Admit it – you’ve laughed at at least one silly Internet cat video, perhaps many more. Maybe it was “Dog pushes cat into bathtub” – that’s a good one – or maybe it was “Kitty riding tortoise.” There may be something to this guilty pleasure, though, that goes beyond simply wasting time on the Internet.
“Somebody at Indiana University just recently did a study of watching cat videos,” Jennifer Gillis says. “They interviewed 7,000 people about their cat video viewing habits and they came to this conclusion that people who watch cat videos have more energy, feel more positive, and have fewer negative emotions.”
Gillis is on the board of Chatham Animal Rescue and Education (CARE), which turns 40 this year, and it made sense to her to make the adoption, fostering and educational nonprofit’s birthday party a celebration of funny cat videos as well.
Sunday, CARE brings the Internet Cat Video Festival to the Pittsboro Roadhouse. This reel of silly pet clips, first screened in 2012 at Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center and still curated and produced by that museum, is the centerpiece of an anniversary celebration – and a celebration of the correlation Gillis mentions. If watching cat videos makes people happier and more energetic, why not combine it with a birthday party?
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“We thought this would be the ideal way for us to celebrate our 40th birthday and, at the same time, be the North Carolina debut of the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival,” Gillis says. “It’s in Pittsboro, right in the center of the state.”
Here’s more of our talk with Gillis about CARE’s four-decade run and, naturally, Internet cat videos.
Q: What should people know about CARE’s 40-year history?
A: We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. We educate people about responsible pet ownership. Through our volunteer network we take in homeless animals, and we work in partnership with the Chatham Animal Shelter and people in the community and try to provide foster homes for pets. While they are in a foster home, we are trying to teach them good habits so they will eventually become good pets for people. Those foster home people bring the pets to places like PetSmart and different events so the animals, mostly cats and dogs, can eventually be adopted out to families.
A very important part of our mission, really, our goal, is zero unwanted pets in Chatham County. We assist people in spaying and neutering pets. … Another thing that CARE does that is part of the education program is we go into schools and summer camps and we teach kids, fourth through sixth grade, about responsible pet ownership. Our hope with that is that children will carry that message home to their parents.
Q: What are some misconceptions kids have about pets?
A: We teach them with miniature cats and dogs, little plastic ones, how quickly they can reproduce. If they aren’t spayed or neutered and they’re wandering around outside, they can reproduce exponentially. Another thing is, a lot of kids think certain breeds are mean. A lot of people think pit bulls are mean dogs or Rottweilers are mean dogs. They have a little thing called “it’s the deed, not the breed,” so they learn that people can bring up their pets improperly and then (the pets) end up acting in a mean way. They learn it’s not inherent in the animal. I think a lot of people think that having a pet is no big deal. They don’t associate it with taking it to the vet and getting it certain immunizations and that it needs to be socialized.
Q: What is your relationship with the Chatham Animal Shelter?
A: We do some animal transportation. The Chatham Animal Shelter and other shelters in the area, they try hard to find places to put animals. Sometimes people think, “oh, the heartless dogcatcher and they haul them in and it’s a death sentence.” It’s not good, especially for cats, but they do try. There’s a big overflow, and organizations like CARE will help with transporting the pets from one shelter to the other. People make donations of food and other animal-related things to us, and if we have extra we’ll share that with the shelter. Ultimately, CARE and other animal rescue organizations are working with the animal shelter with hope that the shelter can expand and have a bigger adoption center and have vet services there on site, things like that.
Q: Why are cat videos the focal point of your 40th birthday party?
A: The Cat Video Festival actually originated with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn. There is an Internet star – his name is Henri le Chat Noir – and he has this existential thing going on. The guy who created that approached the Walker Art Center and said he thought it would be really cool if we had this festival because people spend a lot of time watching these things. So he came up with the idea of taking this solitary guilty pleasure and transforming it into a group activity.
Q: What’s next with CARE?
A: Our No. 1 goal is zero unwanted pets, so we’re going to be continuing to really try and get the message out there of how important spaying and neutering is. At the same time, we’re expanding our education program. Hopefully, in sooner than (another) 40 years, our program will be in all the schools in Chatham County.
What: The North Carolina debut of the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival
When: 4-8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Pittsboro Roadhouse, 39 West St., Pittsboro