Posted by Talknowledgy
NOTE: Sorry to those who got the draft of this blog post early. Keyboard error! Hope you enjoy. -PG
CatHugger is a freemium social network for – you guessed it – cat lovers. There are three levels of membership: ‘Stowaway’ (free), ‘First Mate’ ($25/year), and ‘Admiral’ ($50/year). As you can probably guess from those names, there is a nautical theme to the site. No, I’m still not sure why.
After signing up (for a free account), the first thing I did was upload pictures of my cats.
From what I can tell, there are just under one thousand users but it is well set up to keep you coming back. There are arcade games with leader boards, and on your home page you can see when new blog posts, photos, videos, and polls go up as well as bulletins from the admins. There are also a fair number of resources for users, like cat health tips.
Touching on the games for a moment, I was expecting most of them to be ‘cat themed’ or in some way related to cats but that’s not always the case. The first game I tried was a simple side scroller where you move a cat through various obstacles. But others included a game about milking cows, and another about defending a castle from an army of orcs! (and no, I was not in command of an army of cats).
CatHugger seems well set up for sharing as there are all kinds of submission options front and centre on your “Helm”, whether you want to write a blog, submit a song, or just ‘Meow something’. That being said, the privacy settings do offer plenty of control so if you’d like to restrict access to just people you friend then you have that option (and in hindsight, maybe I should have set THAT first before uploading pictures). The profile customization also seems quite strong, though I honestly found myself a bit confused by it and wish they did more to explain it since I couldn’t seem to apply the changes I was making. Removing widgets and apps was easy enough (though there were a lot to remove, and some of them like “Site Stats” you aren’t allowed to remove) but when it came to colour customization and the like the instructions were non-existent.
I mentioned before the site is ‘Freemium’ and it’s not just the subscriptions you can purchase. They do have a merch store, as well as a “Gift” system that I’m still trying to make heads or tails of. Both of the subscription accounts offer you a set amount of points monthly to spend on cute little pictures and such you can send via their internal mail system to other users. However, it doesn’t explain all the ways you can get these points if you’re a ‘Stowaway’ (somehow I had 5 points) or if they do anything else but buy gifts. When attempting to send a gift you can select points and there’s a greyed out option for ‘money’, and yet you can buy points in the store.
If I had to sum up CatHugger in one word, it would be ‘disorganized’. It leaves too much up to the user to figure out. I discovered after using the site for a bit you’re supposed to set up your account then set up sort of ‘slave accounts’ for each of your cats (and that’s meant to be one of the perks for the paid accounts…the ability to have over 5 cats registered to your account…wait, people might need that???). The customization is great, but also a lot of work. It should be noted that the site is still fairly new, and there are plenty of broken links along with a few spelling errors. I was willing to forgive a lot since there’s this big logo that says “From the Rescue Ship Archangel” which made me think the money they’re making is going to help rescue cats or some such thing. Indeed, they make that claim on their front page…
Proceeds from paid memberships feed and vet the cats of the Archangel Cat Rescue.
…though I haven’t been able to find a website for them thus far. Still, I can assure you CatHugger.com is the finest social network for cat lovers that I have come across.
If you know of any other niche social networks you use or want me to check out, leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org! I plan on doing more of these reviews…