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Catster Values: What We Believe

We're often asked what we believe here at Catster HQ. Well, we'll share if you will, and we'll even go first.

Vicky Walker and Keith Bowers  |  Aug 6th 2012

“Not many people got a code to live by anymore.” A fictional repo man expressed this sad truth about the modern world, and we agree with it. But we here at Catster HQ, we do have a code, and we use it. We know and support and write for and about many others like ourselves. Last month, Dogster and Catster Editor-in-Chief Janine Kahn wrote “Let’s Talk About Dogster Values: Yours and Ours,” in which she outlined just what she and our sister site stand for. So today, we two lifelong dedicated cat people, your resident Catster editors, take on the subject of Catster values, and what they mean to us and you, our readers.

We aim to have a point of view, believing that without standing up and championing something, a publication fails to stand for anything at all, and it doesn’t do much to get people talking or thinking about anything they do.

People often ask what our point of view is, and it’s not simple to articulate. Not because we have no point of view at Catster; quite the contrary. We are fiercely opinionated when it comes to dog and cat issues, so it’s difficult to just pick one and say “There, that’s what we stand for,” and be done with it. Plus, it’s a complex world, and all the relationships among people, animals, big commercial interests, laws, nature, science, personal economics, and lots of things we’re leaving out allow for some disagreement and some nuance. Plus, we’re in the information business, and one of the things a journalist has to abide is that you’re never done learning. Keep asking questions. And if new sources bring you information you didn’t know before, it’s okay to change your mind.

A good starting point is the image below that Janine put together for a presentation to tell other people in our company about our two sites. It summarizes — or at least introduces — some of our main values nicely. It worked well that day, so we’ll use it here too.

To borrow words from Janine, “It doesn’t come close to addressing [our] stand on every last dog and cat issue out there; nor does it get us closer to a definitive point of view when it’s lumped together like this.” Just the same, it did lead us to five messages we believe are important enough to clarify and explain at some length below. So the next time someone asks you what those crazy kids at Catster HQ believe, you’ll have the answer in five easy bullet points.

5 Things We Believe at Catster

1. A cat is not an “it” or a “that.” A cat is a “who.”

Keith says: Cats are our friends. Literally. When I was young, my family moved a lot, so I spent a lot of time alone. It made me strong in a lot of ways, and it also showed me to value the real connections in my life because some are weaker than they appear and others are fleeting. One of my first such connections was with an orange tabby I named Topper. His love and companionship were one constant in an ever-changing world that could be pretty scary. Since then I’ve lived with nine cats (not simultaneously), and I’ve been honorary kitty daddy to about that many others.

I’ve learned that cats keep us company after tiring days at work. They help us through hard times after a breakup or a death. Caring for them makes us happy and helps rebuild our broken hearts. Cats make us laugh just by being themselves, and when we discover them living in desperate situations, they can take hold of us with such a fierce grip that we bring them home. Cats depend on us for food, shelter, and medical attention, sure, but we’re also their primary sources for love — something we all need. These are real relationships. So of course a cat is a “who,” not an “it.”

2. We care immensely about where you get your next pet, and we think you should care, too.

Vicky says: It never occurred to me to do anything other than get my cats from shelters or rescues. When I was a kid, our vet took in litters of strays and offered them out, which is how we got our first three.

Some of my cats just walked into my life — and yes, I checked to see whether they had owners or microchips. I suspect Frisbee belonged to an elderly neighbor who passed away. He was so handsome and fluffy that he had clearly not been stray or lost for long. One day he was sitting on the stoop and the next he was hanging out in our kitchen, demanding to be fed. Meanwhile, Miss Uppity Tibbs moved in after her owners got a dog. (When she visited them wearing her new collar, they wrote to us saying they were glad she had found a happier home with us.)

Keith says: The horrors of kitten mills and the need to curb overpopulation by spaying and neutering didn’t occur to me when I was young. The cats I had as a kid came from people in the neighborhood whose cats had kittens — which is one step better than a pet store, but still problematic, I see now.

It was my first pet-store cat as a young adult who opened my eyes. This adorable gray-and-white kitten named Junior died within two months from an incurable blood disorder. When I protested to the person working at the store where I got him, he said sadly, “This happens a lot.” Then I set about learning why it happens a lot — kitten mills — and also about the huge feral population and the unthinkable percentage of cats in shelters who get euthanized rather than adopted. “So many are out there,” it occurred to me. “Why do people intentionally make more?” Since then all my cats have come from shelters or, in the case of Tiger Lily, the streets.

3. We champion adoption.

Vicky says: We understand that you might want an adorable kitten or young cat next time rather than a raggedy, grumpy, less-cute, older cat who might require thousands of dollars in vet bills. (Oh, how we’ve been there.) We won’t judge you, because we’re just glad that every kitty, young or old, who goes home from the shelter leaves a space for another one.

Our aim is to educate people, not scold them — and we still have a long way to go, as Petfinder founder Betsy Saul estimates that 40 percent of pets in the U.S. today are from mills. So that’s why there’s an entire section of the Catster site dedicated to adoption, and that’s why we run articles about the amazing people who foster, rescue, and shelter cats and are completely devoted to helping as many of them as possible lead happy lives in new forever homes. Read, for example, “Meet the Happy Kitties of Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary.” Or “Big-Cat Caretaker Dana Fredsti Still Finds Time for the Kittens.” Or “Catster Heroes: Texas Real Estate Agent Becomes Cat Rescuer.”

4. We believe harming cats is criminal and should be condemned by society as such.

We know that we have a long way to go, based on the simple fact of the reports we bring you on the atrocities humans are capable of inflicting on animals. Janine invokes Mohandas Gandhi’s quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” While such stories can be disturbing to read, we think it’s vital to share them with Catster readers. By giving them a wider exposure, we hope to inspire others to act and prevent cruelty to animals.

5. We believe we can help you become a better pet parent (or owner or slave or chief of staff … whatever you want to call yourself).

In between bringing you adorable videos, heartwarming interviews, and pictures of chic cat stuff, we want to give you solid, useful advice from experts and experienced cat parents alike. We know that everyone from beginners to seasoned pet pros reads Catster articles, so our mission is to have items of interest for both the enthusiast and the novice.

Dr. Eric Barchas’ “Ask a Vet” column is going strong (he was Catster’s very first blogger years ago!). Regular columnists JaneA Kelley and Dorian Wagner (our very own Crazy Cat Lady) bring news and good advice, while we have guest writers and regulars every day of the week, talking about every angle of taking care for your kitty and making sure she has a long, happy life. And, of course, we invite you, the reader, to share your stories in the Catster Confessional series.

Anyway, there you have it. These are our values here at Catster, naked as a newborn kitten. Now we’d love to hear what your values are when it comes to your cats — or pets in general.

Vicky Walker is Catster and Dogster’s managing editor. Read her full bio and recent stories.

Keith Bowers is Catster and Dogster’s associate editor. Read his full bio and recent stories.