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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Cat lovers flocked to the Hippodrome State Theatre on Saturday to watch 65 minutes of cat videos.

The videos were part of the Internet Cat Video Festival, where locals could not only watch popular Internet videos on a big screen, but meet celebrity cat videographer Chris Poole, watch performances from local artists and snuggle with two cats up for adoption.

Proceeds from the sold-out shows went to Operation Catnip, a local organization that focuses on community cat management and advocacy.

Emily Henderson, the development program coordinator for Operation Catnip, said the organization helps free-roaming cats by trapping, neutering and releasing them. The Internet Cat Video Festival is the first event of its kind Operation Catnip has had, she said.

"We were looking for different ways to engage the community, and we heard about this program and figured it seemed like the perfect opportunity," she said.

The video reel was produced and curated by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Henderson said. The reel is shown every weekend in different cities across the country, benefitting local cat programs.

Operation Catnip had about 600 tickets for sale at $15 for general admission and $12 for students, selling out two of four show times at 4:25 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Poole flew into town from California to attend the event. He said he wanted to bring his two celebrity cats, Cole and Marmalade, but the travel would have been too stressful for them.

Poole started making cat videos in his spare time before his career took off, accumulating more than 60 million views on YouTube.

"The videos are probably 70 percent silly and fun, and 30 percent focused on education and awareness for cats," he said. His 2-year-old orange tabby cat, Marmalade, beat cancer, and he got 3-year-old Cole, a black cat, from a cat rescue in Tampa.

Poole sold cat-themed afghans, which he called Catghans, and Cole and Marmalade "paw-tographed" calendars. He donated the proceeds back to Operation Catnip.

The two black cats available for adoption from the Alachua County Humane Society, 3-month-old sisters Paris and Penelope, were not adopted Saturday. But they did receive hours of attention from guests, many of which were children with faces painted to look like cats.

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Guests could also peruse a silent auction in the art gallery, which offered cat-themed items like kitchenware and paintings.

Amanda Barrett, 31, placed a bid before the 4:25 p.m. show.

"They had some kitty-cat mugs that I bid on," she said. "That’s my jam."

Contact Brooke Baitinger at and follow her on Twitter @BaitingerBrooke

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