Ten years. An entire decade devoted to cat blogging began innocently enough. I launched Cat Wisdom 101 in 2011 with my four cats at the time. Only Odin remains from the original Fab Four and he celebrated his 11th birthday this week. Technically my blogoversary is May 28 beginning with my very first post but hey, I’ve learned not to split hairs or whiskers. Oh, where to begin. It feels like the awkward dance of a high school reunion. It’s bittersweet but all milestones deserve acknowledgement.
I know from stats, the odds are you won’t read ALL of this post, but I have to write it anyway. I’ve learned that blogging is a dance. The reader is your dancing partner and it’s more about them.
Let’s begin with a teaser from the past because cats are impossibly curious. Odin, a wily teenager, wasn’t quite the tree-climbing master he is now. And I wasn’t quite the blog virgin. I’d already logged hundreds of posts at my other blog Boomer Muse. It’s languished for a couple years waiting for a burst of inspiration but ready for its second act.
A quick glance at the massive archive of nearly 2000 posts boggles my mind. Where to begin to sift through let alone curate the best of the best, the worst, the cutest, the most timely or educational is left to you dear reader. I suggest searching any topic that comes to mind and chances something will pop up. Every time I do a random search I’m shocked at what turns up. Sometimes I cringe, sometimes it’s an aw or aha moment, and sometimes I have no recollection of writing the post at all.
I’m proud of introducing many blogger firsts like purrsonality profiles (example below) unique terms, original kitty quotes, cats providing first person product reviews and cats posing with splayed open books for book reviews.
Odin the One-Eyed Cat aka Odie Winker, Otis Bear, Odie, Otis, Roadis, Roady.
Breed: white/gray tabby domestic short hair
New bloggers or new Cat Wisdom 101 readers may ask why did I keep slogging away week after week, year after year. What did I learn and if given the choice would I do it again. The short answer is more that I could ever imagine and I’m pretty darn imaginative. But would I do it again? Only with a bushel of caveats.
Blogging, when I began in 2008 at Boomermuse where every Saturday was Cat Saturday (it evolved into Caturday). You could call it the “Golden Age” of blogging. There were less of us die-hard bloggers in the cat niche we all knew each other. There are only a handful of us old timers remaining, dictated by natural atrophy, aging and let’s face it, cats don’t live forever except in our hearts.
Every cat blogger has to decide whether to retire after a cat dies, adopt new cats or pivot into a new direction. I admire all those who have kept going no matter what, but I also respect a graceful bowing out when a blog becomes stale or repetitious.
For me, my feline muse will always be Merlin, who personified the wisdom of Cat Wisdom 101.
His wise Siamese and often very LOUD words continue to reverberate at this blog. He had his own column: Mondays with Merlin where is spouted his unique wit and wisdom in every age and season. His contribution happily lives on in the archives and deserves to be transformed into a book. One day.
Over the years the Cat Wisdom 101 kitty cast of characters ebbed and flowed. There were foster kitties like cross-eyed Ling Ling, a lost Bengal, Gris Gris the cat who thought he was a racehorse, Domino, the feral turned lap cat, Radish the cat who famously broke my heart into a million little pieces and Nou Nou the one-eyed hoarder rescue and bar none, the weirdest cat I’ve ever known.
I can honestly say there has never been a dull moment.
In the beginning I followed a daily blogging schedule at two blogs (14 weekly posts is insane by any stretch of the imagination). Obsessive is an apt adjective. Blogging was just something I had to do. The same is true for any creative endeavor. Writers write, painters paint, musicians play and bloggers create content. Words, images, art work, video all expressing our individual vision of a blog. Over the years, the logo and blog templates changed and tweaked with the times.
Being adaptable is a key characteristic of any successful blogger. Grow or stagnate. It’s is up to you. I continue to mine the past for fresh new ideas and love a modern spin on vintage art.
For many years my tag line, mandate or mantra was to enlighten and educate cat lovers. Several reiterations later, the core message of the Cat Wisdom 101 brand remains true. No regrets there.
As I mark a decade as a cat blogger, I have to question where do I go from here. How to bring something new and fresh to the table or is it time to pivot. I’m so comfortable with the process of creating and publishing content I can almost do it in my sleep. I’ve never struggled coming up with new topic ideas. BUT it’s beginning to feel like a stale relationship that’s too comfortable to think of divorce or even marriage counseling. I’ve threatened to quit several times before and blogger pals would say, NEVER! This blog will live on for as long as I live or pay hosting fees 😉
Seriously, after hundreds of book and product reviews and giveaways, top notch veterinary advice, funny/sad stories and simply the life of a very busy cat expert, what is left to say except thank you. Thank you to each and every reader.
I’ve never forgotten that without a reader, a blog is a not a blog but a diary that no one sees.
There are over 50,000 comments and I cherish everyone who takes the time to write one. I especially appreciate the many, many comments from regular readers who have passed in recent years. There are so few regular old time readers who still comment, I want to hug all of you. If there was a prize for the most thoughtful, eloquent body of comments, it would go to Skeeter and Izzy. She isn’t a blogger but her writing skills are better than mine. Thank you, Kathy. I could write a book just from your pithy comments.
