Expediting adoptions of the “undesirable” through enlightened copy.
Most kittens at Fairfax County Animal Shelter are adopted within a day or two of arrival, so they aren’t typically a priority for special media attention. 4 month-old Skitzy was turning out to have a longer shelf life than the others; the tortie-shaped hole in my heart demanded that she deserved a little help.
She had one squinty eye (congenital birth defect) and an inability to be still. There was always an invisible something that needed to be hunted, making me reconsider my initial harsh judgement of her name. This cat was cracked, and it just made me love her more. With that in mind, it was clear that this off-putting flavor of crazy would be just as endearing to many potential adopters.
Skitzy’s challenge was to frame her spazziness in an endearing light.
To see her awesomeness, the public’s lens needed to be focused just right. This is true for almost every animal and person, but Skitzy reeked of damaged goods more than most.
This cat wasn’t particularly interested in “talking” to me (or interacting with the visible world). My personal method heavily relies on the cat being comfortable and not behaving in response to the thrill of new people or being out of their condo. Skitzy’s baseline was unreadable; if her activity level were a line graph, it would look like a drunk toddler had tried to draw a maze.
To understand her in a way that would lead to effective copy, I needed to empathize on a level that was more personal than I’d had with any other cat; beyond the basic and universal experiences, and into the existential. With Lonesome, we could bond over loss. Neither Fat Tina nor I took ourselves too seriously. Skitzy beckoned unpleasant memories of being an outcast; weird, unwanted, and unable to be anyone but herself in spite of what it cost her. Bam. This little cat’s scribble of a personality had just become a straight line.
She needed a home that needed her.
Within a few days of her Facebook post, she was adopted.
Skitzy’s story emphasizes the very personal nature of writing for animals.
- Project if you need to. The line between empathy and projection can get blurry with animals, but sometimes you need to boldly cross it to get the job done. In Skitzy’s case, her best life would be with a family that appreciates her as-is rather than one that took her on as a novelty. Therefore, she needed her writer to understand her on such a personal level that they could help potential adopters understand her just as well.
- Indulge the muses. Whether you’re a cat whisperer, a squirrel mutterer, or anything in between, some animals just aren’t giving you material for copy when you need it. Sometimes they’re telepathically screaming for your attention. Even if it’s not the cat you were intending to work with, give them some love and let them inspire you.