In this episode we are having fika with Tamar Arslanian of the successful cat blog I HAVE CAT. How did it become a success, what opportunities has it led to and what have been the key to success for it?graphic for fikapodcast 012

Topics

  1. How a passion grew into nearly 100K followers [00:01:28]
  2. Social media matters for small businesses [00:13:33]
  3. Cats, the gateway animal [00:19:36]
  4. Opportunities and name dropping [00:21:03]
  5. Cat medical advice [00:26:02]
  6. The key to Tamar’s success [00:29:01]
  7. Tamar’s take on Cat Café’s and rescue orgs [00:31:10]
  8. How cats have changed Tamar [00:37:21]
  9. What’s Pet Minded? [00:39:35]
  10. A small place will be a castle for a rescue pet [00:42:07]

Links and Show Notes:


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FIKA PODCAST EPISODE 012: Cat and Small Biz Talk with I HAVE CAT

Erica Eriksdotter: Hi lovelies!  It’s time for FIKA! The Swedish word that means bonding and connecting with friends over coffee or tea. This is the place to be for real talks and discussions about everything from healing, fine arts, motherhood and entrepreneurship to health and fitness. The focus is connecting the dots through consciousness and elevating how consciousness is directed through each guest’s career and life path. My name is Erica Eriksdotter, born and raised in Sweden and I now live outside of Washington, D.C. I’m a fine arts painter and owner of Studio Eriksdotter, certified Intra-Dimensional Healer and PR and Social Media Strategist. I’m a modern woman, connected to Self who brings meaning to life through an earth centered truth.

Erica Eriksdotter: We’re having fika today with Tamar Arslanian. She is the woman behind the very successful blog, ‘I HAVE CAT’, which has over 70,000 followers on social media. It started as her own journal of being single in New York City with cats. Think, Carrie in Sex in the City, but has now grown into it’s own brand that is internationally recognized. HI!

Tamar Arslanian: Hi! I’m so excited to be here this morning.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah! We’re recording this really early…

Tamar Arslanian: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: Because you are taking your cats to the vet. It’s Monday and a federal holiday. Routine visit. How did your love for cats get started?

  1. How a passion grew into nearly 100K followers [00:01:28]

Tamar Arslanian: Well, it’s interesting because it was always my sister who was the cat lover and I never really paid them that much attention. Of course, as luck would have it, she’s allergic to them even though she does have them now as an adult. But, my love for cats really grew from a boyfriend, a now ex-boyfriend who was living in Chicago and I live in New York City. I would be pining away for him when I was not with him and we’d talk on the phone and most of his conversation revolved around that of his cat. Their antics, what they did, they were brother and sister, so, ‘Oh, this is what Shelly and Ian did today’ and I got a little jealous, I think. So, you know, I did get to know them in person when I would go visit. But, I would hear a lot about them when I wasn’t there as well. So, I think I got my first cat out of retaliation a little bit.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: My retaliatory cat, Kip, was my first cat. I was feeling a little down in the mouth, because, you know here I am in New York and he was in Chicago and I thought I was getting a mellow lap cat. But, lo and behold I came home and it turned out he was a very active young male cat.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: I did not, as is very much often the case with cats, I think we don’t get what we bargained for, but sometimes we do get what we need.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yes, I agree.

Tamar Arslanian: So, it started with him. Of course, I wanted to get him a companion.

Erica Eriksdotter: Of course! This is why I also have two.

Tamar Arslanian: They did not really get along. They don’t not get along, but they just kind of lead their own lives. So, that did not work, you know, the best laid plans. So, I had two male cats for a while. Then, I was fostering cats. I fostered over 20 cats in my house.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh wow!

Tamar Arslanian: I had kittens, sometimes I would have three kittens at a time. I live in a one bedroom New York City apartment so you could imagine. Sometimes I would have a big cage in my living room.

Erica Eriksdotter: Wow!

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: I can’t imagine to be honest. That is just insane.

Tamar Arslanian: [laughing] But, you know, I really got to know their personalities and I think that was the biggest surprise for me when it came to cats. Not growing up with animals at all, except for a goldfish and a hamster, as I always say which I don’t know if they count. But, that they were all unique little souls and all unique individual personalities. One day, I had a cat named Hattie who was a foster, and she decided she was going to become a squatter and she never left my house. As much as I tried to get her to the adoption events, it became quite the challenge and I finally started giving up and after a year or so the adoption agency said, ‘Well, you know..’  adoption agency, I’m calling them like they’re for humans. But, the adoption group said, ‘I think maybe you should make her an honest woman.’

