How rescuing an abandoned kitten led to launching a publishing company! Justin Anderson’s Saving Stripes
Q: Your book Saving Stripes details how you and your family rescued a mother cat and kittens. You adopted a kitten and got the mother cat some medical care but she was not adopted. What’s the best way to assist homeless or stray animals, how do you know when they need adoption or when they should be left in the wild?
A: After finding Stripes, her mother and two siblings in the park near my houses, my first reaction was, “Hey, they don’t belong here. I have to do something.” With the help of my parents and some neighbors, I caught all 4 cats and got them to the local Animal Humane Society. The way the kittens ran right up to me when I came along and found them told me they had probably been pets at some time because they trusted people. If they had run away rather than interacting with me, I probably would have assumed they were feral. Either way, I definitely would have done something because domestic cats do not belong in a neighborhood park, particularly the park near my house where I have seen plenty of predators in the past, including wild coyotes, foxes, raccoons, eagles, hawks, etc.
We took all four animals to the local Animal Humane Society. A few days later, I returned to the shelter to take pictures for my book, and adopted Stripes. The other two kittens were adopted into homes as well. As for the mother cat, she was deemed unadaptable by the Animal Humane Society, but I wasn’t willing to accept that assessment. I got the organization we had adopted my other cat from involved. Their mission is to prevent euthanasia in adoptable animals. They agreed to take her in, took her to their vet, and found out she had pneumonia and other health issues. They got her well, and then got her adopted into a home as well. So, we saved all four cats.
In my opinion the best way to help homeless or stray cats and dogs — which are traditionally bred to be pets — is to take action to get them shelter when you find them someplace they don’t belong. Animals that have been abandoned, or run away, are likely used to being fed, so they can typically be caught by setting out canned food for them. Then I recommend getting them into a crate and bringing them to the local Animal Humane Society or another animal shelter.
Q: (Just as an aside, I grew up with pet cats and am somewhat familiar with debates over purebred vs rescue, TNR vs killing cats to save birds etc but would love to hear more on the topic from someone who knows
A: In my opinion, rescue cats make the best pets for a number of reasons. In Stripes’ case, because she is such a sweet and loving animal. My family would never consider bringing home a purebred cat because there is such a need for good homes for cats being cared for in shelters. I feel very rewarded to know I am helping reduce the pet population by bringing animals into my home that are in need. I feel that at this point, supporting professional breeders is unnecessary given the sheer number of animals already out there.
I am familiar with TNR and think it’s a best done in rural areas where there are plenty of places for the animals to safely roam. As far as saving birds, unless they are sick, or very young, most birds are more than capable of escaping the clutches of a cat. I don’t see this as being a major issue, except in a case where cats were attacking an endangered species of bird.
Q: You’re published through Sigma’s Bookshelf, designed to publish teen authors. Why and how did you go that route, and what sort of support do you think teen authors uniquely need?
A: Sigma’s Bookshelf actually came along well after Saving Stripes: A Kitty’s Story, which was published in 2015 through Amazon’s self publishing service, which used to be called Create Space. After the book came out, I got a lot of attention for it. I appeared in my hometown newspaper a couple of times, was interviewed on TV twice, and appeared at several book and animal-themed events. All the attention got me thinking. Why am I the only kid I know with a book out? I know there are lots of other kids who write but don’t have access to the same resources I do. My parents agreed to help me start up a free book publishing company exclusively for teen writers to help them get their books published too. We started up Sigma’s Bookshelf in 2017, and now have 16 teen authored books in the market, including my second book and debut novel, Nothing But Trouble, which is about a pharmaceutical company CEO with lots of problems, including accidentally turning someone into a monster. In my opinion, what teen authors need most is simple encouragement and a place to get their work out there, especially with the insecurities that come with being a teen.
Q: Saving Stripes is from the POV of the kitten. How did you decide to write it that way, and how can you have any idea of what a cat’s thinking?
A: When I decided to write Saving Stripes, the idea of writing from the kitten’s point of view felt like the right away to do it. I have had cats in my home all my life, and since I was very young me and my family would imagine what they were thinking and “talk for them.” We still do it today.
Q: What sort of other projects are you working on now? I know you’ve got other environmental projects, could you tell us about those? And are you planning on writing anything else?
A: I recently started a company called 2nd Melt Plastics (www.plasticoasters.wordpress.com). I sell plastic coasters made of upcycled plastics that are traditionally unprofitable for recycling and instead end up in the trash. These include such items as coffee lids, take-out containers, straws and beach plastic.
The project was conceived during spring break 2019 during a family vacation in Hawaii. We came across a beach littered with plastic. I packed up as much of it as I could right away. It was simply the right thing to do. Around the same time, I had learned about 4ocean Bracelets, which are made by a Florida company using recycled materials. I decided I wanted to do something like that myself.
When I returned home, I discovered that melting plastic in an empty tuna can created a distinct shape resembling a drink coaster, except with a lip around the edge. I quickly ran into a problem though. I couldn’t use the cans for long as they got dented up over time. I tried putting paint can lids into the tuna cans to keep the shape, but they got dented up as well, so this spring I designed a custom metal mold.
Each coaster removes 60 grams of material from the waste stream and is accompanied by a “recipe card” that lists the materials that went into its creation.
As far as writing, I am working on a novel called Totality, which is about Laktan, who is an alien called a Jultak. Laktan is born into a clan of fisher jultak, but wants to be a cargo ship captain. The story is about how Laktan finds their way off the planet to try and pursue their dream, coming across a huge conspiracy along the way. (Jultak are genderless, hence the they/them pronouns).
Q: What would you say to other teens or young adults who would like to get involved in a cause but don’t know where to start?
A: My best advice is to take action. If you see something you know isn’t right, or that you want to change, don’t just talk about it. Do something about it. And because you’re a kid, who can’t necessarily make things happen on your own, ask for help.