We finally finished the promo video for our book. If you haven’t gotten your book yet you can order it here.
Alberto here. It’s my favorite time of the week again (well unless it’s the day when our wet food meal includes my favorite tuna with gravy). I’ve wandered through the web to bring you my faves of the week. Enjoy.
Purrs & Head Bonks,
Before you start meowing at me and say, “There are plenty of cat books!” allow me to explain. This isn’t just a book of kitty photos. It’s a book from Humble Arts Foundation that features a curated selection of cat photos in a book called Humble Cats.
In the words of the article from Feature Shoot, “While at times the imagery is pleasingly kitsch, it also goes beyond the meme with more contemplative photographs that ask questions and provide few answers.” Now I’m a pretty savvy feline but I’m not sure what “kitsch” means I think any photo of us fabulous felines can be “contemplative”. Take for instance, the new book by The Tribe of Five, Felines Opine about God. I think a number of our photos are quite contemplative. But I am digressing into shameless self promotion now (the book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition). End of shameless self-promotion.
There are other wonderful feline photo books out such as PhotoCat by Sacha de Boer.
If you can’t get enough of feline photos, head on over to Instragram. Start by visiting Cats of Instagram and you’ll see some fabulous furry creatures there.
The human writer of this article certainly knows their felines! They begin the article by saying that “When you own a cat, it often feels as though your pet is your boss.” First allow me to explain that no one owns a cat, we are the epitome of the saying, “Dogs have owners, cats have staff”. There is an excellent quote from the author of The Lion in the Living Room, Abigail Tucker, who says, “You could see our relationship with cats as a series of cat-controlled takeovers.”. In celebration of these and other ideas about how we felines fit into the lives of our humans (or purrhaps make our humans fit into our lives) a video has been created called “How Cats Tamed Us” a new edition to the “Obsession” series that is based on Tucker’s book. I was quite excited to see they got some big name stars for the video like Cole & Marmalade. Lil’ Bub and Grumpy Cat! Meow, I give this movie a 2 paws up!
It’s about time that felines got some recognition for their television roles. Some of these questions will require that you dig deep, deep into your old TV show memory bank (this kitten never even heard of some of these) but it’s pretty cool. The quiz asks questions about the felines in courtroom dramas, sci-fi shows, cartoons and puppet shows. Take the quiz and let us know how you did!
If your humans are crafty, you might want them to take a look at these books. The Female Human is crafty, even has a room she refers to as her “craft room”. This room is
usually off limits to me because I like to chew on plastic and paper and generally wreak havoc in her little spot but she does let me join her often. She’s even placed a little cat bed on a bench next to her crafting table so that I can snooze while she works.
I purrused the books and I think my favorite is the one that shows humans how to make cat castles. What feline doesn’t want their own castle, or airplane. tepee, rocket, battle ship..well, you get the idea. I think this would be an excellent use of The Female Human’s time in her craft room. If you can’t talk your humans into cardboard structures, they can also make creations with cat hair or even knit their own cat or make cat-like items such as cat bookends and a quick sew stuffed kitty.
I am outraged my friends, just outraged! Take a look at the face of this completely defeated feline and tell me this is right. The human who contributed this photo says he has two toddlers and once a week he finds his cat like this. Fairy wings? Really? Sometimes the indignities we felines have to suffer is beyond the pale. I say felines unite against little humans who want to wrestle you into a costume. And to my pink fairy-winged friend in the photo I say, “Hold you head up man, be a cat of dignity!”
Oliver here. I’ve been feeling a bit reflective ever since our purrsonal assistant received an email from another human named Daniel Richardson who lives, as we felines say, across the Pond.
Those of you who follow our blog understand that The Tribe of Five is quite enamored with the British humans, who, we believe, are some of the most pawsome and enlightened humans when it comes to cats.
Now this human, Daniel, was interested in sharing a graphic he’d done regarding the many reasons to adopt cats. The Tribe of Five are great fans of adoption. We even shared stories about our adoptions (and featured some baby pics) on our “Remember Me Thursday” post entitled, “Let’s Talk About Adoption” .
We had our purrsonal assistant purrruse Daniel Richardson’s webpage, Tuxedo Cat and yowza did we learn a lot!
