Consider this: Nala Cat’s 3.5 million Instagram followers is nearly twice that of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Meanwhile, New Westminster’s Ben Ben — a.k.a “the saddest cat on the internet” — has a social media reach of 145,000 Instagrammers. That’s 100,000 more than Canucks sniper Brock Boeser.
In short, cats rule every recess of the internet and beyond. Capitalizing on this, the folks at Meowbox, a local subscription-based cat gift service, are organizing what’s being billed as Western Canada’s first ever cat festival.
Enter Meowfest, which takes place at the Roundhouse Community Centre on July 29. Cat vendors — think toys, trinkets and treats on this one — from across Metro Vancouver will be there, alongside food trucks, guest speakers and more to make you purr.
“There are quite a few festivals for cats that happen mostly in the U.S. and we’ve attended them and they’re super fun,” said Meowbox spokesperson Olivia Canlas. “We thought why can’t we do it? Vancouver’s never done it, so why should Canada miss out?
Of course, there will be cats. Celebrity cats, no less.
Bringing the most cat cachet to the big show is Nala Cat. The Siamese Tabby mix has a website that sells all manners of branded merchandise, and has “worked with some of the top Youtubers and social media influencers across the globe,” according to Canlas.
Not to be outdone, Pudge the Cat has a fanbase of close to 700,000 followers, while Luna Rose’s groupies check in at 374,000. New Westminster’s BenBen has a website where you can buy hoodies with his face on it for $40 USD.
I think @allthebadcats nailed my sad look in my new portrait!!! Thank you for sending it! I’m one spoiled kitty and I make sure my hoomans hang up all the artwork sent to us! #thankyou #benben #benbencatcat #sadlook #cats_of_instagram #catsofinstagram #catslife #rescuecat #portrait #nailedit #sospoiled
Which begs the following questions: Why? How?
“I had no idea that this world existed but people are obsessed with cats,” Canlas said. “It’s a total obsession and I’m shocked that there hasn’t been a big cat festival in Canada.”
Meowbox has been around since late 2013. Based in Olympic Village, its business model entails monthly or bi-monthly mailouts of goodies, toys and trinkets that are exclusive to the company.
So why base a business around cats instead of dogs, parrots or other pets?
“With cats specifically, I feel like you’ve earned it when a cat returns the affection, but there is something magical about cats specifically,” Canlas said. “When we started to build our social media we didn’t have to work as hard as some other accounts would have to because our content was about cats. Putting up photos and content about cats, people are naturally drawn into it. It’s a mystery.”
Humans will also be included as part of Meowfest. Animal rescuer and advocate Hannah Shaw, known also as the Kitten Lady, will be there alongside Andrew Marttila, who makes a living taking pictures of cats. Other acts, and presumably other cats, will be added as the show date approaches.
Tickets for Meowfest will go on sale later this month, and prices and event times will be determined at that time.
Meowbox is donating all proceeds from the gathering to the B.C. SPCA.