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: So, that is how I got my third cat who’s my failed foster, Hattie.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, Hattie, if I understand you correctly, she was telling you right off the bat that she wanted to stick around. You nursed her actually back to health as well. Which is a pretty, you write about it on your blog, ‘I HAVE CAT’. It’s a pretty vivid story how your nursing her back to health with hot steam in the bathtub, etcetera. Can you share a little bit about that story?

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah. She was born on the streets of New York City and she had a sibling who my sister ended up adopting. She was born on the streets of New York City and as often is the case, a lot of times cats are born with the herpes virus. It doesn’t affect them the same way as humans. Of course, my mother was like, Oh my god! You’re going to get herpes.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian:  I was like, it’s not the same. It more usually affects their respiratory tract and their eyes. So, she had really, really damaged eyes and the vets did an amazing job saving both her eyes. Which they thought maybe they’d have to remove one or that she’d lose eyesight in the other. So, her eyes are kind of milky. She doesn’t have a great third eyelid. It doesn’t work that well. She can still see. I don’t have to do any follow up care. So, in that regards we got really lucky. She just walks around kind of sounding stuffy quite often. She makes her presence known in a room through her breathing. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Well, all three of them are adorable and I believe you still take on some fostering cats.

Tamar Arslanian: Well, I tried to do that and Hattie put her little paw down I should say. All of a sudden I started finding urination everywhere. Cat pee, everywhere, which we know we don’t like to smell where it doesn’t belong.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yes.

Tamar Arslanian: And, once again the adoption group said, I think Hattie’s trying to tell you something. So, since that time, I’ve started volunteering at my local ASPCA. But, that’s a rather new development. So, for quite some time, I just had my guys. I was afraid to bring another cat into the home because I think as the youngest one, perhaps, and as a girl, she was maybe worried that her place would be taken or usurped.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: Not quite sure. So, she made it known that there would be no one else after her. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] But, she’s fine with you coming home smelling like other cats. She doesn’t want them in the house.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, I’m really good about changing my clothes at the facilities…

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh!

Tamar Arslanian: Not only because of disease, but also because I don’t want them to necessarily smell the other cats on me. So, they seem pretty oblivious.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, that’s very lovely of you. I didn’t realize that was a strategy that you take.

Tamar Arslanian: Yes, Yes. I’m in the closet, so hopefully they don’t know.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, really, what is your secret, seriously? We have two cats in a townhouse. We have 1,300 square feet, so it’s a smaller townhouse. We have two litter boxes, we just added a third because Rasmus the rascal had some peeing issues as well. They refuse to use the third litter box, but holy crap can they stink up the place. So, how do you have three cats, sometimes in the past more, in a one bedroom apartment. What is your secret?

Tamar Arslanian: Well, I am lucky in that it’s a bit of a loft type situation. So, even though it’s a one bedroom, it’s got a unique layout. So, I do have different levels so to speak. So, that helps out a lot. They’re not all sort of in one room. So, I have one litter box in the entry way and I have another one under the staircase sort of hidden away, tucked away under the stairs in the living room. I actually have an air purifier right outside of that one that helps quite a lot.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, okay.

Tamar Arslanian: So, yeah, that actually helps and of course, I’m probably not as vigilant about the scooping as I should be, but you know, it does smell every once in a while if I’m not as good as I should be. So, that’s my big hint that I need to get on the task.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, of course, if we have any cat loving listeners out there and they want more specifics they can go to ihavecat.com and read all about how you have it all set up.

Tamar Arslanian: Yes, I have several posts about sort of how I’ve catified my home.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: So, that it doesn’t look like a crazy cat lady home. Of course, my mother would beg to differ. She probably still thinks it looks like a crazy cat lady home because I am single. So, I try not to have it look to crazy. But, I do also try to blend in my aesthetic with that of the cats.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, I have a front. I am married, so my husband is my front.

Tamar Arslanian: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: I have tried to get [laughing] more animals in the house, but, unfortunately, I haven’t succeeded. Even tried for a bunny and a fox but that didn’t’ work.

Tamar Arslanian: A fox! Oh my god.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] I know.