Did you know that in the UK 75% of all cats are Black and White? And, because they are so common they’re often overlooked by many people when choosing a cat? Well this black and white cat says that’s terrible! I was horrified to learn that Tuxedo patterned cats generally spend more than ten days longer in cat shelters than other cats. This really made me think. If our humans hadn’t adopted us after fostering us, Alberto (my brother, the Siamese looking fellow) probably would have been adopted much sooner than me, even here in the U.S.
According to the information on Tuxedo Cat, a “Tuxedo” is black and white, they typically have black coloring around their eyes often with a white chin or nose, sort of like a mask. To be officially classified as a Tuxedo Cat, the feline should have a predominantly black coat with a white chest and paws. The photo to the left is a fine example of a Tuxedo and is Whiskey, the spokespurrrson for the Tuxedo Cat website.
Meowza is there a lot to learn about the esteemed black and white cat on this website. I took a good long look in the mirror and my coloring is not “classic” Tuxedo but I do think I’m close enough to stand in solidarity with the Tuxedos. Black and white cats are cool, they’re great swimmers, good-natured, very smart, and, well the list goes on and on but the female human warned me not to go too far with my “black and white cats are the best” lest the rest of the Tribe take exception to my comments.
So, what started out as an opportunity to share an excellent graphic on adoption has become quite an information session about Tuxedo Cats. And there’s more, the Tribe of Five will be interviewing Whiskey and sharing with you his adoption story.
So, as my feline friends across the Pond say, Cheerio until next time and if you don’t go over to TuxedoCats you’re just barmy! (and don’t forget to check out the pawsome graphic about adoption from Whiskey’s human below!)
Purrs & Head Bonks,
Alberto here, your intrepid (albeit tardy) on the scene BlogPaws reporter. So the female human attended a conference for professional pet bloggers and writers and not only did she have a great time, she managed to connect with some of the best cat writers there. And these wonderful humans graciously donated signed books for her to use at her table at our local Panhandle Animal Shelter fundraiser in August.
I’m going to feature each one of these talented (and generous authors) and their books. Today’s featured author is Deborah Barnes.
Deborah Barnes is an award winning author and all around great cat lady. Her book “Makin ‘ Biscuits” was a multi award winner this year, receiving a Muse Award, The Good News for Pets Human Animal Bond Award and the CWA (Cat Writer’s President’s Award. This book is a delightful look at “Weird Cat Habits and Even Weirder Habits of The Humans Who Love Them”. It’s a compilation that personal anecdotes from Deborah and cat lovers around the world. If you want a “me too” moment or want to know a little more about felines and the crazy people who love them, you will love this book.
Purr Prints of the Heart is a memoir written from the viewpoint of a feline named Mr. Jazz. Mr. Jazz reflects on his life from kitten to old age and offers comfort to all who have dealt with the loss of a beloved pet.
The third generous donation from Deborah Barnes is her book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey, A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary. This book tells a beautiful tale of how two cats bond together and how they fulfill and enrich the life of their human. Through her willingness to be transparent and to share how some of her biggest hurdles in life were made easier through the love and relationship she enjoyed with these two marvelous felines.
Not only is Deborah Barnes an excellent author, she’s a very nice human and the female human enjoyed getting to know her at BlogPaws.
I urge you to hightail it to your favorite book seller and buy these books and, if you are lucky enough to live in Sandpoint, Idaho, you can attend the Hodgepodge at the Lodge fund raiser for the Panhandle Animal Shelter and bid on the table the female human is putting together which will not only have amazing books (I’ll be highlighting all the authors who graciously donated signed books in the next few blog posts) but will feature many other fun things for the feline library theme.
Your BlogPaws on the scene reporter Alberto, signing off for now.
Well, I must say, 2016 was fairly much like 2015. I retained my lofty position on the red chair in the living room, received treats regularly and even strolled (under human supervision) on the upstairs deck.
The “little guys” as we call them continued to be annoying and always up to some kitten shenanigans but they do recognize my authority as the Alpha of The Tribe of Five and now that they’re just over a year, they are settling down a bit.
