I like cats, I like them a lot, especially big fluffy cats. Now there is a lot of myths about cats especially black cats that have been held for a long time. It’s hard to believe, but people are actually terrified of black cats. They are often associated with evil and bad luck. Well one person is trying to dispel some of the myths about cats in particular black cats. I am pleased to welcome Layla Mogran Wilde from catwisdom101.com. She is a cat lover and is working to dispel some black cat myths through Black Cats Tell All. Hey Layla thanks for doing a Candid Conversation.
Cliff T.: So you are part of cat wisdom and that sounds interesting, can you give us some idea of what that means, as in what is cat wisdom all about?
Layla W.: When I founded Cat Wisdom 101 in 2011, I wanted CatWisdom.com but the URL was taken. After five years of blogging, I'm ready for a new version. Cat wisdom is the timeless and universal wisdom I glean from my feline muses.
Cliff T.: So is the goal here to educate and entertain people with and without cats in their lives?
Layla W.: It's safe to say that all of my readers love cats. Most have cats but some are in between cats for whatever reason and find my comfort and connection with other cat lovers in my community.
Cliff T.: The reason for the question is that I see that you are a cat consultant, I have to admit I have not heard of such a job, please let us know what it is you do?
Layla W.: Twenty years ago, it was rare to find cat behaviorists, cat experts of any kind but now we have them on TV like Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet There are hundreds of books and many blogs like mine delving into cat care, cat behavior and cat culture. I originally worked with behavioral issues in cats but in the past year devoting more time to advocacy work, consulting in the pet industry and with celebrity cats. I might consult on how to reduce stress on a cross country move, travel safely to a photo shoot and how to navigate social media when a cat becomes popular.
Cliff T.: How did you end up working with cats? What got you interested in doing this kind of work?
Kayla W.: Cats are a life long passion but I fell into this field by accident. When I was living in Toronto in the mid-nineties, I noticed feral cats in my back yard and started feeding them. When the time came for me to move, I worried who would take care of the cats. We didn't have the network of cat rescue groups we do today.
I called my local paper, The Annex Gleaner and asked if they would put out a call for volunteers. I figured I might as well start a grassroots rescue group. They paper printed an article by a rookie journalist named Rebecca Caldwell. I had no clue what to expect.
One day the doorbell rang and a young woman on a bicycle asked if I'm the person with the rescue group. I nodded, she handed me a hundred dollar bill and the Annex Cat Rescue was born. Overnight, my home become a hive of volunteers and I had to learn how to manage a rescue group. One of the volunteers was a lawyer who did all our legal work pro bono do get our charitable status. Other volunteers did TNR and a group would make catnip toys in my living room for fundraising. I'm proud to say, I was the inventor of the long tail or kicker type catnip toy in leopard and other fabrics. ( I wish we had Instagram then!). For a couple years my home phone number was the point of contact for the group. I fielded all calls about emergencies, vetting prospective adoptees, organized foster homes and implemented new adoption protocols.
When I moved to the U.S. in 2001, I left the group in capable hands who eventually wrote me out of their history. http://annexcatrescue.ca/2010/08/annex-gleaner/ This is the only remaining evidence naming me as founder. It's from The Annex Cat Rescue's old website. The new one has reinvented the history saying it was founded by a group with no mention of me. They stripped me of my legacy. I've attempted to make contact several times over the years to no avail. It's a shame since there is so much more I could do for them now.
Cliff T.: Indeed it is sad to see that your legacy was taken like that. Hopefully that will change. So is there a good day and bad day scenario for cats and people working with them?
Layla W.: In my experience those who work with cats whether formally or as volunteers are a passionate bunch who care deeply about cats. There is always more need than the ability to fill the need, whether it's education, funding, staff. It's never enough which is why there is a high burn out rate for shelter and rescue workers. On a good day, nothing is more satisfying than saving a life or making a difference in the lives of cats and those who love them.
Cliff T.: What is the biggest challenge you see in your work that cat owners need to deal with and also what those who do not have a cat need to overcome?
Layla W.: The biggest challenge is empowering clients to take responsibility for their part of the issue. Most cats don’t think they are the problem or have a problem. They're simply responding to their owners behavior. Most of the time it's the owners who have created the issue and not the cat.
Cliff T.: Let’s look into Black Cats Tell All, what exactly is the goal.
Layla W.: In a sentence: to reframe black cats as adorable adoptables. My ultimate goal and dream is a color-blind world where cats are not judged by the color of their fur.
Cliff T.: Is it that bad for black cats, I mean are they more a target than say other cats?
Layla W.: It depends where you live in the world. A black cat in Japan is considered lucky. In Canada and The U.S. black cats are targets of cruelty based on ignorance and superstition.
Cliff T.: Layla, what are the biggest myths about black cats that are out there. What kinds of things are said about them and is there also violence they face?
Layla W.: The biggest myths are based on superstitions like black cats are in league with the devil and it's unlucky if one crosses your path. The long association of cats and witches goes back hundreds of years to the Dark Ages but gets activated every Halloween with stereotypical, scary black cat iconography.
Cliff T.: Can you give us a glimpse into Black Cats Tell All, meaning how do you plan to give black cats a voice, I noted that you seem to want to do that in the voice of the first person.
Layla W.: All the contributing feline "authors" are narrating their story from the perspective of the cat. It's up to their owner/slave/ assistant to translate the story accordingly. It offers a fresh perspective and plenty of creative opportunities to promote a positive message. The only caveat is to not include graphic violence or anything to perpetuate existing myths.
Cliff T.: I do know that there are some issues generally with cat population control etc that said I am assuming that Black Cats Tell All is meant to give a voice to cats and issues they face specifically black cats. Layla what has the feedback been like?
Layla W.: Black cats are 50% less likely to be adopted in a shelter. That means they are at higher risk to be euthanized. The response from black cat lovers is encouraging. They know the truth of how wonderful black cats and can't believe others don't. We've had some great press and social media support including a Facebook live video event by Cole and Marmalade. Fundraising is never easy and we're 50% funded but our campaign ends on July 14. One way or another I'm committed to bring this project to fruition.
Cliff T.: Excellent well thanks for filling us in on some of the details and for doing a Candid Conversation.
Layla W.: Thank-you. It's always a pleasure to share my passion for cats.
Layla Wilde is the creator and editor of Black Cats Tell All, a Nonprofit Kickstarter project via Cat Wisdom http://catwisdom101.com and she wrote to us from New York. The kickstarter campaign link is http://kck.st/29mh1hq Visit CatWisdom101 across all social media @catwisdom101