A couple of weeks ago, I jetted off to St. Louis to attend the Cat Writers’ Association annual conference. I thought I’d share my conference experience with all of you. This was the 25th Anniversary Conference of the CWA which is quite the accomplishment for any organization.
Now, I have a confession. My main reason for attending the conference was so that I could hang out with some of the other cat bloggers that were attending. But I found the conference to be much more than just a social event. There were some great presentations and wonderful opportunities to connect with cat writers other than bloggers.
Okay…I have another confession. Typically, when I go to these conferences, I rarely attend the presentations and sessions. Or if I do attend, I don’t stay until the end. I usually find them neither interesting or worthwhile to me. But not this time. There were some excellent presentations this year.
Photo courtesy of Larry Johnson and CWA
On Friday morning, I attended a presentation by Dr. Kurt Venator and Dr. Janet Jackson from Purina on “The Science of Cats: Feline Nutrition and Hydration.” They talked about how feeding cats wet food can help to keep them properly hydrated. It was refreshing to hear a major pet food company like Purina suggest that feeding wet food can be beneficial to cats since I am a big proponent of feeding wet.
The Keynote Speaker at the conference was Dr. Debra Horwitz, a renown veterinarian behaviorist. Dr. Howitz’s presentation was on “Improving the Well-Being of Cats in the Home, Shelters and Post-Adoption.” Dr. Horwitz discussed what we, as writers, can do to educate pet owners, shelter workers and the general public about addressing behavioral issues in cats which can help improve adoption rates and keep cats in their forever homes.
Saturday’s presentations included a Q&A session with Dr. Jennifer Kasten and Tabitha Cromer from Tomlyn Veterinary Science. They focused on gastrointestinal issues in cats, and talked about the use of prebiotics and probiotics to keep your cat healthy. Since I’ve just started giving Ernie and Zoey probiotics, I found this discussion to be very timely for me.
I also attended professional photographer Larry Johnson’s session on how to take picture perfect photos. If I could take photos half as good as Larry’s, that would be a real accomplishment!
Later that afternoon, Janiss Garza and Jessica Spawn, along with some help from Summer, talked about how to use Instagram to build your personal brand and audience. I don’t know how many of you use Instagram, but I know I struggle with it. So I found this session to be very helpful.
Did I mention that the main reason I went to the conference was so that I could hang out with the other cat bloggers? It really is the highlight for me. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know some of these bloggers well and now call them my friends. And since we don’t live close to one another, a conference like this is a great way for us to get together.
We spent a lot of time hanging out in the hotel lobby. From left to right…Julie McAlee, from Cats Herd You, Jeanne Kudich from Random Felines, Dawn White from Lola the Rescue Cat and Janiss Garza from SparkleCat, featuring Summer the Therapy Cat.
It was great catching up with Paula Gregg from Sweet Purrfections again.
Here’s Bonnie Koenig from The Cat Post Intelligencer, and Jenny Carlson from As the World Purrs, at one of the sessions. Bonnie is also a publish author and was one of the presenters at the conference.
Dawn and I toasting at the Awards banquet.
What cat conference would be complete without cats…right? There were 3 cats in attendance.
I already mentioned Summer. I’m always amazed at how calm and relaxed she is despite everything going on around her. No way would Ernie or Zoey be able to handle the crowds like Summer did.
I got to meet Pet Safety Cat Casey for the first time. Casey belongs to Arden Moore, Pet Health Safety Coach, and helps to teach pet first aid and pet behavior classes all over the U.S. Talk about a relaxed cat! Nothing fazed him. Such a pro!
Jeanne Kudich brought Chanel, aka Crash, along with her. I’ve met Chanel before and it was great to see her again. We even got to play a little in her hotel room.
Saturday night was the much anticipated CWA Dinner and Awards banquet.
Of course there was cake!
We were first serenaded by Amy Shojai, Marci Kladnik and Paula Gregg with a beautiful rendition of “The Muse.”
Then emcees Arden Moore and Pet Safety Cat Casey got the show started. I have to say, Casey looked mighty dapper in his tux.
There are two kinds of awards…Special and Muse. Special Awards are sponsored by pet-related companies or organizations and judged by outside pet experts, whereas Muse Awards are CWA awards and judged by fellow CWA members. I wasn’t up for any awards so I could sit back and relax…but a number of cat bloggers were in the running. And I’m happy to report that many of them won both Special and Muse Awards. I won’t try to name all of them for fear that I might miss someone, but if you’d like to see a list of all the winners, click HERE. Congratulations to all the winners!
I’ve attended a few other CWA conferences in the past, but for me, this one was probably the best by far. I’m sure it’s due to the excellent planning by CWA President, Deb Barnes, and the rest of the conference planning committee. I want to give a big shout out to the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch where the conference was held. The staff there was so friendly and helpful…making my visit a pleasant one.
Next year’s conference will be in Edison, NJ (just outside of Newark), July 16-18, and will be held in conjunction with the Cat Fanciers’ Association Garden State Cat Show, one of the biggest cat shows on the East Coast.
Which means more cats! I can’t wait to go!