And they are making themselves useful. Oliver has decided he likes my prescription food and this is quite convenient for me.. Each morning, when the female human comes out of the bedroom, Oliver races down the hallway and does a little dance by the food bowl. The female human obediently goes to the pantry in the laundry room, grabs the food and fills both of our bowls. Having Oliver around is never having to say, “I’m hungry”.
I’m looking forward to another relaxing year as Alpha as I take up my post on the red chair (or, as the humans refer to it, the “throne”), watch the household antics of Oliver and Alberto, receive my treats and have a perpetually full food bowl.
Well, I am still living in the human’s bedroom but things have progressed. If you’re wondering why I live in the bedroom, you can read about it in Amelia’s story.
There have been some breakthroughs in 2016. The humans invite Lily into the bedroom frequently in the evenings and things are progressing enough that I will actually come out from under the bed when she’s there (although sometimes she forgets she’s supposed to show me deference and chases after me, resulting in a loud a hissy fit and a big “fluffy tail”).. The female human is also leaving the bedroom door open periodically (when she can watch Lily and make sure she doesn’t waltz in.) I am optimistic about the future.
There is much in my two-room environment to keep me interested, the automatic red dot thingy that twirls and spins and throws red dots down the hallway, huge windows and wide window ledges that look out to the woods around the house. I often have visitors come by. Some are felines, some are birds, some are squirrels and there is the occasional raccoon as well.
My brother Tucker comes and visits and sleeps overnight, as does Oliver and Alberto. Tucker sleeps in one of the cushy cat beds but Alberto and Oliver are a bit disruptive so they end up being escorted out of the room at some time in the wee hours.
The female human showed me that you don’t have to go out to do good work for pets. She and her sister founded a lost pet social media organization for our area and many pets have been reunited with their families thanks to all the good people who help.
All in all, it’s been a good year and much more interesting than last year. The female human told me that when I write my year end comments for 2017, she hopes I’ll be telling you how I roam around the house again.
It’s been a good year. I’ve been in the human’s bedroom many times and I’m thinking Jasmine and I may be friends after all (as long as I don’t forget myself and chase her).
I have a nice routine with the female human. Each evening after she finishes making dinner, she goes downstairs and gets a pail full of cat food. She calls this “junk food” and won’t let us eat it on a regular basis, but she does give Alberto and I a few bits. If Tucker deigns to sashay down the stairs to join us, he gets a few pieces too. She then takes the pail and puts the food down on the patio for our masked friends. One of them comes with her little masked babies and I like to sit by the sliding glass doors and chat with them about woodland life versus indoor life. Seems to me I have the better deal.
The female human’s story “All My Children Wear Fur Coats” was published in February in the newest Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s soul book. This experience made her even more interested in writing about and for cats (it’s because of this that she is our purrrrsonal assistant and types for us in this blog). She was even on several radio shows talking about the fabulous Tribe of Five and is now working on something she refers to as a “cozy mystery” that has two cats as main characters (I hope one of them is me).
This month was a bit stressful. Some of the human’s relatives visited, and, although I am sure they are wonderful people, I did not want to be bothered so I spent the time downstairs, burrowed under the sofa cover. The Tribe of Five produced a manual for guests who visit homes with felines, you may want to ensure your humans read this.
It’s been a purrfectly wonderful year and I look forward to a purrfectly wonderful 2017 as well.
I would say that I probably had the most exciting year as I threw my hat in the ring as the Kitty Cat Party cat-i-date for purresident. My running mate, Olive, from Three Chatty Cats, and I even sent our human to a conference called Blogpaws with campaign buttons to spread the word about our platform.
Olive and I presented a complete platform only to find that the Today Show featured another feline who was running and never even mentioned my name so I had to take them to task, sheesh, what’s a cat got to do to get some press coverage?
Sadly, my running mate and I did not win but this does not mean that I have abandoned all my purrlitical aspirations. I have been reading about cats that are mayors, customs officials and even a Chief Mouser for the British Cabinet. Now that I have some experience, I’m thinking I might just be successful at this purrlitical thing.
No matter what I decide to do in 2017, it will be a great year and I look forward to opining all about it.
It was a great year. I was the official spokes-purrson for the Kitty Cat Pawty campaign and I quite enjoyed all the attention. Even though my brother Oliver didn’t win, he told me there would be a job for me if he ever entered the purrlitical arena again.