Tamar Arslanian: Hopefully, not at the same time.

Erica Eriksdotter: Well, you know, I’m a bit crazy. So, tell me why you started, how you decided to start your blog and how it is has evolved over time and when you noticed that it was taking off, the cat stuff was really taking off.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, I really originally began writing for myself as everyone says with their blogs. They start writing for themselves and maybe for their few friends and family. So, you know, it was really a surprise for me that people I didn’t know started commenting on the blog and what not. It really started because growing up I had always been involved in the arts somehow whether it be ballet or violin or acting and you know as an adult in New York City I really wasn’t doing any of those things. At the time, I was working very long hours at an ad agency. So, I didn’t really have a lot of time for the creative outlet. But, I had a friend who was working on her first novel and she was actually the impetus for me to start the blog and she really encouraged me. Because, I would tell her funny stories whether they be about dating or cats and if you go to my blog I have an about section and under there there’s a Best of Section. You can always, sort of, kind of get the cream of the crop in the Best of Section, you see some of my older posts. Because, I think in the beginning I spent a lot more time kind of crafting what were the equivalent of short stories. That’s changed a little bit and we can get into that as well. But, really, it was just another creative outlet for me and I never thought of myself as writer by any stretch of the imagination. So, this was a little scary for me and she was my editor in the beginning.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, that’s nice.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, so she came from a more traditional writing background so that it why again some of my earlier pieces read much more like short stories than blog entries.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm. Yeah, it’s always challenging to do blog I’ve committed several years to my blog on StudioEriksdotter.com and for the last year, I just haven’t had the time to committ to writing the blog as much. Blogging is extremely time consuming. I’ve tried to limit the words I use, but I have a hard time because I like to write. But, how much do you spend on the blog?

Tamar Arslanian: You know, honestly, it’s tapered off a little bit, because, as we’ll get into, I’ve been working on some other projects as well. Because, the blog has sort of led to some other opportunities for me. I would say in the beginning; I would definitely spend many more hours a week than I do now. I’ve been a little slack if you go check it out now. But, I try to at least post once a week. In the past, I definitely posted several times a week. But, I was never a blogger who posted every day. Imagine how big it would be if I did. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] And, of course you use social media a lot. You also run your own social media consulting firm, Pet Minded.

Tamar Arslanian: Exactly.

Erica Eriksdotter: You create campaigns and influential programs for like local and global business and rescues.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: Before we get into that, how important has social media been for you?

  1. Social media matters for small businesses [00:13:33] 

Tamar Arslanian: Well, I mean I really think that’s how the blog grew, especially in the beginning. Facebook was my friend, less so these days, but definitely Facebook was my friend and drove a lot of traffic. I really spent a lot of time on growing my Facebook presence in the beginning.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: That drove a lot of traffic. It still does drive some traffic, but not quite as much to my blog. And, that’s I think how I got a lot of readers to get to know the blog.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, that was, you started your blog early 2010 which was when Facebook was still very kind to small business owners, it’s my perspective at least. It was when Facebook audience and followers could draw that to your blog.

Tamar Arslanian: Correct.

Erica Eriksdotter: These days, I’ve shared, I’ve teased a little bit my frustration about Facebook previously on the podcast and how it limits today compared to what it did yesterday for small business owners. Can you share exactly what that challenge is for you with Facebook because small business owners and companies we use it in a different way compared to, you know, private people.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, and I’m sure it affects them as well. Again, it’s become very much what they call pay for play. So, in order to have your Facebook page show up in somebody’s feed, News Feed…I guess if you’re a page it’s probably it’s affected you even more instead of being a personal profile. But, often if somebody likes your page, you won’t show up in their news feed unless you pay to have your post kind of rise to the top of that News Feed and they call it boosting on Facebook. So, Facebook really wants people to pay now in order for people, in order for their own audience to see their pages that they’ve already liked, which is quite frustrating.

Erica Eriksdotter: It is frustrating. I don’t have thirty-six thousand followers like you do on Facebook. I have not even a thousand, but, when I do share a post, even of a new piece, a painting, a cat piece or a dog piece, which is the most popular posts, you know, I’m lucky to have one or two people liking it, up to ten people. It’s the same, it’s not even reaching those followers that I do have as you mentioned. So, I love Instagram and Facebook, of course, owns Instagram as well, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: But, you enjoy Instagram as well and you’re very good at sharing good night images of your kitties, they’re adorable, wishing us all a good night. You also share photos of the Empire State Building. So, how long have you lived in New York City? Because, you’re in love…

Tamar Arslanian: Yes, I do love New York and its architecture, sorry to cut you off Erica.

