The two monthlies are on the edge of their 45th and 50th anniversaries respectively, but will be gone by January.
This is not a story about how the high cost of postage, printing and paper is killing off another publication unable to compete in the era of cell phones and Amazon Prime. Yes, there's that too. But the core story is really about a seismic change in pet culture in the United States -- the same seismic shift that is killing off the American Kennel Club.
As New York magazine notes in a piece focused solely on the Cat Fancy side of the story:
To understand the seismic shift in cat culture, you can start by picking apart Cat Fancy's name. It used to be much more than a whimsical reference to the enjoyment of felines. When the magazine launched in 1965, animal lovers were very familiar with something called "the cat fancy." The term referred to a connoisseur-like approach to cats: following professional cat shows, maintaining directories of cat breeders, and recognizing the importance of purebred bloodlines.
"Back then, the people who had all the knowledge tended to be the people who were showing cats, breeding cats, everything like that," said Melissa Kauffman, senior editorial director for I-5. Cat Fancy's innovation was to take that knowledge — and its attendant attitude toward cats — to a nationwide audience. "They did cover some of the topics that Cat Fancy covers today, but it was more about things like show information." There were long indexes of breeders, in-depth analyses of different breeds, and impassioned letters from opinionated cat owners (including, in one memorable instance, Ayn Rand).
.... Nevertheless, readers of Cat Fancy in its early decades would likely be aghast at the shape of today's cat passions. Modern feline icons like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub are mutts with genetic deformities. They wouldn't have made it past the front door at a Golden Age cat show. And their many public appearances are filled with fans who would disdain anyone who gets a cat from a breeder rather than a shelter.
Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy will be replaced by glossy high-end publications called Dogster and Catster, which are to be print analogs to two already-existing web sites. The two new print magazines will alternate their monthly publication runs, with 6-issues of each coming out over the course of a year.
Presumably these two new publications will be institutions that reflect a new ethos. But will they survive in this digital era? It will be tough. Paper is so dead there are almost no street-level distribution points any more, and at a time of fiscal austerity who is subscribing for print information that they can get online for free?.
That said, what sank Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy was not Google, list-servs and chat rooms, but the fact that America no longer gravitates to deformed, diseased, and dysfunctional dogs and cats that have been inbred to failure.
The death of the dog show is part of the same tectonic shift that has crumbled Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy.
And can the demise of the AKC be far behind? Not according to my sources, which say AKC registrations are now just a hair over 400,000 a year, down from over 1.5 million in 1992.
To be clear, Americans own more dogs than ever before.
It is not dogs that Americans are rejecting, it is pure bred dogs and pure bred dog breeders selling contrived histories, sniffing pretensions, and diseased and deformed dogs unfit for the most basic of function.
The canine population in the U.S. is about 75 million dogs.
Every year about 7 million new dogs are acquired to replace those that die from disease, old age or accident.
Of these 7 million new dogs, approximately 53 percent are crossbreeds or mongrels, and approximately 47 percent are "pure breeds".
To put a number on it, that works out to be approximately 3,710,000 dogs of mixed ancestry, and approximately 3,290,000 dogs that are pure breed.
AKC registrations are down to under 450,000, which means they account for less than 14 percent of all pure bred dogs acquired every year, and less than 6.5 percent of ALL dogs acquired.
So where does this leave the AKC?
Not well. The organization has tried to make money in the world of veterinary referral kickbacks and insurance sales kickbacks and in selling defective AKC-branded goods made in China.
They have doubled-down on puppy mill registrations, going so far as to discount pet store registrations and to create an entire computer program for puppy mill sales to pet stores, even as they invite the owners of puppy mills into their booth at Westminster.
Now they are selling their email lists to lick-and-stick dog food companies who contract out the manufacture of their dog food to third parties in foreign countries (Canada). That's a fast way to jump from the pan into the fire!
And is the United Kennel Club doing any better?
Not a bit. The same social trend away from pure bred dogs has prevented this registry from growing beyond its second-cousin status, and since the UKC is almost exactly like the AKC (no required health tests, no required genetic tests, green-light to puppy mill sales, green-light to incest, etc.) it holds no moral high ground when it comes to canine welfare.
But is any of this bad for dogs?
Not a bit! In fact, it is all GOOD for dogs.
Let us all celebrate dogs AND the demise of Kennel Club registries founded on the broken and misguided eugenics theories of the late 19th and early-20th centuries.
Progress is being made!