Being both a magazine writer and a cat lover, I couldn’t help but take an interest in the recent goings on in the cat magazine world. At the end of this last year, long-time cat connoisseur magazine Cat Fancy announced that it would be ending its 50-year run as a publication.
This may come as a surprise to those who know that interest in cats has spiked, thanks largely to the Internet and our insatiable desire to see the newest cat video on YouTube. In fact, Friskies, the cat food company, has reported that 15% of all Internet traffic is cat related. So why is this elegant and informative cat magazine going under?
Well, common to the plight of most print magazines in this digital age, the cost of producing a print magazine doesn’t hold a candle to the cheaper costs of creating a digital publication online and across various digital platforms. Paper and ink costs don’t exist for a website. It’s for this reason, among others, that Cat Fancy is bowing out but plans to return, remade as a new digital and every-other-month print magazine called Catster.
Beyond the monetary considerations, however, there are other underlying factors for why the Cat Fancy publisher, I-5 Publishing LLC, decided it was time to remake the magazine. In short, the booming cat audience of today is very different from the cat world of 50 years ago, the one for which Cat Fancy was originally conceived.
Put an original copy of Cat Fancy next to the first installment of Catster and they might as well be from opposite ends of the magazine rack. Cat Fancy spoke to an audience of breeders and cat owners interested in the cat show circuit. This audience was interested in bloodlines and pure breeding. In fact, the cover of Cat Fancy has almost always featured a purebred cat, highlighting the unique qualities of all the distinct cat breeds.
Enter Catster. It’s here that you find the cats of the sensational world: the YouTube stars, the pets with celebrity owners, the funny, and the fantastic. This magazine speaks to the Internet-groomed audience that might just be looking for a good laugh. It is accessible to an average cat owner. This might be someone who is not looking to show or breed cats but who simply wants to take good care of his or her pet.
Between the two magazines, much of the factual, cat-care information will remain the same. Cat tips for anything from proper litter to health and exercise will always be relevant, but the delivery might be different. You can have an essay or a BuzzFeed-like list of gifs. One is certainly more informative while the other might be more memorable. It will certainly be interesting to see how Catster reaches out to its modern audience while still seeking to keep hold of its Cat Fancy readers.
Perhaps what I find most interesting about this shift is the idea that the profile of cat owners has changed over time. Fifty years ago there was enough of a demand for high-end cat information that Cat Fancy was created. At that time, the influential group of cat owners was made up of those interested in breeding and showing purebreds. This of course is still an involved and very active group today and there is much wonderful work and dedication given to celebrating the grace and beauty of cats. Even in talking about this group I’m elevating my own language with words like “beauty” and “grace” and I can’t help but picture a Persian with a diamond necklace.
But a new group has entered the scene and is taking it by storm, and that was the fact that Cat Fancy simply could not ignore. I must admit that this group brings to mind words like “cute” and “fuzzy.” The cat owner of today loves an adorable kitty, loves a good rescue story, loves a good laugh. By and large the majority of cat owners today are interested in just having a good friend and a good companion to be part of their family. Breeds will be a matter of intellectual interest or a starting point for picking out the right cat for the right personality traits, but it won’t carry the same weight as it did for the past Cat Fancy readership. It can’t be said whether the shift in cat owners is good or bad, it simply is what it is. But as we bid farewell to Cat Fancy and enter the new world of Catster let us always remember that cats are and always will be elegant, even if they do make us laugh our heads off.