Every cat has a story. Ask almost any cat parents to tell you about their beloved furry family member, and you’ll be treated to a riveting story in league with the likes of Twain, Sedaris, or Breaking Bad. (At least to us cat lovers!)
Cat people love a good cat story, and Meow Quarterly is here to give us just that.
Created by husband and wife team Aja Badame and Jack Dixon, Meow Quarterly is a new website that offers a view into the lives of Internet famous cats. Cool, sleek, and stylish, the site showcases celebrity cats through cat-centric interviews and gorgeous photography of the cats in their own homes.
About a year and a half ago, after Aja moved back to the U.S. after living in Berlin, one of her top priorities was to bring cats into her life.
“I got two of my own cats and became completely obsessed. I started an Instagram account for them, and developed online friendships with others within the Sphynx cat community. I had no idea this weird world existed; it sort of blew my mind.”
After living the cat life with her Sphynx cats, Pearl and Herbie (who took the liberty of introducing themselves during our Skype interview!), Aja started cat sitting.
“I started cat sitting and found myself taking photos of other people’s cats while on the job. This in tandem with my love of taking photos of my own cats, my husband and I — who’s been an avid photographer and designer for years — thought, should we visit the homes of some of the cats we’ve been following online and turn it into something that people would actually want to read?”
“I couldn’t help but blurt out, ‘YES!'”
So Aja and Jack sat down and designed the site that would become Meow Quarterly. Six months later, after traveling hundreds of miles around the U.S. and Canada (Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, and the New York City area), writing thousands of words, taking countless photographs, and putting all of their cat-fueled energy into the website, Meow Quarterly went live on May 11, 2015. Aja and Jack did everything themselves.
“We really wanted to make the features cat focused, offering a window into their lives,” says Aja. “So often cat accounts [on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.] are filled with closeups — which we love! — but you never get to see what’s going on behind the scenes.”
To give their readers a little slice-of-cat-life, Aja and Jack wanted to know, “Where’s the cat waking up? Where’s he going to sleep? What do they see every day?”
And while many of the cats featured on Meow Quarterly are celebrity cats with thousands of followers online, Aja makes it clear that “likes,” “follows,” and “shares” do not necessarily a celebrity cat make.
“There are celebrity cats obviously, like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, but [the Meow Quarterly cats] are sort of community celebrity cats. These are the cats who don’t necessarily have 100,000 followers, but 15,000 followers — they have committed fans that are really interested in seeing what they’re up to every day. And they have fierce followings within their communities, believe me!”
Aja goes on to say that Meow Quarterly’s goal is to do as much good for cats as possible. While of course the site is fun, and Aja and Jack have a great time getting to meet cats who have stolen the hearts of so many cat lovers, they hope that in the future Meow Quarterly can help to improve the lives of shelter cats, rescue organizations, and the animal loving community at large.
“We would like to make a photography book, and I’m hoping that we can align with a charity or a shelter and work with them to donate some of the proceeds of any sales of the book. On a base level it’s been really fun for us, but we want to use it for as much good as possible. We would really like to incorporate cats that are in shelters, or spotlight shelters or people that are doing really important things within the animal community,” says Aja.
“Looking ahead, we would like to use the fame of some of the more well-known cats to do something good for cats who are having a hard time getting placed in forever homes. We hope to feature shelter cats alongside celebrity cats to help get them adopted.”
Aja adds, “We’re also looking to open it up to regular, interesting people with non-famous cats — I mean, who doesn’t think their cat is a star! — those people [and cats] have interesting stories. That’s another angle we’re hoping to explore.”
But what makes a celebrity cat? For Meow Quarterly it’s all about the cat’s story.
Aja mentions Kyle, one of the more famous cats featured in the premiere issue. Described on his Instagram (@mycatkyle):
My cat Kyle is a rescue with 3 teeth, no claws, severe dandruff, hip dysplasia, and a crooked ear. Also, he witnessed a murder. #CatsAgainstDV”, Kyle is a great example of a lovely and unusual cat that has lead an astonishing life.
“It’s such an emotional story,” explains Aja. “Kyle was living with 30 other cats in a home in which a domestic violence incident occurred that ended in a fatality. Kyle is a superstar with a lesson to teach the world about the challenges victims of abuse with pets have to endure.”
Aja takes pride in the fact that by going to the cats in person, really focusing on how special each cat is in her own right, they can get beyond the glamour of cat celebrity and see what makes each cat tick (or purr).
Of course, when discussing celebrity cats, the question of responsibility, and if cat celebrity has a negative impact on cat culture, inevitably comes up.
Aja agrees that there are problems; for example, when cats are placed in situations that cause them to experience fear, stress, or anxiety. Not all cats are equipped to make public appearances.
Aja tells me about an instance where one of the cats they interviewed, Sam Has Eyebrows, was scheduled to appear at South by Southwest. Sam and his owner made it to the airport, where it became obvious that Sam was not handling the trip well. They turned around and went home.
It’s those stories — where cats come first — that Aja and Jack can get behind. Obviously many celebrity cats are well cared for, loved, and even like the limelight, but not every famous cat is happy with that lifestyle. At the end of the day, Meow Quarterly wants to emphasize that the cats they feature are still “their own individual entities” beyond whatever fame they have gained.
In talking about the celebrity cats they interview, Aja makes it clear that she and Jack go to the cats, in the safety of the cats’ own homes, with their owners present.
“I am happy for cat celebrity culture to remain online. I don’t know if I need to meet any of these cats [in public] beyond what we’re doing.”
As Aja sees it, cats are “equals, rather than something to be owned,” and Meow Quarterly does not want to promote the kind of celebrity where the well-being of cats is compromised.
With so much cat celebrity inundating the Internet, it’s easy for cat lovers to be dubious of another celebrity cat website. However, I have to admit I’m charmed by Meow Quarterly’s dedication to letting cat personalities shine through.
The site is a great reminder to all cat lovers and admirers that despite a great set of eyebrows, an excellent mustache, or an adorably hairy face, celebrity cats want the same things our cats do — a safe home, yummy food, and loving people. Fame doesn’t have to change everything.
If you have an amazing cat or know of a cat with star quality, Meow Quarterly is open to suggestions for future issues. Send them your suggestions via its contact page. And be sure to follow Meow Quarterly on Instagram for your famous feline fix!
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About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Yokohama, Japan, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.