Cat Fancy

I have one small problem with cats: They make me die. I discovered this upon the occasion of a slumber party at a former girlfriend's apartment, when the first-night, Larry-you-are-the-MAN! euphoria was blunted by the rapid constriction of my respiratory passages. I woke up at 3 a.m. feeling as if I had a piano on my torso; shortly thereafter, the entire contents of my chest cavity came flooding out my facial orifices, as if a nasal levee had failed. The ER attending later handed down the devastating diagnosis of "allergies."

Thus Cat Fancy has never found its way onto my nightstand, nor into my critter-neutral heart. At the same time, I never understood why the mag has become somewhat of a punchline. Perhaps owing to its ridicule-ready title, Cat Fancy tends to be the default it-could-be-worse gag for unhappy journos ("Hey, it's not like I'm working for Cat Fancy"). Original, right? Me, I use Pit & Quarry for that purpose, because rocks totally rock.

I resolved, then, to take Cat Fancy very, very seriously. I envisioned myself championing the maligned, hoisting the underdog (the underkitten?) upon my spindly shoulders and trumpeting its virtues to my 6.75 readers. My words would echo in the heavens and in the boardroom, where brands like Lexus and TAG Heuer would fall over themselves to secure ad placement alongside the next issue's "Cat Calendar."

And then I read the thing.

I'm sorry. I tried. Cat lover or no, it is impossible to regard Cat Fancy as anything other than a clearinghouse for lowest-common-denominator fluff. The mag unwittingly reinforces every cliché about cat owners: that they prefer feline cuddles to human interaction, that they worship at the altar of cute, etc. Younger cat owners, or at least those few not inclined to avail themselves of the wealth of pet information on the Web, will find the mag's simpleton approach blindingly obvious; older ones likely won't bother themselves with some of the more ambitious projects (constructing a so-called "cat tree") proposed therein.

The May issue of Cat Fancy focuses on integrating Cute Wittle Mister Mittens and his ilk into the house or apartment. It offers how-tos on building outdoor enclosures and suggests any number of upholstery and flooring options. For those who work at home, it relays a bunch of tips to make the office area more kitty-friendly (dust covers, that "Hang in There!" poster, etc.).

Cat owners may or may not find useful hints in these stories -- most people with double-digit IQs don't need to be told not to leave thumbtacks lying around -- but at least the mag attempts to present some information here, just as it does in the shorter items about cat asthma and the feline national scourge of heartworms. Why, then, does Cat Fancy turn over roughly 35 percent of its pages to readers?

Never mind the huge chunk of "breed connection" classifieds at the back of the book, which strike me as the feline-world equivalent of a mail-order-bride catalog (I wonder: would the mag reject an ad from somebody hoping to cross-breed an Indochine Siamese with a bluebird, in the hope of birthing a master race of adorable airborne varmints?). Cat Fancy, against all reason, seems to believe the monthly-magazine-as-community thing remains valid in the Internet era. The mag wastes tens of pages on reader stories, photos, letters, artwork and poems, few of which achieve the nuance and profundity of the Nuge's "Cat Scratch Fever." No, I'm not a member of Cat Fancy's target audience, but I can't imagine that cat lovers need this much affirmation that thousands of others share their affinity for all things feline.

Yet Cat Fancy still boasts more tonal and common-sensical hiccups than most enthusiast titles. The mag's "lifeStyle" section hands Garfield, or at least his humorless nonunionized ghostwriter, 250 words to weigh in on allergies. This made me sad. In the piece on "Boundary Training," on the other hand, the mag reminds readers that they should "never hit" their cats. Who, outside of Joey Porter or a liquored-up Liza Minnelli, would slug a kitten?

The mag's design also gives me "paws" (homonyms: no longer just for the creatively bankrupt!). The cover feature on "the charming Balinese" offers the following photos: a Balinese in front of a blue backdrop, a Balinese in front of a white backdrop, a Balinese in front of a black backdrop and a Balinese in front of a pink backdrop. And I can't even begin to comment on the head shot of new "At Home" columnist Sandy Robins, which looks like it belongs in a fetish mag.

I don't like easy targets, which is why I've only wasted a few columns on piffle like Hooters and Trump. As much as its loyalists might pretend otherwise, Cat Fancy similarly defies straight-faced analysis. It is what it is.

Published by: BowTie Magazines
Frequency: Monthly
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For a previous Magazine Rack take on Cat Fancy, click here.

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