The Internet has brought fame to an unlikely breed: the cat. From cats that jump in and out of boxes, to those who seem incapable of happiness, the celebrity cat, or celebri-cat, is one of the most strangely appealing online figures. And there’s one in particular who’s unlike any other.
Lil BUB has been featured in an award-winning documentary, has her own web series and is a published author. Remember, she’s a feline. Her small shape and tiny legs make her look like a permanent kitten, but her most prominent features are a pair of bulging eyes and a small pink tongue that remains perpetually sticking out. She’s easily one of the most unusual-looking celebri-cats, but that’s why her fans adore her.
BUB and her “Dude,” owner Mike Bridavsky, traveled from Indiana to Los Angeles to co-host the Feline Film Festival in Exposition Park on Sunday. A true celebration of the new age of the cat, the festival featured an 80-foot screen projecting the web’s top cat videos and short films. But first, Lil BUB stopped by Adopt & Shop, the festival’s principle sponsor, to the delight of 60 fanatics.
The meet-and-greet allowed fans in Culver City to meet the friendly feline and snap a photo and pet her, after they purchased a $50 ticket. Aside from her quirky cuteness, Lil BUB is a bit of a philanthropist and has raised nearly $200,000 for animals in need. Bridavksy said his cat had been raising money for almost two-and-a-half years by making t-shirts for fun before she was really famous. Now, it’s a completely different enterprise.
“It’s a full-time job now,” Bridavsky said. “It’s been going on for two-and-a-half years so we’re actually pretty used to it, but I think it’s a lot more work than people realize.”
Bridavsky manages everything himself — lucky for him, BUB loves traveling and the attention — but it’s important to acknowledge that all this is business and at the end of the day, Lil BUB is just his pet.
“She’s my cat,” he said. “And I’m just a guy. It’s amusing and you get to meet interesting people and do neat projects, so it is a pretty cool job to have, and I get to spend it with my cat.”
But being a celebrity cat isn’t for every pet. Bridavsky fully credits Lil BUB for making it big, adding that he’s just helped her along the way. As he puts it, he has four other amazing cats who shouldn’t be and don’t want to be famous. BUB, he said, is a special case.
“I think it’s very rare, obviously, to find a pet that is destined for stardom and BUB is definitely that cat,” Bridavsky said. “She loves to meet people, she loves to go places and she’s totally calm. That’s just the way she is.”
It hasn’t always been easy for BUB, who was born the runt of her litter, with several genetic mutations that have made life more difficult for her. Her teeth never grew in and her lower jaw is shorter, which explains why her tongue is always sticking out. She has extra toes on each of her paws, including her hind legs, and she’s only four pounds — very, very small for an adult cat.
“She’s not really a cat, honestly,” Bridavsky said.
The biggest hurdle for BUB is a bone condition called osteopetrosis, which means that her bones get bigger and more deformed the older she gets. A year and a half ago, BUB could hardly walk or move at all, as her short legs restricted her movement. But Bridavsky found treatment for her and in the time since, BUB has regained her ability to run and jump, things that specialists never thought she’d be able to do again.
Back at Adopt & Shop, BUB snacked on a late lunch before greeting her fans, eating noisily on top of a pink blanket embroidered with her name. It was one of many gifts that Bridavsky has received on her behalf over the last three years. He’s also received email addresses from female fans, $300 in cash, a lot of fan art and has even seen 15 tattoos featuring his pet.
“Honestly it’s all kind of heartwarming and touching because it’s all for a special cat,” Bridavsky said. “The tattoos are pretty cool, but hopefully there’s not one of me.”
Lil BUB greeted nearly 60 fans, posing for photographs with squealing fans fawning over her soft fur and silly face. Several donned their BUB merchandise or other shirts that indicated their cat fanaticism. BUB offered autographed pictures with personalized inspirational messages to each attendee.
The event ended in many happy faces, a few adopted cats and a hushed excitement. Said one woman in a green BUB shirt happily clutching her signed picture, “I’m definitely framing this.”