I didn’t grow up reading mainstream cat magazines. When I began to start piecing together my cultural frames of reference, I’d instead devour copies of music zines full of acerbic opinions and style rags whose focus was more about how each page looked from a designer’s eye view rather than being able to read the typeface.
I first came across Cat Fancy much later in life, when a bartender at what was then my local dive had a subscription delivered to the bar. I knew of the title’s reputation, of course — it was the grand old dame of cat magazines — but its contents were new to me. I found the articles curious, all these detailed guides to exotic-sounding felines, like the hairless Donskoy or the lavishly groomed chinchilla Persian, bookended by psychological theories about cats’ finicky behavioral quirks.
The whole enterprise was lost on me: After all, my obsessions at the time were proto-futuristic Neptunes productions long before Pharrell sullied the world with the song “Happy,” and art by a guy calling himself Banksy back when he was just another graffiti urchin scrapping to sell his £5 pocket books in art stores around London town.
Fast forward to now: As I flick through the latest copy of a modern print magazine called Puss Puss, which presents a fresh (and fashionable) take on the feline scene, I’m fondly reminded of those publications I used to so ardently consume. In many ways, Puss Puss hits home like the cat magazine I never knew I needed all those years ago.
Here’s a snapshot of Puss Puss: The cover of the first issue features a model with the word “Meow” tattooed on her inner-lip, while the main feature is about a famous Chinese installation artist I’d never heard of (his name is Ai Weiwei, and along with being a consultant on the Beijing National Stadium from the 2008 Olympics, he seems to have settled down in a compound with 30 cats).
The third and latest issue (which was released in the run-up to Christmas) includes an interview with the prickly-yet-goofy hip-hop figure Tyler, The Creator (an artist who has long been fond of using images of cats all over his flyers and merch), and a look at William S. Burroughs’ autobiographical novella The Cat Inside. The third installment is also somewhat ginger-themed, to the extent that there’s a high-end fashion spread based on Garfield.
The brainchild behind Puss Puss is Maria Joudina. (She currently resides with a Russian Blue named Sputnik.) After toying around with names like Cool For Cats and Meow Journal, she settled on Puss Puss as an honorific for the print venture, which launched in late-2014. It’s a name that she says has “the right cheekiness and naughtiness I associate with cats,” and also translates to “kiss kiss” in Swedish.
Maria says the idea to start Puss Puss was a natural culmination of her interests: “I love print and magazines and of course cats, so it felt right to put the two together. Also, when Ai Weiwei responded so positively and invited us to come meet him at his compound in Beijing, I knew we had to go ahead.”
When asked to define Puss Puss and plot its place along the cat media spectrum, Maria says, “I guess we are not a cat mag as such — I think of it more like a magazine for people who are interested in art, culture, and fashion, and also happen to be cat lovers.”
“The biggest compliment to me is when someone who is not into cats tells me they love Puss Puss and finds it interesting and engaging,” she adds.
These days, the conception of cats has changed; our feline friends are no longer seen as the preserve of the crazy cat lady. Now we have critically-adored hip-hop albums remade with cat sounds, craft beers inspired by strays, and New York City galleries that are turned into interactive cardboard cities in the name of kitten adoption events.
When I read Puss Puss, it resonates as a part of this shifting conception about cats and those people who obsess over them. To that end, I asked Maria whether she’s sensed a broader change in perception about the clichéd crazy cat lady (who may or may not have fawned over a Donskoy or a chinchilla Persian in another era).
“I do think cat owners are not perceived as crazy cat ladies anymore,” she says, “well, unless you actually are one, with hundreds of cats. Also, there are a lot more men who are openly describing themselves as cat guys. So, yeah, I do think there is a change going on.”
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