There was a cat with a mustache.
There were cats sliding down basketball poles, dueling with light sabers and playing pattycake.
There was a hipster-hating cat named Colonel Meow.
There was a French-speaking philosophical cat who felt oppressed by his masters. “Only dry food, the tyranny,” he sighed.
There was Grumpy Cat, an Internet megastar.
There were cats in a sink, cats in a teapot, cats cuddling with dogs, a cat with his face pressed through a piece of bread and a cat snuggling with a hamster.
There also were hundreds of people, sitting in the darkened confines of a theater at the New Orleans Museum of Art, laughing hysterically and producing oodles of “awws” at the feline frenzy on the screen. Some of the humans even wore tails, had painted whiskers on their cheeks and self-consciously smoothed their fur.
Outside the museum, Wes Raymond and the Soul Factory jammed onstage while cat lovers sipped on beer and wine, nibbled on oysters and perused a selection of cat-related arts and crafts.
The city’s first Internet Cat Video Festival clawed, purred and meowed its way through City Park on Saturday, a fusion of animal advocacy and Internet culture aimed at raising money for New Orleans’ feline friends.
The event was spearheaded by Karen Miller Becnel, a cat lover with 43 years of experience as a veterinarian.
Becnel, who owns 10 cats herself, called the event “a Woodstock for cat lovers.”
“It’s a beautiful animal,” she said. “It’s very graceful, has a strong emotional life and is independent and loving.”
Becnel said the first cat video festival was held at the Walker Art Center in Minnesota in 2012. The idea was to see whether people would engage in the Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos in a group. The answer was a resounding yes; more than 10,000 people showed up.
The idea soon spread to other cities across the country and this year arrived in New Orleans.
There were three hour-long showings of cat videos on Saturday, all of which drew a packed house of close to 200 viewers.
Part of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Becnel’s nonprofit, Art for Cats’ Sake, which sells cat-related artwork and jewelry to raise money for feline research. The rest will go to Spaymart, a nonprofit organization that operates a no-kill shelter with 275 cats in Picayune, Mississippi.
According to Lynn Chiche, Spaymart’s founder, there are between 350,000 and 400,000 feral cats in New Orleans. She said more than 92,000 cats and dogs are euthanized in Louisiana every year. In addition to running the shelter, she said, Spaymart also pairs senior citizens with senior cats and has programs that help people spay and neuter their animals at low cost.
Saturday’s event also featured a cat costume contest for both children and adults.
All four contestants in the children’s costume were proclaimed winners after they unleashed a chorus of fierce “Meows.”
Sophia Womax, 8, was one of them. She sported a long brown tail in addition to painted whiskers.
“Cats are adorable,” she said. “They are cute even when they are ugly.”
Womax, who has a cat named Angel, said she feels sad when she sees cats on the street without anyone to take care of them.
Roxanne Sanchez, bedecked in fur from head to toe, posed for a photo with a few of her cat-loving friends. Sanchez, 26, said she had modified her costume from the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus to fit the feline theme.
“Can they see my tail? I worked really hard on it,” she said, posing with her claws out.
As the cat video sensation has continued to grow, some cats have become famous worldwide.
One example is Lil Bub, a “perma-kitten” with dwarfism, an extra toe on each paw and bulging emerald eyes, who has inspired her own legion of fans.
Marlene Hespter, who owns three cats, said she was happy that videos of the famous cats were interspersed with other cats who also deserved attention.
She also had one piece of advice for her cat-loving brethren.
“We need more people wearing cat ears in New Orleans,” she said.