If cats have nine lives, then it’s fitting that Susan Michals, the founder of CatCon—the largest cat convention—has had almost as many careers. From farm life as a kid to the publishing world as an adult, Michals was a writer for Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal, and a segment producer for E!. But something was missing, and in 2014, Michals created Cat Art Show to bridge the gap between animal lovers and art/culture.
Shortly thereafter Michals launched the first ever CatCon, quit her job as an entertainment journalist, and devoted her career to serving a community of pet lovers often overlooked. At last years CatCon, more than 500 felines were adopted and nearly $200,000 raised for charities across Southern California. Now, as the convention celebrates its fifth year this weekend in L.A., Michals is hoping to eventually expand globally and shine a light on cat lovers everywhere.
In doing so, she also hopes to dispel the stereotype of the ‘cat lady’ and why it’s finally cool to be a cat owner.
I was in my 30s when I got my current cat, a Maine Coon. In the words of Kelly Clarkson’s song, we’re both “Miss Independent.” She’s the only cat in the house, though she does have a canine sib, Buddy. But early on when I told people I thought about getting two cats, they would say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no! You’re going to be at cat lady.’
Mind you, I didn’t fit the ‘stereotype’ of what people think of as a cat lady—the middle-age, homebody spinster. I had a boyfriend at the time, I was a supervising producer at E! working on shows including Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Live from the Red Carpet. I wasn’t headed towards Grey Gardens country or Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Or Dr. Eleanor Abernathy (a.k.a Crazy Cat Lady) from The Simpsons for that matter. I hear that one all the time.
When people would say don’t get another cat, I would respond with, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ They’d say, ‘Well, if you don’t have a boyfriend and you have a lot of cats, you might scare guys away.’ It was insinuated you become less appealing the more cats you have. But I don’t hear people saying someone is a crazy dog lady. Perhaps it has to do with the stereotype of the crazy cat lady that has been perpetuated and evolved through hundreds of years of history when cats were associated with witches. It’s funny because people can be crazy happy, crazy beautiful, crazy artsy, but unfortunately when you put that next to cat lady, it develops this negative connotation.