Amy Shojai is a renowned writer who specializes in writing about animals, on her own blog, in a weekly newspaper column, and through a number of published pet guides.
She is a nationally recognized pet care expert, and an author of 30 best selling pet-care books. Amy has kindly agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions and shared some of her experiences as well as her top tips for pet owners. Read on to find out why she thinks pets are better than men and why it’s the ‘normal’ pet behaviors that she thinks are worth paying attention to.
Q1. To begin, could you please tell us a little about what you do as a pet-centric writer?
I wear many “furry” hats in my work. Currently, I write a weekly newspaper column called P’ETiQuette that covers care and behavior concerns for pet parents. I also blog professionally for online clients, either writing content for the pet product company or publication, or sharing “sponsored posts” on my own blog. Finally, I write both nonfiction pet care and behavior books, as well as a fiction series that features an animal behaviorist and her service dog.
Q2. How did you first become interested in animals? Did you always know you wanted to write pet guides?
I’ve always loved animals. As a child, my Mom says that I never wanted to play with dolls, only stuffed animals. She always told her friends, “When Amy grows up, she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.” Mom was right!
Writing about pets was an accident, though. I studied music and theater in school (performance) but after I married, we moved to a small town and I needed a job. A local veterinarian hired me (after an interview during which I helped revive pups from a Chihuahua’s C-section), and that experience made me hungry to learn more. We began working to open a local shelter, and I was tapped to write articles for the newspaper. Also, my Mom enjoyed hearing stories about my vet hospital experiences and urged me to write them down. So I began writing personal experience stories and submitted to the “pet press” magazines of the day: Dog Fancy, Dog World, Cats Magazine, Cat Fancy, and others.
I loved helping pet owners at the vet clinic but discovered I could reach a far wider audience through my writing. I call it “edu-taining” the reader. My background allows me to put the information in language that we all can understand, rather than medicalese terminology that may be confusing to pet parents.
Q3. What animals do you find the most fun to write about? Which animals do you find to draw the most interest as subjects of books and blog posts?
I primarily write about dogs and cats. It’s funny, the cat folks think of me as a “cat writer” while the dog lovers consider me a “dog writer.” I’m an equal opportunity pet lover/writer. Don’t make me choose!
There are hot button topics that draw each type of reader, and for my audience, behavior tops the list. That is “bad” behavior. The problems that are normal for cats and dogs often lose them homes (or lives) so I find those topics most satisfying to write about and offer solutions. I’m also fascinated by how cats and dogs behave and sussing out WHY they do the things they do—is it normal? A health concern? A social problem? Bad training, or lack of socialization? Brain chemical imbalance? Combination of everything?
The blog posts that draw the most interest, though, tend to be humorous. People don’t like to read preachy articles or dry-as-bones dissertations. Today, readers have much less time and want to be entertained. So, I strive to provide that ice-cream entertainment while “sneaking in” the meat and healthy veggie info. Examples of these types of posts include, “Why Cats Follow You To The Bathroom” and “Can Dogs Be Jealous.”
Q4. On your blog, you recently uploaded a post on ‘why pets are better than men’. Do you have any pets of your own?
Yes, I currently have three pets. Seren is an 18-year-old Siamese wannabe, Magic is a smart aleck 9-year-old German Shepherd, and Karma is a delinquent 2-year-old silver shaded tabby man-cat. Magic and Karma are best friends. Seren continues to campaign to get rid of them and be an “only” cat.
Q5. What is the one tip you would give pet owners reading this to help keep their animals happy and healthy?
Pay attention to the boring, every day NORMAL behaviors of your beloved pets. That way, you’ll be alerted to get vet care immediately if their behavior changes. An innocuous change in behavior (he doesn’t wake you at 5 am!) often is the first clue of a problem. Early intervention saves pet lives!
Q6. Finally, do you have any upcoming books or projects you’d like to mention?
My next suspense book will shortly be released in the September Day “Thrillers With Bite!” series. Each of these books includes not only the behaviorist/trainer’s viewpoint and a pet-centric plot, but also September’s German Shepherd service dog has his own viewpoint chapters.