by Michelle "Ms. Geek" Klein-Hass
The only thing truly surprising is that nobody had done something like CatConLA before. People were crazy about their cats even before the Internet, but once the advent of the Internet made Caturday a weekly event, a huge cat fan convention was something almost inevitable. Last weekend, June 6th and 7th, was the first time someone has tried a cat fan convention anywhere in the world...why this never happened in Japan before we Americans got to it is a mystery. And it was a huge success. 10,000 cat fans, fanciers, and NekOtaku in all attended.
The event took place at The Reef. Formerly known as the Los Angeles Mart, The Reef is primarily known for being a display space for local fashion designers and interior designers and the focus for many trade events, it is rarely used for events that involve the general public. Mostly events catering "to the trade" go on there and at the neighboring California Mart. It is an odd venue for a geek con, and proved to be a bit hard to navigate even on Sunday when the crowds were smaller. On Saturday, however, it was packed, and getting from place to place was a challenge.
Even outside CatCon, where food trucks offered hooman noms for hungry cat fans, the lines were super-crazy.
Outside of the speakers and their panels, the main event was the endless rows and rows of booths showing lots and lots of cat-related merch.
As far as I'm concerned, the most fascinating merch item on display was a little consumer robot called Zoomer Kitty. While not as sophisticated as the legendary Sony AIBO, this little ABS plastic tux kitty pal who's fun to be with is going to be a lot less expensive. Zoomer Kitty has the ability to learn tricks, the ability to track objects and people with front facing sensors, several touch sensors, and the ability to explore your house like a real curious cat would. The ability to program advanced behaviors would be nice, and who knows what will happen once Zoomer Kitty arrives in stores and hardhackers get a hold of them? They're still cool and since a lot of people live in "no pets" apartments, such a catbot is appreciated.
And of course, there was tons and tons of kitteh cosplay going on all over the event. Everything from Harajuku decora fashion to a fairly accurate Julie Newmar as Catwoman cosplay to cat cosplay straight out of people's imaginations, people got dressed up for CatCon. Maybe next year there will be a cosplay contest or a masquerade? If CatCon does something like that I would suggest moving the event earlier in the year, so that people could wear costumes that would not risk heat stroke in typical LA hot late spring-early summer weather. This was June, after all.
Perhaps the most important thing about CatCon, however, was the fact that people could actually adopt shelter cats and kittens at the event. 74 cats and kittens were adopted at CatCon, at an adoption center run by Best Friends LA/NKLA.
The latest word from CatConLA is that there will be another one in 2016. Next time, I would hope they'd consider a bigger, better equipped venue. I don't think that the LA Convention Center would be too big for this event: considering the huge crowds especially on Caturday, it would be a smart move. Especially considering the event got some major sponsorship and was livestreamed on the Discovery Animal Planet channel website, CatConLA would be better served there than at a cramped, strangely laid out place like The Reef. See you next year! =^..^=