When we found an invite to Cat Camp NYC in our inbox earlier this year, we were intrigued. What could this event possibly entail? Camping, cats, and New York City—we can probably all agree that the three don’t exactly fit together.
It turns out that Cat Camp didn’t actually involve camping, but it was even better (and warmer…with less bugs). Cat Camp NYC is an annual cat conference and adoption event organized by Christina Ha, owner of the Manhattan-based bakery Meow Parlour, and her husband, Simon. “Over the last two years at Meow Parlour, I’ve come across a lot of people who very much love their rescue cats and want to learn more about how to help more cats,” Christina says. “People want to find ways to help, but don’t know where to start or what resources are available. So, I thought of Cat Camp as an opportunity to connect people with the experts who dedicate their lives to helping animals. I wanted to do it in a fun way by building communities, supporting businesses, and helping senior and special needs cats get adopted.”
For the very first Cat Camp ever, we were treated to a variety of cat-themed vendors, keynote speakers and even a meet-and-greet by Instagram star Lil’ Bub, otherwise known as @IAmLilBub (who, by the way, is even more precious in person—or shall I say, “in cat”). Among guests was Tamar Arslanian (@ihavecat), cat influencer, blogger and author of the recently-released Shop Cats of New York. As a blogger, Tamar says a major highlight of the event was seeing so many of her friends from the blogger and influencer community. She also pointed out the event’s focus on feline advocacy. “I appreciated the mix of feline fun and education,” she says. “In addition to vendors of cat specialty items, celebrity cats and cat influencers there was also an emphasis on rescue (with adoptable senior and specially abled cats) and education on topics ranging from trap-neuter-return, kitten rescue, and declawing.”
Andrew Marttila (@iamthegreatwent), pet photographer and co-collaborator of Shop Cats, had a similar take on the event. “Cat Camp had a very unique feel to it,” he says. “Being more oriented to cat rescue and advocacy, it left a lot of people feeling empowered to make changes to benefit some of the cat populations that are not often thought of being in danger. Among the numerous workshops and clinics were presentations by individuals who have dedicated their lives to promoting the well-being of cats. It was an extremely uplifting and enjoyable experience all around.”
Educational exhibitors included the Jackson Galaxy Foundation, the Paw Project, and Kitten Lady. In addition to these advocacy-focused organizations, the event brought together cat-themed businesses from all over North America, from cat toy companies to cat magazines, artists and feline care services. We at meowbox were lucky enough to host a table at Cat Camp, where we held a giveaway, answered questions and even met some (really cool) subscribers. As vendors, we found the event was a great opportunity to bond in person with customers and members of our online community.
“A lot of my Instagram followers were finally able to meet me and tell me about their experiences with my toys, sharing how their cats played with them. I can’t tell you how happy that made me,” says Randi Warhol, owner of Polydactyl cat toys. “I saw a lot of connections being made at Cat Camp, and I know how incredible that can be. People who typically don’t understand our community don’t see the type of compassion, and caring we have for each other’s feline families. I feel honored to be a part of it.”
The event also allowed cat-crazy companies to share our mutual passion: creating fun, unique products for feline enthusiasts. “The highlights [of Cat Camp] for me weren’t the ‘featured acts’ and such, it was the folks from around the country (and world) that really hustle to expose their brand and cat love,” says Brandon Zavala, president and CEO of Apollo Peak, creator of the viral Pinot Meow wine. “To me, these people are the true highlight of the show and the foundation to the new cat economy.”
Whether you came to Cat Camp to promote your business, learn about feline welfare, peruse cat-themed goodies or meet your favorite whiskered Instagram stars, the experience seemed to be just as down-to-earth, intimate and welcoming for everyone—kind of like gathering around a campfire, in fact.
If you didn’t make it to the first Cat Camp, there’s always next year’s. What can we expect for the second ever Cat Camp NYC? “I’m still pinching myself because I had such a dream team already for our first year,” Christina says. “We had been chatting with ASPCA about creating a kitten room, but Cat Camp was too early in the year for there to be a lot of kittens available (and this is a good thing!). I think there’s a really good educational opportunity with having kittens around—it starts a conversation on where they came from, TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs, the role of fosterers, socializing, etc. Perhaps it’ll happen next year, but truthfully, I would be happier if it turned out that there were fewer kittens being born outdoors next year and the year after due to the success of the hard work of the rescuers in NYC. A little education can have a big impact and that’s the goal of Cat Camp.”