Things in the spring and summer were grand. The humans bought us a portable catio and we all enjoyed
bird and squirrel watching on the front porch and upstairs deck in complete safety. Ever since the female human took a class about the concept of “Fearless” cat raising, she’s made sure our home is as fear free as possible.
The next exciting thing I experienced was being able to stroll through the front garden with a harness and leash. I quite enjoy myself when the female human takes me out to explore.
I had fun with the male human showing him how to pluck the string things on his guitar, we made some lovely mewsic together
Fall was a bit dicey. First the humans tried to put some ridiculous thing on me that they called a “dinosaur costume”. I was having none of it and, as you can see by my expression, I conveyed my unhappiness quite clearly.
Then, the female human came out into the living room one night made up like a feline. I was completely gobsmacked (as my British moggie friends would say). At first I was freaked out. Was she going through some strange human to feline transformation? If she was transforming into a cat, who would take over all the things she does for us? (I don’t trust the male human to do this). Once I calmed down and figured out she was not cat-morphing I became a bit annoyed. Was she mocking us? It was a terrible “faux paws” and one, I am fairly certain, the female human will not repeat.
As I lounge by the fire, I am thinking what a happy cat I am and I think 2017 will be even better.
A final note from the #TribeOfFive
Thanks to all our friends out there in the blogosphere. We love the notes we receive from other felines (and other non-feline creatures…and even humans) and we look forward to entertaining and enlightening you all from our little corner of the world in 2017.
Purrs & Meows,
Tucker, Jasmine, Lily, Alberto & Oliver
Jasmine here. I am so excited to tell you about my elegant friend Navi and her wonderful human, Crystal . Thanks to the wonder of the internet (and with the help of my purrsonal assistant) I was able to interview Navi and talk to her about her life and amazing tea party. Navi and I have much in common as I am a bit of a princess myself.
Without fur-ther ado, meet my friend Navi who reminded me that as a Siamese, she has lots to say.
Navi, you have an interesting name, how did you get it?
That’s a good question Jasmine. It took a week for my mommy to name me. She wanted to get to know my purrrsonality first but she was stumped. The first week in my new home I was quite the chatterbox, I followed her everywhere, blinking my baby blue eyes at her and begging for attention. Then inspiration came. Navi, from the Legend of Zelda game, is one of the most annoying video game characters of all time. In one of the episodes, there was a little blue-eyed fairy that would follow Link around and in order to get his attention, would yell, “Hey listen.” My big blue eyes and habit of following Mommy around everywhere chattering at her gave her the inspiration for my name. She declared that Navi was a purrrfect name for me.
That’s a great story Navi, my humans aren’t well versed in Video games which is why they named me after the lady that rescued me and my brother Tucker. So how did you come to live with your humans?
I moved in about three years ago when I was a 5-month old kitten. My human had a Siamese friend when she was little and she loved that feline. Sadly, not all of the Siamese she met later on were very healthy and she lost several Siamese fur kids at very young ages. This made my human very lonely and sad. She really missed having a Siamese friend in the house. That was when she decided to look into traditional Siamese felines and met a lady who loved Siamese cats as much as she does. This lady had my brother and sister who went to live with another human. My Mom had made her mind up that she wanted a big male Siamese but my brother was a little goofy looking (no offense bro) so she picked me instead.
Did you have a hard time getting used to your new home?
Not really, at first I kept myself a bit aloof, you know, have to check out the resident humans and the place to make sure it fit my needs. I even refused to sit in the human’s lap at first but that’s all changed.
Are there any other fur kids in your house?
I’m the only kitty. Mom did try to bring another cat into the house once but he got very sick and she was worried that I would get sick too. Now she lavishes all her love and attention on me, well, except for the rats.
Rats? Like rodents?
Oh yes, the rats don’t have life spans as long as felines, but as long as I’ve lived here there have been pet rats as well. As a matter of fact, I have a new rat-brother named Moose. I get along with him okay but, between you and me, rats scare me. And I’m not so fond of them when they chase me. Moose is already proving to be a problem, grabbing my tail and messing with my fur. But, he’s a family member so I tolerate him.
