WALNUT CREEK -- Ann Fox and Gemma Osendorf-Boyd walk into Petco in downtown Walnut Creek and immediately make a beeline toward the section of the store where a few kittens are nestled in their quarters.
For Fox and Osendorf-Boyd, volunteers for Community Concern for Cats, caring for cats is part of their daily routine. And it's one, they say, they do with a lot of heart. Today, they're cooing over a 4-week-old wide-eyed tabby kitten named Bebe, who was found behind a consignment store in Pleasant Hill.
"She's the cutest little thing," said Osendorf-Boyd, CC4C president.
The nonprofit organization, which celebrates 26 years of rescuing, fostering and finding homes for cats and kittens, hope to continue to increase awareness about caring and adopting homeless felines.
They are mining a fertile vein that likely will hit home with cat lovers throughout Contra Costa. They're putting on an Internet Cat Video Film Festival on Sept. 7 at Heather Farm Park to bring not only cat lovers but the entire community to celebrate the Internet cat video craze that's captured audiences worldwide.
Fox saw a story in The New York Times' art section about a cat video festival premiered by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in August 2012. She read that out of 10,000 Internet videos nominated from around the world, 79 were chosen and edited to a 75-minute feature shown on a large screen to a massive crowd at the Minneapolis event.
If that one event drew a large audience there, just imagine what such an event might draw in the Bay Area -- a community, Fox noted, known for its huge love for animals.
So she called Scott Stulen of the Walker Art Center to ask if CC4C could host a similar event. Fox said she was overcome by the generosity of the Walker Art Center for providing not just the video, but also an updated version of the Internet Cat Video Festival, which will be shown on a large screen at Heather Farm Park's ball field following a full-day's festivities on Sept. 7.
"We're putting on an event like Walker did," said Fox, the event producer. "The Walker Art Center didn't have high expectations. They originally thought, why would people to an event when they can watch these videos at home? But this is like a dog park where everyone who loves cats is going to want to gather."
Osendorf-Boyd said she's marveled at how well Fox has organized the show so far. Fox has managed to invite other local animal rescue groups as well as local organizations to participate in the event which will feature local artists displaying their cat-themed art, musicians and yoga teachers from Walnut Creek's YogaWorks to demonstrate "Cat Yoga."
Civic Arts Education offered a special art program focusing on a feline-art theme for children this summer especially for the cat video festival.
"The children were all inspired by the cat theme this summer," Fox said of the young artists.
The stage at the event will be decorated with banners adorned with designs by Fox's friend, the late artist Laurel Burch, whose feline-themed designs are known worldwide, Fox said.
To make it a true family event, theater performers, kids' games and puppet shows will be featured. Local vendors will sell refreshments, and proceeds of the event admission will go toward increasing awareness about animal rescue and animal care.
"We are Community Concern for Cats so why not offer an event that includes the entire community," said Osendorf-Boyd, a volunteer for 17 years, who also helps oversee operations of CC4C's thrift store, Rescued Treasures on Newell and Broadway in downtown Walnut Creek.
For Fox, organizing a community event wasn't quite what she thought she would be doing when she lost her beloved malamute, Dakota, more than a year ago. The grieving Fox said she wasn't quite ready to adopt another pet, but her daughter encouraged her to consider it. As Fox exited the animal shelter in Martinez, her eyes immediately zeroed in on a person carrying a bundled towel walking toward the shelter entrance.
"That's when I saw a little head pop out," Fox said. "So I snatched the 'bottle baby,' towel and all."
Even after realizing that caring for a bottle-fed kitten required round-the-clock devotion, Fox said, it's been worth it.
"Toby, my tabby, is the love of my life," she said.
Now, she's been dedicating her time to help CC4C find homes for homeless felines.
"It's like the whole community has got this cat fever," Fox said. "Everybody is into the whole energy of it. They recognize how unique cats are and they can come together to learn what CC4C is doing. Sometimes we need to enjoy the quirkiness of cats."