LOS ANGELES (AP) – Their cat tails wagging and whiskers twitching, feline fans, some in shirts emblazoned with “Check Meowt,” chattered about their “purrfect” pets as they waited in line for hours for a selfie with a kitty celebrity.
No one was as serious as Laura E. Mart of Los Angeles, who donned a ballgown she crafted from a patchwork of 300 fabric cat photos, its skirt several feet wide. She also wore a tall, furry hat, complete with a long tail she swung about.
“If I see a cat, I have to pick it up and pet it. I was afraid I was going to be a cat lady, so this is my way of having all the cats I want,” she said of the dress.
The first-ever CatConLA brought the cat craze popularized online to life in a big, costumed way last weekend. It tapped into the Internet memes and clickable videos that have spread on social media as people share their love of cats’ antics and help create stars, including ever-downtrodden Grumpy Cat and eternally tongue-wagging Lil Bub.
More than 12,000 people dusted off old Halloween costumes or cat-patterned clothing to become the most visible part of the cat lovers’ version of ComicCon, the comic book fest that attracts flocks of costumed fans.
Famous feline Lil Bub rubbed up to cat enthusiasts Mayim Bialik of “The Big Bang Theory” and Jack McBrayer of “30 Rock” as panelists entertained and vendors peddled products.
The huge turnout overwhelmed some of the 100-plus sellers. Olivia Mew – seemingly destined for cat commodities – said that by Saturday afternoon, she had sold all 150 shirts, totes, bags and art prints she brought with her from Montreal.
The Beauty Bar ran out of cat stickers that manicurists pressed on people’s fingernails. Even the food truck fare ran low.
But the crunch didn’t faze the flocks of feline fans. Long lines at booths, autograph signings and seminars at The Reef in downtown Los Angeles just gave them a chance to meet more cat lovers.
Wearing a “Mayim is Purr-fect” T-shirt, one woman waited in line for 2½ hours to be the first to get an autograph and photo of the actress and neuroscientist.
“I am always surprised when anybody wants to take a picture with me,” Bialik said, laughing. “But I thanked her for waiting that long.”
The adoptable cats and kittens drew a steady line of more than 100 people. Best Friends Animal Society helped place 74 from several Los Angeles shelters, said Candi Crawford, manager of the no-kill rescue.
At the Lil Bub souvenir booth, blankets and towels quickly sold out. The cat became an online sensation with her big eyes and a tongue that’s always sticking out, which stems from dwarfism that left her without teeth.
At one of two sold-out meet-and-greets benefiting animal charities, owner Mike Bridavsky talked about his special relationship with Bub and their exhausting work. Then, the crowd, limited to 75 people who spent $150 each, got to pet Bub.
“The people who will pay $150 to meet Bub are some of the most wonderful people you’d ever meet,” Bridavsky said. “They are very sweet and protective of her and have this deep love for her.”
Other seminars featured syndicated “Sally Forth” cartoonist and author Francesco Marciuliano, blogger and author Angie Bailey and animator Simon Tofield, who started “Simon’s Cat,” a YouTube series about a mischievous fat cat and his owner Simon.
CatConLA, which will be back next year, raised more than $20,000 for FixNation, a nonprofit spay-and-neuter clinic for feral cats in LA, organizer Susan Michals said.
At the event, cat owners Clarissa Mosher of Carson and boyfriend Freddie Luna of El Monte tried out the selfie station set up with kitty props.
“They give unconditional love in its purest form,” Mosher said. “Cats are more picky than dogs, so if they like you, you know they mean it.”