Erica Eriksdotter: No, no, no, go ahead.

Tamar Arslanian: I’ve lived here about twenty years. I worked a little bit out of college and then I did move up here so I do love New York City. The Instagram feed has become much more cats than it has become more New York City because apparently that’s what plays on Instagram.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yes.

Tamar Arslanian: But, I still do my Catman Monday and my Catwoman Wednesday so definitely check us out at I HAVE CAT. All my handles are I HAVE CAT, whether it be Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or my Blog. It’s CAT singular and the name came from as if it was disease. You know, I HAVE CAT.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: So, that’s kind of the inside joke there.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, and we we’re, I was lucky to be Catwoman Wednesday a few years ago and it was a joy to be interviewed by you and have Lola and Rasmus be featured on it and to talk about my pet portraits and having somebody take so much interest in the shenanigans that go, takes place when you have cats. You know the bedtime routine, the morning routine…

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: Etcetera. But, so thank you so much for featuring us a few years ago. It was an absolute joy.

Tamar Arslanian: Sure!

Erica Eriksdotter: And, I know that everyone, the men and the women, all enjoy being featured and talk about their love.

Tamar Arslanian: I try feature people that are sort of the anti-stereotypical cat person.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: So, whether they be young or whether they have careers or sort of the antithesis [Trying to say this word correctly] I can’t speak today.

Erica Eriksdotter: It’s still early.

Tamar Arslanian: Of the crazy cat lady. You know, I try do everything I can to not be the cat lady, the crazy cat lady or demonstrate that or the crazy cat man. Because, I think there are so many people out there that are just like us in terms of being socially well adjusted and sort of all that good stuff and not necessarily having being unkempt or socially inept. They have jobs and they do all these things but they still have a love for animals. So, my Catwoman Wednesday and Catman Monday are really to sort of highlight those people.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, it’s always in a positive light so it’s never to trash talk anyone else who loves another pet more. We always have that dog and cat comparison. I happen to love dogs and cats equally and I think that most people do. There’s no need to pick one over the other. It’s always in a positive light, which is nice.

  1. Cats, the gateway animal [00:19:36]

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, and actually I call cats my gateway drug or my gateway animal because

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: …again, not growing up with animals, I never even really looked at dogs before. But, because of my cats and learning that their unique little personalities, I’ve sort of now stopped, I stop on the street in Manhattan and I talk to all the doges. It’s because of my cats that I’ve sort of become able to appreciate other species of animals as well and have even become vegetarian. It’s really because of my cats.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: Even, though they’re obligate carnivores, I can’t imagine eating something that is as cute and adorable as my cats. I have refrained from that and I’d love to become vegan. I have a section on my blog that I’ve sort of ignored lately called, Flirting with Vegan, which is my exploration into vegan foods and veganism which again, I try to limit my dairy and all that.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Tamar Arslanian: A lot of that is because of the factory farming.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yep.

Tamar Arslanian: So, when I do, I try to buy from the local farmer’s market and things like that.

Erica Eriksdotter: I agree. I can’t let go of meat, but I am very holistic when it comes to the way I eat and always want to eat good energy and holistic food and organic food. So, I completely understand why you choose that path.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, what other opportunities has the blog led you to?

  1. Opportunities and name dropping [00:21:03]

Tamar Arslanian: Well, on a small scale, I’ve had a great opportunity to write for a lot of great cat publications whether they be Catster or The Cat Channel and beyond that I’ve had a chance to be interviewed by a lot of great blogs cat and non-cat. And, then, recently, I was able to write for the Huffington Post and even the Dodo, which I don’t know if many people are familiar with the DoDo but it’s a little bit like BuzzFeed for animals or Bored Panda. I was really honored because they came to me for those opportunities. I also do a little bit of some sponsored posts, I should say.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: Where companies come to me and they want me to post on my blog for a fee. If I do that, I normally try to make sure that there’s something in it for my readers because it’s always important to me not to sell out. It’s either a giveaway of some sort or it’s got an interesting angle from a rescue perspective or from just an interesting popular culture perspective. I was telling Erica before the interview, I was fortunate enough to have a literary agent approach me who had somehow found my blog. I’m not quite sure how. She really liked my voice and because of that it’s been a few years in the making, I’ll have a book coming out with Harper Collins, hopefully this September. I can’t really talk exactly about what it’s about but suffice to say it will involve cats and it will involve New York City.

