I spent November 8 through 10 with more than 350 cat lovers at the first Alley Cat Allies National Conference in Crystal City, VA. I’ve attended many pet conferences over the years, including veterinary conferences, BlogPaws, Barkworld, and the Cat Writers Association conference, and they’re all great conferences, attended by people who love cats and whose work in some shape or form involves helping cats, whether it’s through writing, blogging or photography. But at no other conferences have I felt the level of caring and dedication to improving cats’ lives that I felt at this one. This conference was all about soaking up information on how to make lives better for cats, and networking with others with the same goal.
Attendees ranged from nationally known animal advocacy activists to the women and men who feed outdoor cats in their communities every single day, often twice a day. Many of these caring individuals make considerable sacrifices, both in terms of money and time, to help cats. There’s something both inspirational and humbling about being around such a devoted group of people.
Alley Cat Allies logo projected
onto the floor of the hotel lobby
There were more than 25 speakers, including national animal protection leaders, private and public shelter directors, animal control officers and veterinarians. Topics and workshops ranged from transforming shelters to navigating your local government to getting the veterinary community on board with Trap-Neuter-Return.
The Conference was aptly titled “Architects of Change for Cats” – and I believe that every single attendee came away inspired and empowered to do something about making the lives of cats in their communities better. Whether it’s through education, becoming an activist, or simply donating money or supplies to organizations – all of these will make a difference.
There was no “fluff” at this conference: this event was all about learning, and networking. But that’s not to say that attendees didn’t have fun. From a fantastic central location, minutes away from the airport, and only a short metro ride away from the sights of Washington DC, to delicious meals (all meals were completely vegan) to a lovely banquet which featured a performance by special guest John Fulton, host of Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats, who performed his signature cat songs at the Saturday night banquet and entertained the audience with his quirky humor, conference organizers made sure that this was also a getaway for many of the attendees who rarely take time away from their work with community cats.
I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this conference, and I’m already looking forward to next year.
You can read more about the conference in an article I wrote for Answers.com, titled Alley Cat Allies First National Conference Provides Information to Save Community Cats.