Once upon a time, the proverbial cat lady was maligned in all forms of mainstream media, from novels to sitcoms. But no more. Since the early days of the internet, sites such as LOLcats have given quirky humans with deep affection for kitty culture a sense of community. Suddenly, all the closeted cat lovers of the world realized they were far from alone.
Now there's Pop Cats, a convention devoted to cats and all things for and about cats. It will take over the Miami Airport Convention Center October 28. Its co-creators are brother and sister Edgar Alexander and Johana Flores, lifelong friends of the feline. In fact, to say Alexander's life is devoted to cats wouldn't be an exaggeration.
After Edgar and his wife Carolina married, they adopted a flame-point Siamese named Noah. (He's in the Pop Cats logo wearing a pair of hypnotizing glasses.) Soon after, they opened an Etsy store called Carvas, where they sell kitty bow ties, bandannas, and collars.
“It started as a hobby but got more serious over the years," Alexander says. "And it was a discovery process. We learned there were so many cat lovers all over the world. They're pretty invisible. They're hidden behind their screens. You can't really walk your cat, though we have, so you don't see cat lovers outdoors like dog lovers. So there's just not much opportunity for cat lovers to get together.”
Alexander, along with his wife and sister, aims to change that through Pop Cats. And his plans are ambitious. He sees the convention as not only a fun get-together for cat lovers but also an opportunity to educate, raise awareness, and even find loving homes for cats.
“There are a lot of resources in our community for cat lovers, but not many people know how to get to them. [There are] so many different kinds of organizations to spay or neuter or to help cats get adopted. Miami-Dade Animal Services have a great installation and provide subsidized services for cats,” Alexander says. “The Cat Network is another partner. They've been in service for 20 years. Their mission is to curb the homeless cat population in Miami. We are also working with Operation Paw, which does a lot of fostering. They find homeless cats and take care of them, fostering the kittens and getting them adopted.”
Both Cat Network and Operation Paw will give presentations, as will Amanda Brennan, Tumblr's resident "meme librarian." Brennan studies and catalogs memes — and if you know anything about memes, you know there are plenty about cats.
“She's going to be talking about cat internet history — From Caturday to Catspotting: A Brief History of Cats on the Internet. I saw part of her presentation, and I am dying to see the whole thing. That's a cannot-miss.”
The editor of the Australian magazine PussWeek (written from the perspective of — you guessed it — cats) will conduct “paw readings” all day for $1 donations to charity. Dress up your kitty for the costume contest hosted by the local cat café This & That With Cats, and don't miss the Kitty Obstacle Course. (It's basically kittens climbing all over a little obstacle course.)
And on the subject of kittens climbing all over stuff: You can also head into the Cat Lounge, a viewable enclosure full of adoptable kittens leaping, playing, romping, and generally gamboling all over the place. Small groups will be allowed in throughout the day to interact with the kittens (and, yes, to probably lie on the floor so that as many furry creatures as possible can climb all over you at once because otherwise what is the point of life even?).
“It's a matchmaking process, cat speed dating," Alexander says. "You have a chance to meet a cat and fall in love and meet your future best friend.”
The Cat Network will also bring its Miami Meow Mobile, full of adoptable cats looking for a human to pine for them while they hide under the couch forever.
There will also be many vendors selling cat products and other related items. Artists from around the world will display and sell their work. Among them will be convention speaker and local cat photographer Joann Biondi, who will be accompanied by her muse, Maine coon and fashion icon Lorenzo.
Not one but two cat wineries — Pet Winery of Fort Myers and Apollo Peak of Denver — will pour their vino. And PetCube will raffle off two of its remote treat cameras as well as live-stream the Cat Lounge for anyone who downloads the PetCube app.
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And because this is Miami, you can enjoy live music while sipping mimosas and other adult human beverages at the Sit & Purr Bar.
Whether you want a temporary tattoo of original cat art (AKA a "cattoo") by Chronicle Books illustrator Megan Lynn Kott, or you're looking to roll up your sleeves and get involved with local rescue organizations, this convention is for you.
“It seems silly when you don't have a cat, but once you do, you get it,” says Alexander, who hopes that Pop Cats can both entertain and educate the cat- and
Pop Cats. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, October 28, at the Miami Airport Convention Center, 711 NW 72nd Ave., Miami; 305-261-4200; macc.com. Tickets cost $22 for adults and $11 for kids ages 5 to 12 via popcatsshow.com. Cats get in free but must be kept on leashes or in carriers. And, of course, dogs are not allowed.