Erica Eriksdotter: Weee! I’m so excited for you.

Tamar Arslanian: You guys will be hearing more as the time gets close.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, I’m excited. In the show notes, we’ll put links to the stories that you’ve recently written as well as where people can find you. So, people can look in the show notes or the show description in the app or go to the corresponding blog post to this episode on StudioEriksdotter.com.

Tamar Arslanian: Great.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, you’ve also gone to events, right? I think I saw you with the Grumpy Cat, right?

Tamar Arslanian: Yes, Yes! I’m fortunate enough again to be invited to certain events. I’ve met Grumpy Cat several times whose name is really Tartar Sauce.

Erica Eriksdotter: Ohhhhh [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: And, he is really a she! It’s a girl.

Erica Eriksdotter: It’s a girl. Of course it’s a girl.

Tamar Arslanian: And, I’ve met Lil Bub before who’s a girl.

Erica Eriksdotter: Awwww.

Tamar Arslanian: I’ve met Oskar the Blind Cat and Cloud?

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh you have!!!! [EMPHATICALLY] I love him!!!

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, I went to the West Coast in October for a mini vacation and did a little bit of cat hopping as well to meet some of the cats that are over there. I met Sweet Pickles of Sweet Pickles Designs.

Erica Eriksdotter: Wow.

Tamar Arslanian: Some of it has been through some of the brands that I work with and being invited to some of their events. I met the Fancy Feast Cat.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, Wow.

Tamar Arslanian: There’s more than one, I will tell you that.

Erica Eriksdotter: It’s like Full House.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, exactly.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: When, it’s a cat you’ve got to have more than one I guess, in some instances.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: So, yeah, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and be photographed with some cats and get to know some cat owners and cat people. William Braden of the Le Chat Noir  – Henri Le Chat Noir, I’ve gotten to know him.

Erica Eriksdotter: That’s really neat.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, it’s nice because when I got to different cat events, I kind of run into a lot of the same people and I’ve been fortunate enough as well to be able to become friends with a lot of the other cat bloggers. There’s a cat convention that I used to go to religiously called BlogPaws.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: I haven’t been lately. But, in the beginning that’s how I really got to meet a lot of my counterparts and we really helped each other out because the nice thing about the cat blogging community, for the most part, is that everyone really has a unique voice and a unique perspective. So, instead of it being seen as competitors, we really see each other as complements of one another.

Erica Eriksdotter: Wow.

Tamar Arslanian: So, that’s been really nice.

Erica Eriksdotter: I really appreciate, I followed you for years and there’s another cat blog that I follow as well. I mostly go in when I need advice. When I want the best bed or maybe a take on a specific healthy treat or something like that. Then, I go in and figure out what you have written about it. Do you feel that many people come to you for advice? Like medical advice??

  1. Cat medical advice [00:26:02] 

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: What do you think about this litter box? And, do you have to play that game where it’s like, I’m not a vet, please bring your cat to a vet.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah. I’ve often, it’s a great question and I’ve often, especially on Facebook, had to often times tell people first and foremost if there’s an issue that’s going on that you’re describing to me, you really need to talk to your vet. Other times, if it’s something that’s not quite as serious sounding, I’ll put it out for my readers to comment on and often time I’ll have a lot of great ideas, if it’s  behavioral issues for example.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, interesting.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah. I’ll post on my Facebook page, ‘One of our readers has a question.’ and then I’ll tell that reader to follow the responses. It can be as simple as, how do I help catch my cat and put him in the carrier. He’s very difficult to put in the carrier. To other things about like, you know, what do you think of so and so’s supplement, have you ever used it. So, people chime in and they like to be asked. The Facebook community really likes to be asked their opinions so they’re not short on providing that and of course, I’m always careful to say, ‘This is not my area of expertise.’

