Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of dog in a bun © Flickr.com/photos/smart_web/61923/4199/

In-bread dog goes viral.
© Flickr.com/photos/smart_web/61923/4199/

December 2011

Creature Comforts

Social media caters to the pet-minded masses

Natasha Kassulke

Love it or hate it, there is no denying that social networking is here and our pets play a huge role in its popularity.

It's an environment where "tweeting" means more than, but might include, bird banter. It's a place where YouTube videos of mean kitty ditties, sneezing pandas and breakdancing birds make such prestigious lists as Time magazine's top 50 videos. It's a place where Facebook has fueled spin-off sites such as Dogbook and Catbook. And it's a place where slideshows of pets parading in embarrassing costumes, such as the one titled Why Dogs Bite People (VERY Funny and Cute Dog Pictures), become viral. Mashable, a barometer for the hottest trends in social media, reports that some pets even have more social media fans than major media outlets. Take Sockington, a normal cat, who has recruited more than 1.5 million Twitter followers to The Socks Army (@sockington). There is Boo, a cute Pomeranian, who likes to wear sunglasses and has more than 2.2 million "likes" on Facebook. And there is the infamous Raccoon Willie who won YouTube fame for showing the world why you should never try to domesticate a raccoon if you value your home.

A social networking success story closer to home is that of Braveheart, a mixed breed dog that was found in a commercial trash bin in Kentucky, his body emaciated and riddled with mange and worms. After being transferred to Wisconsin, Braveheart was nursed back to health at the UW Veterinary Care Small Animal Hospital and he received get well wishes and donations to help cover his critical care needs from his more than 12,000 Facebook fans (Braveheart's battle).

This winter, as you cozy up to your netbook or try to ignore in-laws at the holidays by fiddling with your iPhone, it may be comforting for you to know that no matter what kind of pet you have, there's probably an "app" for that.

With iPhones and iPads being all the rage these days, pet owners may be interested to learn that while some apps will cost you a few dollars, there are many pet apps available that are free for you to download and use. Here are a few to get you started.

The "Best Pet Care Services" app is available at your fingertips, is free and can help you find a local veterinarian, doggy daycare or dog park. Go fetch it at Best Pet Care Services.

For cat lover entertainment there is the free "Piano Cats" app. Launch the app and you are presented with a kitty keyboard (white cats for the white keys and black cats for the black keys). You can then tap out a tune of meows representing the music notes. Kind of silly but hey, it's better than shoveling or snowblowing, right? To learn more, visit Cat Piano Free.

Another free app, "MyPets Info," lets you record data such as your pet's birthday, registration tag or chip number, breed, vet info, vaccinations and medical issues. It also allows you to record upcoming appointments for grooming or vet care. Visit MyPets Info.

Creating a holiday card featuring your favorite furball? Try "My Pets Album," an app that allows you to either use an existing pet photo on your iPhone or access your camera phone and take a new picture. Then you add your own clever captions. Visit My Pets Album.

Remember Napster, that music streaming website that was often embroiled in controversy over copyright issues? Well now there is Dogster and Catster. While the focus here isn't on "meow-sic" as you might expect from the name, the Q&As on these sites feature such advice as how do you keep your puppy from getting too fat and how to calculate your dog's age in people years. Want to know the best way to store wet cat food after it has been opened? Cast your vote for pet food can covers or aluminum foil at Catster.

Think blogs are a passing fad? Think again. Pet blogging even has its own awards program, The Pettie Awards, to recognize the best of the best in pet blogging. Visit The Petties to learn who the 2011 winners are or what they wore to the awards.