Two well known celebrity cats, Bob the Cat in the UK and Grumpy Cat in the USA, provide us with two good examples of how money can be made through the domestic cat or in using the domestic cat. It can be quite difficult to decide what cat/animal exploitation is. Many disagree with me on this subject, which is fine.
Despite the obvious differences in appearance between Bob the Cat and Grumpy Cat the major and most important difference is that the former’s story is a celebration of his life whereas the latter is an example of exploitation for commercial gain. So how do we tell the difference between celebrating the domestic cat and exploiting the domestic cat?
Firstly, I’d like to say that Bob is a ginger tabby cat who met and adopted James Bowen over two years ago on the streets of London. You may remember him. There are several articles on this website about him. The books that James wrote about his meeting with Bob, and the transformation in his life that Bob made, have sold a massive 4 million copies. We don’t know how much James has earned from the books but obviously it must be a substantial amount which has further transformed his life to one of destitution to normality and some luxury.
Bob was a stray, unwanted, cat and the way money has been earned with respect to Bob is through celebrating his meeting with James and their mutually supportive journey together. I think the word “celebration” is the key. The story is descriptive and both parties have gained enormously from their relationship. Money appears to be a secondary factor from James’s perspective. Obviously, the publisher’s goal was always profit but there has to be some element of profit in the process of creating a celebrity cat.
As for the even more famous Grumpy Cat, in America, we are told that the gross revenue in marketing this cat over the previous two years has been a sum in the order of hundred million US dollars but her owner, Tabatha, refutes this. Let’s say it is a very large sum of money.
The story of Grumpy Cat is not one of describing the cat’s life and celebrating her existence. Everything that Grumpy Cat has been involved in has been to do with commercial enterprise in one way or the other. She’s been used in marketing many products and recently featured in a film. The way I see it is that these are vehicles for businesses to make money and the key player is Grumpy Cat. She is simply a commercial asset to be used by businesses and her agent is her owner. I think it is impossible to say that Bob has been exploited. Everything about his story is positive and descriptive.
I think the story of Bob the Cat as a comparator to the story of Grumpy Cat is useful in assessing whether a cat is being exploited or celebrated.