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah, I remember you were, I’m not sure which cat you were weighing, but it was about six, nine months ago and you had brought the scale home, right

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, yeah.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, I was like, What is a normal weight? Because my Lola who is a stray cat and came to the door, she was very slender when she came and then she kind of just grew in size. Every time somebody commented on how large she was, I was deeply offended. [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: So, I asked you, what is a normal weight and then you said, I defer, depending on the cat’s size and build, etcetera, you should check with the vet. So, actually, I did go to the vet, eventually and with their normal check-up this past summer and they were both put on a much healthier, holistic, organic chicken food and they are now doing, they are more alert, they’re more active. They lost the extra weight that they were carrying and overall very happy. So, even though you pointed me to the vet, it kind of left me with, hmmm, maybe there is something to this I need to look into this. So, I appreciate that and I know that all your followers are appreciating all your advice as well.

Tamar Arslanian: Thank you. I try my best. I’m not infallible, but I try my best.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] And, what do you think your followers can relate to? Besides having somebody out there who is passionate about cats as they are, what do you think the key to your success has been and passion behind it?

  1. The key to Tamar’s success [00:29:01]

Tamar Arslanian: That’s a really good question. Too bad we can’t ask some of the readers. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah! [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: But, you know, I always try to find out what to write about and I’ve asked in the past should I separate my blogs. I do send out alerts, if people want to be alerted to when I have a new post that goes up, they can get an alert sent to their inbox. Again, I don’t spam anybody and I don’t post so frequently that you’re constantly deleting alerts. But, you know, I did ask them, Should I divide up things into different sub-groups and people really liked the idea of hearing about everything. Sometimes, I’ll post just about New York City or if I have a date, which has been a rarity lately.

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing]

Tamar Arslanian: I’ll post about a date, of course anonymously and usually it’s something funny. Not all the dates will rank a post. If it’s about a cat, or a cat bed or a giveaway and you know, they really, I think, like that whole totality, being able to see the whole person and sort of all the different aspects of what goes on in my life.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah.

Tamar Arslanian: I think people really like that. And, again, the fact that I am single and I have three cats, I think a lot of people relate to that, whether they be men or women. This idea again that nobody wants to be stigmatized because they love an animal.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: And, I think, unfortunately, cats do have more of a stigma than dogs do. Then again, I like to say that three of anything is too much, so I probably have one too many cats.

Erica Eriksdotter: How can you give anyone of those adorably munchkins up?

Tamar Arslanian: I can’t of course. But, I jokingly say that three is the tipping point and that is why it was so hard for me to accept that I was going to have a third cat and I think my mother probably shed a few tears over it as well. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] I would love to have more cats and a couple of dogs, but I would have to have a little bit more land before that happens.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah.

  1. Tamar’s take on Cat Café’s and rescue orgs [00:31:10] 

Erica Eriksdotter: So, you’ve also done reviews for Cat Cafe’s, they’re popping up everywhere now in the U.S. which I’m really stoked about. You’ve done a couple of reviews and you had some of your followers do reviews on location. What is your take on the cat cafe’s?

Tamar Arslanian: I think they’re really great. I think especially the ones and I think most of them now in the United States, unlike some of them abroad, promote adoption. So, I think that that’s what’s been fabulous. I mean, I know that the very first cat cafe, Cat Town Cafe, in Berkeley, really helped that rescue group increase adoptions by at least three or four times in one year than what they were normally able to do. I think it allows people who want to have a cat who can’t have a cat, the chance to interact with a cat, which is really nice and in a very low-key setting. But, then again, those who do want to adopt a cat, it gives them a chance to get to know the animal outside of a cage, which I think is a really hard way to get to know their personality. As I mentioned, I thought Kip had a specific personality but the minute I brought him home and he was no longer in a cage, he was very different than the cat I thought I was adopting. I love him and he’s turned out to be a fabulous cat. In the beginning, it really wasn’t what I expected. So, I think, again, it allows people to get to know a cat in a setting that’s their home instead of a cage.

Erica Eriksdotter: I completely agree and I have still, there is one in Georgetown in D.C. area and I still have not been there. But I have a friend who has been, Laura Wilson, who is actually a Georgetown University’s social media guru. She absolutely loves it. I think it calms you down a little bit, not that she needs calming down, but it calms you down a little bit to hang out with cats, it’s very therapeutic.

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah, very therapeutic.

