Has the internet gone to the cats and dogs? It sure seems that way. An internet cat video festival in Milwaukee drew more than 10,000 spectators. A stunning photo of a man cradling his arthritic dog in his arms went viral and touched so many people that he started a foundation in his dog’s name and raised more than $25,000 to help other dogs in need. And if you need more proof that the internet is a pet-friendly place, look no further than the thousands of pet blogs, covering topics ranging from pet health, nutrition, and behavior to rescue, adoption and entertainment.
Pet blogging is a growing trend. Yvonne DiVita is one of the co-founders of BlogPaws, a company focused on teaching pet enthusiasts how to use social media effectively. BlogPaws’ thriving online community boasts almost 1700 members, and an annual conference draws more than 300 pet bloggers and pet enthusiasts from around the world. “Blogging gives pet people a way to connect that supports the love and affection they feel for their pets,” says DiVita.
Pet blogs are started for all kinds of different reasons. Some bloggers simply want to share stories about their pets. Others provide information on specific issues such as general pet health, nutrition, a specific disease or condition, or a particular breed. Some blogs have a mission to help animals in need and effect change in how they are treated. Other blogs are entertainment driven, providing humor, celebrity pet stories, or simply photos of adorable pets.
Should pet owners use pet blogs as a source of information on how to care for their pets? That depends strictly on the quality of the blog. Look at the blog’s “About” page. What is the author’s background and education? Are they considered an expert in their field? Do they share information from credible sources? This will help you determine whether a blog is truly educational and informative, or whether the content is merely experiential and anecdotal. Some blogs provide outstanding resources on pet health, but ultimately, no pet health information obtained online should ever be considered a substitute for veterinary care.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, the first thing you need to do is pick a topic. The more unique your topic, the better your chance for success. “Pet blogging by its nature is a niche topic area,” says Yvonne DiVita. “If you drill down further and only write about dogs, you have created another niche. If you only write about corgis… you’ve just started an even more focused niche.” Niche blogs become successful because authors share what they’re passionate about, and they attract like-minded readers.
Once you have your topic, the technical aspects of starting a blog are easy. Platforms such as WordPress.com, Blogger, and Typepad provide templates and hosting services, often at no cost, and make starting and updating a blog as simple as working with a word processing program.
Attracting readership and maintaining and growing a blog takes dedication and hard work. Most new blogs are abandoned within the first 30 days. In order to grow a blog, regular and frequent posting is a must. Blogging experts recommend posting at least once a week. The more you post, the quicker your blog will start showing up in search engines, and the more readers you will attract. Sharing your blog posts on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can also help grow your readership, as can interacting with other bloggers by leaving comments on other blogs in your niche.
One of the most successful pet blogs, Moderncat (now Hauspanther), was launched by Kate Benjamin in 2007 as a resource for cat owners with a modern style. Kate features products for cats that not only fit a modern aesthetic, but that are also innovative and make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. After about six months, the site was receiving 30,000 page views a month. Five years later, the site gets 350,000 page views per month and is growing exponentially. Kate attributes much of her success to regular participation in social media channels. Additionally, guest blogging on other sites and speaking engagements have helped establish her as a cat style expert and have increased awareness of her blog. “The most important thing is to stay in touch with what your readers want and to stay true to your own mission,” says Kate. “In my case, my mission is to use design as a way to keep cats out of shelters and in loving forever homes.”
Paris Permenter and John Bigley publish two successful blogs, Dogtipper and Cattipper. Both sites feature product reviews, pet news, celebrity pets, special events, and more. Paris and John combined their years of writing and interviewing experience with their determination to help readers save money and save shelter pets. “Leverage your previous experience and combine it with your passion to create a pet blog that’s authoritative, but also one that fires up readers about your topic”, says Paris. She adds “we take a very business-like approach to our blogging. We promote our blogs across many platforms, from our social media channels to press releases to offline promotion. Through it all, though, we make time to have fun every day with our rescue dogs and cats; after all, they’re our expert consultants and the inspiration for our work! You have to keep it fun.”
As the publisher and founder of The Conscious Cat, I’ve found that pet guardians are always looking for information on how to make their beloved pets’ lives better. I’m neither a veterinarian nor a feline behaviorist, but I spent twelve years working in veterinary clinics, and that experience, along with staying current on feline health by attending continuing education events, allows me to help cat guardians sort through the often overwhelming amount of information available on any one particular topic. I view myself, and my blog, as the feline equivalent to a patient advocate in human medicine, acting as a liaison between the furry patient and her health care providers.
Pet blogs are a wonderful way to connect with other pet lovers. With all the choices available, there’s sure to be a pet blog that meets yours and your pet’s needs. And if you can’t find one you like, why not start your own?
This article was originally published in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Animal Wellness Magazine under the title Blog About Dogs (and Cats), and is reprinted with permission. The article has been slightly modified.