Nerd Factor: “My Cat” Magazine
Dr. Mike Robinson, LC Communication Studies Professor~
Many years ago when I got my first cat, I accidentally subscribed to a magazine called “My Cat.” I say that I accidentally subscribed because I honestly do not remember asking for it. It just started showing up one day, probably after I sent in some kind of rebate offer for Iams cat food.
As an early aside – yes, that is how “they” got you before the internet. Not quite as easy as clicking on an advertisement and having that advertisement follow you for life across the internet, but it was a similar process.
The magazine started coming and initially, I was glad to get it. The cover always had a nice picture of a cat doing feline things that was not as embarrassingly photographed the way that, say, the cover of “Cat Fancy” or other froufrou periodicals were. Frankly, these other publications were a bit too into cats for my liking.
As the title proclaimed, this was a magazine for my cat. I was new to cat ownership, and my particularly energetic young kitten was challenging, to say the least. I had read a few books, but I didn’t mind taking any advice I could get.
What I soon realized was that “My Cat” magazine was a finely tuned propaganda machine for the Iams Corporation. Apparently, there was no problem that a cat could face in life that could not be at least mitigated by, if not relieved or downright prevented, by the careful application of a balanced diet featuring Iams cat food, oh, and a consultation with a veterinarian, of course.
As another aside, do you think veterinarians misspell “veterinarian” a lot? I sure have while writing this. What a strange word full of what are normally trustworthy and easy to order letters.
Do not get me wrong, the articles were cheerful, informative and helpful. I began to enjoy looking for the exact moment in each story when the prose would pivot from the matter at hand to the recommendation that the reader consult a vet and develop a well-balanced nutrition plan featuring Iams products for their cat.
As relatively mundane feline issues like a less than lustrous coat, obesity or too many hairballs fell to the wisdom of veterinary conversation and Iams consumption, I began to wonder could anything not be solved by these miracle foods?
This took me in increasingly absurd directions. What about a problematic dew claw or a broken leg? What about feline rhinovirus or heck, even rabies? What if a cat had two heads? Should I see two vets and double the intake of Iams?
I thought about writing joke letters to the magazine, just to see if I could get something published. “My Cat” had a “write-in” section where people would ask questions and learn that their problem could be at least partially addressed by talking to a vet and feeding their cat Iams.
But then, I realized that these were probably not real letters or, worse still, letters from very pitiful people who needed some real help.
Why pitiful? Well, who exactly writes a letter with a slightly urgent problem to a periodical that won’t publish the response for at least a month? And that’s the kind of person who maybe doesn’t need help selecting Iams pet food but who certainly and perhaps desperately needs to be directed toward a vet.