While events like the Internet Cat Video Festival, Cat Con, and the Museum of the Moving Image's "How Cats Took Over The Internet" exhibition have brought thousands of cat lovers together in the real world, none have really been able to coax cats themselves into the public space.
Everything You Need To Know About The Best New Cat Trend, 'First Caturday'
The benefits for both the kittehs and the people, proponents say, are multitude: stimulation, socialization, exercise, and weight loss ("Walking 'em around outside can burn off that extra chubs", reads the copy on a website built to promote the movement.)
Though the phenomenon's origins date to an initial meet-up in San Francisco's Dolores Park two years ago this month, the concept has since spread to other West Coast cities, including Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, its growing footprint fueled by word of mouth, social media, and the growing awareness that cats are more open to outdoor adventures than conventional wisdom suggests.
Modeled after the structure of events such as Critical Mass), a monthly bike ride that self-organizes in more than 300 metropolises around the world, the First Caturday community has no hierarchy, leadership, or masthead. And in the great democratic tradition, it's free, sponsor-less, and open to everyone.
All that's needed, enthusiasts agree, is the proper catitude, initiative (more on that below), and a leash and/or pet carrier (also more on that below).
A meet-up in May at Portland's Laurelhurst Park on what turned out to be a drab, overcast afternoon drew around 35 kittos — and about 200 cooing humans, most furiously taking snaps to post on Facebook and Instagram.
The four-legged assemblage was striking for its diversity. There were cats on leashes.
And cats rocking sweaters.
They came in bubbled backpacks.
And they came caddied in strollers.
This being Portland, one very chill ragdoll was even carted to and fro in a basket mounted atop a bike. (According to his owner, it's a routine they follow daily!)
The humans, for their part, were excited and enthusiastic, but restrained and patient, affording the cats space as they sniffed out their new surroundings. If some of the felines were adventurous and open to mingling (with both their adoring new fans and the other kitties alike!), then others were a measure more guarded and content to take the spectacle in from the crates, boxes, and blankets they arrived in.
That experience largely aligns with the one described by MeowBox in their recap of a Vancouver gathering (bolding ours):
"We found that in the calm atmosphere of the park, the cats seemed to be relaxed and were surprisingly interactive. While the event started slow, more and more visitors came by as the afternoon went on, producing a much larger turn-out than we had expected. Cat owners who brought their kitties were happy to share their fur babies with others, and those without cats were warmly welcomed.
Overall the vibe of the event was laid back, positive and inclusive. We already knew that cat people were awesome, and the event reinforced this fact."
Sounds fun, no?
Don't see an event in your parts of the world? The founders encourage YOU to take the initiative and make it happen! In an email exchange, they shared this advice with Cuteness [dot] com.
"We don't yet have a comprehensive set of general guidelines since every location may have unique circumstances.
A suitable location like an open area at a park with on-leash dog policy has worked great so far, [and] it helps to be respectful of all the local rules & to talk to local parks and rec folks, if possible. A lot of thought has gone into evolving the event description to help it feel safe and inviting, promoting self-responsibility by every individual for their pet.
People who want to organize in their own locations can create their own events on Facebook and add First Caturday as a co-host, or try starting their own local Facebook Group (we have started using the naming standard "First Caturday [city name]", e.g.). We've [also] begun experimenting with growing these local [chapters] to encourage more direct self-organization, and also to support spontaneous cat celebrations outside of the first Saturday of the month.
It's still pretty early so we're are not sure what is going to work best! We hope people try new & safe ways of exploring parks with their cats. We also welcome ideas & collaboration directed toward our particular enthusiast collective at Facebook or at [our email via] firstname.lastname@example.org."
If you bring kitty to First Caturday, it's recommended that you pack the following items: a leash (or harness), pet carrier, blanket (or something soft that they like to sit on), and, of course, some treats.
See you in the park, friends!!!