Hmm, I have four feline siblings and I’m not so sure one rat might not be better.Maybe we should talk about a trade sometime. Navi, I want to talk about the beautiful photos of your tea party and your very stylish pearls. Do you wear them all the time?
Thank you; I do love my pearl necklace. Mommy made them just for me. I wear them once in a while but I have lots of collars to choose from. I prefer not to wear them too often as they mess up my lovely fur. Actually I think there is a new collar in my Christmas stocking, but don’t tell my Mom I know!
Mum’s the word Navi. Now, tell me how this elegant tea party came about.
This was was an elegant “girls” party and I don’t think Daddy would have been interested in attending had we invited him. I love doing things with Mommy, especially things that involve food.
I must ask what kind of tea were you drinking? The female human has never offered us tea.
Mommy had human hibiscus tea which I would turn my nose up at had she offered it to me. So, of course, she made me catnip tea!
There is tea from catnip? Meow!
Actually, humans can drink catnip tea to help them sleep but I like it too. I also enjoyed the fishy treats I received on the lovely china.
Do you and your female human do other things together besides having tea parties?
We do everything together, she even threw me a birthday party when I turned three and made me a shrimp and scallop birthday cake with a little candle in it!
We take road trips together, once all the way from Florida (where we live) to Michigan. We visited her grandparents and I met some new dog friends.
Hiss, I hate car trips, I always fight being put into the kitty tent and then I yowl all the way to our destination (which is usually that nasty place where the people with the white coats poke and prod me). A road trip doesn’t sound very fun at all.
Oh, the first time I got in the car I was scared too but as we took more long rides it got better. And on long trips, Daddy drives and Mommy and I sit in the back and because I’m so well behaved, I get to sit in her lap and not in the cat carrier.
Hmm, not sure if you’ve convinced me about car rides but I do love lap sitting!
Navi, you look so graceful and elegant in the photos from your tea party. Do you have any tips for our feline readers in case they are invited to a tea party?
Well Jasmine, there’s just no hope for some boy cats, their paws are just too big and clumsy. But for more elegant tea-attending felines, here are a few tips: remember that it helps when Mommy has a chair close to the edge of the tablewith so you can reach your cup easily. Then it’s important to keep your whiskers out of the cup and your fur clean. Oh, and don’t slurp, that’s tacky! Sometimes though the tea and treats are just so good, you want to jump on the table! I suggest you only do that if invited to do so.
Navi, how did these amazing photos of your tea party come about?
Mommy loves to take pictures, especially of me (who wouldn’t?). She got a new tea set and although she’s not one of those female humans who love to dress up, but she does love to do fun, silly things (especially with me). When her father joked that she could have a tea party with me she thought, of course, what a purrrfect idea! Since she doesn’t get to see her Dad too often she thought our tea party photos would make him smile. You should have seen her setting the camera up on the tripod thing and then rushing to her chair to appear as though she was leisurely sipping her tea. It was funny!
She posted some of the photos on Facebook and we were surprised at how folks liked them (and all the compliments I received).
Yes, that’s how our female human found out about you and she couldn’t wait to see if you would allow us to interview you. Thanks, by the way.
You’re very welcome Jasmine!
Navi, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers before we finish our interview?
First, I want to thank everyone who noticed these photos my mommy took and for interviewing me! I think every human should try to spend more time with their kitties and involve them more. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting felines go through your human’s dishes or start drinking out of their cups to indicate you’d like a tea party too. That could end badly. Better to offer some extra purrs and head butts or just sit quietly in a chair across the table from them. I’m sure they’ll get the hint and do something special for you too. Try to be as well behaved as I am and your humans may just take you on adventures. I get to go lots of places with Mommy.
I wish all my friends a furry Christmas. I can’t wait for Christmas and to open my stocking! There’s also something really big under the tree that I just know is for me! And of course, she’ll be taking more pictures to make more memories.
– Purrs & kisses – Navi
And Meows to you too Navi! Well folks, that’s it for our feature on Navi and her tea party. I’m hoping she’ll come back again sometime to share photos and stories about her next adventure.
