A chandelier made out of cat food, humans “meowing” classical opera songs, and a dance inspired by Nyan Cat. If cats could explain their dreams, we imagine this would be their ultimate fantasy. But such reveries became reality Wednesday night during “The Friskies,” an award show created by the cat-food label to be the Oscars of the cat-video world. The feline-focused award ceremony, held at the SmogShoppe in Los Angeles, honored those who’ve lent their talents to the ever-bustling online arena of irresistible cat videos.
The dress code was “Friskies formal,” with tuxedoed and ball-gowned guests donning cat ears. And the venue was decked out to look like the average housecat’s primary domain: the living room, featuring an oriental rug, lounge chairs and end tables topped with cat sculptures. Guests feasted on cat-topped cupcakes while the awards were doled out.
And they wasted no time cuing up the viral hits for award glory. “Oskar’s First Toys,” a video of a blind cat playing with balls with bells inside, won the “Catuette” (gold-plated cat statue) for “Best Video”and the $15,000 grand prize. Director Mick Szydlowski hoped the award would encourage people to adopt blind cats. “With the right environment, special needs animals can thrive,” he said in his acceptance speech.
During the nomination process, Friskies received more than 1,400 submissions. The four judges — one of whom is the managing editor of Mousebreath, an award-winning online cat lifestyle magazine — embarked on the grueling mission of narrowing down the entries to 12 finalists, three videos in a total of four categories. The general public then voted for the winners over a three-week period, determining which videos would ultimately be graced with a $2,500 prize and “Catuette” trophy Wednesday night. The winners (watchable in full here) were:
- “Black Cat Stick ’em Up,” a video of Cole, a black kitten from Tampa, Fla., getting tickled. Won in the “Catness” category, which honored “the essence of cat behavior.”
- “Cardboard Dreams,” a video of cats Milo, Otis, Barrett and Bates playing in elaborately arranged cardboard boxes in Plano, Tex. Won the “Catventure” category, a tribute to felines frolicking indoors.
- “Cat Alarm Clock,” a video of Boo, an Elkhart, Ind., cat who wakes up his owner by playing with the springy doorstop. Won the category “Catcom” (funny cats). “It was time for my cat to start making me some money,” owner Weslley Cavalcante said in his acceptance speech.
- “Kitty Plays Fetch,” a video of a Cherry Hill, N.J., cat, Nylah, that plays fetch with a crumpled up piece of paper. Won the “Catch All” category.
The purpose of the awards, which were live-streamed from Friskies’ website and on ThePetCollective, was to honor “the art form” that is the cat video, according to the cat-food maker. But in reality, it was meant to honor the cats. A voiceover kicked off the ceremony with a history lesson about cats’ importance in society. To sum it up: “Mice threatened to destroy civilization and crush the human race until . . . cats hunted the mice,” thereby saving the world. And the gracious attitude was palpable. Host Michael Buckley, who runs a popular YouTube Channel, emerged to exclaim, “I am pee-on-the-furniture excited,” though he vowed to keep events “above the fray and out of the litter box.”
The humans had plenty of entertainment to keep such excitement levels ramped up. About halfway through the ceremony, a cat-a-pella group serenaded the audience, meowing an opera medley of “Habanera” and “Les Voici, Les Voici” from Carmen and “Duetto Buffo Di Due Gatti,” which is often attributed to Rossini. The singers — two men and two women — were dressed in black and wearing brightly colored neck ties and cat ears on their heads. The beatbox keeping their rhythm, unsurprisingly, was a cat’s purr.
And any “Oscars of the cat-video world” would be remiss in ignoring the ultimate in cat-themed video memes. A dancer donned a strawberry Pop-Tarts costume with rainbow flags on either side and performed a modern dance inspired by the viral Nyan Cat. He twirled, did cartwheels, and busted out some ballet moves on an oriental rug to the video’s techno beat, played on a violin, as the live audience clapped along.
In the end, “The Friskies” were sure to honor those videos that won awards long before their ceremony’s existence. Will Braden, creator of the angsty, film noir-inspired “Henri, Le Chat Noir” YouTube series, received a “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and a video message from Henri was shown. “Cat video awards should be presented to the cats themselves. Viva la Résistance,” the cat said, in his typical morose style. Henri may be allowed to have some attitude; after all, he won the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Film Festival in August.
After all the excitement, the winning felines are now free to return to their regular perches on the windowsill, atop the scratching post, or under the couch, unaffected as ever. And cat owners everywhere will be anxiously watching for signs of recordable life in hopes of capturing a coveted Catuette next year.