Edmonton International Cat Festival celebrates 10 years as a feline love-in with glorious purr-pose

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Ten years of the Edmonton International Cat Festival without pandemic pause is a quite a feat, purposefully raising almost $150,000 for local rescues since 2014.

(Note to reader: could’ve gone with “pandemic paws,” “quite a feet,” “purr-puss-fully” and “fur local rescues” there — but let’s leave the kitty puns to the organizer, as you’ll soon see.)

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“When we started,” says Cat Fest founder Linda Hoang, “a few hundred people showed up. And before the pandemic we had up to 3,000, so we’re expecting that if not more.

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“I’m still sort of surprised,” she laughs, “but maybe I shouldn’t be.”

Let’s also note what a trooper Hoang was doing this interview, having lost her voice, happy baby offering loud, beepy background opinions — though I was stunned no one else had yet asked her, “Cat got your tongue?”

Back to Hoang’s point, though, few with a cat would question feline obsession (maybe it’s just toxoplasmosis) and attendance and enthusiasm for the month-long contests and celebrations culminating in “Caturday’s” core event at MacEwan University has been terrific so far.

“There are definitely more events over a wider timeline because it’s the 10th anniversary,” notes Hoang.

“We also wanted to balance ticketed events with free events that were just more meet-up style,” she says, “in the vein of how the festival has really helped create this space for cat lovers to get together in purr-son and be unapologetically cat people.”

Yep, this cat person actually said “purr-son.”

Famous felines

Saturday’s Cat Fest main event at MacEwan University is as usual a delicious buffet of all things kittyphile.

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First and foremost, this includes its celebrity guest stars: One Eared Uno from L.A. — almost 3 million Tik Tok followers for this cutie — then the returning Alberta explorer cat star of Great Grams of Gary, and, finally, a guy who literally made me cry the first time I saw him: BenBen CatCat.

This “un-adoptable,” beat-up ginger stray arrived at BC SPCA in 2016 with a crushed spine, deep lacerations and a cauliflower ear.

He was soon declared the “saddest cat on the Internet.”

“BenBen was a day away from being euthanized,” Hoang explains, “and who wasn’t expected to survive very long, anyway.”

But one of the centre’s veterinary technicians adopted him, and now, eight years in, he’s defied all expectations and is healthy and happy to meet his fans — and raise money for cats imperilled as he was.

One Eared Uno is on stage at 10:30 a.m., PS, then at 12:30 p.m. it’s BenBen CatCat, with Great Grams of Gary up at 2:30 p.m.

Fans are encouraged to come up and meet these buddies after their presentations.

Besides these famous, flown-in fuzzers, Hoang is jazzed about the local, inaugural Student Cat Art Exhibit.

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“We have collected nearly 400 artworks from students across Edmonton,” she says, “and people can stop in to view the art and vote for their favourite pieces throughout the day Caturday.

“There’s some really wonderful and wholesome pieces.”

Speaking of art contests, the fest’s lead-up Most Purr-fect Cat Photo Contest will be a big draw near the end of the day.

“Cat lovers have been submitting photos of their cats in four ‘CAT-egories,’ says Hoang, “Formal, Everyday, Swimsuit and ‘How would your cat make the world a better place?’

“We’ll showcase the photos on the big screen and crown our Top 3 Most Purr-fect Cats, voted by a panel of judges.” This gets rolling at 3:30 p.m.

And speaking of panels, three especially worth noting are the Feline Infectious Peritonitis awareness presentation at 11 a.m., feline first aid at 1:30 p.m. and cat financial planning at 3 p.m.

“People will learn useful tips to better care for their cat,” says Hoang, “from medical advice with Guardian Vet Clinic to estate planning with BMO.

“You’d be surprised what cat pawrents should know to ensure their fur family is taken care of in the event of their passing.”

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On the other side of the circle of life, there’s of course the opportunity to adopt a new family member, the festival founder actually bringing home a new kitten named Mitty last year.

“I saw her at Cat Yoga,” Hoang laughs, “and knew I needed her.”

Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society will be presenting this year’s Kitty Play Pen — “Always a hit,” says Hoang — where people can hop into an area and cuddle with adoptable kittens.

Greater Edmonton Animal Rescue Crew Society (GEARS) will also be presenting this year’s Kitty Maze, where you can watch kittens interact in a cute labyrinth and use toys to help guide them through.

Edmonton International Cat Festival
Edmonton International Cat Festival’s 10th Anniversary Celebration Event is at MacEwan Saturday. Photo by supplied photo /Nanc Price

For more on all the cat crafts, face painting, temporary cat tattoos, NALUG LEGO display, Cat Pawzzles by Escape City and 40+ business, rescues and partners in the Vendor Meowketplace, see the full schedule at edmontoncatfest.ca.

As ever, Cat Fest donates 100% of proceeds to local cat rescues, this year’s being Community Cats Edmonton, Enoch Animal Services and GEARS.

PS, you can BYOC to the show.

“Cats are actually allowed to come to the festival on Caturday,” says Hoang, “but only if they are leashed, in a backpack, stroller, carrier, etc., and only if they’re comfortable in crowded spaces.

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“Generally, it would be more work to take your cat to the festival, so if they’re not really used to that then we like to say there’s tons of cats and kittens at the festival for cat lovers to interact with if they want to leave their kitty at home.”

That being declared, after Saturday’s fest, there’s the Cat Meet-up in the Park, 2-4 p.m. next Saturday, June 1, at Paul Kane Park (122 Street and 103 Avenue).

“That one people should actually bring their cats as it’s a much more chill and relaxed and open space,” says Hoang. “So even if your cat isn’t totally comfortable around other ones yet, there would at least be lots of room to spread out there.

“Our first meet-up was last year and we had about 30 people and their cats come out. It was really fun and interesting to see how all the cats did together.

“They were all,” she notes, “very curious.”

Then, on Sunday June 2, it’s the festival Sip ‘N Purr wrap party at Cheery Cat Co. specialty cat boutique (4215 Calgary Trail), 1-4 p.m. — free to attend, please RSVP at edmontoncatfest.com.

OK, one last thing, call it the, uh, orange elephant in the room: is Hoang excited about The Garfield Movie out this week?

“Of course,” she laughs. “He’s one of the OG celebrity cats!”

[email protected]

@fisheyefoto

PREVIEW

Edmonton International Cat Fest

Where MacEwan University, Building 9 (10910 104 Ave.)

When 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Caturday (this Saturday)

Tickets $15/edmontoncatfest.com, $20 cash/door, kids 12 and under get in free

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