Erica Eriksdotter: But, I was always interested because Rasmus my cat, just like Kip, you know, brought him home and I was so naive in the beginning not having had cats before and I thought that you know every cat was like Lola. Which is absolutely amazing, she has my heart. I thought that every cat was like that, I was like, Oh my god, why doesn’t everyone have a cat. And, Rasmus is completely different from that. I love him equally, he’s just very different. Running up the walls…

Tamar Arslanian: Exactly.

Erica Eriksdotter: You know, meowing at the odd hours. Never satisfied and he’s also a scaredy cat. So, you don’t think cat cafe’s can be damaging to the cats? Or, do you think that their just resilient and that doesn’t matter?

Tamar Arslanian: Well, a lot of the people that I have spoken to that run the cat cafe’s and work with rescue groups that help them vet which cats to bring to the cafe.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh.

Tamar Arslanian: So, a lot of them will make sure that the cats that are there are comfortable around people, are more social. Although, there are some cat cafe’s that specialize in special needs cats. You know, whether they be a cat with one eye or three legs or maybe they do need a little more loving. I know that, for example, Meow Parlor in Manhattan, Christina Ha who’s the co-owner, has talked a lot about certain cats who have really come out their shell.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh.

Tamar Arslanian: But, I think you would never want a cat that’s a completely terrified cat in that environment. You’d want them to have a certain level of comfort around people.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: I don’t know if you can hear my cats right now, they’re like chasing each other.

Erica Eriksdotter: No!

Tamar Arslanian: They’re not cooperating with the interview.

Erica Eriksdotter: No, I can’t actually. They’re very quiet for running amok. Since you have been part of volunteering at rescue organizations and been devoted to that and lifting up their challenges, what are the challenges of rescue organizations?

Tamar Arslanian: Well, right now, you know, I’m working with a group that does pull from a kill shelter. They’re a non-kill shelter themselves, but I think, again, getting volunteers is a huge challenge. Whether it’s volunteers to socialize them, which is something I do. Which basically entails playing with cats, which, you know, that’s a pretty easy volunteering gig. To, being somebody who actually shows the cats to prospective adoptees. So, I think, they just rely so much on volunteers. The small group I worked with before relied on volunteers for a fostering network because they did not have a shelter where they could actually house quote unquote cats full time. So, I think regardless of the type of organization, volunteering is so important because they definitely need the help. If you go to one organization and you feel that they’re not to your liking in terms of the way they’re organized or maybe they don’t have a good distribution of volunteers, trust me, there is definitely one out there that can put you to good use. So, definitely do a little research and kind of maybe talk to some people that volunteer for a specific organization and find out what it is that they’re looking for specifically so that you’re not surprised. Some people don’t mind cleaning litter boxes and making the shelter area cleaner and more inhabitable for cats. Other people might not want to do that because they do that enough at home and might just want to be able to be playing with the cats and sort of giving them stimulation and that helps them get adopted as well, because you’re helping socialize them.

Erica Eriksdotter: How, if you think back, and how much has adding cats to your life and having I HAVE CAT, added to your life?

  1. How cats have changed Tamar [00:37:21]

Tamar Arslanian: Well, I think for obvious reasons it’s definitely helped me explore a part of myself from a writing perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s kind of given me an excuse to write and it’s also helped me meet people, such as yourself, that I wouldn’t have gotten to meet otherwise. But, as far as having cats, I do really think that they just probably as children do, they help you see the world through a different set of eyes. So, I notice things that I might not notice otherwise. I think they also sometimes force you to be in the moment. So, I try my best to really [00:38:04] interacting with them. Not all the time, it’s impossible all the time.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm, hmm.

Tamar Arslanian: To take a few minutes sometimes out of the day and just really have a little bit of one on one time and just be really focused on them and it is soothing and it is calming so I think they’ve definitely enriched my life in many ways.

Erica Eriksdotter: I completely second that and you know, my cats have brought a lot of joy to my life as well. Lola is always in the studio with me when I’m painting and she actually reminds to take breaks, you know. She’ll jump up and almost land in my palette of lots of wet colors.

Tamar Arslanian: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: She has tracked it all over my studio.

Tamar Arslanian: She wants to do her own art.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yep. [laughing] Yes, she does. Or, she’s laying in my lap and then suddenly wants to be completely petted and will not be satisfied or will start biting my brush. It helps you in very different ways of enlightening your life I feel.

Tamar Arslanian: Absolutely.

Erica Eriksdotter: Any pet does. Cats are just very unique, I think, in the way that they love you.

