You’ll be grumpy if you miss the Internet Cat Video Festival
By Natasha Wasinski For Sun-Times Media October 17, 2013 3:38PM
Grumpy Cat is the star of one of the 80 viral kitty clips that will be screened Saturday.
Internet Cat Video Festival
When: Five showings beginning at noon
Where: Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox
Updated: October 17, 2013 8:08PM
Alana Grelyak’s cushy one-bedroom condo in River North is home to four felines named Crepes, Rocky, Niles and Mrs. Peabody. But don’t call her a cat lady.
“First of all, it’s cat woman,” the 33-year-old says,
half-jokingly. “And, secondly, I’m not a cat person. I just love animals.”
Grelyak and her furry friends share their living space with her filmmaker husband, Michael Gabriele, and their rescue dog, Dixie. She moonlights as a blogger at CatInThe
Fridge.com, a spin-off to “Catlogue,” a four-minute flick she and Gabriele created last year with their pets.
The humorous short is one of 80 viral kitty clips Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center will screen Saturday at the Irish American Heritage Center where its Internet Cat Video Festival cuddles up to Chicago for the first time.
What began as a social experiment curated by the modern art museum last summer is now an internationally touringfest.
“With the original festival, we thought there might be a couple of dozen people with a laptop, projector and case of beer,” said project director Scott Stulen. “When 10,000 people showed up, the story changed.”
The second edition of the event attracted more than 13,000 people cuckoo for cat videos, filling Minnesota’s State Fair Grandstand last August.
Chicago’s five screenings are expected to draw a crowd of 3,000. In addition, showcasing the creme de la creme of cat videos, the all-day event (hosted by Chicago Cat Rescue and Tree House Humane Society) features celeb-kitty Henri le Chat Noir, a cat costume contest and information on pet adoption.
Organizers say the event is a cat owner’s dog park.
“It gets all of us together in one room for a social event, instead of watching videos alone at home,” said Chicago Cat Rescue’s Julie Adams, who co-founded the all-volunteer network of foster homes seven years ago to get strays off the city’s streets.
Adams said the Internet helps expose what cat owners have known all along: that the playful, curious and unpredictable nature of felines makes them fantastic companions, not to mention great entertainment.
“All of these inherent qualities lend them to be the perfect stars in front of a camera,” she said. “They keep us on our toes.”
Unlike other video trends, the Internet’s interest in cats doesn’t seem to be waning. But what is it about them that keeps surfers clawing for more? Stulen speculates the overwhelming positive and universal appeal cat videos makes them a YouTube mainstay.
“Language isn’t an issue, they’re family friendly and something easy to share,” he said. “The technology has made the distribution so much easier.”
Jenny Schlueter, development director at Tree House, believes cat videos that go viral could be used to increase adoptions. While the number of households with cats has risen dramatically over the past four decades, pet-ownership rates are still more favorable to dogs.
Schlueter said films featuring cats’ personalities and people’s creativity help debunk the negative stereotypes animal groups have been fighting against for years (like all cat people are crazy, and black cats are bad luck).
“There’s so many wonderful new media that we’re now working together to help one another,” she said. “This has been the best PR project for cats.”
If nothing else, cat owners now have a platform to showcase and share their passion for the pet. Funny feline videos might also go a long way in convincing dog lovers they don’t have to prefer one animal over the over.
“People sometimes need to see the world like that,” Grelyak said. “I don’t. Cats are cool, too.”