The Cat Pack

Quirky felines have gone past viral status to become legitimate celebrities. Now how will they use their fame?

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Clockwise from left: No No No Cat, Colonel Meow, Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, Maru, Luna the Fashion Kitty, and Henri le Chat Noir
GUARDIAN ILLUSTRATION BY JEN OAKS

caitlin@sfbg.com

PETS Lil Bub does not do corporate endorsements.

"I prefer going to my local pet store, so why would Bub endorse Petco?" says Mike Bridavsky, owner of the angel-faced, wide-eyed, underbite-blessed cat from Bloomington, Indiana who is one of the most prominent members of the Cat Pack, a term Bridavsky coins during our phone interview for the cadre of felines currently owning the Internet.

Who's your favorite Internet cat? Surely you have one. Maybe it's Maru, the Japanese Scottish fold with a panoply of oddly calming videos showcasing his cardboard box fixation.

At some point, surely, you've felt a kinship with that bubble-eyed scowlface Tardar Sauce, a.k.a. Tard, a.k.a. Grumpy Cat, a.k.a. 2012's answer to the "Hang in there, baby!" poster cat.

If you're into indie, you may hearing the meows from one of the lesser-known web celebs. Hermosillo, Mexico's tutu-wearing Luna the Fashion Kitty, perhaps? Or Russia's elusive Marquis of No No No Cat fame? Internet encyclopedia Knowyourmeme.com lists origin stories for 403 cat memes.

You're under a rock with poor wifi coverage if you haven't noticed: Though George Takei, gay marriage, and Jon Hamm's penis are this moment's runners-up to the throne, as the song goes, the Internet is made of cats. And some of those cats are making serious money.

Bridavsky rented out his recording studio as his primary source of income before photos of Lil Bub went viral and Vice shot the upcoming documentary based around his and Bub's trip to the Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis (a fest that is coming to Oakland May 11, more on that later.) He says he spends the long hours required to manage the career of a furry Internet luminary because of the sheer joy Lil Bub brings to the world.

 "Bub's always naked, she doesn't wear stupid outfits." Owner Mike Bridavsky tries to communicate his famous cat's natural personality, unembellished.  Photo by William Winchester Claytor

"People are like, 'thank you for posting pictures of your cat, she gets me through my day,'" he says.

Located at the center of the hype storm as they are, the Cat Pack owners are hardly the ones to go to for explanations for why their beasts have become the Internet's most important meme (sorry Beyonce.) Sure, they were the ones who posted the video or pics of their cat to the web initially — but most never expected to become part of a zeitgeist. 'Net viralty is a mystery even to its anointed.

When Bub's image started hitting aggregator sites like Buzzfeed and TheFW, "I was like, wow, she really has this effect on people," Bridavsky says. It's clear from speaking with him that he's legitimately in awe of the little cat, who lives with dwarfism, bone disease that limits her mobility to an army crawl, "weird toes," and no teeth.

"She's had this effect on me since I got her, but I didn't know it would transfer through photos on the Internet," Bub's owner opines. "She always looks like she's in awe of what's happening — like she's from another planet and she's seeing everything for the first time."

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