Earlier in this fall, my husband who is a movie buff, sent me an article about the appearance of a stray cat in The Godfather. He suggested maybe I’d like to research into famous rescued cats. And so he inspired this two-part series! Read on to see which feline stars you recognize, and to discover new ones.
Cute kitty Lil Bub of Internet fame almost didn’t make it. Born to a feral mother, Lil Bub was not only the runt of the litter, she was born with genetic mutations which give her that unique look.
–Animal Hearted, Meet Six Famous Shelter Pets
If you pay attention to cats on the internet, you’ll likely come across Lil Bub, a unique cat who rose to internet fame after her owner began posting videos of her. Besides being born outside, Bub had several deformities that worked against her: dwarfism, bulging eyes, no teeth, a foreshortened jaw, and extra toes. As a cat living on the streets, Lil Bub probably couldn’t have survived long with her special needs. In addition, her foster pet parents struggled to find her a permanent home.
When Mike Bridavsky met her, he eventually took her home and used all of her unique traits to make her a star. Not only is she famous on the internet, but Lil Bub has also written a book and starred in a documentary. Bub and her owner are also outspoken advocates of shelter adoption. As part of hosting events to benefit shelters, they’ave earned well over $300,000 for animals in need.
Another cute cat with internet fame is Nala Cat. A wide-eyed Siamese-Tabby mix, Nala was born into a home overflowing with so many cats that Nala found herself unwanted. Thankfully, at six-months old, Nora’s fortune changed when her future owner just happened to visit the shelter. One big face kiss and the two became an inseparable pair. Mental Floss described Nala now as lighting “up the Internet with her permanently surprised expression and panache for wearing absurdly cute outfits”.
As with several of the cats featured in my two-part article, Nala has her own website. On it, I learned of Nala’s additional touching background: “Imagine a kitten, walking around and sneezing uncontrollably, adorable but very sad at the same time. After given love and attention, and of course some medicine, Nala was back to 100%, and has grown up healthy and big, but for some reason her legs didn’t grow so much.” Nala’s owner went on to explain that the reason she started her Instragram account was to share Nala with family and friends back home. She never imagined Nala would have this many followers, but with that attention she began to share the unfortunate truth that 75% of dogs and cats in shelters are killed annually due to overpopulation.
Next up is one of Twitter’s megastars. Before he became a viral sensation, young Sockington was spotted at a Boston subway station in 2004. The gray and white short-hair caught the attention of a commuter on his way to work, who couldn’t help but notice that the cat was still there when he returned later in the day. Sockington was soon taken in and passed through a few fosters before landing in his forever home.
Wikipedia states that between 2007 and January 2009, Sockington’s Twitter account grew to 10,000 followers. In February 2009, his account was added to the “recommended feeds” list of Twitter, making it one of the accounts suggested to all new users. As of May 2010, the Sockington account had over 1.5 million watchers, making him the most popular nonhuman tweeter (and the 98th most popular Twitter feed overall). In 2009, his owner created a “SocksArmy” account on Twitter, to announce announcing causes and make calls for charity.
Sockington’s sister has also become popular on the internet. Her original owners dumped Pennycat on the front porch of a local animal. According to Mental Floss, the wily Pennycat didn’t have much interest in shelter life and soon ran away. Eventually she found her forever home with Sockington. While Sockington stays busy on Twitter, Pennycat runs their website.
Another stray cat can be seen in the opening scene of The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola, the film’s writer and director, found a stray cat while walking through the lot at Paramount studios. Right before the scene was filmed, Coppola gave the cat to Brando to see how what would happen. The cat created a slight problem, because its purring muffled some of Brando’s lines, which meant they had to be looped over. The scene where Don Vito Corleone is holding a cat on his lap while he sits in his office during his daughter’s wedding ceremony is considered one of the most memorable images from The Godfather.
Then there’s Socks, who was the First Cat of the United States during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Born a stray cat in Arkansas, Socks was adopted by Chelsea Clinton in 1991 after he jumped into her arms as she was leaving the house of her piano teacher. He was the only pet of the Clintons during the early years of their administration. Socks was often taken to schools and hospitals. During the Clinton administration, children visiting the White House website would be guided by a cartoon version of Socks. Socks was also the subject of several children’s books and various pop culture references throughout the 90’s.
As I draw near the end of my list of famous abandoned or relinquished famous cats, I’d like to draw your attention to one of the most unique claims to fame. Rescued from a box in a parking lot as a kitten, Stubbs has enjoyed great success and high praise as the honorary mayor of a small Alaskan village. As mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska (pop. 876), Stubbs apparently has a great record. He’s been in office for nearly 16 years, he’s never raised taxes, and he meets with dozens of tourists every day. If you think this is a joke, an article by Wall Street Journal will you assure that residents don’t know what they’d do without Stubbs.
As the Room 8 craze took off, the students answered the letters and developed correspondences with cat lovers around the country. Suddenly, Room 8 was the world’s first celebrity cat.
–Jennifer Juniper Stratford, Keyboard Cat Rescue
While searching for famous rescued cats, a few names appeared repeatedly on lists. Some of them even ranked on Friskies Top Fifty Most Influential Cats. Digging beyond the lists, I came across one last story to share, a story of a forerunner to cat rescue. Jennifer Juniper Stratford writes that in 1952, a “mysterious little grey and white cat sauntered into classroom 8 of Elysian Heights Elementary School in the heart of Echo Park, California”. As the cat roamed in and out of classrooms, he captured the hearts of the students. They dubbed their fuzzy friend “Room 8” and offered him a permanent home at the school where he continued to live for sixteen years.
Tales of the school cat started making headlines. During Room 8’s life, he posed for countless photos and appeared in several magazine articles and television programs. As his fame spread, fan mail began to pour into the school.
Inspired by the story of Room 8, in 1972 Hettie L. Perry launched The Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation. Knowing that not all cats would wind up as lucky as Room 8, who in his declining years lived out his life in a private home, Ms. Perry bought property in Riverside County and built an old age home/rescue for orphaned cats. In addition, her will left everything she had to the cats and stated that the property must continue to provide care for unwanted cats.
Today the doors of this rescue are still open. The author of the article even drove out to Riverside “to see how the life of the world’s first celebrity cat inspired a rescue”. Room 8 remains the school’s mascot and the inspiration behind their motto “to bring peace and love to people and animals.”
My hope is that by sharing these stories of famous rescued dogs and cats, you’ll consider opening your heart to a homeless cat. In 2005, a stray cat claimed me as her own and permanently changed my life. I named her Lucy and she was my angel cat until dying of kidney failure in 2013.
Even if you’re full up with pets, you can still help. Donate to Lincoln Animal Ambassadors and support their causes: low-cost spay/neuter, and pet food bank. Reach out to help any of your local shelters or rescues. Finally, just be an advocate for companion animals. With millions being killed every year due to pet overpopulation, and countless others living outside with human love, animals need us all to combine our voices together if we’re to save them.
Famous Abandoned or Relinquished Cats
- Famous Celebrity Cats
- Famous TV and Movie Pets Adopted From Shelters
- Five Famous Shelter Cats
- Meet Six Famous Shelter Pets
- Nine Internet-Famous Cats Who Were Adopted
- Ranking of the Most Famous Internet Cats
- 16 of the Most Famous Cats on the Internet
- 10 Most Famous Internet Cats
- Little Known Facts About The Godfather
- Nala: Instagram’s Most Famous Cat
- Classroom 8 Cat