Tamar Arslanian: I couldn’t agree more.

Erica Eriksdotter: So, tell me a little about, because of course, cats and your career has led you to your own social media consulting firm. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

  1. What’s Pet Minded? [00:39:35]

Tamar Arslanian: Yeah. Pet Minded really came about because people found my blog and you know they figured, hey, she’s doing this for herself, is this something she can help us with? I’ve helped a lot of kickstarter campaigns actually so that’s definitely one thing that I’ve done in addition to helping rescue groups promote certain events locally. So, again, it’s really just helping them harness the power of influencers in the blogosphere that talk about cats and focus on cats so that whether it’s a product or an event, people who are the core target will know about it. Then, sometimes it might mean Facebook or it might be an Instagram, so again, I think it’s been really great for me in terms of coming from a more traditional advertising background to be able to sort of dabble in and explore because it’s always changing. I mean Facebook is always changing as we spoke about and dealing with these people who are now my friends who I get to you know talk to about promoting certain businesses or certain products and they get to be influencers and talk about them as experts. So, that’s really how it all started is a lot of times people just found me. I’ve even done some representing of products to get them placed into stores. Products that I’ve found that I’ve just really liked on Etsy that didn’t have any representation. So, that’s been another avenue that I’ve been able to sort of expand my career and my experience is to do that. It is a lot of cold calling, a lot of people not talking to you or not returning your phone call. So, that’s been another aspect of Pet Minded as well. Not only the social media consulting aspect but also you know doing a little bit of representation of specific products.

Erica Eriksdotter: And, do you still have a day job outside of I HAVE CAT?

Tamar Arslanian: Well, right now it’s mostly consulting. It’s I HAVE CAT and it’s been working on my book, but I see a time in the very near future where I’ll probably have to go back to Corporate America for the rent.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yep.

Tamar Arslanian: So, you know, but I do intend on maintaining I HAVE CAT for as long as I can and as long as people have interest.

Erica Eriksdotter: Oh, that’s so nice. That’s wonderful. Anything else do you want to add?

  1. A small place will be a castle for a rescue pet [00:42:07] 

Tamar Arslanian: I think that’s it. I think the one thing people worry about, especially if they live in a small apartment is, ‘Oh, I don’t have enough room for an animal’ and I think somebody once told me and I always repeat this, ‘Anything is better than a two foot by two foot, or two foot by three foot cage’.

Erica Eriksdotter: Mmm

Tamar Arslanian: So, just always keep that in mind that no matter what, even if you have a small home, that home could be a castle for a cat or a dog or a rabbit. I don’t know about a fox. [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: [laughing] Yeah! So, where can people find you?

Tamar Arslanian: Well, you can find me definitely at Ihavecat.com. You can find me on Facebook at Facebook.com/ihavecat. You can find me on Instagram, the handle is @IHAVE CAT. If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can still look at our pictures by going to Instagram.com/Ihavecat or Twitter @Ihavecat, so it’s pretty easy.  [laughing] Just Google I HAVE CAT, you’ll find me.

Erica Eriksdotter: Pet Minded, is that something they can just email you about by going to I HAVE CAT or does it have it’s own website?

Tamar Arslanian: It’s a very rudimentary website, but it’s Pet-minded.com.

Erica Eriksdotter: Great. Alright.

Tamar Arslanian: Thank you, thank you so much for the opportunity.

Erica Eriksdotter: Yeah! Absolutely. So, alright, that’s it for this episode. The next episode will feature another guest, but Tamar might be back, so if you have any questions please submit your questions with the #fikapodcast or if you want to give her a shout out or have any cat questions you can also use the link via the show notes. You can find me, Erica at StudioEriksdotter.com and we’ll add Tamar’s everywhere you can reach her, we’ll put that in the show notes. You can join my email list to stay up to date, you can access it at the bottom of my website and while you’re on the internet, leave us a Fika podcast and iTunes review so we know what you want to hear more about, what you want to hear less about, how we’re doing, etcetera. And, don’t forget to subscribe to if you don’t want to miss an episode. We greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time, it’s a Monday morning, a Federal Holiday.

Tamar Arslanian: [laughing]

Erica Eriksdotter: You’re about to whisk off your cats to the vet and so thank you for taking the time.

Tamar Arslanian: No, thank you so much for having me and I hope everyone enjoyed it.