Celebrity Cats: Exploitation Or Celebration?

By Emily Parker, Catological.com

Like people, animals can become famous. Chances are good that through social media, magazines, and movies, you’ve heard of several star felines by now.

Grumpy Cat and Tabatha
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Celebrity cats such as Grumpy Cat and Arcturus Aldebaran, who was the tallest cat in the world, are just a couple felines who have gained national and even international attention on social media.

But just as with any celebrity, there is debate about whether or not it’s a “good” or “bad” thing that celebrity cats like these animals are in the spotlight.

Some people believe that it is wrong to make cats (and their owners) famous for using the cats’ abnormal physical characteristics to attract attention. Others say that posting pictures and stories of unusual cats on the internet produces more affection for felines in general among the population, and it even serves as an educational tool to make people aware of some potential problems that cats and certain cat breeds face.

Famous Felines

If you’re not too familiar with famous cats, chances are good you’ve at least heard of Grumpy Cat.

“Grumpy Cat” is the nickname given to a female cat named Tarder Sauce. Tarder Sauce was born with an underbite. She is also affected by a type of dwarfism. Together, these physical flaws give Tarder Sauce the appearance of having a permanent frown.

However, her owners say that despite a sour appearance, she’s actually a happy cat!

Since her pictures started appearing on the internet, she has become a tremendous sensation. Today, Tarder Sauce has nearly nine million Facebook followers, and she has over two million followers on Instagram.

Even if you’ve never seen her in person, you may have seen her images on merchandise and heard her stories through books and her own movie. It’s apparent that fans everywhere adore Ms. Sauce, imperfections and all. And by sharing her life on social media, her owners are helping to drum up appreciation for Grumpy Cat as a cute, quirky, individualistic cat.

Following her lead, other cat owners are taking to social media to show their favorite felines to the world, too.

Another cat who you may have heard about is Garfi. He has a similar put out expression to Grumpy Cat’s, but his expression is angrier. For his fearsome look, he’s been crowned the “World’s Angriest Cat” by social media followers. But like Grumpy Cat, he is not actually angry or unhappy at all. Contrarily, he’s reported to be a very sweet and loving cat.

Some people argue that posting pictures of pet cats for fame’s sake, especially when the cats have a deformity, is a negative. But that is not the case with Lil Bub.

Lil BUB celebrity cat
Lil BUB. Photo in public domain.

Lil Bub is a four-pound cat (fully grown) with multiple genetic defects. Her tongue permanently sticks out, she has over-sized eyes, and she walks with a waddling gait. Like Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub now has a mass following on social media (nearly three million Facebook fans and over 1.5 million Instagram fans) and merchandise with her image. There is also a movie about her, called “Lil Bub and Friendz,” that won an award at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.

With her fame, Lil Bub has helped to raise over $200,000 for the ASPCA, which is the organization through which she was adopted. Possibly more than any other internet cat, Lil Bub has raised awareness for cats with special needs.

Although physically deformed cats seem to become celebrity cats most often, some cats also rose to fame for their beauty or unique characteristics that are not actually defective. One good example is Venus.

Venus Two-faced Cat Genetics
Venus Two-faced Cat Genetics. The photo of Venus is Photograph courtesy TODAY Show/NBC – an extracted image. Pictures of the calico cat (Maya) below Venus and the Black and white cat (Vic) are by fofurasfelinas (Giane Portal) and published with her permission.

Venus is often called the “Chimera Cat” for her striking face, which has two different colors and two different eye shades. In ancient mythology, a chimera is a monster made up of two or more different kinds of animals. When applied to cats, however, a “chimera” is a female cat with multiple types of DNA. This can cause contrasting physical features such as multiple body or eye colors.

Venus’s traits are certainly unique, but she is nonetheless beautiful.

Her originality has gained her a loyal following of over one million followers on both Facebook and Instagram. She has also drawn interest from researchers, educators, and geneticists looking to find an explanation for her distinct coloring. Stories have been written about Venus in National Geographic and other publications, and she’s called the “Queen of the Internet” among cats.

How Celebrity Cats Encourage Pet Ownership

At one time, you had to walk into a pet store or an adoption center to get inspired to own a new cat or dog. But the great thing about the internet is that it exposes people to could-be pet animals all the time!

In addition to just showing the world pictures of unusual cats, celebrity cats foster a sense of adoration in people of all ages. Since celebrity cats started to appear on the internet, adoption centers and even breeders have seen an increase in cat adoptions. Now more than ever, cats are finding their way into loving, caring homes.

Benefits of Owning a Cat

Perhaps now after seeing a celebrity cat, you’re one of many people inspired to get a kitten yourself. If so, congratulations! You have many benefits to look forward to as a new pet owner.

Having cats in the home has been shown to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. They do so by reducing chemicals produced in your body that create stress in the first place. Owning a cat has also been shown to release oxytocin, which is a hormone that produces feelings of warmth and intimacy.

Cats are relatively low-maintenance, especially when compared to other pets. This, combined with their calming nature, has been shown to lower owners’ risk of heart disease and stroke.

Not to mention, cats are both independent and cuddly, which makes them great companions for petting or even sharing the day’s worries with.

While some believe that celebrity cats cause controversy and don’t have a place on the web, the popularity of current celebrity cats and the passion that they create for felines suggests otherwise.

About 36 million Americans own cats, and that number is only likely to increase as more people are exposed to celebrity cats and see the benefits that owning a cat can provide. Even better, many celebrity cats are former rescues, which is helping to boost the popularity of cats in rescue shelters, too.

By Emily Parker

1 thought on “Celebrity Cats: Exploitation Or Celebration?”

  1. Two other famous kitties to note- Cole and Marmalade. They and their humans make sure to educate people, whether they’re cat lovers or not, about issues pertaining to cats.

    Reply

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