It didn't have a price tag. If you have to ask, you can't afford it.
There were also plenty of cute things for the non-cat lover. I passed one booth selling "steamed buns," fat plush bunnies with angry little expressions on their face, nestled in bamboo containers. Why is it so cute when small animals look angry?
I did some quick mental math to see if I could afford a steamed bun. It would probably motivate me to get more work done, I reasoned, by improving morale around the office (my apartment). Luckily, before I could make any bad decisions, I got distracted by two men wearing cat-themed booty shorts.
They were waiting in an enormously long line, which they told me was for Lil' Bub's Big Show. Lil' Bub, of course, is a celebrity cat known for her buggy eyes and always-visible tongue. She is more famous than any of us will ever be. I found out that her Big Show featured Jack McBrayer and started at 4:00. It was 2:32 PM when I talked to the booty shorts guys, and they told me people started lining up at least an hour before then.
I'd seen plenty of products and events for humans, but so far, none for actual cats. Then I saw a display for Katris, a high-end, tetris-like piece of furniture that can function as a cat tree, bookshelf, and coffee table all in one. And the cat furniture didn't stop there. I passed a booth for CatistrophiCreations, which sold complicated, expensive-looking furniture specifically for cats, including rope bridges and a "tornado cat tree."
The display looked nicer than anywhere I've ever lived. If your cat gets bored hanging out on its pricey cat furniture, you could buy it a cat exercise wheel at the next booth over. One Fast Cat was selling what is basically giant hamster wheels for cats. Their "cat exercise wheel" costs $249, plus $20 for any replacement foam pads you need. It's hard for me to imagine seeing this in someone's house and not questioning their sanity, but the cats in One Fast Cat's videos seem to be enjoying it, so what do I know?
At this point, I was an hour in, and was feeling accomplished that I still hadn't bought anything. This was no small feat. In addition to the rows and rows of booths selling cute things, there were also roving merchants and promoters handing out fliers and business cards to anyone who would take them. The weirdest promotional flier I received was for a cat video—not a channel, but a single video. It advertised the music video for Stereolizza's "Cool Cat," which purported to be "THE FUNNIEST CAT VIDEO EVER MADE!!!" (Caps and exclamation marks taken directly from the flier.) I watched the video, which is not, in actuality, the funniest cat video ever made.
Because I had exercised such a heroic amount of self-control by not buying anything, I felt that I deserved a coffee from one of the multiple Stumptown booths inside the convention, whose only mistake was not having a banner that said "stay cat-ffeinated." That's Marketing 101, people. But fate had other plans for me, for on my doomed journey to the coffee booth, I passed The Little Friends of Printmaking. The name alone told me I didn't stand a chance. Though not especially cat-centric, their prints clearly catered to this audience. They were all adorable, and stylish in a 1960s-vintage-inspired way. I broke down and bought a print of two mice eating a strawberry. It was titled "Love and Friendship." What was I supposed to do?
My initial skepticism stood no chance against the magic of CatCon. Far from feeling like a cash grab, the con was filled with small business owners positively glowing from their customers' enthusiasm. Several business owners told me they'd sold out of their products on the first day. And it's hard to feel cynical when surrounded by people dressed head-to-toe in cat-themed apparel.
Plus, a portion of merchandise sales went to FixNation, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing cat homelessness. So I was pretty much morally obligated to buy something. Right? Right???
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