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Silly Rabbit! Social networking for your dog, cat, rabbit...and YOU

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:38pm

Do you Dogster, Catster, Petster, Dogbook or Doggyspace? You might think I’m a tad kooky for admitting to this, but I do.

My dogs have profiles on Dogster and Doggyspace. Granted, Dogster is my preferred network for all its accoutrements and longevity, but I just had to check out Doggyspace once Time Magazine profiled it last week in a short, interesting article on social networking “for pets.”

And the jury’s in: Doggyspace is about the same as Dogster…with a sparer look, fewer dogs and less populated forums. But I like it, too.

The thing I like about all these animal-oriented social networking sites (from a vet’s point of view) is that they’re a much safer, more democratic alternative to the puppy park. Not everyone has access to a dog park nor is every pet capable of being brought to one for actual human-pet-pet-human interaction.

Case in point: The one rabbit on Doggyspace. According to Time’s article, bunny Nixie is the first creature to have broken the species barrier on this site. As “she” writes on her profile, “I am a bunny, but I joined this because there is no BunnySpace.”

And then there’s the neat slant Time took on non-human social networking: It’s less threatening (from a human’s point of view) than MySpace or FaceBook. A significant percentage of humans will always eschew human social networking sites like these. But a pet site with your dog, cat, goat or bunny as your avatar? Why not?

Again, here we see humans taking encouragement from their pets to get out in the world ant interact with one another. In the real world there are so many barriers to interaction. In social networking there are precious few.

And then there’s the issue of what we might be learning about our pets online. If humans are role-playing Fluffy online, they’re more likely to be directed to health sites and exposed to important ideas on the subject of their pets. Maybe their relationship with their pets will even get a boost from interacting with others who care deeply for their own.

Answering messages directed to Sophie Sue (in her voice, even) may seem silly to you. But anything that makes human-human interaction easier and makes our lives more fulfilling gets a nod from me. Even if it takes experiencing a bit of fantasy through our pets to make that happen, even if it's done via the impersonal medium of social networking in cyberspace...I’m all for it.

So fess you Dogster, Catster, Petster, etc.??
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