It just happens. Somehow, through no fault of your own and despite a mountain of work, you tap into Instagram and find yourself lost in a sea of never-ending cat photos. For this National Cat Day, we spoke to the "moms" and "dads" of some of our favorite cats to learn what's behind that addictive adorableness.
More than a meme
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Mick Szydlowski, of Seattle, might have a cat-celebrity in his house, but he makes one thing clear: Oskar is more than a meme. Oskar, the blind cat, is an inspiration. He even has an award from the National Federation of the Blind to prove it. Szydlowski started an Instagram account featuring Oskar and his brother cat Klaus to show "what it was like living with a special needs cat," he says. It takes a little more patience — and the commitment to keep your cat indoors — but in many cases, he says wannabe cat owners should consider opening their home to a disabled cat.
"I am very consistent with reading the comments that people make on Instagram and Facebook. If someone has a question about adopting a disabled cat, I want to help,” Szydlowski says.
“Sometimes someone will make a pity comment like 'Aw poor thing, I hope he can have an eye transplant or something’ but I let them know he is as happy as any other cat and can do anything he puts his mind to,” Szydlowski says.
Oskar and Klaus have two books — and one of them is about to fly to space on a rocket to be read by a crew member on board the International Space Station and broadcast to classrooms around the world. Really.
Hugo Martinez is an artist. And Princess Cheeto is his star subject. Their goal? Make people happy.
"I used to be obsessed with Grumpy Cat and other cats," Martinez says. "I remember how happy these cats would make me — they would totally turn around my day."
When Martinez’s friends surprised him with Cheeto for his birthday his life was changed — in a good way. Through art, he decided to pay it forward.
Last year, Martinez quit his job to photograph Cheeto full time.
"There is so much competition in New York and everyone wants to do the same thing. This is different. I get to combine my passions: photography and the most precious thing that I love: Cheeto.”
Martinez lucked out with Cheeto. She may be sassy, he says, but she’s easy to photograph. "She stay and she’ll pose,” he laughs. But don’t worry — those photos of Cheeto on a city street? They’re composites — different photos edited together. Cheeto’s wellbeing is Martinez’s top concern.
What do Cheeto’s fans love the most? "They love stuff on her head,” he laughs.
When Mike Bridavsky first saw Lil BUB, he knew they were meant to be together. She was the runt of a feral litter in a tool shed in rural Indiana.
"People kept giving up on her because it was obvious that she needed special care,” Bridavsky recalls. Lil BUB has a degenerative bone condition called osteopetrosis. "She’s the only cat in recorded history born with it," Bridavsky says. "I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her. I couldn’t believe she was real.”
Bridavsky didn’t expect Lil BUB to live very long so he took videos and photos of every moment. At first, Bridavsky was noticing comments where people called Lil BUB “retarded” or claimed that she was the result of inbreeding.
Instead of getting frustrated, Bridavsky used the chatter to talk about cat adoption and special needs pets. Now, Lil BUB even has the first national fund for special needs pets: Little BUB’s big fund for the ASPCA. "She’s brought some people out of some serious darkness and tough times," Bridavsky says. "She’s a legend."
Shrampton’s wardrobe is probably better than yours. After all, his mom Leilani Shimoda is a fashion designer.
"He has a couple costume changes coming for this Halloween,” she says.
Whatever Shrampton is doing, it's working. "Sometimes girls try to flirt with him over DM,” Shimoda laughs."I send little cat emojis and hearts back."
Shimoda says she keeps up Shrampton's Instagram account because it makes people happy. "Some people comment and say 'I was having the worst day, this helped,' or they tag each other and say 'This is us! This is me! This will be us tomorrow.' I love that."
Shrampton does really well posing on set. "I get super mom proud," Shimoda says. "I just love him and have so much fun with him." Having a famous cat is like being part of a special cat-parent community. "We keep in touch and then there are times when we support each other," she says. "It’s funny, you introduce yourself as a cat first. We all know each other by our cats, we are secondary in the friendship."
Those tiny legs can moonwalk
When you look at Albert Baby Cat you’d never imagine that he starred in an episode of Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell. His big problem? He licked too much. It’s an adorable problem that fits an adorable cat. Albert’s human, Christine Look, never expected her blue-eyed, tiny-legged cat to grow to such Internet fame. "When he was a baby he looked very weird,” Look laughs. "He was the runt of the litter. As he grew up he got cuter and cuter.”
Look started Albert Baby Cat’s Instagram about two years ago, for the last year, it’s been her full-time job. In order to make money, Look spends half of her work time searching for brands and communicating with them and setting up campaigns to promote them. The other half of her time is spent taking and editing the photos and videos. "I love Albert so much and I love spending every day with him,” Look says. She's even going to release Albert Baby Cat adult coloring sheets. Next up, Halloween — and Look has some ideas brewing. And don’t tell Albert, but his mom is on the lookout for a buddy for him. Can’t wait to see a photo of Albert and friend? Stay tuned.
The purr-fect pair
If you think one famous cat is a lot to manage, try two. Pookie Methachittiphan lives in Los Angeles with her cats Nala and Coffee. "They are my babies, that’s how I feel about them,” she says. At first, her family thought she was crazy, but now that once-shelter cat Nala is one of the most famous cats on Instagram, they're amazed. "My mom calls them her grandchildren,” Methachittiphan laughs.
The Instagram account is becoming a full-time job for Methachittiphan, and that’s OK by her. "I get to be with my pets and spread the word about adoption,” she says.
But, if you want to make your cat a social media star, Methachittiphan has some advice: "You have to be careful what you say ... because sometimes people are like 'why did you do this to your cat?' No one wants to see them uncomfortable.” Methachittiphan says she knows her cats, and there is no need to worry about them being uncomfortable. “Nala likes to wear clothes and she likes the camera. Coffee too. Coffee learned from Nala.” Luna Rose, a 6-month-old Scottish fold mix that Methachittiphan recently adopted, appears to be game, too. She’s already made her Instagram debut.