Caturdays are feline social time in Schenley Park

September 27, 2018
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On the first Saturday of the month, cats (and their people) meet up for some social time in Schenley Park.

Frisky Lincoln likes to socialize.

He enjoys strolling around Schenley Park, communing with nature and new friends.

Occasionally, he hacks up a hairball, but his furry pals don’t seem to mind. It comes with the territory on First Caturday.

Held on the first Saturday of each month at the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain in Oakland, the feline meet-up brings cats -- and their people -- together in the great outdoors. The trend started in 2015 in San Francisco’s Dolores Park and, thanks to social media, spread across the country.

Pittsburgh’s first foray into alfresco cat gatherings was set up last August by one of the national organizers who had never even been to the Steel City, but followed a local Instagrammer who posts pictures of his cat having adventures around town.

Ariel Kornhauser showed up with Frisky Lincoln, a domestic shorthair, and, like every human and beast in attendance, was unsure of what to do.

She reached out to the folks in San Francisco to ask if she could run the next event and inadvertently became the local organizer. She maintains the Facebook event page , but wants First Caturdays to be more of an organic assembly.

The location, she says, is “purrfect” because it’s shady, central to a lot of neighborhoods, is in close proximity to restaurants and public restrooms and is accessible by public transportation. Cats in carriers can ride the buses for free.

Dozens of folks show up with their pets each month during the summer and fall. Because a clowder of cats on leashes isn’t a common sight, the event attracts a lot of curious onlookers, who stop to snap selfies or play with the kitties.

Kornhauser estimated the largest turnout to be more than 100 people and felines.

“Being close to a couple universities with good foot traffic, we offer a nice alternative to Therapy Dog Days for the cat-lovers who might still be too transient to become pet owners, or who live in housing that doesn’t allow pets,” Kornhauser says.

Folks interested in bringing their whiskered companion out to the next Caturday, which takes place Saturday at 1:30 p.m., should invest some time in leash-training. Kornhauser recommends using a harness, which is more secure than a collar and prevents the wearer from wriggling loose if startled. She also suggests stocking up on flea and tick medication.

Some Caturday attendees prefer to stay inside a carrier or stroller.

Frisky Lincoln, for instance, has recently become a bit more shy and anxious outdoors.

“If you want to bring your cat outdoors, do it in a more controlled environment first, where there won’t be noise from traffic, or lots of other people or animals,” Kornhauser says. “Being outside and being on a leash is not an everyday experience for most cats.”

Although First Caturdays stop when the weather gets cold, Kornhauser hopes the event will eventually grow to include indoor meet-ups, adoption events, activities, vendors and performances.

From the proliferation of cat memes to cat cafes popping up in cities across the globe, what, exactly makes these animals so intriguing?

Kornhauser notes their “myriad purr-sonalities, their adorable toe-beans, their inquisitive natures, their deep healing purrs, their sweet little faces, their hilarious hijinks, their sass, their calming presence, their adaptability, their purr-fect companionship, their striking coats and physiques, and, just, generally everything.”

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