Your friend, Jasmine
About Navi’s Human:
Crystal Howard is the photographer of these enchanting photos. She and Navi and the family live in Florida. Although the tea party photos depict her as quite elegant, she grew up in Michigan and spent most of her childhood on farms where she enjoyed running around the fields.
Crystal always loved animals (especially cats), nature, art and photography. When she was six, her grandmother gave her a Canon camera and that started her passion for photography.
Her first Siamese came to live with her when she was fifteen and she’s been in love with the breed ever since. She trained her first Siamese so well that the feline turned people who weren’t “cat people” into cat lovers.
Crystal’s relationship with her cats is one of deep love and affection cultivated by time spent with them. She says that Navi never ceases to amaze her and reminds her how smart and emotional animals can be.
Crystal says, “. I feel like all animals are amazing and have the ability to understand so much, sometimes we are just so busy we just don’t take time to notice or appreciate them. That is what I try to express through my photographs. When we get down to their level and interact or just observe we can see how incredible animals and nature really are. Cats especially are such a gift and I always say some of my most special cats have been my best friends and little lifesavers!”
Hello All and Meowry Christmas,
Tucker here. As the Alpha in the house, it is my job to ensure that tradition is maintained during the holidays as regards the Tribe of Five.
The female human, many years ago, when she was dating the male human, purchased a book for the male human called “Catmas Carols”. It was her attempt to lure him into her feline loving world. It evidently worked because six months after they were married, they got a kitten (you can read the story in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, My Very Good, Very Bad Cat). The story is called “All My Children Wear Fur Coats”. The female human told me to tell you the book makes a good Christmas gift. I am disgusted that the female human would have me shilling for her this way but she does give us much love and care so I guess I owe her a plug for the book.
Anyway, to get back to the Catmas Carols, this little book has wonderful Christmas songs and the female human serenades us every Christmas with these wonderful feline carols. It is a long-standing tradition and one we love so, I thought I’d share a few of these wonderful songs with you. Catmas Carols was written by Laurie Loughlin and illustrated by Mary Ross and, if you are still looking for a gift for your feline friends, I’d highly recommend it.
I’ve featured the cover and two of the wonderful Catmas tunes. Sing along with your feline friends (and if the canines want to join in, please share the spirit of the holiday and allow them to sing along without swatting them.)
The felines have allowed me one more follow up post before they take over the keyboard again. A friend and fellow cat writer, Rachel from Three Chatty Cats sent me a link to an article by Jason Schipkowski a Mentorship and Training Manager with Pets for Life (PFL) at The Humane Society of the United States that speaks directly to the issues I shared in Amelia’s story. This article is too important not to share.
Thank you all for allowing me to share Amelia’s story. Thank for your encouragement. And, of course, thanks to The Tribe of Five for allowing me to insert my thoughts and heart into their blog.
This article is from Animal Sheltering on the Humane Society of The United States website. Dated August 2, 2016
You don’t have to look far to see fairly angry language implying how generally cruel people are (hello Facebook!) Jason Schipkowski explains the importance of examining how and why we may be fanning those flames.
It was 8 years ago when I got into animal welfare work, and I can remember the catalyst. I was at my neighborhood coffee joint when I saw it: a calendar for sale by a local rescue group. As I flipped through it, I was struck by wave after wave of pitiful before-and-after pictures—thin, crusty-skinned dogs juxtaposed with uplifting pictures of the same dogs beaming, furry and happy after rescue and rehab. I was moved to action and I signed up to help the group that had put out the calendar. Volunteering and donating turned into a marketing and development position within the organization. I was eager to give a voice to the voiceless and combat the hordes of malicious people lurking in the shadows waiting to do harm to animals.
It wasn’t until years later that I recognized just how pivotal the messages in that calendar were in shaping my initial perceptions of the field and what my purpose as an animal welfare professional should be. As the marketing guy, I wrote more web stories, social media posts, press releases and newsletters than I can remember. Often those communications included an all-too-familiar dramatic arc. It began with the wistful story of the abandoned animal, moved on to the backstory of unquestionable neglect or abuse, reached a crescendo at the time of rescue and told the story of dedicated rehabilitation by the rescuers.
