Internet Cat Video Festival will land on its feet in Chicago


Courtesy Photo Walker Art Center.

More than 10,000 audience members enjoyed the Internet Cat Video Festival’s reel at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair.

By Zoe Eitel, Arts & Culture Reporter

Cat videos, adoptable cats and a personal appearance by a celebrity cat will highlight the third annual Internet Cat Video Festival, scheduled for Sept. 19 at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.

The festival began in Minneapolis in 2012 and made the trip to Chicago when Tree House Humane Society and Chicago Cat Rescue were both inspired to sponsor the show. Both organizations said they could not pass up the chance to host such an event. Jenny Schlueter, development director of Tree House Humane Society, collaborated with Julie Adams, co-founder of the Chicago Cat Rescue, to coordinate the festival.

According to Schlueter, the Internet Cat Video Festival provides a playful way to raise awareness and celebrate the work the two organizations do.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to get people to look at our work in a more lighthearted way and bring some much needed humor into it,” Schlueter said.

The main event at the festival is always the video compilation that is made up of 75 minutes of cute and funny cat videos from the Internet.

“It’s months of watching tens of thousands of cat videos and distilling it down to 100 or so,” said Will Braden, the first recipient of the festival’s Golden Kitty award in 2012 for his video series starring his Internet-famous cat, Henri.

Braden also compiled the videos for the last two festivals.

“It’s a huge amount of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” Braden said.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be split between the two organizations. Meet-and-greet ticket sales for celebrity cat Lil Bub are split among the organizations and Lil Bub’s Big Fund for special needs pets. Last year, the festival raised more than $20,000, and Schlueter said she hopes to exceed that goal this year.

“I’d be really thrilled if we could get closer to $15,000 or $20,000 for each organization,” Adams said.

Mike Bridavsky, Lil Bub’s owner, will host this year’s festival in Chicago. Bridavsky said he was invited to host because of his long-standing relationship with the two organizations and his experience with hosting the festival in previous years.

Lil Bub, who was born with a number of anomalies, including dwarfism, uses her fame to raise awareness and funding for other special needs pets.

“[Tickets] are $100, so every time I’m surprised that they sell out, but all the profits go to helping animals in need,” Bridavsky said. “It’s a generous donation to these organizations with some pretty amazing perks, like hanging out with [Lil] Bub.”

Both Tree House Humane Society and Chicago Cat Rescue plan to bring cats to be adopted to the festival. Schlueter said the adoption drives were not as popular at previous festivals, but she thinks the event is good exposure for the cats.

“It’s kind of hard when you have an adoption event at another location because adopters get to meet the cats, but they don’t really get to spend one-on-one quality time,” Adams said.

Adams said cats from past events all were adopted eventually, but it takes a week or so for the people to come back for them.

Admission and meet-and-greet tickets are available on the day of the event or on Walker Art Center’s website for a lower price in advance.

Adams said she has plans to bring the festival back to Chicago in future years.

“As long as Walker Art Center creates the film, we will partner with them to bring it to Chicago,” Adams said. “Tree House and Chicago Cat Rescue are committed to doing this every year.”