Chicago Tribune Website Error Puts Cat in the Spotlight

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune readers accustomed to seeing hard news on the newspaper's website on Tuesday got a bit of fluff instead - literally.

A mistake during a routine testing of the website's content management system led to a photo of a kitten featured in the paper's "Pets in Need of Homes" photo gallery leading the website, pushing to the side the news of the day, like the death of a former U.S. senator and a ruling in the case of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.

"We were doing a routine test in our CMS and generally make a effort to use inoffensive and innocuous placeholder text and images when testing," Amy Guth, the Tribune's social media and SEO manager, told Gizmodo. "The digital editor at the helm of the site saw that our centerpiece was replaced with this 'unsanctioned cat,' and took it down immediately."

Though the "unsanctioned cat" didn't spend much time on the Tribune's home page, it was there long enough to pique the interest of animal lovers wondering if the cat still needed a home.

The cat, named Benton, is a four-month-old silver tabby who was taken in nearly three months ago by Feline Friends Chicago, a cat rescue organization.

Very quickly after Benton's accidental moment in the spotlight, Tribune staffers contacted Feline Friends to find out if Benton was still available because so many people were inquiring.

"The Tribune emailed us right away and asked us to call them because they didn't really know what to tell people," Toni McNaughton, the organization's co-founders, told today. "And then, we started getting emails ourselves about an hour or so later."

McNaughton said the group received "a couple dozen more" inquiries than average on the day of the Tribune's mistake.

Benton, now taken care of by a foster family, is still available for adoption. McNaughton said a few of the inquiries were likely from out-of-state online readers - Feline Friends only does local adoptions for its cats - and she is sorting through the rest to see if any will be the right home for Benton.

The Tribune's mistake, McNaughton believed, is positive for Benton and all of the other cats featured in the photo gallery.

"I think we're hopeful it will find a good home for Benton and also that it will help some of the other kitties," she said. "There are so many different organizations [represented in the gallery]. I think this season we've seen more kittens and cats in need of homes more than ever before."

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