That formula probably sounds familiar, and there is some truth to it. It’s certainly the story that solidified my passion for the work. But like a photograph that represents a single snapshot in time and doesn’t allow the viewer to see beyond the borders of the frame, there came a point where I felt like I wasn’t always telling the complete story. And when you don’t have the complete story, it becomes simpler to fill in the blanks with assumptions that fit the common narrative rather than seek a more thorough understanding of a more complex situation.
Think of a malnourished cat coming into the shelter. Typically what we assume is tied to that story is a “heartless person.” The common narrative doesn’t leave much room for what might in fact be a loving person whose cat bolted out the door, and they weren’t able to find them despite their very best efforts. What we put out there for consumption can be a matter of perspective; a story told enough times, and heard by enough people, can make them think of it as the rule rather than the exception.
The general public takes its cues from us, the experts. As such, there’s genuine influence in, and repercussions to, the narratives we create. Just take a cursory glance at the comments sections of any number of organizations’ social media pages—you don’t have to look far to see some fairly angry language implying how generally cruel people are. When we see that rhetoric become commonplace it’s important to look at how and why we may be fanning those flames. Are we taking the time to consider our stories with an open, balanced mindset, ensuing we’re broadcasting the most holistic and accurate message possible, or are we automatically reaching for that familiar, traditional message?
There’s no doubt, having someone to root against can be galvanizing. But what do we do when there’s no clear-cut villain? How does the story change when that thin dog is coming into the shelter only because his owner was being evicted, he got loose, and she hadn’t been able to get him some dewormer? While it’s a more nuanced story, we have a responsibility to tell it, or at a minimum acknowledge it’s not a case of an evil abuser hurting an animal and us sweeping in on white horses to save him.
Over time, the individual stories we tell become our organization’s identity. In aggregate, these stories can define our field as a whole, as well as how people direct their support. A development director at a local animal shelter recently told me about a tough spot she was in with a major donor. While there was a burning desire to ask the long-time supporter to give towards their organization’s work for underserved communities, her fear was that the donor, who had historically reserved her giving for severe medical cases of shelter animals, would be put off by the ask. In the end, the value of community-based work wasn’t discussed, and it was business as usual. Was that the right approach? I couldn’t say. What grabbed me was the thought of how many important discussions may not be happening or how innovation can be stifled for fear of swimming upstream.
I worry that our identity as a field is at times so inseparable from sad cases of perceived abuse that it’s become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because those before-and-after photos in the calendars are what’s expected and what’s seen as motivating, we often choose to seek out and prioritize those stories above all else, limiting our dialogue to what’s most familiar instead of pushing the conversation towards a more complete story. I also think many believe fundraising messages have to use negativity and despair to be successful because it’s all that’s been done before. They’re convinced positive stories don’t sell. If we conclude—without ever testing our theory—that a new or additional narrative won’t take appeal to people, we are choosing to idly sit by and not lead towards the next stage in our field’s evolution.
There’s often a murky confluence between discussions about abuse, neglect and “stray” animal intake and underserved communities. We talk about where the animal was rescued and speculate on the cause of his or her condition—“We saved yet another emaciated dog, who we named Pikachu, from the dangerous streets of an area west of the city that we all know to be synonymous with crime and animal neglect. People are callous, and they must do better.” I admit that even writing that sentence came all too easily for me, as I’ve written some variation of it too many times.
This insensitively (and inaccurately) paints entire communities with a broad brush. It leads to anger, skepticism and isolation toward entire groups of people rather than holding individuals accountable for their actions. It creates an aura of superiority on our part, not partnership. The result is that we disconnect ourselves from many animal-loving families who should be able to look to us as a welcoming resource. It can also set up a false “us versus them” mentality in the eyes of our staff and supporter base. These messages often perpetuate stereotypes that have staying power and affect the world beyond just our field.
Our human heard about the Music For Cats Kickstarter campaign and when she read about the composer and the science behind the music, she had to pre-order the album.
This album is the result of two years of research born from David Teie’s theory on the fundamental nature music appreciation by mammals. There’s a lot more scientific stuff that’s beyond the mind of this feline but the humans seemed to understand and were quite impressed.
The female human set up the wireless speaker and played this compilation of kitty concertos for us. We’ll be reporting in soon about our reactions. In the meantime, have your humans play you a sample from the Music for Cats website.