What have I learned in 10 years of blogging?
- Well, for one thing how to write. This post was dashed off with nary an edit. I’m not the best editor in the world but much improved from those embarrassing early posts. I’ve often thought of deleting them but I think it’s important to have markers of progress. It’s also healthy to keep the ego in check.
- I’ve learned about my limitations, flaws in my character and what makes me human.
- I’m come to terms with not comparing my blog or content to those lucky enough to go viral or grow to millions of followers.
- I learned to navigate if not master the back end of WordPress. I know my way around every aspect of websites, SEO and just about every social media platform, but my skills pale to real tech savvy folks.
- My photography skills have improved a notch even earning several MUSE awards. Thank you Cat Writers’ Association.
- I learned how to create graphics, photo quotes, infographics and excel in digital photo editing.
- I learned to negotiate, collaborate and create content with dozens of brands large and small with and without PR and Marketing agencies.
- In the early years, I learned readers had short attention spans and wanted small bite-sized chunks with lots of visuals. It’s more true than ever.
- I really miss reading blogs on a larger screen but everything needs to be mobile-friendly. Sometimes I’ve create posts entirely on mobile.
- You can’t put a value on the incredible people I’ve met from my fellow cat bloggers, celebrity cats, best selling authors, designers, publicists in and outside of the cat world.
In the early days, I thought cat bloggers were special or different but I was wrong. They are like anyone else. There are kind, compassion souls I still count as friends and catty, competitive *expletives* who are happily out of my life. Life is too short to expect everyone to like you. Cats however, are all blameless and purrfect. Well, usually.
Many years ago I came to terms with my blogging goals. I realized I was never going to be rich or famous from blogging. Yes, some bloggers have millions of followers but I wanted something else. Back in the day, anyone wanting a publishing career was encouraged to blog to grow their platform. Ouch, I was one of them, and unfortunately my passion for blogging interfered with writing books.
It’s clear now, had I blogged less, I would have more than one book under my belt but at least I realized my dream of being published. What a roundabout journey and one I don’t recommend. If you want to write books, write books. Then maybe blog. I take that back. Just write.
I guess after 10 years, I’ve learned how to blog. Could I teach someone? Yes but would I want to? Probably not. I’ve been asked many times to share what I know. Ask again and I’ll consider it 😉
What I wish I’d known before I started blogging.
Full time blogging is a lot of work. There are deadlines, editorial calendars and the ever present of chance of tech issues, dealing with clients, sponsors, reader comments and the unspoken rule to visit fellow bloggers. Did I mention tech issues? Formatting, wonky WIFI, so many things can go wrong and they do. Once a blog is published, it needs to be shared to subscribers and to any number of social media platforms. There are stats and metrics to measure and unexpected issues before hello, it’s time for the next blog. It’s relentless. I have enormous respect for newspaper journalists on a never ending deadline.
Much has changed over the years in social media. Facebook and Twitter ruled in early years but now, at least for me, it’s Instagram and Pinterest. I was an early adopter of Pinterest and remains a favorite place to hangout. That and I love making Instagram reels. Everything keeps changing in media. Some say blogging is dead. Everyone seems to have a podcast or angling to be the next TikTok star. I don’t know but the online world has become so noisy and crowded, quiet voices are drowned. It’s more important to stay true to who you are.
I’ve learned blogging does not define me. If I never blogged again would I be any less? Of course not. I’ve learned to importance of saying NO and having stronger boundaries. Blogging like all social media pursuits is ADDICTIVE and only the individual can decide when enough is enough because blogging is a bottomless pit. Unlike writing a book with a beginning, middle and end, landing in the marketplace (hopefully). but blogging can go on ad infinitum in an endless loop.
So what’s new Pussycat?
My new love is the audio app, Clubhouse which has snatched away time from my blogging. I’ve been growing my Cat Wisdom club on Clubhouse where I’d rather chat in an intimate interactive hour on everything feline with cat lovers from around the globe. I love that it’s not about random likes and follows but genuine one-on-one connections. The app is still invite only but if you’d like to to skip the wait list, click on this invite
I love that on Mondays I host events that don’t necessarily include cats but holistic healing, tarot, numerology and everything woo.
Three years ago, I made a conscious decision to unplug with a digital detox for 30 days. It changed my life and could no longer go back to frequent or daily blogging. There was a time when sick or distracted, I went to bed forgetting to blog. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, exhaling, “Oh my fucking God, I forgot to blog!” Adrenalin pumping, I’d quickly cobble together something to post. Anything just to press publish.
It was a rude wake-up call.
Those days are long gone. It’s liberating not to worry about what or when to post. There are times I feel nostalgic for the more innocent days of blogging before the drive to monetize, when it felt like a small community where we knew the names of dozens of fellow cat bloggers and their cats. It’s that sense of camaraderie that propels me to keep one paw in the cat blogging world. As far as the future goes, I choose to be like a cat and live in the moment.
What I know for sure is I’m still as curious as a cat. I’ve brightened lives and made a difference in my own tiny way. This a taste of what I’ve learned in ten years and anyone who has read all the way down here deserves a prize.
Peace, Love and purrrrrrrrs of Gratitude,