'Catalystas' Working to Improve Cats' Reputation

 |  Aug 23rd 2010  |   20 Contributions


The CATalyst Council is working with vets and animal rescue organizations to combat the "lonely lady with an apartment full of cats" stereotype. Photo courtesy of Biddycat.com.

All cat caretakers have heard the term "crazy cat lady" at some point in their lives. And some have even had that label applied to them.

But a new marketing effort is underway to replace that dubious epithet with the more appealing term "catalysta."

The word, a portmanteau of catalyst and fashionista, is one way animal advocates are fighting for felines. The name was coined by the CATalyst Council, a coalition founded in 2008 to help raise the cat's profile in the face of increasing evidence of a cat health crisis.

Statistics show cats are significantly less likely to receive medical services than dogs, less likely to have pet insurance, and have only a one in four chance of finding a permanent home after landing in a shelter. Three-quarters of cats in US shelters are euthanized for lack of an adoptive family.

Were always overrun with cats. Unfortunately, society does look at them as disposable, which is a battle we deal with on a daily basis, says Stephanie McDonald, executive director of the Edmonton, Alberta, Humane Society. Were just desperate to save their lives, through whatever clever means we can use.

The society recently partnered with a local Lexus dealership to host a certified pre-owned cat promotion that likened ownership of the lavish cars with that of classic feline models. That effort resulted in a record number of adoptions.

Jane Brunt, executive director of CATalyst, believes lingering stigmas about cats and their owners are partly to blame for the cat's bad reputation.

Garfield is kind of a curmudgeon, and then youve got the lore and negative sayings like more than one way to skin a cat and the idea of being a crazy cat lady, Brunt says.

Monique Ninassi, a single woman with two cats, says she regularly encounters such stereotypes.

People just dont get it, says Ninassi. But if youre single and come home to an empty house, its not fun. Cats greet you at the door, they know when youve had a bad day, they follow you when you leave the room. Its that unconditional love.

But Ninassi thinks things are slowly getting better, partly because 62 per cent of cat caretakers today are married. And she loves the catalysta label for being everything that crazy cat lady isnt.

But getting this hip new image into the public consciousness will be no small feat, according to Toronto, Ontario-based branding expert Ted Matthews.

Cats are still used as a descriptor of all the lonely people, says Matthews, founding partner of Instinct Brand Equity Coaches Inc. My daughter is about to turn 30 and doesnt have a significant other in her life, and shes joked that her greatest fear is to end up alone in an apartment full of cats.

He suggests the key to changing perceptions is emphasizing the diversity of modern cat ownership without evoking any persistent negativity.

Build the story, says Matthews. Dont try to rebrand the problem.

[Source: The Times-Colonist. Photo courtesy of Biddy Cat.]

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