The annual CatCon convention – a two-day immersive feline experience – is held just fifteen minutes from Downtown Los Angeles. Since its launch in 2015, it has welcomed more than sixty thousand attendees, helped around five hundred cats and kittens find stable homes, and donated over $193,000 to charities. Paul Koudounaris is one of the judges of the CatCon fashion show. A historian, author, photographer and cat obsessive, he and his cat Baba are currently writing a book that recounts the history of the world from the point of view of a cat. Speak Up met with Koudounaris. He began by explaining why cats are so popular today.
Paul Koudounaris (American accent): Cats as opposed to dogs have an air of mystery to them. There’s always an enigma with a cat, and it fits really well into modern culture. Dogs had always been man’s best friend, but we’re at a point culturally where I think people don’t want a friend as much as they want a muse, and that’s something that a cat can be. A cat’s a great muse.
CLICK FOR CATS
The internet has embraced cats like no other medium. We asked Koudounaris why this was.
Paul Koudounaris: Did the cat invent the internet or did the internet invent the cat? Chicken or the egg? Neither. In the work that I do, studying cat history, I’ll tell you this: that we’ve been in the age of the cat for a lot longer than people realize. It really switched in the 1940s, where the seesaw kind of switched over to the cat side from dogs, and there were some cats who were incredibly famous, who had done amazing things. It’s just the internet wasn’t there to promote them. There just wasn’t the internet telling you about it. The internet has made everything bigger than it ever was.
A FALSE IDEA
We then asked him what distinguished cat people from dog people.
Paul Koudounaris: That’s a funny question, because we have a stereotype of cats versus dogs and we project that onto people and it is, like any other stereotype, it’s completely and totally false…
CATS FOR CARNIVORES
And, added Koudounaris, cats and masculinity go very much together.
Paul Koudounaris: I’m going to describe two different guys: one guy owns three Rottweilers and one guy owns three Persian cats. First guy, he likes hunting, he likes outdoor sports and he watches football. Second guy is a vegan chef and he goes to art museums. And everyone’s going to say ‘Oh well, the vegan chef who goes to art museums owns the cats ‘cause there’s this perception, there’s a stereotype that’s existed from the ancient world, where cats were always associated with female deities. That’s the perception we have but in practice, this kind of thing is totally untrue.
THE CAT OWNS YOU
And if you think you own your cat, think again, said Koudounaris.
Paul Koudounaris: Think about this for a second: who’s the king of the animals? The lion is the king of beasts, not the wolf, right? Cats are greater apex hunters than dogs, and little lap dogs are smaller and more helpless than any cat… So this idea, it’s like there’s a particular type of personality for a cat and a particular type of personality for a dog. No. And I say that in most cases, the animals choose us.
There is a perception that cats are sophisticated yet sneaky and dogs are loyal yet dumb. Is this true?
Paul Koudounaris: I’ve heard dog people describe how idiotic they think cats are, and I’ve heard lots of cat people say they hate dogs ‘cause they’re dumb. You know what, they’re both super intelligent, both of them equally. And both of them have what I classify as intuitive intelligence. Now, it’s certainly not book learning, well except for my cat who’s writing a book. It’s certainly not book learning, it’s an intuitive intelligence that in some ways, in many ways, is even superior to human intelligence.