Cats,  Reviews & interviews

Q & A with The Friskies Award Winner Joanne Mcgonagle of The Tiniest Tiger

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

The Friskies, the Internet cat-video awards show sponsored by Purina Friskies wowed cat lovers two weeks ago with awards in four categories: cat comedy, catventure, pursuit of food and treats, and rescue cat. It was a thrill for this cat lover to attend the event, meet Grumpy Cat but also one of the winners, Joanne Mcgonagle who took home the award for Best Catventure.

The cat blogging world is a small, intimate one and while a fan of Joanne’s blog, The Tiniest Tiger and her advocacy for cats big and small. we’d never met before. What many people in the audience didn’t know was Gracie, the star of the video, died months before, making it a bittersweet win. Naturally, I was delighted she won and even got to hoist her award which rivaled an Oscar in size and its legendary weight. Winning an award was only part of the win. All four category winners won $5,000 each and Friskies donated a whopping 330,000 cans of food to twenty shelters making it a win win for all.

The friskies winner 2013-catventure-tiniest tiger-joanne mcgonagle

Q + A with Layla Morgan Wilde and Joanne Mcgonagle

LMW: The past year has had many ups and downs for you from winning awards to losing a dear cat, Gracey. What are were the biggest lessons cats (and humans) taught you this year?

JM: Never underestimate the power of taking a deep breath and a nap. Seriously, stepping back and taking time for ourselves is so important. All too often we get caught up in the 24/7 cycle of writing, posting, and sharing that we forget to unplug and take care of ourselves. Spending time in Africa, unplugged for weeks at a time, taught me many things but one of the most important is to be present. Take in, enjoy and experience what is happening around you in the moment. Most things can wait and/or even be forgotten. Not much will change if you don’t unplug for a while.

Joanne Mcgonagle in Africa.
Joanne Mcgonagle in Africa.

LMW: When your entered The Friskies cat video awards, what was your motivation and did you think you had good odds of winning?


JM: Gracey passed in May and I entered the video “The Tiniest Tiger’s Snow Adventure” on the 4th of July. It was in the evening and I was just reading over a few things online and saw The Friskies. I thought that our video was cute but that didn’t mean anyone else would. I entered and went out and told my husband Paul that I sent in the video and that we didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, which is something my dad would have said, and he said. Ok. And that was that.


Gracey-Tiniest Tiger

LMW: The video was filmed in the winter. Was there any interesting backstory to making it?



JM: In the beginning of the video, Gracey thinks to herself, I am an Amur (Siberian) Tiger. I will play in the snow. My children’s book The Tiniest Tiger compares and contrasts the similarities and differences between our domestic cats and their big cat cousins. The video is just a nod to the largest tiger subspecies and get children and adults to think about the Amur tiger and their habitat. Obviously, Gracey was more suited to the habitat of the Sumatran and Bengal tigers.


LMW: How did the blogging community help during the tumultuous time after Gracey’s death?


JM: I was scheduled to speak at BlogPaws in May and had to cancel at the last moment. Of course, being animal lovers they understood completely that I needed to stay with Gracey during that time. I was overwhelmed by the messages and support from the blogging community. I am still answering the personal messages that were sent to me. Every message means so much.


LMW: Tell us a little about your blog The Tiniest Tiger’s Conservation Club.


JM: Well, The Tiniest Tiger is the name of my children’s book and the Conservation Cub Club is the name of the blog where we learn about all cats big and small. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in the beginning and that is why The Tiniest Tiger was just for the book and the Conservation Cub Club was the blog. I have now combined them and am working to get everything updated. We write about all cats big and small.


LMW: Besides winning the award for CatAdventure, what was the highlight of flying to NYC to attend the Friskies Awards?


JM: My sister was in NYC visiting my niece who is a student at NYU. It was great to spend time with both of them. It was Paul’s first visit to NYC, and he was thrilled to attend Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Cardinal Dolan.

The Friskies- Catventure award winner- Joanne Mcgonagle

LMW: You won a gorgeous golden award or “catuette”. Where in your home, did you place it? The other part of the prize was $5,000 cash. Have you decided how to spend it?


JM: We have placed the Catuette on our mantel in front of a photo of Gracey that a good friend of The Tiniest Tiger had put on canvas for us. No decisions yet on the money.


LMW: After Gracie died, you adopted two kittens, and a friend’s adult cat after she died.How did having new cats in your life help your grieving process?


JM: We saw Annie’s photo on Facebook before Gracey passed and she looked like she had spunk. I remember seeing her photo with Gracey on my lap and wondering if Gracey would like to have another cat share her habitat. Then Gracey became ill and passed. We asked Donna at Grayson County Humane Society if Annie was still available. She was available and had bonded with Eddie so we decided to adopt both cats. Our house seemed so empty without Gracey. So Paul and I decided that there are so many cats needing homes and we have a home so why not adopt Annie and Eddie. So we drove to Kentucky and brought them home. No cat can ever take the place of another one, but they can help bring joy and love into your home in their own way and that helps the hurt of the loss.


Annie & Eddie
Annie & Eddie


LMW: What are your thoughts on the new research proving domestic cats share 95% of the same DNA as tigers?


JM: True progress is being made by scientists working purposefully and quietly without fanfare. I just attended the annual Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco and learned about tremendous progress being made to save wildlife around the world.

Sequencing the genomes of tigers gives conservation efforts a boost by enabling scientists to estimate genetic diversity in the wild. With critically endangered species, such as the tiger with only an estimated 3500 individuals remaining in the wild, it is important to introduce unrelated individuals to strengthen the gene pool.

If population diversity is too low, one virus can kill off a large number of animals. Scientists will now be able to discern which populations are in-breeding.This discovery will also help scientists decide which individuals should be paired in captive breeding programs and reinforces why following the AZA’s Species Survival Plan is so important.


Visit Joanne’s blog, The Tiniest Tiger


If you missed seeing the awards show or the winning videos, visit The Friskies Joann’es video is “The Tiniest Tiger’s Snow Adventure”.


  • Skeeter and Izzy

    We are sad to here about Gracey crossing the bridge but we are glad that her memory was honored in such a wonderful way. We wish for you many years of happiness with Annie and Eddie and the other kitty that was mentioned but not named.
    Bless you Joanne for your work with and for ALL CATS big and small!

    Luvs to all
    Skeeter and Izzy and The Feral Gang + Peanut and Twig >^..^<

  • Sue Brandes

    I was glad to hear Gracie’s video won. Congrats Joanne. Gracie really touched my heart and I am sure many others. Enjoy hearing what your new kitties are up to. Lovely interview.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    way awesum post two day guys N thanx for sharin de link two de tiniest tiger….we is headed that way now; ewe noe uz N de big cats !!!! conga rats two ewe joanne, N we iz trooly sorree ta lurn bout gracie; may bee her haz meeted up with dude N sauce N they iz all havin a nice trout dinner ~~~

    welcome annie & eddie XXX

    heerz two a grate week oh end; eat sum pie 🙂

  • Alana Grelyak

    great trophy! congrats on your win, and on your pair of little friends. I hope they’re bringing you joy. Congrats to Ms. Gracie as well. I’m sure she’s pleased up there and having a little party for her friends OTRB.

  • Kathryn

    oh, my god, so beautiful in so many, subtle ways.

    I had an insight, about being present. cannot describe.

    congrats to the joanne, to the friskies award, and all the insghts in this.

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